It’s safe to say that creativity and a wonderful sense of humor played major roles in the wedding of Suzanne Koenig and Gary Shafner. “We knew we wanted to do something unusual because Gary in particular is anything but your everyday guy,” says Suzanne, a fact that the groom underscores by quipping that the padding beneath the tablecloths best reflected his personality. “I was the person who would say ‘no’ to things,” he alleges about his part in the planning process. However, it’s easy to see down to the last detail that this wedding was the result of a beautiful partnership.
The illustrious Kodak Theatre was the scene of the grand production, setting the stage for all sorts of fun concepts. “We knew we wanted to incorporate some movie-themed elements since we were celebrating in the home of the famous Academy Awards,” Suzanne asserts. Guests got a preview of the unique style of the event through oversized invitations issued with “theatre ticket” inserts. A faux movie poster near the box office promoted the couple’s “Big Fat Kodak Wedding,” and the Playbill ceremony programs were an absolute work of art. “They included bios of the bridal party, and ‘ads’ in the back that incorporated the names of other people we wanted to honor,” describes Suzanne. “It also listed George Clooney as the groom with Gary as his understudy.”
A screened montage of cinematic wedding scenes signaled the start of the couple’s ceremony. “It was the perfect way to set the tone for the evening,” says Suzanne. Bridesmaids were ushered down the aisle with the song “Over the Rainbow,” performed by a Hawaiian singer accompanied by a ukulele. The bride’s procession that followed was to live music as well: A second entertainer sang Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” while he played an acoustic guitar. The ceremony itself was presided over by Gary’s sister Evie, and guests were delighted with a wonderful surprise at the conclusion of the vow exchange. “An incredible performer began singing a custom version of ‘Oh Happy Day’ as soon as we were pronounced man and wife,” says the groom. “Then when Gary and I made it about halfway down the aisle,” Suzanne continues, “a curtain lifted to reveal a full gospel choir that joined in on the singing.” The curtain also exposed the remainder of the theatre, which had been marvelously transformed for the reception that followed. “It was a pretty stunning moment!”
The setting for the celebration blended the movie motif with a sweet garden theme that was sophisticated without pretension. Copies of DVD covers for famous wedding movies replaced standard table numbers, and some incredible floral décor brought the outside in. “To deal with the enormous space of the Kodak theatre, we designed an assortment of oversized centerpieces,” says the couple’s wedding producer Erick Weiss. “However, it was important to enable the guests to feel comfortable seeing and speaking to one another across the table.” To that end, florist David Yeh fashioned lavish arrangements with reaching branches that formed a delicate canopy over the reception tables. Lush peonies, full Ecuadorian roses, and two types of orchids were mixed with garden flowers in an assortment of pretty colors. Mosses, grasses, and other greenery added a finishing touch to the miniature indoor forest, and the overall effect was breathtaking.
The couple’s first dance together was quite the production – literally. “I had been dreading what I thought would be four excruciating minutes of everyone watching Gary and me dancing horribly,” Suzanne confides. Gary’s solution? Body doubles. The pair started out dancing onstage in front of a curtain to “Come Fly with Me” by Frank Sinatra. When the curtain lifted to reveal a scrim, the couple ran to opposite ends of the stage and just out of view as two professional dancers appeared behind the scrim to take their places. “The view for all of our guests was a pair of giant silhouettes that looked like they could be Gary and me, except their dancing became more elaborate as the song went on,” explains Suzanne. “By the end he was lifting her and tossing her all over the place!” When the music stopped, the imposters ran backstage, and the couple took a bow as if they’d been dancing all along. “The funniest part of all was that a large number of people actually believed it was us!” adds the bride.
After a three-course dinner catered by Wolfgang Puck, guests enjoyed their choice of 20 sugary options from a deluxe dessert buffet followed by hours of dancing to more live music. Every aspect of the Koenig-Shafner wedding was infused with personality, from the whimsical garden-gate wedding cake to the dinner menus listed with fictional dishes. Even Suzanne’s elegant, custom wedding dress wasn’t held as an exception. “Gary is known to be a pretty hardcore punster, so I had the words ‘Union Pacific’ embroidered on my train.” But amid all the amazing details and the strategic surprises, Gary’s two favorite moments were poignantly simple: “Saying ‘I do,’ and hearing Suzanne say ‘I do.’”
Perhaps the biggest shocker was that nothing at all went wrong. “We truly had a perfect day,” Suzanne admits, “and given all the little particulars and technical aspects involved, that was a minor miracle!” In fact, everything went so smoothly that the only thing she’d change is the amount of energy she spent on worrying. “What seems like frustrating issues that annoy you during the planning process will all seem trivial when you’re basking in happiness on your wedding day.” While not all of Gary’s ideas made it into the final cut (“They were nixed by my wife!”), he doesn’t have any regrets at all. “I married a saint,” he says. “Look what she has to put up with.”