Take a break from the summer heat with Sam and Matt’s gorgeous, romantic Christmas wedding! These two met at the gym while they were both in law school. After getting to know one another, our girl Sam asked Matt to go golfing! After the round, Matt asked Sam to dinner at a local Italian restaurant, and from that moment on they were a duo.
Christmas has always been a huge holiday for Sam’s family, and choosing that time of year to get married felt so perfect! They incorporated all kinds of traditions from both Sam and Matt’s families, including fresh, live trees decorating the reception space at Shaker Heights Country Club, sauerkraut balls (which Sam’s family makes every year), and arancini balls (which Matt’s family makes every year).
Then there was the dress, in which Samantha served some serious Kate Middleton vibes! She worked closely with Brides by the Falls and our Toronto team to design her gorgeous gown, which in turn inspired the creation of our Cressida!
Get all the holiday wedding details—which Sam perfectly sums up as “festive fun with family and friends”—and the scoop on her and Matt’s safari honeymoon below:
How did you know Matt was “the one”?
“Though we didn’t admit it to each other until years later, we both knew we wanted to be together after our first dinner date at that Italian restaurant. Our first date was perfect—it felt like we had known each other for years, from cocktails before dinner, all through dinner, to after-dinner drinks, we talked all night and never ran out of anything to say…not much has changed!”
How did your sweetie propose?
“Matt proposed at the Shoreby Club in Cleveland, Ohio on a bluff overlooking Lake Erie; a favorite spot of ours in the summer. After Matt proposed, we enjoyed dinner on the bluff and watched the sunset—it was a gorgeous night filled with excitement and anticipation!”
How did you choose your gown?
“I always had a vision of my wedding dress being a modern take on Grace Kelly’s wedding dress, and on my wedding day I truly felt like Grace Kelly thanks to Lea-Ann Belter.
I was able to create my dream dress at Brides by the Falls in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. On my first visit to the store, it didn’t seem there was any dress that fit my vision. However, the store’s superb staff put me in a Lea-Ann Belter dress and then showed me how they could add different elements to create my dream dress! After trying on several different Lea-Ann Belter gowns, we narrowed down the type of fabric and lace I liked, from that Lea-Ann sketched my dress and I was in love!”
Tell us about your day!
“When thinking about our ceremony, we wanted to make sure that we recognized and celebrated the beautiful commitment we were making to each other with words of wisdom and majestic music! When thinking about our reception, we wanted to create the feeling of an intimate dinner party with our closest family and friends which would turn into a big dance party! From the ceremony to the reception, we had a wonderful day exactly as we pictured it and hope our guests had as much fun as we did!
Christmas has always been a big holiday in my family, filled with lots of traditions and festivities, so it only seemed fitting that we’d start our new family during this exciting time of year! Many different family traditions were incorporated into the day in very special ways: my parents got married at the Cathedral in downtown Cleveland, which made it all the more special for us to also get married at the Cathedral. Cutting down our Christmas tree is always a highlight of the holidays, and the wedding was no exception—there were two live trees in the ballroom and a little winter wonderland of trees dressed in white lights on the patio of the venue. Sam’s family also makes sauerkraut balls at the holidays and it was no different for the wedding—they made and served them as appetizers at cocktail hour. Similarly, Matt’s family always makes arancini balls, so we passed those during cocktail hour. It was a great way to incorporate our respective German and Italian heritage. Lastly, the most important tradition included was the Cookie Table. It’s a tradition with Pittsburgh roots, and typically friends and family of the bride and groom bake a dozen or two cookies each and bring them to be set out at the wedding. We had just under 200 dozen cookies that guests could enjoy and boxes they could fill to take cookies home!
Our ceremony was graced with beautiful words of wisdom from Father Dan whose homily spoke of a couple from the turn of the century when money was hard to come by, but they had a beautiful picture window at their apartment and set out to find a beautiful Christmas tree to fill it. Unable to afford the grand trees in the lot, the couple instead bought two rather scraggly trees. The next night, the salesman who sold the couple the trees passed by their picture window and was struck by the impressive tree in there. So, he knocked on the door and asked the couple their secret. Upon entering the apartment, the salesman noticed that the couple had tied together the two scraggly trees so that where one tree was lacking the other filled it out. Fr. Dan then reminded them that where either of us may be lacking, the other is to help fill them out and that that is the beautiful sacrament of marriage. The ceremony ended with friends and family celebrating the new Mr. and Mrs. Barbara as trumpets played the Wedding March.
The reception kicked off with cocktail hour where a jazz trio played holiday songs as we greeted guests in front of the fireplace. When the bells rang for dinner, the band played while guests were seated which set the stage for a fun night! After the heartfelt speeches from the maid of honor, best man, and father of the bride, our guests enjoyed a candlelit dinner. After dinner, first dances were followed by an anniversary dance to Etta James’s “At Last” with all the amazing couples at their wedding. Then with everyone up and dancing, the ballroom opened up to another room with the Cookie Table and a shot luge which quickly became a party favorite! “Strike up the band” was an understatement—guests were on the dance floor all night long as The Sly Band played lots of oldies but goodies until midnight!”
What was your first dance song?
“”Can’t Help Falling in Love.” The song was sung live by our band and with a few dance lessons under our belt it felt as though we floated across the dance floor for our dance.”
One detail you couldn’t live without?
“Sam —My veil. I had always dreamed of what my veil would look like and it did not disappoint, I felt positively regal with my cathedral-length veil and blusher.
Matt—The Cookie Table. A Pittsburgh tradition; it felt great to share that tradition with our family and friends.”
What was your favorite moment of the day?
“When the trumpets started to play the Wedding March at the end of the ceremony, and we were officially Mr. & Mrs. Matthew Barbara!”
What was your something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue?
“Something Old: My mom created a mini-quilt comprised of fabric from the wedding dresses of my great-great-grandmother, great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and even my own, and then embroidered it with each woman’s name, maiden name, married name, and year of their wedding.
Something New: My wedding dress, veil, and shoes.
Something Borrowed: My earrings were borrowed from our jeweler, who helped design our wedding bands.
Something Blue: A handkerchief that was Matt’s grandmother’s which was embroidered in blue with her initial, “E” for Edith.”
Three words that best describe your partner:
“Sam (about Matt)—Smart, Driven, Kind.
Matt (about Sam)—Loyal, Caring, Intelligent.”
Where did you go on your honeymoon?
“We went on a safari! We started out in Cape Town where we explored the Botanical Gardens, Boulder Beach (penguins), Cape of Good Hope, and the Winelands. From Cape Town, we traveled north to Botswana where we stayed at Sable Alley and explored the Khawai Reserve on our game drives. Next, we again traveled north to Namibia where we boarded the Zambezi Queen River Cruise and got to see Chobe National Park up close and direct from atop the Chobe River. Lastly, we headed to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe where we got to witness the thundering falls in all their glory.”
Any advice for future planning couples?
“Plan as much as possible but be sure to build some time into the day to relax. After the ceremony and pictures, we had about an hour at the venue to relax with our wedding party and have some food which was much needed! Once you’ve planned everything, trust your vendors and relax and enjoy the day—it goes by way too fast and you don’t want to miss a minute of it!”
Sam + Matt’s Christmas Wedding Vendors
wedding dress: custom Lea-Ann Belter Bridal via Brides by the Falls | photographer: New Image Photography | venue: Shaker Heights Country Club | mother of the bride dress: Brides by the Falls | hair: Michael Christopher Salon | makeup: Dresden Buras | groom’s tux: Cuffs | videographer: Wedding Stories in Motion | band: The Sly Band