March 16, 2014 at 12:00 PM ET
The road to Sara and Ryan Hennessey’s picture-perfect vineyard wedding last fall started with a double take in 2006.
Sara, 28, met Ryan, 29, while they were both students at Northeastern University in Boston, Mass. They were attending a mutual friend’s birthday party when Sara walked in the room, and Ryan’s friend mentioned to him that when she looked Ryan's way, she quickly looked back at him a second time.
“He will tell everybody that,” Sara joked.
Regardless of who checked out whom first, the two struck up a conversation at the party and found that they had several things in common, including the random fact that Sara's high school friend happened to be Ryan's roommate in college.
It didn’t take long after that for Sara to know she wanted to marry Ryan. He went to Florida to do off-site school work at NASA, and when Sara came for a visit, she knew he was the one.
“I went to visit him and I was done,” she told TODAY.com, “He made the whole weekend special.” The pair was focused though on each finishing their post-graduate degrees before tying the knot, which meant a five-year courtship.
Finally, in early July 2011, Ryan took Sara to one of his favorite vacation spots, Cape Cod, Mass., for a week-long trip with another couple. On the evening of July 4, the two couples went to dinner, then stopped at Sundae School, a popular ice cream shop nearby. While sitting on the patio eating ice cream, Ryan popped the question.
“It was very odd,” Sara remembers. “He got up, moved the table and said he wanted to take a picture by the sign.” Once she stood up, Ryan knelt down and asked her to marry him.
“I don’t think I even got a yes,” Ryan said. “Just a squeak."
Ryan and Sara loved the idea of getting married outside and began looking at vineyards on the East Coast that would allow for an outdoor wedding. When Sara found the Saltwater Farm Vineyard in Connecticut, she instantly fell in love. The vineyard featured a World War II airplane hanger that a couple had purchased and restored in 2001.
“It was so different than other vineyards I had seen,” Sara said. “And there’s only one wedding there per day, so we had it all to ourselves.”
Sara’s quest for the perfect dress was a breeze. She went with a girlfriend and her sister-in-law to the bridal store Vows in Watertown, Mass., and Sara kept pulling the same Mikaella gown over and over again. She knew it was fate.
September 6, 2013 arrived and the couple, in separate hotel rooms, woke up to a picture-perfect day. Everything progressed smoothly until it came to the clothing, when both the bride and groom ran into problems.
While Ryan bought his own suit for the wedding, he chose to rent a vest and tie for the big day. When he pulled out the tie, he realized it was a clip on.
“I take pride in a good knot,” he said. “I couldn’t stand the fact that it was a clip-on tie.”
Fortunately, his best man came to the rescue. He ran to a store across the street from the vineyard and found the groom a white tie.
Soon after, Sara was taking bridal pictures with the photographer when she spotted Ryan walking nearby. Startled, she turned to hide and heard something rip.
“I turned so fast and the photographer was on my dress,” she said. “It tore right where the skirt meets the bodice.”
Ryan’s mother, who just so happened to have a sewing kit, came to the rescue. She sewed the dress and had it ready to go just in time for the ceremony to begin.
As Sara made her way down the aisle, she was carrying a bouquet adorned with family mementos. She had a handkerchief from her dad, a cut from her mother’s wedding dress, her maternal grandmother’s rosary beads, her paternal grandmother’s black onyx ring and her grandfather’s Purple Heart. She was also wearing her maternal mother’s engagement ring.
“I wanted to have all of them with me,” she said.
“My favorite moment was seeing her walk up,” Ryan remembers. “I got a little emotional in front of our friends and family.”
Sara also made sure her groom had a special family heirloom: She arranged to gift Ryan one of his grandmother’s necklaces, which he kept in his suit pocket during the ceremony.
“Family is so incredibly important to us,” Ryan said. “It was important for our grandparents to be with us on that day.”
Sara’s favorite moment was when the pair exchanged vows. She is quick to point out that Ryan’s surpassed hers by far.
“Ryan’s blew mine out of the water,” Sara said. “The words were perfect and the way he said them, I don’t even know how to describe it.”
Ryan’s vows included a special gift from him to his bride. He knew that changing her name was a long process, and that it included changing her email address. He told Sara that he started a new email account for her with her new name, and there were already messages waiting in the inbox.
“I wrote her love notes for weeks leading up to when we got married,” Ryan said. “I gave her the account information in a card and the last email to that address was my vows. I was pretty proud of that.”
Once Ryan and Sara were pronounced man and wife, they excused their 130 guests to enjoy a cocktail hour while the bride and groom took photos throughout the vineyard. Then it was time to party.
Aside from having an outdoor wedding, both Sara and Ryan knew they wanted a relaxed evening. Guests had fun on their dance floor throughout the evening, and a s’mores bar outside offered people a break from getting their groove on when they needed a pause.
Six months later, the couple is living in the Boston area, working away. Ryan is a mechanical engineer while Sara works the night shift as a pediatric nurse. The pair are planning on purchasing a home in the fall, and starting a family soon after.
“A house and a baby within the next few years?” Ryan said. “Absolutely.”
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