Feb. 9, 2014 at 12:04 PM ET
At 7 years old, Drew Tybus met his future father-in-law for the first time.
It was a July day during a joint father-son camping trip in New Hampshire — the first in what would become a lasting tradition for all fathers and sons involved. The tradition eventually went co-ed, but it took another 15 years before Drew met and hiked up Mount Washington with Beth Slusark.
It was friendship at first sight, at least according to Drew, 32, who says, “We became fast friends.”
Beth, also 32 and a special education teacher, begs to differ. “No, we didn't,” she insists. “I thought he talked too much. I was teaching children with autism and at that time I was getting hit and head-butted at work. When I met Drew he was working at a vodka company and would talk about how he was meeting this celebrity and going to that party. I was jealous.”
But, once she got to know him, "I liked him,” Beth says. That happened over the next five years, five hiking trips, and the occasional recreational drink in Hoboken.
Then, in 2009, neither Drew nor Beth could make it to New Hampshire for the annual hike. So Drew called Beth and invited her and her brother to a music festival. They had such a good time that he began to consider the potential of two of them becoming more than “camp friends,” and days later, invited Beth to a baseball game.
“That was more of a date,” Beth says. An endless date. “The game went into, like, 15 innings. It was forever, a never-ending game. By inning nine, I was like 'it's time to go.'”
“I put my arm around her at one point,” Drew recalls. “I swatted it away,” jokes Beth.
That playful interaction would come to characterize their relationship. “Whenever we hang out, there's always a lot of laughter,” Drew says.
As for who said “I love you” first? Well, that's a matter of great debate, with both totally convinced of having pulled the trigger first. But it's beside the point — they moved in together in 2011, after a year of dating.
Drew knew, then, that she was the one. “We decided at that time,” Drew says. “We didn't say it out loud, but our family said it a lot.”
Beth, too, was ready for an out-loud proposal. “I decided Drew should have proposed months before,” she says. “It was well known that I was ready to get engaged. I'd say things like 'can you take out the trash and then also, you know, propose?' But he likes to research and take his time.”
Taking his time meant running it by numerous family members: “I asked my family first. Then I asked her brother. Then I called up her dad and asked if I could swing by. Her parents were really into it. I've seen her dad's face since I was a little kid. It's part of why we're together—we already felt like family.”
It also meant customizing Beth's “antiquey” ring with the help of Pinterest and Beth's twin sister, Em. In case it's not obvious: the couple is all about family.
One night when Drew booked a dinner reservation, Beth could not stop complaining: she had a mound of work to do. Why did Drew insist on eating out? Answer: Because that night, Drew would ask Beth to marry him, as they walked the hills of Natirar Park in New Jersey's Somerset County before dinner at the property's Ninety Acres restaurant. Beth was still crying as the waitress recited the specials for that evening.
“I don't give a s--- about the specials!" Beth remembers saying. "I just got engaged!”
In seven months time, Beth and Drew planned what they trusted would be an epic wedding and party.
“Beth and I, separately, among our friends — we're the people who throw parties. Beth's thrown some amazing parties for her family. And I throw big events for clients,” Drew, who is in global PR, explains. “If we had a wedding in 24 hours we could have done it.”
On top of their party expertise, Beth admits the two had another advantage going into things: “One thing that made it easy was that we didn't have preconceived ideas.” They didn't care if the reception took place on the beach or in a farmhouse, in summer or in winter: “We just wanted to find a spot to match our personality.” They found it in Jersey City's Maritime Parc.
"It's elegant and different," Drew says. "It has a view of the city. Plus, I'm a food snob and there was a fine dining restaurant downstairs to cater.”
It helped, too, that there were only two concrete elements they really needed at their reception. “I wanted a great band,” Beth says, “because my mom has a large extended family and we are a family who likes to dance. And Drew wanted great food.”
For the music, Beth recruited a friend from college who played in a band she liked. For her wedding colors, she chose yellow and grey, and she didn't sweat the small stuff when it came to other details: “There's so much to do, you can drive yourself crazy."
Not that they didn't have their setbacks. A month before the wedding, Hurricane Sandy descended on New Jersey.
Beth had purchased her champagne strapless gown, with its sweetheart neckline and pleated skirt, at Ally's Bridal in Hoboken. “The shop flooded,” Beth says. “But they'd packed the whole shop up, which saved my dress. And then Maritime is on Liberty Park, right off of the water, and all we heard during Sandy was how damaged it was."
After seeing a YouTube video of water "taking over Liberty State Park," Beth called the venue in a panic. "They got back to us three days later and said 'we're all good,'" she remembers. "But there was a lot of emotional eating during that time.”
As it turns out, Beth was able to use Sandy to her advantage. She ended up with the week off from work, giving her time to complete her DIY job on the wedding's place cards and table settings.
Meanwhile, Drew had been preparing himself and his Facebook friends for the big day. “At some point in time, I had a question at work — how many days is it going to be before the wedding? And on that day it was 101 days, so I put on Facebook 'reason number 101 why I want to marry Beth Slusark.' And from that day on, I posted another reason.”
Then, the day before our wedding, Drew posted a picture of his number 1 reason. It was a photograph of a note he'd written himself years ago, when he was 22 and had only just met Beth. She'd never seen it before.
Drew remembers: “One of the first times we'd even been hiking together was on Mount Washington. And I got up early one morning at the top of the mountain and I wrote myself a note that said, basically, 'I could see myself marrying Beth.' I posted a photo online and framed the actual handwritten note for her. That was 6 years before we started dating.”
Beth and Drew were wed during an early evening ceremony on December 1st, 2012 in front of 206 guests.
The walk down the aisle was a surprisingly emotional time for Beth. “I was very nervous," she says. "I'm a really relaxed, easygoing person, but they opened the church doors and everyone I loved was there. I cried during most of the ceremony. I was truly surprised just how happy I was.”
In order to catch some daylight on that freezing and foggy December day, the tearful ceremony was preceded by a "first look" photo session, with New York City's skyline and the park's naked trees as a backdrop.
Following the ceremony, the newlyweds spent the remainder of the evening hosting the best party they'd ever attended.
“The details helped make it feel warm, like a wedding, but we also put together stuff that would make it a rockin' party,” Drew said.
And the warm details were in abundance. Beth had designed a gold family tree that held the escort cards in its branches. For their table numbers, they coupled specific years from their past with corresponding photographs of themselves at those ages.
“It was so cute because Drew has had a goatee since he was 7 years old," Beth says. "For our awkward years, we sat our friends there. On one table, we put a picture of our first hiking trip together, standing by each other — not realizing in so many years we'd be married.”
Beth's sister, a graphic designer, made the couple's wedding invitations, which featured Statue of Liberty iconography, as well as a marriage-themed Mad Libs game that guests filled out in lieu of a guest book: “My sister basically branded our wedding for us. She always says I was her most difficult client.”
Dancing was central to the wedding, and there was also a fair amount of Christmas music, including the song the band played upon the bride and groom's official entrance: "All Beth Wants for Christmas is Drew."
This came as a surprise to Drew, who was not expecting the personalized version.
“I love Christmas,” he says. “And I have a running joke of inserting my name into songs, because you can replace the word 'you' with 'Drew.' So Beth talked to the band and had them replace the lyrics. I just started laughing, but you would have thought people hit the lottery when they said that. It set the tone for the evening.”
“It was a great way to start the holidays,” Beth says. And an even better way to start a marriage.