"Once upon a time in Cape May…” That’s how many a love story begins. There’s no doubt that there's something special about this place that lends itself to establishing traditions and celebrating milestones. Each year couples choose to tie the knot at Congress Hall and the Virginia Hotel; some were engaged on the Grand Lawn, others had their first date at the Ebbitt Room. Some brides grew up as teenagers riding their bikes down Beach Avenue, dreaming of the day that they would celebrate their most important moment gathered with family and friends. This is the story of a couple of those brides and their fairytale weddings.
"My entire life I’ve always loved weddings," says Cape Resorts Weddings and Events Sales Manager Jennifer O’Neill. Jennifer has three years' worth of experience at Congress Hall, taking a journey with couples for a year or more in piecing together all of the details that will go into the most important day of their lives. "It is always rewarding when you work with a couple on their wedding for an extended period of time, and finally see it come together." Jennifer suggests taking a full year to plan a wedding between the time you book the event space and the wedding date itself. "This will allow you time find all your vendors, and to have all your wedding events (engagement party, bridal shower, bachelorette party) be spread out throughout the year." She worked with Amanda Adams and Laura Abessinio (along with their respective grooms) in planning their weddings, which were both celebrated in 2017. These brides were excited to speak with Cape Resorts about how they chose Congress Hall to tie the knot with their Prince Charmings.
Laura and Rich
In her senior year at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia on a regular Thursday night, Laura went to a local watering hole, Kildare's, to watch a basketball game with some friends. Rich, who had a regular Thursday night spot in another part of town, for some reason on this night, audibled. He and his friends went to Kildare's as well. They struck up a conversation with Laura's group, he asked her to dinner the following night, and the rest is history. Laura (who is originally from Delaware) spent every summer in Cape May at her parent’s summer home.
"When I was ten I would ride my bike past Congress Hall with my best friend Alyssa and watch the weddings and I would say 'someday I’m going to get married there.'" Alyssa stood beside Laura as one of her bridesmaids this past June. When she introduced Rich to Cape May, The Brown Room quickly became one of their favorite spots. Rich loves live music, and they enjoyed spending time listening to local talent after a day on the beach.
Laura and Rich were married at Our Lady Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church, located just a couple of blocks from Congress Hall. Her cocktail hour was on the lawn, with a reception following in the ballroom. Their favorite part was the cocktail hour; it was relaxing, they took exclusive photos around the property, and everyone was taking time to mingle in this beautiful place on a beautiful day. Laura recalls standing with Rich on the lawn, looking back and noticing that all of the people they loved were gathered in one place, and feeling full of joy to see them all come together at Congress Hall.
Amanda and Daniel
Amanda and Dan were in all the same classes together at The College of New Jersey. They challenged each other, developing a friendship that lasted beyond graduation. Finally, two years after college they started dating. They launched an estate jewelry business together, opening two locations in one of their favorite places, Cape May. Now as husband and wife, they live in here and are the owners of Queen May Jewelry.
"We really wanted a venue that had a historical past and Congress Hall has an amazing backstory,” Amanda says, reflecting on how their work in the Estate Jewelry business made it important for them to choose a place with such a storied history. "Congress Hall has always been very special to us. Prior to living in Cape May, we would frequently visit Congress Hall to attend their major events: Phantom Ball, Winter Wonderland, Valentine's Day, and our anniversaries. After moving to Cape May we basically spend 75% of our time at the hotel so it feels like our second home."
Amanda’s creative personality fueled her quest to find the perfect concept for the wedding. While it was challenging, she was pleased with the end result, as it really represented her and Dan as a couple. Their favorite moment? Seeing each other for the first time. "We honestly didn’t realize how emotional it would be. We did our first look on the veranda in the front of Congress Hall and it just felt surreal walking down to meet each other on our first day as husband and wife!"
So what advice would these two seasoned brides give brides of Congress Hall future?
"Definitely choose the right vendors" according to Amanda. "Congress Hall does offer a list of preferred vendors and I highly recommend using someone who has worked with the hotel in the past."
Laura would second that sentiment, especially when it comes to the photos. "It's good to use a photographer who is familiar with the property, because they know all those places where you can get amazing shots. Also, ask if Congress Hall is doing any renovations, changing paint color, or anything like that, so you have a clear idea of where you want to take photos and what will look good with your colors."
Jennifer O’Neill, wedding planner extraordinaire, has her own tips about planning your wedding at Congress Hall. "I suggest encouraging your guests to experience the beauty of Congress Hall and Cape May as much as possible while they are here for the wedding. Setting up a wedding website with the couples favorite places in Cape May makes a wedding weekend really personal."
And what is Jennifer’s must have for a Congress Hall Wedding?
"As many seasonal dishes as possible from The Beach Plum Farm. I love that we are able to offer a more farm to table experience for our guests in a beautiful ballroom setting." The seasonal dishes are second only to her favorite moment in every wedding- the couple’s first dance. "It always brings tears to my eyes, since it is the first time that it hits the couple that they are now husband and wife."
For newly engaged couples, if you are interested in taking a tour and speaking with a wedding specialist call 609-884-6549 or email [email protected].