The Enthusiasts Guide from “Yes” to “I Do”

Host Leah Longbrake is pulling back the veil to bring you honest advice and creative ideas from those in the wedding industry. From the Engagement to the Honeymoon, get all the details you need from wedding and event experts on how to make it your best day ever!

Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Spotify

Real Bride Stefanie Paganini: Her Journey Planning a Destination Wedding

Real Bride Stefanie Paganini: Her Journey Planning a Destination Wedding

Real Bride Stefanie Paganini shares her journey from an unexpected proposal to an oceanside destination wedding. An acclaimed chef, she also gives her culinary expertise for couples planning their menus.

Get to know Stefanie:

Stefanie joined the family business after attending the Pastry Arts Diploma Program at ICASI, the International Culinary Arts and Sciences Institute where she did her externship in the test kitchen of Family Circle Magazine in New York City. She has held many titles at LPSC, Inc. including Marketing Director and Chief Legal Counsel. She is currently the Executive Director of The International Culinary Arts & Sciences Institute. Stefanie teaches a number of classes in the recreational program at the school as well.

Stefanie also does free-lance work as a food stylist including for Dr. Agatston creator of the South Beach Diet, Athens Foods, Ohio Magazine, Driscoll Berries, VitaMix Blenders, and the Fabulous Food Show 2007 through 2015, and for the Food Network Stars including Guy Fieri, Martha Stewart, Paula Dean, Duff, Bobby Flay, Sandra Lee, Giada De Laurentiis, Martie Duncan, Ann Thorton and TLC’s Curtis Stone. She has done stage cooking demonstrations with Top Chef’s Leeann Wong, James Beard Award Winner Andrew Carmelini, and PBS cooking host Giuliano Bugialli.

Stefanie was a contestant on the Food Network’s second season of Sweet Genius. She had a monthly cooking show on Time Warner Cable’s NEON channel entitled Dinner and Drinks. She has appeared on local television programs including, Studio 3, Channel 3 Noon News, and Fox 8 News in the Morning, and Live on Lakeside. Stefanie is a regular guest host on local television programs as well including Good Company, Live on Lakeside, Fox 8 News in the Morning, and WVIZ/PBS Cooks. She has been featured in articles in both the Plain Dealer and the News Herald. She was a weekly guest on WDOK’s Trapper Jack in the Morning, and was often a guest co-host. Most recently, she has hosted a radio program on WCPN Ideastream called “Zest for Life”.

Follow Stefanie on Facebook, and the Loretta Paganini School of Cooking on Facebook as well!




This has been a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thank you to Executive Producers David Moss, Gerardo Orlando, Production Director Brigid Coyne and Audio Engineer Eric Koltnow

Where to Listen

Find us in your favorite podcast app.

Leah Longbrake:

Stephanie, thank you so much for being with us today, so excited to hear your wedding journey with your husband. Start by telling us the proposal story.

Stephanie Paganini:

That's a great story. So, my husband, Alan, and I had been dating for about a year, and my older sister, Beth, had a whirlwind relationship where she met a guy, they moved in together and got engaged and were planning their wedding within a very short amount of time. So, my husband, Alan, had said to me, we're just dating, like, "Look, let's not get anything away from her experience and let's just be prepared, I'm not going to propose any time soon because this is Beth's year." I was like, "Okay, I guess that sounds good." All right.

Stephanie Paganini:

But I do regular food segments on FOX 8 News in the Morning, I'm on once a month, I had scheduled it months, previously and the menus are usually done about a month in ahead, so I knew what I was doing, which happened to be a beet salad, and I was all set to do it. I showed up that day and the producer, Margaret Daykin, who's a wonderful person said, "Hey, the news crews are going to have to be doing something outside. Can you pull into the studio?" So my car got pulled into the van lot indoors, which I thought was weird, but I'm like, "Okay." So I got there and I was running late that morning. So my hair was in that messy bun, when I got there, I'd forgotten the backing to one of my earrings and it had fallen out somehow along the way, I had forgotten an apron.

Stephanie Paganini:

So, they had an apron in the studio. I just folded in half, so it didn't have the FOX logo, tied that around my waist, and I was having one of those mornings, and Margaret was like, "Where are your earrings?" Because usually I wear big earrings and she said ... I said, "Oh, I lost one." So she's like, "I'm going to find it." So she was digging through my car and then she's like, "You know, you need lipstick." I was like, "It's a three minute segment, I know I don't look good today, it's fine." She said, "No, I really feel you should wear it." She goes, "I've got makeup." So she went up to her office and she was putting makeup on me, and I was like, "I must look so bad today that she's trying so hard to make me look better for TV."

Stephanie Paganini:

So I go and I do my segment and I do it with Kristi, who's wonderful. We work really well together, Kristi Capel and usually at the end, Wayne Dawson and Stefani Schaefer come in and they eat the food and all of us chat as we go off air. Kristi said, "Oh, this is a great beet salad, blah, blah, blah, guys come try it." They didn't come. I was like, "Well, that's weird." I said, "I must look terrible. My beet salad must seem so awful that nobody wants to eat it." There was this huge children's choir that had been singing on set all day.

Stephanie Paganini:

So, I'm looking around and I'm like, "Oh my gosh, somebody do something." Kristi wasn't talking or saying, "Okay, well let's go to break." Because I'm thinking, "Oh my God, this is dead air, get off the dead air, nobody wants to eat beet salad." So then all of a sudden around the corner comes Stefani Schaefer and Wayne Dawson, and they're holding Alan's arm. So, my first thought is like, "Why is my boyfriend here?" Then I thought, "Oh my God, my family died, and they have brought him to tell me that my family has died because ..."

Leah Longbrake:

Oh my God.

Stephanie Paganini:

I don't know why, this was my first thought. I didn't think, "Oh, my boyfriend's here to propose." I thought, "Oh my family's dead and he's going to come tell me." So he walks up to me and he starts talking about when we first started dating, I made a beet salad and I'm thinking, "But my family is dead, what are you doing?" So then he pulls me out from around the demo table and he gets down on one knee and that's when I realized, "Oh, he's proposing." I was so happy and so relieved that I started crying. But not like the girls you see in the videos, how they're like ... they're beautiful, they're lightly patting their perfect makeup.

Leah Longbrake:

Right.

Stephanie Paganini:

I was crying so hard, one, because he proposed when I didn't think he was going to for a long time. My family was not dead, that's not why he was there. Then everyone really did like my beet salad, they weren't running away because they didn't want to taste it. So, I started ugly crying, I had snot coming and you can see it because it's live on television, snot coming out of my nose. I was crying so hard, but the ring was beautiful, the ring was beautiful, that's the important part of the proposal, right?

Leah Longbrake:

Did you say yes right away?

Stephanie Paganini:

I did, I did.

Leah Longbrake:

Or did you pause?

Stephanie Paganini:

I mean, I was crying, I had my hand covering my face, trying to cover the snot. I was thinking thousands of things at once, but I did manage to say yes, which was good.

Leah Longbrake:

So how long between that amazing proposal amazing and the actual wedding? How much time did you have to plan?

Stephanie Paganini:

So, he proposed in December, we just had our proposal anniversary, so proposal was December and we got married in June.

Leah Longbrake:

Oh, so very short engagement.

Stephanie Paganini:

Very short. Well, yeah. I mean, I was an older bride, I was almost 40, so I didn't want to ... Oh, let's get it done.

Leah Longbrake:

Well, on top of having a short engagement, you decided to do a New England destination wedding.

Stephanie Paganini:

We did. Yeah.

Leah Longbrake:

What made you decide that?

Stephanie Paganini:

So, my husband is very attached to the state of Maine, it was a place that he vacationed as a child. He works at a music festival there every year, so he goes to a very specific part of Maine every year. He had been married before and had always gone solo to those places, and he said when he met me, he knew I was the one person that he thought he could take to Maine and would appreciate it the way that he did. So, it became a place that we would vacation as a couple together to, and in fact, the last time we were up there, they had just opened this brand new restaurant called Aragosta in Stonington, Maine, and we sat there and the food was so amazing that we joked, like, "If we ever get married, if this ever lasts, we should get married here."

Stephanie Paganini:

So, after he proposed, we thought about, "Okay, Cleveland wedding, both of our families are from the area, both of us work in multiple large colleague based businesses, and so we were looking at a wedding list of four to 600 people.

Leah Longbrake:

Wow.

Stephanie Paganini:

And we were like, "Because if you invite this person, then you have to invite this person and then you have to invite that person, and if you don't invite that person they'll feel bad." So we were like, "How do we not do that?" So we thought, "Okay, destination wedding, and then Maine was just such a magical place for us that we chose that part of Maine to have our vacation or to ultimately have our wedding.

Leah Longbrake:

So, once you made that decision, usually the next step is choosing the venue and you kind of domino effect from there. So, what made you decide the spot that you had the ceremony and reception?

Stephanie Paganini:

So, we chose the reception spot first because we went back to that chef in that restaurant and we said to her we want to have you cook our food. Like that was paramount to us, was a lot of times the reception location is what you choose, and then the food is what you can get at that place. We wanted everyone to be like, "This is the best meal we've ever had at a wedding reception." We knew that if we use that restaurant and the location, it's in Stonington, Maine. Stonington, Maine is the number one port for lobster in the world.

Leah Longbrake:

Oh, wow.

Stephanie Paganini:

Where lobsters come in, so it's a very heavy lobster fishing, little tiny Maine perfect picturesque place. Her restaurant sat right on the water and it had floor-to-ceiling window, just looking over the bay where the fishing boats come in. So we asked her, "How many people can you fit in this restaurant total?" She said, "If I do really long tables and squish everybody together ..." She was, "I can get 40 people in this location." So, we invited 38 people to the wedding.

Leah Longbrake:

Oh, wow.

Stephanie Paganini:

45 people showed up, but we invited 38 people.

Leah Longbrake:

How does some people sneak their way in?

Stephanie Paganini:

I had a friend who's a good friend of ours, but hadn't ... it sounds terrible to say, but hadn't made A-cut, right? Hadn't made the 38-cut, but other friends, my best friends who had mentioned it to her and they had planned to rent a house together, and she just thought her invitation got lost, which is totally me and I could see them thinking that. So when they reached out to me and said, "Hey, we got our deposit down on our house, but so-and-so hasn't gotten her invitation so that she can map it out." I'm like, "Oh." So, we had to send that very quickly. So we had 45 people in a space that only held 40.

Leah Longbrake:

But at least you were able to make that work.

Stephanie Paganini:

Yeah. It worked, it was fine. Luckily, when everybody knows each other, you don't have that awkward needing that space in between strangers. Right? So, I mean, people were literally partially sitting on each other's laps, but it worked, everyone was happy. They had been together all day, so they were fine.

Leah Longbrake:

So, going from a four to 600 possible guest lists to essentially 45, how did you make that decision? How did you decide these are the true A-listers?

Stephanie Paganini:

So, it was one of those things that I think every little girl ... or maybe not every girl, but me as a little girl, I dreamed of the princess wedding, the big wedding and the cathedral and the train that's 20 feet long. I had to make a decision in my heart, like, "Is it more important that big wedding or is it more important that I'm marrying Alan and having a wedding that works for our budget and for our lives?" So, obviously I chose Alan over the wedding, but there was a tough call, but it was one of those things where I really felt like we chose obviously our family and even within our families, we didn't choose all the aunts and uncles. I was initially jealous of my older sister who swept in with this relationship and got married very soon before we did, her wedding was in November.

Stephanie Paganini:

Alan proposed within two weeks of that December and then I got married that June. So luckily, many of our extended families had all just gotten together and all just spent money to travel to that wedding, and we're quite comfortable with the idea that they didn't have to travel again, because they had just seen all of us six months earlier. So, it was actually win-win because my sister, Beth, ended up having to have that wedding with all that have to invite, and I was able to have a wedding with just ... I told my parents, they could invite one couple. Hey our parents usually invite 17,000 people [inaudible 00:12:00] like all the people that are important to them.

Stephanie Paganini:

I didn't have that because they had just done all of that and everyone had just gone to best wedding. So I was able to then have that very tiny wedding with just a very few important people in our lives.

Leah Longbrake:

You were like, "Thank you, Beth."

Stephanie Paganini:

Yeah, I know, right. Thanks for taking one for the team, Beth.

Leah Longbrake:

Did she stand for you as a witness or did you have a bridesmaid or ...?

Stephanie Paganini:

Yeah. Again, we kept it small, so I had my two sisters, my older sister, Beth, and my younger sister, Julia, were my bridesmaids, matrons of honor. Because I couldn't pick one of them, you can't do that when there's three. Right? So, those two and then my husband had two very good best friends, and so those were the best men in our wedding.

Leah Longbrake:

Oh, that worked out perfectly.

Stephanie Paganini:

It was great because everyone did double duty. For example, my sister, Beth, is a singer and my husband Alan's best friend, Jason, is a Grammy Award winning classical guitarist. So we had them do the Ave Maria together because there was only 20 people, so there's 40 people in the church, people have to have different roles.

Leah Longbrake:

That's amazing and [inaudible 00:13:13]

Stephanie Paganini:

Yeah, yeah, it was wonderful. I was very lucky too in that my mom who's so amazing, but she completely planned my sister Julia's wedding and she completely helped plan my sister, Beth, wedding. I said to her, "I don't want any help, I want it all to be me, I want to make all the decisions, I don't want you involved, I just want you to happily show up and just relax and be there." So, that worked out really great for me because I was able to plan my wedding, the wedding that I wanted with all of my details and everyone was very happy just to show up and be a part of it.

Leah Longbrake:

So, a lot of weddings, the bride and groom, the couple will provide hotel room blocks, but with your destination wedding, did you have something already prepared for guests or was it like your friends, like, "Hey, we're just going to go find a house or we're just going to figure this out ourselves?"

Stephanie Paganini:

Yeah. So, the region of Maine where we got married is a really unique region, and that was one of the neat things for us, was that it's not a destination that tourists typically go to. It's called Down East Maine and it's a little below Acadia National Park, which is a tourist destination. Then down below us is Camden, which is another tourist destination, but this middle area called Down East is really rustic Maine, and really only locals. So, what was nice is that, because we had been traveling there for so many years, we knew the ins or the rental properties that were really a value and the ones that you wanted to [inaudible 00:14:50] be a stay away from, there is a weird cabins in Maine that you don't want to stay in.

Stephanie Paganini:

So, when guests said that they were coming to the wedding, we were able to send them this little packet we made of, "Here's where you could stay, here's some great choices and here are the different towns in the area, and here are the pros and cons of staying in those places as they are relative to where we're getting married."

Leah Longbrake:

So even though you didn't have the huge, what you would consider like, fairy tale wedding, you did look like you came right from a fairy tale. The pictures are all on the Weddings Unveiled social media, so check it out. But how did you decide on your dress? Because the dress is such an important part of the big day.

Stephanie Paganini:

It is. Everything about my wedding, Leah, was one of those things where it just fell into place. I had gone dress shopping and I wish I could tell you, I was that bride that found the dress and was like, "Yes, I put this on and this is perfect for me." I did it. I found two different dresses that I was like, "They work." The one that your mom wants, the one that you want, and they're not really the same and neither were the ones that I was like, "This is my dress, I love this dress." But I had to put a down payment on a dress, and even as I was leaving, I was like, "It's not the one, I don't think I like it." And my mom's like, "No, it's lovely, it's perfect." I was like, "I just don't think I like it."

Stephanie Paganini:

I actually called and canceled within an hour of that deposit on that dress. So then I just started exploring wedding sites online and I found a beautiful picture of a beautiful dress and it had all the elements that I wanted. I wanted a little bit of lace, but I wanted it to be in A-line and I wanted it to be poofy but not marshmallowy. The dress I found online was beautiful, and I said, "This is the dress that I want to wear." So, I actually used the same company, obviously the same bridal shop, but I had them order this dress for me. So I bought my dress, having never tried it on.

Stephanie Paganini:

Then they said they're not going to get it until about two months before. So, I mean, I really gambled, I bought a dress I had never tried on and hoped that it would work. I don't know if it worked or if they just have the most amazing seamstress ever that made it work, but I loved it, it met everything I was hoping to have in a wedding dress and I got it.

Leah Longbrake:

You just felt like you?

Stephanie Paganini:

Yeah. I think it's something where you envision what you want, but then again, I was older, so I wanted something that spoke to me as a professional woman versus a little princess, but it still was romantic and beautiful and sparkly and I just loved it.

Leah Longbrake:

And you looked stunning in it

Stephanie Paganini:

Thank you. It was really something that I just ... I feel like sometimes when you are happy you glow and I really think the wedding pictures reflect just how happy I was in that moment.

Leah Longbrake:

Speaking of your wedding photos, one of my favorite photos is something I can relate to, you have an awesome photo of you and Alan, where your veil is right in your face because of the wind, and as someone that got pictures taken by the lakeside, I understand trying to keep the damn veil down.

Stephanie Paganini:

Yeah. I love that photo because our photographer actually ... in Maine you have to have multiple jobs in order to make a living. So, our wedding photographer to his part-time ski instructor, part-time wedding photographer, part-time photographer for the local newspaper. I mean, she really does so much, Andrea Keen, and she's amazing, Andrea Keen, I should say, but when she takes photos and what I loved about her photos is that being a newspaper reporter, it's not about making them glossy, it's about capturing an emotion.

Stephanie Paganini:

I think I love that photo so much because as you know, you're sitting there and in your head, you're thinking, "Smile, smile, look sexy but ethereal." You're trying to like, "Get all of that, America's next top model going in your head." Right?

Leah Longbrake:

Yes.

Stephanie Paganini:

And in that moment, Alan's dipping me by the water and I'm thinking, "Yes, it's a dip and there's boats and the lighting, like this is going to go somewhere big, like 20 by 30 on a wall somewhere." And right at that moment, you get smacked across the face with your veil. Right? So, I love it because our reactions in that are just laughing because it's like, of course life is not perfect, but that's the beauty of it. I think that picture captures that. So, I'm glad that you appreciated that and liked it.

Leah Longbrake:

Oh, I love it. All your pictures were phenomenal and she did a great job with them, but that photo in particular, I was like, "I so relate to this moment, I've been there."

Stephanie Paganini:

Yeah. I mean, our wedding, there were so many things that were so interesting. Our minister, the minister of the church we used ... we went in February to Maine to go around and explore different places for churches, because there are so many tiny little churches in Maine, but we were trying to get a good feel of one, and I wanted stained glass, which really doesn't happen in that part of Maine, there's only a couple, and so we're trying to, "How do we accommodate these people, but how do we get [inaudible 00:20:24] we were trying to fit all the Tetris pieces together and we found this really sweet little church. So, we spoke to the minister there and she happened to be away the week that we wanted to get married.

Stephanie Paganini:

So, there was another minister that stepped in and we used him and he called us a week before our wedding. He said, "I just don't want you to panic." When someone starts any conversation about your wedding about a week and a half before your wedding, like you panic. Right?

Leah Longbrake:

Instantly.

Stephanie Paganini:

So, the bridge, there's this huge bridge that takes you from mainland Maine to the island, because we got married on Deer Isle. So, the bridge that takes you there, it was having its hundred year celebration or something, or its bicentennial, was some big celebration, and so they had decided to shut the bridge down that day. They were going to just have a party on the bridge. So, that was what was happening. So, our guests would not have been able to get on the island for the wedding unless they were already on the island the day before which didn't work because many of them had gotten rental houses in different parts or whatever.

Stephanie Paganini:

The church was being used for pancake breakfast about an hour before my wedding. So they were figuring out how we would get it decorated and get the pancake syrup off the benches and stuff in time for me to walk down the aisle. He's like, "But I got to cover, don't worry." So we were like, "Okay." But so luckily, the federal government told me they couldn't shut the bridge down because it was an actual thoroughfare or something, and so for emergency vehicle purposes, they weren't allowed to shut it down [inaudible 00:22:07] and my wedding smelled like pancakes, which was a bonus, right? I mean, who doesn't want maple syrup smelling weddings? We liked it.

Leah Longbrake:

That's amazing.

Stephanie Paganini:

Yeah. So, all free.

Leah Longbrake:

People are pumping sense into their spaces now [crosstalk 00:22:25]

Stephanie Paganini:

Yeah.

Leah Longbrake:

You have to pay for it.

Stephanie Paganini:

Yeah, I didn't, I mean ... and there were leftover pancakes. So, as we were getting ready to line up, the flower girls were munching on pancakes, it was fine, it was great, everyone was happy. So, it worked.

Leah Longbrake:

You mentioned the lobster before and the delicious food from the chef, and you yourself being deep in the culinary world and being this acclaimed chef ... I love you and you love your work, but it had to be so hard for you to decide what exactly to have as your meals for the wedding, right, and your cake, or is it really easy because this is what you do?

Stephanie Paganini:

For me, it was so fun because the chef that we worked with, chef Devin Finigan, and she was just nominated for a James Beard. I mean, this was her first year that she had opened her restaurant. We were the first private event she had had in her restaurant. So, this was her first attempt at being her own chef and being an executive chef in her own right. So to sit down with someone of that caliber of that experience and like ... as we talked menus, she'd be like, "You know what? I'll make sure I plant that so that I have it available for your wedding." I mean, think about just the level of culinary expertise she had, and it was, Alan, he said, he goes ... that's my own touch a little bit about my husband. He's like, "That was the sexiest conversation I've ever watched two women have."

Stephanie Paganini:

We were talking about anything ... actually I was like, "Could you do a little bit of like a [inaudible 00:24:02] She's like, "Of course." She goes, "What if I added a little bit of time?" And I'm like, "Oh yes, that's amazing." He was like, "I was just sitting there going, yeah, and then what? Yeah, ooh, yeah, put time, baby." I think that's why I'm marrying him because he gets it. He gets what's important in life, but it was funny, but yeah, no, it was wonderful. Her lobster ravioli, obviously the lobsters are coming straight off the boat, so she's getting lobsters within minutes of them being taken up off the floor of the ocean.

Stephanie Paganini:

But what she does is she doesn't boil the pasta, so the pasta doesn't get boiled in water, it gets butter poached to cook it. So you have butter poached lobster ravioli, and then what she would do, she took each of the lobster. She took the claw, the main claw, and she would open it in a way that the whole clock came out, and that was part of the garnish, was that you got this whole lobster meat claw right on top of it. Her excellence, her attention to detail using all of the flavors, literally from her personal garden to make our meal, it was sublime. She and I, we were like, "We still love each other, we still send each other emails and Facebook friends." I just adore her and I adore the work that she does, and like I said, this year, she was nominated for a James Beard.

Stephanie Paganini:

People talk about how Mainers aren't very nice and they're close knit people. I had the opposite experience, it was very much for me, and the florist worked with me because I wanted my flowers obviously to be ... pennies were really in when I got married. So I wanted some pennies, but to get a penny in Maine, they're like $20 each because Maine is so up, it's like in Canada. If Canada wanted Maine, I feel like the United States would be like, "You can have it, it's up there." We can't get up there, it's too hard. So, pennies aren't in Maine. So she was able to give me my one little penny and then filled it with wild flowers, like lupine, which are really big there. Then I'm a huge book reader, I'm a book nerd. My favorite book of all times is Pride and Prejudice.

Stephanie Paganini:

So, I wanted to incorporate that in there. So, she let me cut out of old copies of Pride and Prejudice hearts of the books. Then I shipped those to her and she incorporated those hearts from the book into all of my wedding bouquet and all of my wedding, my floral and-

Leah Longbrake:

That's so romantic.

Stephanie Paganini:

It was so perfect, it was. Then I used ... instead of because they don't want you to use rice, obviously it's bad for the birds, and then I didn't want to do bubbles because that wasn't the feel of it. So I used dried rose petals. I made little paper cups for everybody with dried rose petals, and that's what they threw as we came out of the church, one of my favorite photos too, is the rose petals, everyone throwing the rose, which they stained by the way. So nobody did that because they get into little body crevices that are warm and then you got red color everywhere.

Leah Longbrake:

Interesting [crosstalk 00:27:17] think about that.

Stephanie Paganini:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, it's beautiful tip.

Leah Longbrake:

There is pro tip though couples, pro tip.

Stephanie Paganini:

Yeah. Watch for the staining of the rose petals.

Leah Longbrake:

So, with your culinary expertise, what tips do you have for couples when it comes to choosing their food or their cake?

Stephanie Paganini:

So, the food definitely go with, less is more, I really think we had two main choices, a lot of restaurants. I mean, our chef was very good because we had a last minute guest with some food allergies and so she had to quickly adapt some menu items to that, but we really only had the pasta and then we had a protein and vegetable, like vegetarian choice, but don't feel like you have to offer the world, if someone does something really well, even if it's chicken, like if they do a really sublime chicken, then go with that, fancy doesn't necessarily mean it's going to taste better. Right? A good roasted chicken, even with some really nice smashed potatoes I would rather eat, and some fancy food that's been touched by a 100 hands and has been sitting on a plate for six hours.

Leah Longbrake:

Yeah, absolutely.

Stephanie Paganini:

But food is important, it's part of the experience as chef. So for me, we made the choice of venue based on the meal. So, I'm going to want to budget a lot more to the food than maybe most people do.

Leah Longbrake:

Honestly, I think the food is ... aside from the wedding dress and the happy couple exchanging their vows, the food is probably the number one thing that people take away from a wedding [inaudible 00:29:30]

Stephanie Paganini:

Yeah. Yeah, for sure.

Leah Longbrake:

No one remembers the little cards that say their name on it, where they're sitting, but they'll remember if the food was good or not.

Stephanie Paganini:

I agree.

Leah Longbrake:

So it's worth budgeting a little bit more for.

Stephanie Paganini:

Yeah. Or go someplace where they do food, they know food, and the location is something that can build up around that. We were very lucky with our cake, we had our cake and then we had our groom's cake and I was lucky in the sense that I had competed on a food network competition show called Sweet Genius.

Leah Longbrake:

Yes.

Stephanie Paganini:

I didn't win.

Leah Longbrake:

You should have, you were robbed.

Stephanie Paganini:

Thank you. I truly believe I was edited to look much better than I did, but I had a lot of fun and the other contestants were really lovely, and one of them, we stayed very close. Actually the person who won, we stayed very close and stayed in contact and she's this wonderful cake baker out of New Hampshire.

Stephanie Paganini:

So, when we were going up to Maine, there's no bakery in this part of Maine. I said to my husband, I said, "No problem, we're going to be up there three or four days, before I will just make the wedding cake. It's no big deal." My husband's like, "No." Thank God for Alan, because he was like, "I'm going to forbid this." He's like, "I never put my foot down, I let you get your way." He's like, "I'm going to really forbid you making your own wedding cake because I really feel you have a lot of other things you want to worry about and I want you to relax and I don't want you stressed and I don't want you worrying about where the cake is when you're trying to get ready for your wedding." He's like, "No."

Leah Longbrake:

Smart man, Alan.

Stephanie Paganini:

Right. I mean, Alan is a smart man, he did marry me. So, I called my friend in New Hampshire and I said, "I need your help, I'm getting married in Maine and I don't know any bakers in that area. Who would you recommend? They trust you." She said, "Do you know that I deliver to Maine and I actually do wedding cakes. I deliver up to Maine?" I said, "No, but this is far up." She's like, "Actually am delivering a wedding cake an hour away from where your reception is that weekend." I was like, "Oh my God, that's amazing." I said, "Great." I said, "I will happily order a cake from you." She's like, "Nope, that's my wedding gift to you." So, she gave me my wedding cake. She gave me my groom's cake. That was her wedding gift.

Leah Longbrake:

That's incredible.

Stephanie Paganini:

I know.

Leah Longbrake:

Talk about things falling into place.

Stephanie Paganini:

Right. I mean, it really was, and I was like, "You can't get anything better than that." I mean, she's an amazing chef, she's an amazing person. So, our cake had different layers of ... it was a chocolate cake with coffee buttercream. Then the other layer was a lemon cake with a blueberry buttercream. Those were mine. So the wedding cake were my flavor choices, and so someone who wanted chocolate and coffee could get that or if someone wanted something lighter, like lemon and blueberry, we had that layer. Then my husband, he's so sweet, he's so old school, his favorite cake is supermarket cake with like that hurt your teeth icing, that so sweet-

Leah Longbrake:

So sugary.

Stephanie Paganini:

Yep. So the groom's cake was that, I mean, it was supermarket style cake, was supermarket style icing, but she did the whole outside and fondant to look like a lobster pot and have the two lobsters sitting in the lobster pot because lobster supposedly make [inaudible 00:33:10]

Leah Longbrake:

Yes. As a friends fan I love that.

Stephanie Paganini:

[crosstalk 00:33:16] on your lobster.

Leah Longbrake:

On your lobster, it's so awesome. What a great groom's cake idea?

Stephanie Paganini:

It really was cute.

Leah Longbrake:

It beats the Bleeding Armadillo from Steel Magnolias.

Stephanie Paganini:

It does. Yeah. Ours didn't bleed or anything, but no, it was really cute. I think I set one of the pictures of the cake in the background with ... and again, she made me a beautiful penny on the cake. She did it in birch bark because we were talking about integrating birch trees into our wedding planning design, and so the cake is supposed to be the outside bark, supposed to look like birch bark. So it's white, it's very clean and then the one penny on it. So, it was really pretty.

Leah Longbrake:

What is your favorite TV wedding dress?

Stephanie Paganini:

My favorite TV wedding dress. I don't know that I have any, I love them all, that's the problem, is like every wedding for me is beautiful, every dress to me is beautiful. Back from when I was a kid and you're watching the Little Mermaid and when her dress just appears, and I'm bawling my eyes out, like every wedding ... because the bride is so happy in that moment, there's so much love that I think every dress is beautiful and every wedding is beautiful. I don't have one that stands out as for me the absolute [inaudible 00:35:24] Do you have one? What's your favorite?

Leah Longbrake:

For TV show, that's hard. I don't know. My brain immediately goes to Luke and Laura. That's how old school I am-

Stephanie Paganini:

[crosstalk 00:35:34] Luke and Laura.

Leah Longbrake:

I'm 37. I'm older than I look.

Stephanie Paganini:

[inaudible 00:35:43]

Leah Longbrake:

But obviously being a friends fan, I love all of their wedding dresses, even as not great as Jennifer Aniston's, Rachel's dresses on the beginning of the whole series, it's still like sentimental, Monica's was incredible to Chandler, but you know-

Stephanie Paganini:

They were [crosstalk 00:36:04]

Leah Longbrake:

So, any last piece of advice for couples playing their wedding, especially if they're deciding to do a destination?

Stephanie Paganini:

So, in a destination wedding, find a local resource to help you. We were very lucky that one of ... so there's lots of little towns in this area, and where we usually stay, it's called Brooklin, Maine, which is in the middle of Blue Hill and Stonington. I happened to call up there to ask if there were any resources for wedding venues, for wedding things, and I got this very sweet librarian who just became basically my co-wedding planner and she would send me names of people or she would happen to be at the supermarket, she will email me. I was at the supermarket and I bumped into the florist and I asked her how your wedding stuff was coming along. She was mentioning this.

Stephanie Paganini:

So, I invited her, she came to my wedding, at my rehearsal dinner. So, she just became a friend. So having someone, if you're going to a destination wedding, someone you trust or someone that knows the locals and knows places that can answer questions for you like, "Oh, I'm deciding between A and B." Then they'll be able to say, "A is really great, B is not so great. So having someone local that you know and trust, and anticipate the unexpected, my parents were hosting the welcome gathering of people at their rental house, it was just going to be a cheese and wine thing at their rental house. They were doing it for the night they were flying in.

Stephanie Paganini:

So they were flying in that morning, they were going to hit the supermarket, driving up from Portland and then they were going to have wine and cheese for people as a welcome, well, their flight got canceled. So they ended up hopping in a car and driving the 18 hours so that they could get to my rehearsal dinner in time. So they're opening night, welcome dinner, they couldn't host it. So, Alan and I raced out, we bought wine, we bought cheese and we got the keys to their rental place and we hosted it in their place while they were on hour 13 or whatever, driving up to Maine from Cleveland.

Stephanie Paganini:

So, anticipate things are going to go wrong and you're not at home. There may not be a Walmart on the corner. There may not be a place for you to race and get a replacement, something. So, be prepared that things may go wrong and it's okay, your church will smell like maple syrup, but that becomes part of the story.

Leah Longbrake:

That's a great tip.

Stephanie Paganini:

Thanks.

Leah Longbrake:

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

Stephanie Paganini:

Yeah, thank you for letting me.

Stephanie Paganini:

I got married seven years ago, so no one asks about my wedding anymore. It's like, "Oh, didn't you get married back in 1942?" So I was like, "Oh, I like to get to relive that." I looked through my wedding vows and then I was like looking through my old emails and it's so nice. It's one of those things that anyone who's been married, I think there's that singular moment on that day where you just are in such happiness and to be able to go back and relive that, has been such a gift. So Leah, thank you so much for letting me do that.

Leah Longbrake:

Thanks, Stephanie. I can't wait to have you back soon-

View Less

Recent Episodes

View All

Harpist Courtney Kania Young's Advice for Hiring Musicians

Weddings Unveiled with Leah Longbake
Harpist Courtney Kania Young shares with us her personal experience performing for weddings, what to look for when selecting live musicians.
Listen to Harpist Courtney Kania Young's Advice for Hiring Musicians

Real Bride Callie Meredith: Planning Her Wedding During the Pandemic, and Being a Military Spouse

Weddings Unveiled with Leah Longbake
Real Bride and Host of Call to Marriage podcast, Callie Meredith, shares her story of being a military spouse planning her wedding during the pandemic.
Listen to Real Bride Callie Meredith: Planning Her Wedding During the Pandemic, and Being a Military Spouse

Five Things Wedding Vendors Think You Should Know with Wedding Planner Megan Gillikin

Weddings Unveiled with Leah Longbake
Megan Gillikin, Owner and Industry Consultant at A Southern Soiree, shares with us her top 5 tips on what wedding vendors think you should know.
Listen to Five Things Wedding Vendors Think You Should Know with Wedding Planner Megan Gillikin

DJ and Band Advice From "The Bearded DJ" Eric Smith

Weddings Unveiled with Leah Longbake
CLE Music Group DJ Eric Smith, a.k.a The Bearded DJ, shares his advice on how to select your DJ or band for your wedding.
Listen to DJ and Band Advice From "The Bearded DJ" Eric Smith