Making the first move takes guts.
Nichole Santee knows this firsthand. The part-time communications professor never would have met her husband, Andrew, if she hasn’t made a fateful swipe right on his Bumble profile. It helped that he had a picture of his Golden Retriever, Dave, of course. With the help of the cute pup, the pair went from exchanging messages to swapping phone numbers and making dates. A month after their online meet-cute, they were officially a couple.
“I knew he was the one pretty quick,” Santee admits. “He was the first guy I dated that I felt completely compatible with.”
When the time came for the proposal, Andrew, who was stationed across the South with the U.S. Army, wanted to keep his soon-to-be fiancée on her toes.
“Andrew is a trickster and decided he would plan a week of fancy dinners and dates so I wouldn’t know when he was proposing,” Santee explains. Although Andrew had to adjust his timing around his Army schedule, he snuck away to plan a special evening for the two of them at The Range in Salado, Texas. Yet when he still hadn’t popped the question by the end of the night, Santee grew suspicious.
And then she saw the dog.
As she walked into Andrew’s house and saw his dog, Dave, she noticed something odd on the pup’s collar. Upon closer inspection, she found a note asking, “Will you marry my dad?” Andrew followed up with a question of his own, and Santee found herself with a ring on her finger and a fiancé by her side.
Although Santee and Andrew are both from the south – Santee from Texas and Andrew from Oklahoma – the duo opted for an intimate destination wedding in the Hudson Valley to create an unforgettable experience for their family and friends. From the start, Santee knew she wanted to say “I do” inside The Cadet Chapel at the United States Military Academy at West Point, which she has toured a number of years prior.
“If you haven’t seen it, The Chapel looks like some of the churches in Europe. It is breathtaking!” she enthuses.
Since only graduates and those stationed at West Point can get married in The Chapel, Andrew, a 2012 alum, was able to apply for permission. Once approved, the duo began to scout for a reception venue nearby with the help of JoAnn Provenzano of What Dreams Are Made Of, a Hudson Valley event firm. After their first venue fell through due to a series of unfortunate events, – Andrew was in the midst of intensive training exercises that prevented him from visiting the sites with Santee and her mother, who missed a confirmation call from the prospective venue while on their flight back home – Provenzano stepped in with a suggestion to check out Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville.
“She assured us that the venue would be amazing and to trust her, so we put a deposit down sight unseen,” Santee admits. “My grandmother and I drove out there to see Brotherhood a month later and, much to my relief, it was better than the first place and was so magical.”
On the morning of December 16, 2017, Santee woke up to a sparkling layer of snowfall outside The Thayer Hotel. The wedding party had camped out at the hotel throughout the weekend, with celebratory cocktails on Friday and thoughtful care packages with snacks and city guides curated by Santee and her mother. The mood was festive, and a welcome change for Santee, who had been sick the night before. Yet by the time she spotted Andrew waiting for her at Trophy Point, where they would take their first looks, she felt renewed and 100-percent ready to walk down the aisle.
“Trophy Point is one of the most beautiful places on West Point’s campus,” Santee notes, adding that “it was probably 25 degrees outside with snow falling, but I could have been out there for hours lost in that moment with him.”
As magical as their first looks were, the golden hour came when Santee and her fiancée met in the heart of The Cadet Chapel. In front of 79 guests, the duo professed their love for one another. Christmas trees in the chapel surrounded them, and the soft snowfall outside framed their photographs with natural glitter.
Santee walked down the aisle is a stunning lace gown by Kelly Faetanini that popped with a sparkling waist belt and a lacy top. Her bridesmaids coordinated for the winter theme with glittering beige gowns that accented beautifully with the burgundy shawls they wore over top.
After the ceremony, the wedding party retreated to Washingtonville for a reception at Brotherhood Winery. To kick off the party, the newly wedded couple celebrated with a surprise choregraphed dance to “You Make My Dreams” by Hall & Oates. After that, it was onto dancing and revelry all night long.
With the wedding of her dreams under her belt, Santee has a few words of advice for prospective brides and grooms in the Hudson Valley.
“I think my biggest advice is to do what you and your fiancé want, not what your family or your friends want,” she stresses, adding that a destination wedding with a select group can often be less costly that a large-scale wedding close to home. In addition, she also recommends being mindful about budgeting for everything except a photographer.
“Spend money on a good photographer over food or expensive dresses,” she says. “A really good photographer can make any dress or venue look amazing.”
Last but not least, Santee notes that a wedding coordinator can turn the most bareboned plans into a truly unforgettable occasion.
“For me personally, my entire wedding was a success because of our wedding coordinator, JoAnn,” she says. “She knew who to hire [and] when to get them there [and] followed up with getting everyone paid on time. Andrew and I (and my mom) didn’t have to do anything that day but enjoy everything going on.”
Wedding Venue: The Cadet Chapel, United States Military Academy at West Point
Reception Venue: Brotherhood Winery
Event Planner: What Dreams Are Made Of…
Florist: Cherry Brandy Designs
Caterer: Gourmet To Go
Cake: Abby’s Dessert Bar