Real Wedding: Wedding Wonderland

One thing is clear from the multitude of pre-parties leading up to Niccole Hoover and Stephen Turoscy’s New Year’s Eve wedding: This crowd likes to celebrate.

One thing is clear from the multitude of pre-parties leading up to Niccole Hoover and Stephen Turoscy’s New Year’s Eve wedding: This crowd likes to celebrate. There was the July 2005 coed, luau-themed shower for 100 guests at Niccole’s parents’ place in Allentown. A few months later, Niccole’s attendants whisked her away to New York for the weekend, and the groomsmen flew Stephen to Miami, for supersized bachelor and bachelorette parties. In December, Stephen’s family invited a hundred people to an art gallery to toast the happy couple. “By the time the wedding came around,” says Niccole, “everyone felt really comfortable with each other.”

Steven and Niccole were leaning toward a summertime reception at Niccole’s parents’ home in Allentown, but that didn’t feel quite right. About seven months after their engagement, Niccole was leafing through a magazine piece about Philadelphia wedding spots, and she had a small epiphany: “I’m a dress-up girl.” And dress-up girls have black-tie weddings in sleek luxe hotels. It was Niccole’s mom who came up with New Year’s Eve as a wedding date. Like all good ideas, everyone immediately recognized that it made perfect sense, especially Stephen, who points out, “I’ll never forget my anniversary.”

Snow, Camera, Action!

St. Thomas More Roman Catholic Church in Allentown was already decorated for the holidays, with six Christmas trees draped with red and gold ribbons flanking the altar, but for the ceremony, Cheryl Reinert, owner of Garden of Eden Florist in Allentown, accented each pew with a small bunch of holly and ribbon and made the platform lush with planters of poinsettias. Flurries began to fall around 1 p.m., when Niccole made her way down the aisle in her custom-made sleeveless silk gown. (The inspiration was a dress Niccole had spied in a Tiffany & Co. ad.)

By the time the mass was over, the flurries had morphed into fat flakes, and the ground was covered with white. Strappy white sandals be damned, Niccole and Stephen summoned the photographer and the bridal party for an impromptu photo session. The bridesmaids’ black-and-white Jessica McClintock gowns looked crisp against the freshly fallen snow, and in her tiara, with a fur stole thrown over her bare shoulders, Niccole really was the ultimate “dress-up girl.”

Niccole and Stephen and their 12-person wedding party piled into a black stretch Hummer for the 90-minute drive to the city. When they arrived at Loews Philadelphia Hotel around 4:30 p.m., the line of people waiting to check in was out the door, but their wedding planner, Maria DeSimone, owner of Maria Jones Events in Philadelphia, was ready and waiting with room keys.

The Loews Philadelphia Hotel, in the historic PSFS building, was the first place Niccole and her mother had seen when they drove down to Philadelphia more than a year earlier to look at venues. “A lot of the other places we saw were flowery and feminine,” says Niccole. “I wanted a place where men would feel comfortable.” She thought Stephen would appreciate the modern, clean lines of Loews’ Millennium Ballroom. The room is on the second floor — the original bank floor from when the building was the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society. It has 30-foot ceilings, marble walls, an original Cartier clock and art deco-style carpeting. She was right — Stephen loved it. And both were impressed with the Loews staff, who encouraged them to look around on their own, to go up to the 33rd floor to see the view, to come back and see it at night. “Right from the beginning, there was a really warm atmosphere,” says Stephen.

Once DeSimone handed them their keys, the couple welcomed their parents and attendants into their 1,500-square-foot Presidential Suite, where from 4:30 to 7:45 p.m., they hosted a private party with a bartender and hors d’oeuvres. This “breather” gave them ample time to hang out with the people closest to them, and to relax. Niccole and her attendants were especially in need of downtime — they had reported to the hair salon that morning at 7 a.m. Niccole kicked off her shoes and ran around barefoot while, downstairs, the rest of the guests had cocktails and listened to a jazz band in the foyer outside the Millennium Ballroom. At a quarter to eight, the electronic shades on the tall windows dividing the cocktail space from the ballroom rose in sync to reveal the grand space dressed for 154 guests.

DeSimone and Angela Cunningham, catering manager at Loews, had draped every chair in white fabric with a black satin sash tied in a bow. The tables were covered in white and black linens. Tall, delicate glass vases held arrangements of all-white flowers: roses, calla lilies, orchids, white larkspur, hydrangea and stephanotis. As the guests streamed in, four hostesses handed them their seat assignments on reception programs that listed the evening’s events.

City of Blinding Lights

Stephen, Niccole and the bridal party assembled outside the ballroom and entered to U2’s “City of Blinding Lights,” which was fitting for an evening that would end with everyone up on the 33rd floor looking out at a panoramic view of the city. At 8 p.m., the Loews’ caterers served grilled red snapper and coriander-crusted filet mignon. The food was another selling point for the couple — they returned to the hotel’s restaurant, SoleFood, several times for dinner during the year they were planning the wedding.

After dinner, it didn’t take long for the guests to crowd the 30-by-30-foot dance floor. “The DJ did a great job with the music,” says Stephen, referring to Steve Croce of Silver Sound Disc Jockeys in Philadelphia. They had given him five to ten songs that they liked, but mostly he was on his own. “He told me, ‘I’ve done weddings where the bride and groom have picked out every song, and no one’s dancing,’” says Niccole, “so we let him pick out the songs!”

While the guests celebrated in the ballroom, Cunningham was upstairs arranging the cornucopia of New Year’s props that Niccole had brought. There were horns, hats, tiaras, noisemakers and wedding favors — little bottles of wine bearing the couple’s names. She placed the tchotchkes on cocktail tables and along the ledge running the width of the wall-to-wall windows. Around 11:30 p.m., hotel staff began to escort the guests up to the 33rd floor, where they had the run of the space. When the clock struck midnight, and the fireworks began exploding over the waterfront, everyone clinked champagne glasses and sounded their horns and noisemakers against a background of “Auld Lang Syne.” “It almost felt like the world was celebrating with us,” says Niccole.

Most of the guests had booked rooms at the hotel, so their beds were just an elevator ride away. Wearing 2006 tiaras and hats, they toted their wine-bottle wedding favors back to their rooms. And in the true spirit of this group, some went down to the lobby bar to continue the party. As for Niccole and Stephen, they’ve gotten rave reviews about the whole evening — the jazz band, the dramatic flourish of the electronic shades rising in sync to reveal the ballroom, the food, the DJ, the champagne toast. They just wish they could remember it all. “It went so fast,” says Niccole. “It’s a running joke that we desperately wish we could just go back and be guests.”