Well-planned wedding still had some surprises

Holley Burfoot-Rochford and Neil Benjamin were married in Holley’s hometown, East Middlebury, at the Waybury Inn this past Aug. 10.
After graduating from Northeastern University, Holley lived in California, Oregon and Indiana, where she received her master’s degree in social work. She made her way back to the East Coast, taking a job at Williams College as the assistant director of the children’s center.
Neil grew up in Niskayuna, N.Y., earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at SUNY Plattsburgh, and worked in Montreal as a writer for a popular magazine. A guitarist and avid fan of Phish and the Grateful Dead, he also loves writing and sports. By the time May of 2012 rolled around, Neil was working as the sports editor for the North Adams Transcript.
On May 17, 2010, Holley and Neil met and the rest, as they say, is history. The Benjamins now live in Syracuse, N.Y., and they recently shared their special wedding story with the Independent.
How, when, and where did you two meet?
Neil: We met online, and it just so happened that we lived two doors apart on the same street. I asked Holley out to lunch at a local diner. Holley took her hour lunch break, we met and began talking about how Holley was the assistant director of the Williams College Child Center. I explained that I was the sports editor of the city’s newspaper. Our connection, I believe, was initially conceived because we both had intense passion for our work.
Describe the proposal. When was it, where were you? Who proposed to who? How was planning the proposal? Was it planned or a surprise?
Holley: On Nov. 3, Neil and I left our friends Brian and Katrina’s house in Colonie, N.Y, outside Albany and went to the mall. Neil said he wanted to go to Old Navy but instead walked me into Kay Jewelers. Neil said he wanted to get an idea of the kind of rings I liked.
Neil: We had been together for a little more than two years and were living together. Holley and I were in Albany and we went to the local mall for some shopping. Of course we had to go into the jewelry store and Holley saw a ring that caught her beautiful eyes. I tried to be suave by telling her, after we left the store, that I had to run back to the electronics store and that we would meet back up shortly. I went back to the jewelry store to buy the ring. This took a lot longer than I anticipated, and she came in during the process. She knew.
On our way back to Syracuse, with Holley knowing full well that I had the ring, she was giddy, pondering when I’d pop the question.
Holley: We stopped at a rest area.
Neil: Because I’m not one who can deal with keeping a secret or surprise, I pulled over at a rest area on Interstate 90 under the guise of being hungry. As we go out of the car I walked over to her side, took her hand, got on one knee, looked her in the eyes and asked her to marry me. For some strange reason, she said YES!
What was the wedding planning process like? How much time did you spend planning it? Any useful resources you want to mention?
Holley: Nine months, which was not a lot of time to plan, but I wouldn’t have wanted more time, as it was an extremely stressful process. Being out of state provided an additional challenge but frequent trips and having my parents and friends there to help made it all fall into place.
The Knot Wedding planner app was great.
Did you hire a professional planner, turn to a family member or friend for support?
Holley: No planner. We got lots of family and friend support, but I ended up voluntarily taking on much of the work. Having my maid of honor in D.C. and other bridesmaids in New York and Vermont made it challenging, too.
Do you like things planned to the tiny detail, or did you just focus on the broad things that you cared about?
Holley: Planning was easy and fun, but I would not do it again. My planning got pretty detailed.
You can’t plan every detail. Focusing on the key pieces — small and large — and having lists and spaces to spread out your things helps.
Neil: Since the wedding itself meant more to Holley (the symbolism of us getting married is what mattered to me, not the ceremony and such) my focus was all on the music selection. To say I am an obsessive Phish and Grateful Dead fan, I handpicked the cocktail hour and dinner music, as well as the final song of the night. If you listen to Phish, you understand why I chose “Tweezer Reprise” as the final song of the night.
I spent hours upon hours coming up with a “setlist” of sorts, in the Phish/Dead vein, taking songs that I love, songs that have meaning to our relationship and songs my friends love and piecing it together and allowing it to flow like a Phish or Grateful Dead concert would. This was the biggest part I played in planning the day. Holley did the rest, and it couldn’t have been any better. My dream woman got her dream day because of the tireless effort she put forth.
How did the day-of meet or exceed your expectations?
Holley: A week at a lake house in Vermont to plan with my maid of honor and friends, bridesmaids definitely helped. There were lots of projects, some I bailed on but most were accomplished.
All of the planning paid off! The day was perfect and everything worked out better than I had expected. Exceeded my expectations completely!
Neil: I tried not to have expectations, but that was quite difficult. The Waybury Inn is a charming, picturesque place to get hitched. With my family and closest friends watching closely, the day exceeded anything I could dream of. Holley did an amazing job, which didn’t surprise me in the least. It’s who she is!
I felt mildly organized, however, having my wedding party with me all day made for some interesting pre-wedding shenanigans. My best man and three groomsmen had a lot of fun. Then, out of nowhere, I realized I had to be showered, shaved, dressed and ready to go in 15 minutes. Good thing I can work on the fly.
I spent the hours before the ceremony catching up with old friends I don’t get to see often, and that was completely satisfying.
An important thing (again, outside of the ceremony) was our first dance, and the mother-son dance. Both dances seemed to go on forever with the nearly 100 people watching, but that went perfectly. Side note: I chose a Grateful Dead song (“Attics Of My Life”) that was nearly six minutes long. Smiley face!
What were the most important things to you for your wedding?
Neil: To me, the most important thing was that Holley was happy. I coordinated with the entire wedding party to make sure that if anything goes wrong, do not inform Holley until after the ceremony. Holley has said many times that the day was “perfect.”
The second thing was to make sure my family and friends were enjoying their time in quaint Middlebury. That wasn’t at all difficult, and I have been told by almost everyone in attendance that it was one of the most beautiful weddings they have attended.
Holley: The most important thing was that we wrote and presented our own vows well, that people enjoyed themselves, that Neil and I felt the moment and that we were present in it without panic or worry.
Our last dance was actually most meaningful to me, as was my dad’s speech. The song and closure of the day meant so much to me.
How large was your wedding?
Holley: We had 97 guests in attendance. People traveled from all over — Calif., Washington, South Carolina, Virginia, D.C., Pennsylvania, Alaska, New York, Massachusetts and Vermont.
How was the venue, how did you find out a bout it?
Holley: The venue was absolutely stunning.
We knew about it because my parents live right down the street. We get many of our holiday meals from the Waybury each year.
Was the wedding catered? How important to you was the food and drink?
Holley: The Waybury catered the event. Food and drink was very important to us. They host a tasting and we selected a number of amazing entrées. Our beer selections were also important selecting local craft beers, such as the Sunshine and Hopiness from the Drop-In Brewery, Fiddlehead IPA and Long Trail’s Take a Hike.
Neil: The beer was spot-on.
Tell us about the music/dancing.
Holley: Violinist Jess Novak from central New York played for the ceremony and Digital DJ provided music for the reception.
Did anything surprise you?
Holey: How quickly things went by.
Also, I didn’t expect my dad to give such a great speech. It made many people cry.
Neil: When speaking with my friends, many of them speak about how his words were memorable and emotional. It was, to say the least, heartfelt and bittersweet, as it was obvious that he was losing his little girl.
What advice do you have for others planning a wedding? Anything you would do differently, or recommend that others may not be thinking about?
Holley: Take time to take care of yourself while you are planning/freaking out, etc. You can get too caught up in the details.
Overestimate your budget! We spent about 15 percent more than we anticipated.
Neil: My best advice is to let her get what she wants for the wedding. Because I do not know one woman who does not dream of the special day Holley and I were lucky (and extremely grateful) enough to have.
What was your favorite or most memorable part of your wedding day?
Holley: The ceremony. It was so well done by our minister, Larry Yarborough.
What sticks in my memory is how beautiful the weather was and the gardens at the Waybury.
Neil: For me, the most memorable part was undoubtedly when I looked Holley in the eye and kissed her for the first time as her husband. It’s a moment that is etched in my memory. Each time I think about it, I brighten my day.

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