If you’re a TV fan like me, you’re probably familiar with the will they/won’t they couple. A couple who is end game, but the writers torture you for several seasons before they finally start being together. Stef and Ryan are my real-life Carrie and Big, Luke and Lorelai, Pam and Jim, Rachel and Ross, Robin and Ted (arguably Robin and Barney, but don’t get me started on that show). If you don’t know who these couples are, sorry, but you did quarantine wrong. Go back in time and get some quality streaming in.

The Start Of It All

It took the writers of our reality five seasons for them to finally admit what the fans of their show knew all the time: Stef and Ryan are meant for each other. Almost a decade ago, Stef and Ryan met. It was first term freshman year and they lived on the same floor. It was a pretty instant friendship for them.

“We were best friends for five years before we even thought about dating each other, but if you ask anyone, they’ll say they knew all along we’d get married,” Stef said. I can vouch for that. Pretty sure it was in everyone’s speeches at the wedding.

For most brides, I get the joy of being part of their wedding planning process, getting to connect with them and be a part of their wedding planning process. This time though, I was able to experience the whole relationship – and I can tell you: everyone who spent more than five minutes with them knew that they belonged together. It is like when you start a jigsaw puzzle and the first two pieces just snap together perfectly, putting you on the start of a journey to a beautiful final picture.

We all knew it was only a matter of time. What many readers won’t know is that these two are secretly pretty romantic, and it turns out Ryan was the epitome of romantic when it came to the proposal. If this were a real TV show, this probably would have been the making of a solid season finale, or at the very least a solid mid-season finale.

The Start Of Their Next Adventure

It started with a bit of mystery.

“When I came home from taking our dog out one morning, Ryan was GONE. There was a note on the bed, and I was 50/50 that I was either getting engaged or dumped that day (okay, more like 90/10),” Stef recalled. “The note was a list of things that I needed to do or pack before my friends came to my apartment to take me…somewhere. Luckily, my best friend in Providence came to my apartment immediately and coached me through some of the key things on the list that were missing because…boys.”

Stef’s friends were quick to help get her ready with essentials she may need for this mystery adventure before whisking her away to the airport.

“I finally found Ryan at the end of a long bridgeway and I couldn’t wait to see him,” Stef said. “He got down on one knee and said, ‘Will you go on every adventure with me for the rest of our lives?’” A little while later, she found herself on a plane Toronto. It was the start of their first adventure as a future married couple.

Stef knew she wasn’t going to LOVE wedding planning the way some brides do (which, ftr, is totally fine and super normal). Toss a global pandemic into the mix, and it’s understandable why she wasn’t the hugest fan of planning her wedding. There were arguably highlights though!

“I loved the excuse to spend more time with my bridesmaids, who I don’t get to see nearly often enough,” Stef said. “I loved how excited my family was in the planning process (they seemed to care about the minutia that I didn’t, and I love them for it). I loved the experience of everyone in our lives coming together to support us in ways that we never expected. And, I loved that, when it was over, I knew I’d be married to the best person in the world.”

When Stef got engaged to Ryan (again, finally) I was still living in Baltimore and hadn’t made the final steps to making Laura & Leigh Bridal a reality.

“I promise no one is paying me to say this, but Laura & Leigh Bridal (specifically the owner Laura) literally saved the day with my wedding dress. Truth be told, I didn’t have a ‘vision.’ I wanted to be married and that was my vision. Despite being with Ryan for seven years, I had never really dreamed much of the wedding itself,” Stef said. “So, that being said, it was so tempting to cut costs with a dress I ordered online or a non-traditional wedding dress that would have been a bit cheaper. Fortunately, my very best friend opened a bridal salon the same year I got engaged. OF COURSE I had to get my dress from her.”

That’s me! I’m the best friend! And I am still so thankful she was willing to wait to shop for her gown with me and give me a chance to bring her vision to life. I had already brainstormed about 1,000 ideas for her in the five minutes since I received the exciting news that day and was SO ready for the day I finally got to find the perfect dress for her.

We chose to make the day of shopping for her wedding dress special with a private appointment. It isn’t often that the bride and her bridesmaids (me, Kristen and Crystal) got to be together because after college we all moved fairly far away from each other. A private appointment was very needed! The big day came for dress shopping and I. Was. Ready. I don’t know that Stef was quite as ready.

This next part is just her words copy and pasted directly because I read it once and it made me teary. I tried rewording it to cut it down, but just got teary again. Rather than try that game, here’s just a block copied directly from Stef:

“Little did I know that the experience would open my eyes to just how talented she is at her job (and I think, above all, I’m grateful for the chance to see her truly in her element). Ladies, shopping for my dress was OVERWHELMING. It feels like there are a million choices, none of the things I thought would look good actually look good, trying on samples that don’t fit you is stressful, they say you know ‘the one’ (but actually in a store like Laura & Leigh there are so many beautiful gowns that you love 90% of them), and your entourage can be exhausting. But somehow, and I don’t know how, Laura coached me through every single step and I never once felt anything but happy and excited while I was with her picking out my dream dress. We ended with something sweet, elegant, and romantic – and nothing like my “vision”, but so so so much better. I felt like a bride. I felt like me. And regardless of how traditional (or not) you want your wedding to be, never undervalue how important it is to find a shop and a stylist that can make you feel that way.”

Nope. Crying again. Let’s just cut to the wedding day.

Their Wedding Day In Philadelphia

Stef and Ryan were lucky they are incredible teammates because planning this wedding was all sorts of crazy. Like most 2020 couples who are faced with postponing, cancelling or completely upending their original plan, they were well past Plan B. Their wedding went from over 100 guests to about 20. It isn’t easy planning a wedding. It is emotional, stressful and challenging! Any 2020 couple (Stef and Ryan included) will tell you that this year made all that normal wedding planning noise seem like a cakewalk. Thankfully, her venue was there for her, too, making her day work however they could so she wouldn’t have to postpone.

But, really, Stef was just looking forward to celebrating, for planning to be done and for a drink to be in her hand.

“After the stress of the day, just drinking good booze, eating great food, listening to our curated playlist, and enjoying the atmosphere we created with our closest family and friends was a dream,” Stef said.

On top of everything, the week of their wedding it was raining, plus the day of forecasted rain. Thankfully, her super thoughtful maid-of-honor, Kristen, saw the forecast and immediately ordered a bulk order of clear umbrellas. But, the thing about having umbrellas is that it never rains when you actually have an umbrella. Sorry Kristen, but it worked! The day ended up being really beautiful, which was very lucky because their gorgeous first look could happen on the roof as planned.

“The first look was on the roof top of our hotel and it was just Ryan and me (plus [the] photographer),” Stef said. “I as so relieved to see him and be with him finally that I didn’t want to go back down to the actual wedding!”

Planning a wedding in the year of the pandemic leaves little room for surprises. But who ended up being the biggest crier did leave the couple a little surprised. It wasn’t me or the other bridesmaids, but we did cry a lot.

“Ryan was more emotional than I expected, but I definitely was the bigger crier! Honestly, my mother-in-law greeted us after our ceremony and was sobbing uncontrollably and SHE may have been the biggest surprise,” Stef said.

The best part about their intimate and magical wedding was knowing what these two have gone through and how much they deserved the best day ever. Knowing all of that and seeing her finally get to make the first step down the aisle with her mom by her side left the whole group in tears.

There was so much love and excitement in the room that it was easy to forget the insanity that lead to that moment. It was the perfect ending to what we all had wished for since day one. I, for one, can’t wait to see where the writers take this couple next!

Stef’s Advice for Future Brides:

“I’m not really sure I’m one to get advice from. My first rule of wedding planning was that, if it became NOT FUN at any point, we would stop whatever it was and pick it back up later. That mostly worked until the pandemic hit. Then mostly everything was stressful and not fun. So now my best advice would be to hold everything lightly – meaning that it helped to focus on the important things, laugh at how ridiculous the world can be, and be flexible when things don’t go as planned. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that the unplanned moments and memories are what you end up cherishing most.”

Also THIS: “I can’t recommend a solo first look enough (big shout out to Brittney Raine who basically acted like a linebacker for family/friends who wanted to be there for the look).”

Stef’s Look:
Gown: Ti Adora Bridal
Veil: Bel Aire Bridal
Halo: Thomas Knoell Designs

Bridesmaids: Jackie by Wtoo, Deya by Wtoo & 1656 by Allure

The Vendors Who Made The Day:
Photographer: Brittney Raine Photography
Venue: Power Plant Productions
Hair: Duette Hair and Makeup
Make Up: Haüs of Opulence
Florals: Yellow House Flowers
Groom’s Attire: Black Tux
Catering: Power Events Catering

Phone: 856.779.0384
Email: info@lauraandleighbridal.com
Address: 937 Church Road, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002
(near Philadelphia, right outside the Cherry Hill Mall)

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