As they approach their 30th anniversary, the celebrity event planner Bryan Rafanelli and her longtime partner Mark Walsh have decided to make things official. “Mark proposed in early July 2019, and his raw emotional desire to get married convinced me that it was the most important thing in the world to him,” Bryan says. The offer did not come without conditions, however. “One of Mark’s conditions was that we had to get married before the end of the year.” The turnaround was quick, even for a seasoned event planner who counts the Clintons among his frequent clients. But their desire to act quickly was compounded by the fact that Bryan’s book, A Big Party: Designing the Perfect Celebration, was released in late September, and some of the couple’s dear friends were struggling with critical health issues. “Suddenly getting married within 30 days seemed like a big thing to do,” Bryan says. “My mother, who is 84, reminded me that she can’t wait forever!”
Bryan and Mark, a fundraising consultant, decided to have their wedding at the summer house where Bryan produced his first wedding, 23 years prior. “The owners have become a family,” says Bryan. “They have been longtime clients and business advisors for over 25 years, and when I told them we had decided to get married, they enthusiastically offered their beautiful summer home in a community called Oyster Harbor on an island in Cape Cod Bay. ”
Bryan grew up in New England and he always enthusiastically told his clients that September was the perfect time to get married on Cape Cod. “As summer draws to a close, there’s a vintage quality to Cape Town flowers and foliage that I really love,” he says. “I’ve always admired my parents’ marriage. They had a morning service followed by lunch at my father’s mother’s house. Since we wanted to plan this in 30 days, I had no desire to have a big wedding or an evening reception, but I liked the idea of a day-long ceremony and lunch, just like my parents had.
So a simple, low-key morning ceremony followed by a lovely lunch with family and friends is exactly what Bryan set out to do in this very limited time frame. “I wanted everything to feel effortless and easy,” he explains. “Elegant, sober, summer. I wanted the guests to feel like family and for the reception to reflect our simple intention to “finally” get married.
The wedding was originally scheduled for Saturday, September 7, but Hurricane Dorian had other plans and the event had to change by day as a result. “I have a talented group of amazing planners and designers in my company, Rafanelli Events, and they took care of all the logistics,” says Bryan. “I secretly asked two of my planners to help me navigate the planning, but I insisted on doing the wedding design myself and not asking my creative team for help.”
Bryan was equally demanding when it came to his wardrobe. He knew he wanted to wear a simple summer suit but didn’t want to wear linen after Labor Day. “At first we thought we were going to wear our favorite suits hanging in our closet, but then Mark sent me a picture of a suit he wanted to buy,” says Bryan. “We ended up meeting one of our personal shopper friends and, to our surprise, we each picked out the exact same Prada suit to wear, even though we were on different dates. In keeping with my personal, independent style, I wanted to wear a blue Brioni shirt and tie, and Mark wanted to wear a crisp white Eton shirt. George Clooney, the couple’s 8-month-old golden retriever, dressed for the day in a floral necklace featuring a gunmetal grosgrain ribbon adorned with hellebores, twins, roses, hydrangeas and Italian pittosporum.
As the ceremony began, guests took their seats on a hand-laid stone terrace overlooking the sailboats in the harbour. The first two rows were reserved for the couple’s nephews and nieces and their relatives. “We sat them in the front row because we asked them all to defend us for part of the ceremony,” says Bryan. The officiant was Bryan’s first father from the bride 23 years earlier, and as he spoke the couple stood in front of a decorative structure modeled after a stone church window from around 1868 which stands found near where the couple live in New York. Wood-engraved sheets bearing the names of deceased parents, family and friends were attached to the structure; they blew in the wind from the harbor as “Auld Lang Syne” was played. The couple read their vows and exchanged gold Hermés wedding rings. (Bryan was engraved with the words My everythingwhile Mark had the message The one inside – a reference to the message Bryan wrote to Mark on the thank you page of his first book: “The One – the person who always keeps me honest and uplifts me. . . and pull me down if necessary. “) To close the ceremony, Bryan and Mark surprised the attendees when live musicians – who were seated among the guests – stood up and played CeCe Peniston’s “Finally” to much laughter and applause. in a very love in fact moment.
“I felt like the luckiest guy in the world,” says Bryan. “I live by the statement that ‘where you are is where you’re supposed to be’, and it was clear to me that waiting 30 years to marry Mark was the right decision. We were lucky to celebrate this important milestone in front of my mother, our brothers and sisters, our many nephews and nieces and our family of friends, each of whom was there to testify to what they had helped to build in 30 years.
At the reception following the ceremony, the 96 guests were seated at two long tables covered with gray linen tablecloths embroidered with a cream laurel pattern. A collection of white and charcoal bud vases with green foliage with accents of white flowers and stoneware adorned the tables, while matte white tile place cards had each guest’s name engraved on them. “The place card sat on a stranded wooden menu board, and when guests lifted their place cards, it revealed the word ultimately“, explains Bryan. “Mark has a sweet sense of humor, and he loved this funny way of confirming what everyone was already thinking: why did it take you so long? After a good laugh, the guests enjoyed a melon and mozzarella salad, followed by a chicken Francese, zucchini and corn pancakes, grilled asparagus and a charred tomato compote with a sauce with lemon butter. Blueberry pavlova was served for dessert, before the bride and groom cut their three-tier celebratory cake. Then, when all was said and done, it was back to business as usual; Bryan headed for the Mayflower Inn & Spa, Inn Resorts Collectionin Connecticut on Monday morning for a business conference, and Mark drove home with George Clooney.