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Wedding Wonderland

Megan FitzGerald and Tommy Mandala • July 24, 2021

After departing the island where the ceremony took place, Megan and Tommy made their way down the aisle to the applause of their 270 guests.

Megan FitzGerald and Tommy Mandala were set to get married in the summer of 2020. Covid restrictions changed all of that. After postponing their plans, the two then entrusted their future to fate and faith, believing that the wedding of their dreams would eventually become reality.   

Fate actually began working its magic six years ago, when Megan’s parents, Tracy and Brian FitzGerald, took a walk through their neighborhood and noticed a house for sale. Curious about the price, Tracy tried to google the property. Instead, information about another house popped up. No matter what she did, the mystery house kept appearing on her computer screen. Intrigued, she did more research.  

Megan with her attendants, who wore champagne-hued dresses that varied in style.

The mystery house turned out to be a nearby home that was built by the late Earl Clark, the founder of Dutch Wonderland, and his wife, Molly, in 1971. “It’s a special property,” Tracy says of the acreage that is bordered by Mill Creek. Like the theme park, the house built by the Clarks included many unique touches such as a foyer that resembles a miniature Versailles and a hidden “speakeasy” in the lower level. Outdoors, they installed an island in the middle of Mill Creek and added a pond to the backyard, as well as a swimming pool. 

The FitzGeralds, who were not looking to buy a house, nonetheless fell in love with the property and made an offer. They also became fast friends with Molly. “I think she was pulling for us to get the house,” Tracy says. 

Tommy and his groomsmen got ready for the wedding by lounging around the pool and playing billiards at the FitzGeralds’ home.

The property was special in another way – it was the scene of the weddings of the Clarks’ daughter and granddaughter, as well as the daughter of one of Molly’s best friends. When Molly, who now lives nearby, learned that the property would be the site of Megan and Tommy’s wedding, she arrived for a visit with wedding scrapbooks in hand. 

When Megan Met Tommy 

Megan and Tommy, who is from Staten Island, met on the first day of their sophomore year at the University of Delaware, where they were peer mentors for a leadership program for incoming freshmen. It was the beginning of a close friendship. 

In November, they attended a conference in Orlando, Florida, and realized their relationship was moving beyond friendship. In December 2013, after her last final, Tommy decided he wanted to make their relationship “official” and surprised Megan with a bouquet of flowers and a note that read: “If you still want to take a leap of faith with me, I’d love to.” 

During the First Look photo session, Megan presented Tommy with journals that chronicled the progression of their relationship.

Following graduation, the two maintained a long-distance relationship, as Tommy was working on his doctorate in physical therapy, while Megan was in the process of earning her master’s in speech-language pathology from Penn State. Upon completing her degree, she moved to New York, only to have Tommy decide to return to Delaware to do a residency in sports physical therapy. 

In July 2019, Tommy lured Megan back to Delaware under the guise of needing help to vacate his apartment. One day they strolled around campus and reminisced about college. When they arrived at the apartment where he had asked Megan to be his girlfriend, another bouquet awaited her. The note that was attached was short and sweet and simply said, “Will you marry me?” 

Megan and her attendants cross the bridge to the ceremony site. A month later, storms would cause serious damage to the bridge and bring flooding to the backyard.

Let the Planning Begin! 

Megan had always dreamed of an outdoor wedding. But, because she was employed by the New York City Department of Education, a mid-summer wedding would best fit her schedule. “I’ve been to so many outdoor weddings in July and August and have this memory of the weather being the major topic of conversation – and not in a good way,” she says of the East Coast’s notoriety for hot and humid conditions during the summer months. “I didn’t want that to happen with our wedding, so we decided to do a church wedding at St. Mary’s and hold the reception at the Penn Square Marriott.” Because so many guests would be coming from out of the area, Megan and Tommy viewed their plans as being convenient from a logistics standpoint. The date was set for August 1, 2020. 

A wall of flowers that exemplified summer decorated the Mill Creek island that served as the ceremony site.

Megan began shopping for a dress. She found exactly what she was looking for at POSH Bridal in Lancaster, but living in New York, she felt she had to experience the allure that is Kleinfeld’s. Not finding the dress of her dreams, her consultant began taking elements from dresses that Megan did like in order to meet her expectations. Megan said “Yes to the Dress,” only to realize that she had “designed” a dress that looked like the BECCAR gown she had seen at POSH. In the end, she canceled the Kleinfeld dress and returned to POSH. Megan’s wedding dress was a gift from her grandparents, Jay and June Reynolds.

Gowns were ordered for her attendants, as were tuxes for the groomsmen. An all-white color scheme was established and discussions about florals and linens commenced. Other vendors were lined up, as well. All there was to do now was wait for the big day to arrive when Megan and Tommy could celebrate with family and friends. 

Brian FitzGerald walked his daughter down the aisle and to the bridge where Tommy awaited Megan’s arrival. The headpiece Megan wore represented “something old” as it was worn by both her grandmother and mother.

Making a Pivot 

Of course, we all know what transpired in early 2020. Covid arrived. Megan describes living in New York as “surreal.” Taking walks became a major source of entertainment and exercise. “Seeing Times Square empty was so odd,” she recalls. She and Tommy, who is a physical therapist and the founder of All in ACL, escaped to Lancaster as often as they could. 

Of course, they couldn’t help but worry about their wedding plans. Ongoing restrictions meant that the guest list would have to be drastically pared back. Megan would have to wear a mask for her walk down the aisle. Family members had concerns about traveling during Covid. “We had a lot going on and a lot to consider,” she explains. In the end, they decided it would be best to postpone the wedding until summer 2021. They were disappointed but resolute. 

Tracy was escorted down the aisle by her sons, Kevin and Joseph.

Despite putting their wedding on hold, Megan and Tommy held a celebration of sorts on August 1, 2020. Instead of trying to ignore what was supposed to be their wedding day, the two decided to spend the weekend with family in Fenwick Island, Delaware, and meet up with their photographer, Sarah (from Perigee Photo Co.), for a sunrise photo shoot on the beach. “I found Sarah through Instagram,” Megan explains. “I loved that her photographs were very artistic, organic and natural. Sarah made it a fun morning – we loved the pictures,” Megan says of commemorating what was supposed to be their wedding day.  

Peter Emr, a deacon in the Catholic Church, served as the officiant for the ceremony. Because of Covid, dispensations were given that allowed for Catholic ceremonies to be conducted outside of a church building.

As 2020 transitioned to 2021, things remained in limbo. “As of February [2021], nothing had changed at the Marriott,” Megan says of Covid restrictions on room capacities. The couple then decided perhaps another pivot was in order and began to look at properties that offer outdoor options. “They had capacity restrictions, too,” she recalls.

Then, during a late-winter vacation in Tampa, Florida, Megan and Tracy came up with a Hail Mary-style plan – the wedding could be held in the FitzGeralds’ backyard; their home sits on more than six acres, which would provide plenty of social distancing space for nearly 300 guests. 

Megan and Tommy pose for pictures in front of her parents’ home. The two honeymooned in Sicily and Malta.

Let the Planning Begin … Again! 

Megan and Tommy loved the idea. “It immediately felt very personal. It felt like us!” Megan explains. A new date was chosen: July 24, 2021. It was as if the stars aligned! The Clarks had built the house 50 years ago in 1971, and Tracy and Brian were celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary in 2021. 

A large contingent of FitzGeralds arrived from the Midwest for the wedding.

With five months to alter plans and recruit more vendors – namely a caterer and a tent supplier – Tracy says revamping Megan and Tommy’s wedding became an “all-hands-on-deck” effort. “We decided to tackle any and all home-improvement projects we had planned for the next 10 years and get them done [before the wedding],” she says, still wondering how it was all accomplished. 

Tracy, who’s a realtor, and Brian, who is the vice president at Jay R. Reynolds, Inc. (a mechanicals contractor in Willow Street), spent all their spare time working on the wedding plans and sprucing up the new backyard venue. Megan’s younger brothers, Kevin and Joe, aided their parents’ efforts and endured plenty of wedding talk. The FitzGeralds called on numerous tradespeople they knew in order to get the projects accomplished. “One day I came home and seven trucks were in the driveway,” Tracy notes. “We were in full wedding mode!” 

Megan and Tommy pose with their parents, Tracy and Brian FitzGerald (right) and Vincent and Joan Mandala (left).

Tracy even found herself begging for help at one point. “I discovered the road in front of the house was supposed to be paved the week of the wedding, so I called the roadmaster and asked him to please not pave that week,” Tracy recalls of averting a disaster. “Thankfully, he agreed to it.” 

There was still one very big hurdle that needed to be cleared. Megan and Tommy wanted to be married in a Catholic ceremony, which is typically conducted inside a church. From the time she was a young girl, Megan always knew that would be a deterrent to being married outdoors. 

Tracy and Brian with special guests, Molly Clark and Guy Eshelman. In 1971, Molly and her late husband, Earl Clark, built the home in which the FitzGeralds now live.

It just so happened that because of Covid, special dispensations were being given that allowed for marriage ceremonies to be conducted outside a church. In this case, Peter Emr, a family relative who is a deacon in a Catholic church in New Jersey, performed the ceremony. 

Tracy points to Ephesians 3:20 for all the blessings they received: “God can do far more than you can ever imagine, guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us.”

Sentimental Journey

The FitzGerald and Mandala clans were excited that members of their extended families would finally be meeting each other. For example, 40 members of Brian’s family would be traveling to Lancaster from Kansas City. “He’s one of nine children,” Tracy explains. An equally large contingent of Mandala family and friends would be coming from New York. The couple’s college friends would be arriving from all over the country. “Our guests showed up for us when we postponed, when we replanned and then in full force on our wedding day,” Megan remarks. 

Guests were welcomed to the wedding at the front entrance to the house, where a gallery of wedding photos from both families were on display and refreshments were provided.

“We wanted it to be a wonderful wedding,” Tracy explains. “We wanted everyone to feel the love, live in the moment and enjoy our home here in Lancaster.” Megan and Tommy, who wanted their wedding to feel “warm, vibrant and joyful,” made their intentions clear in the invitations and on their website: the dress code was wear what makes you comfortable, hence guests wore everything from black tie and cocktail dresses to shorts and sundresses. That sentiment applied to Tommy and his groomsmen: they went from wearing tuxedos to more casual blue suits. 

As for Megan, her wedding-day look definitely drew from the custom of wearing “something old.” In her case, it was the veil/headpiece that had been worn by her grandmother, June Reynolds, and then by her mother. 

Entertainment included yard games such as corn hole.

The cake also added to the sentiments of the day. It was from Staten Island’s Alfonso Pastry Shoppe, whose owners are friends of the Mandala family. “It was their gift to us,” Megan says. 

There was also a very special guest at the wedding – Molly Clark was on hand to witness the fourth wedding take place at her previous home. 

It Takes a Village 

Knowing they would need help in having things go smoothly on the day of the wedding, Tracy and Megan recruited Planned Perfection to serve as the wedding planner and day-of coordinator. “Danielle Boyer was great and provided the calming effect that we appreciated,” says Tracy. 

Finding a tent was also a priority. “Because of Covid, we wanted to find the largest one available,” notes Tracy. A dance floor was also a necessity. Hess Tent Rentals provided the largest one they ever put inside a tent: 28-by-28 feet. “There were so many people dancing that we could have used a larger one!” Megan shares. Another tent was secured for the catering firm, The JDK Group. They built an entire on-site kitchen. “We received many compliments about the hor d’oeuvres and the dinner,” Tracy reports. 

Petals With Style helped Megan make the transition from a white color scheme to one that featured summery tones via florals (and table linens) that, in Megan’s estimation, “beautifully complemented the deep greens of summer.” That was especially evident with the wall of flowers that brought a pop of color to the island, where the ceremony was conducted. 

Tommy and Megan survey the tent from the dance floor ahead of the reception. Their first dance was to Shelter From the Storm by Bob Dylan.

As guests arrived – many via motor coaches that were contracted to provide transportation between the city and the FitzGeralds’ home – they were greeted at the main entrance to the house with refreshments and a display of wedding portraits from the two families. After signing the guest book, they made their way to the backyard and the seating area that was located beneath towering cypress trees and provided a stellar view of the island, where the 5 p.m. ceremony would take place. After the ceremony, cocktail hour was held along the banks of Mill Creek. Yard games, such as corn hole, dotted the landscape. Then, it was on to the tent for dinner and dancing. Guests could also enjoy a bonfire in a wooded lounge area that was illuminated by twinkle lights. 

The wall of flowers was removed from the ceremony site and repurposed to frame the couple’s sweetheart table at the reception.

Favorite Memories 

Megan and Tommy’s First Look photography captured the bride presenting the groom with a special gift. Megan, who had journaled about their relationship from the beginning, presented the journals to him and read aloud a letter she had written to him in 2015. Tears were shed! 

The tent was aglow with light from candles and patio lights.

They’ll also remember the speeches Megan’s father, her maid of honor (Mae Ledva) and Tommy’s best man (James Mandala) made in their honor. “They were phenomenal!” Megan says. 

Finally, she will always remember the party wrapping up with the song, Shout. “Everyone was dancing! I remember looking into all the faces of our closest family members and friends and feeling so beyond loved and supported,” she shares.

Each layer of the cake featured a different flavor. The cake was a gift from Alfonso’s Pastry Shoppe, whose owners are Mandala family friends. As fate would have it, Alfonso’s was celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Then, following an after-party around the FitzGeralds’ pool, the newlyweds departed for Downtown Lancaster at 12:45 a.m. for last call at Tellus360 and socializing with guests at the Marriott. The whole wedding party, with Megan still in her gown and Tommy with his shirt half off, received lots of cheers as they walked around downtown. Megan and Tommy finally called it a day at 5 a.m. “I’d been up for 24 hours!” Megan says. “But, I didn’t want the day to end!” 

And, yes, guests did talk about the weather. As fate and faith would have it, the temperature on July 24 was in the low 80s and there was no trace of humidity. “It was a dream come true!” Megan says.

Credits 

Note: All vendors are based in Lancaster, unless otherwise noted

Photographer: Perigee Photo Co. (Harrisburg), perigeephotoco.com 

Wedding Planner/Coordinator: Danielle Boyer, Planned Perfection 

Bridal Gown: POSH Bridal 

Attendants’ Gowns: Online from Show Me Your Mumu

Groom/Groomsmen Attire: Men’s Wearhouse 

Hair/Makeup: Envy Salon 

Floral Design: Petals With Style 

Catering/Linens: The JDK Group 

Cake: Alfonso’s Pastry Shoppe (Staten Island) 

Band: The Bachelor Boys (Washington, D.C.) 

Tents: Hess Tent Rental 

Landscaping/Yard Care: Clean Cut Landscape Design

Container Gardens: Tracy FitzGerald 

Rehearsal Dinner: Yorgos Restaurant & Lounge

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