Erin Slater-Suzuki was quick to admit planning her at-home wedding was stressful, but the tension took a backseat to the pleasant surprises she and her husband, Pete, encountered along the way.
First, there was their engagement, on a sunny October Monday in 2012. The two were plotting out where to build a barn and paddocks at their Malta home.
“We brought out what we needed, and Pete brought out a little box to write on. Just when we found where we wanted to lay everything out, he put on our song, Soul Rebel, by Bob Marley, and told me the box was the pretend barn we would build. He told me to open the box and see what was inside,” Erin recounted.
In the box was a stuffed horse and around its neck, a diamond engagement ring.
“It was perfect, quiet, sentimental and down-home,” Erin said.
The couple met at work. He’s a band teacher for the North Colonie Central School District, and she teaches chorus there.
“I was hired to do a leave, and he was there, and we became best friends,” Erin recounted.
The two eventually purchased a home, then set about building accommodations for Erin’s horse, Finnegan. At the same time, they were making plans for a one-of-a-kind wedding.
“We wanted to make sure that everything was unique to us, that we weren’t doing anything just because we ‘had to,’ ” Erin explained.
They decided on a small wedding at home, one they would organize on their own. With no wedding planner to help coordinate the details, putting it all together was a lot to handle, Erin admitted. The death of her beloved horse just two months before the big day added to the stress.
In the midst of the wedding plans, Pete convinced Erin to buy another horse. The two drove to Kentucky and back in two days, toting home with them a white mare named Sophie that stood in a post-wedding photo session where a maid of honor would.
The couple’s rehearsal dinner was a casual backyard cookout, during which friends and relatives helped set up for the big day.
That same night, Erin went to a local Price Chopper to pick up flowers. She and some helpers arranged them in mason jars and old bottles found in the woods behind their house. The bouquets were placed on burlap-draped dining tables also decorated with horseshoes, sheaves of wheat and dried lavender.
Friends offered to make sangria for wedding guests to drink, to take wedding photos and to perform the duties of disc jockey.
Erin’s dad, Jamie Slater, volunteered to make the wedding cake. He had never baked much more than a pie now and again, Erin said, but for her birthday in June, he branched out, creating a pistachio-flavored cake she loved. He offered to make one for the wedding, and the couple readily agreed.
“It look him like four or five shots actually. He almost burned the house down trying to make this poor cake,” Erin said. “It just kept boiling over and burning, and he had to clean out the stove, and I guess he was laughing the entire time and eating as much of the cake as possible,” she said.
Their wedding day was a windy Aug. 3, 2013, and the vases on the tables kept blowing over. But right before the 5 p.m. ceremony was set to start, the wind calmed.
An ensemble Erin directs at school performed as she walked down the aisle, and the Rev. Joy Burke of Saratoga Springs led a touching service.
During the ceremony, Erin and Pete toasted each other with champagne that sat chilling in a nearby bucket.
The couple’s dog, Lucy, affectionately known as “The Goose,” stepped in to add some comic relief.
“As Joy is doing her beautiful reading and we’re standing there all emotional, there’s our dog, licking the top of the champagne bottle,” Erin said with a laugh.
The day turned out to be pretty close to perfect — surprises and all, Erin said.
“Marrying Pete, that’s all I wanted, around the closest people in our lives, people that have always been there for us,” she said.