Susquehanna Style
Hot for Hamilton

January 2017

By Hannah Wigton
Photos by Matthew Tennison

Reprinted with the kind permission of Susquehanna Style

Local wedding pros create a musical-inspired celebration

Inspiration can come from places you’d never expect. For Susan Moran, owner and lead wedding designer of That’s It! Wedding Concepts, inspiration for her most recent bridal photo shoot struck in a Broadway theater during a performance of the hit musical Hamilton.

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Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton: An American Musical tells the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton; however, it is not at all the typical tale.

“I’m a huge student of musical comedy and have always loved musicals, but it takes a lot to get my attention,” says Moran. “This one shook me to my roots.” Of course, many theatrical enthusiasts had similar thoughts, as the story of the Revolutionary figure is told through hip-hop song and dance in this production. “I thought, ‘Thomas Jefferson in dreadlocks? Are you serious? The history of our founding fathers in rap? Really?’”

But Moran couldn’t stop thinking about the show, and neither could the rest of the theatrical community. Hamilton received a monumental 16 Tony nominations, winning 11, including Best Musical. The show was also honored with a Grammy and won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

To better understand Miranda’s viewpoint, Moran watched interviews where he explained his vision. Finally, Moran grasped the impact of the musical: “We have to look back at the roots of who we are as a nation to see where we should go,” she says. And with that, she was moved to pen a rap of her own and boldly send it off to Miranda.

“Had no clue / that at 62 / it’d be YOU who / would shake my core / would take my “before” / my historical complacent self / to a new nascent self,” Moran starts her rhyme. The final verse gives a clue to her intentions: “This ole girl / finds a pearl / the jewel of a wider view / an exciting way to / create somethin’ new / inspired by YOU / to get folks thinkin’ and blinkin’ / one more way linkin’ us all!”

To Moran’s exquisite delight, Miranda sent a handwritten letter praising her rap and thanking her for her kind words. To her, this was the blessing she needed to move forward with an idea that had been brewing since the day at the theater: to use Hamilton as a theme for a conceptual photo session featuring many talented wedding professionals in Central PA.

Moran started her research and began compiling a list of vendors she thought would bring the most to the concept. She hosted a meeting of the minds, where the team talked about the general concept, color palette and scenes they wanted to convey. As chance would have it, the folks from Jeffrey’s Flowers shared that their minister is involved with Revolutionary War reenactments and could provide assistance with historically accurate dress, and Janell Berte of Posh Bridal chimed in that she also serves as a costume specialist for musical productions. They began to pool their resources, make plans and set a date.

When it came time to hold the photo shoot, everyone met at Venue Chilton, a historic home-turned-venue that offers many architectural details of the period. The scenes were set, each displaying the skill of a particular vendor. “We tried to make it follow the parameters that a real wedding would have,” Moran explains. Therefore, there are scenes displaying a grand entrance, the ceremony and several facets of a reception.

To play along with the old-meets-new theme of Hamilton, both traditional and modern components were added to the shoot. For example, you’ll notice that the women are clothed in contemporary gowns and dresses, whereas the male guests are bedecked in period attire.

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Historical details abound throughout the scenes. In the entrance scene, a guestbook is pictured with genuine quill pens, wax seals and simple, brown paper-packaged gifts. During the reception, the dining table is decorated with an elaborate display of candlesticks, flowers and fruit. “Remember, they didn’t have Michael’s back then, so they used natural elements,” Moran explains. During the cake-cutting scene, the couple uses a sword—a tradition of military weddings—to cut the musical-inspired confection, featuring layers decorated with gold filigree, period-style silhouettes, and a Hamilton star topper.

In the end, an important feature of the photo shoot, as well as of the musical, was a diverse cast. “Our country is composed of all different walks of life and ethnicities,” says Moran. “This shoot was not deliberately contrived to be multicultural, but the best person was chosen for each role, and it worked out beautifully that way.”

If future brides and grooms take anything from these images, Moran says she hopes that it’s this: “Anything you love can be the theme. It’s what makes you as a couple unique. Anything can be an inspiration.”

VENDORS:

Photography: Tennison Photography / tennisonphotography.com

Venue: Venue Chilton / venuechilton.com

Rentals: Event Central / eventcentralpa.com

Linens: Special Occasions & Queen Street Linens / specialo.com

Bridal fashion: Posh Bridal / poshbridal.com

Groom’s attire: Topline Tuxedos / toplinetuxedos.com

Hair and makeup: Shelbi Harnes and Leslie Gilbert

Paper suite: Persnickety Invitation Studio / persnicketyinc.com

Confectioner: House of Clarendon / houseofclarendon.com

Floral design: Blooms By Vickrey / bloomsbyvickrey.com / Jeffrey’s Flowers / jeffreysflowers.org

Set design: Shumaker PDT / shumakerpdt.com

Caterer: Hershey Country Club / hersheycountryclub.com

Wedding designer: That’s It! Wedding Concepts / thatsitweddingconcepts.com


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