Although they were neighbors growing up, Kelly Carr and Michael Rogalia Jr. first met when they were 12 years old. They were both working at Tim’s Pumpkin Patch in Marcellus, but it wasn’t until they were 17 that Rogalia finally asked Carr out on a date.
They have been together ever since and were married last fall in the very same pumpkin patch where they met. Five years after their first date, Kelly and Michael went to the patch (which is owned by Kelly’s cousin Tim and his wife, Erica Leubner) to get pumpkins. Michael pretended to be searching for the perfect pumpkin when suddenly he was in front of Kelly on one knee. He said, Kelly recalls, “This pumpkin is pretty perfect but not as perfect as you.”
Weddings were once a simple matter, but these days many people dream of a lavish ceremony to celebrate their big day. The Rogalias had that same dream. However, they set out to prove that it’s possible to have a fairytale wedding without spending a fortune. They knew right away they wanted to have their wedding in the fall. “So many beautiful colors and of course, pumpkins!” Kelly said. They started planning immediately.
Kelly and her mother made several trips to A.C. Moore and Michaels. They hit all the clearance sales and used numerous coupons in order to get great discounts. They tried to do as much as possible themselves to save money, and in the end, putting in the extra effort was well worth it.
Kelly had always thought she would get married in the same church where her grandparents, parents and sisters were all married, but after visiting the patch, she and Michael found the perfect spot on a hill, overlooking a sea of pumpkins. The hard work that followed allowed the Rogalias to have the wedding of their dreams while keeping to a budget.
With help from family, they cleared a plot measuring 100 by 100 feet and planted grass for the ceremony. Michael built an arbor from cedar for the two of them to stand under. They avoided the cost of renting chairs for their 200-plus guests by borrowing bales of hay from a local farmer and covering them with white muslin. Other bales they used as a backdrop. Autumn mums took the place of expensive flowers, and they didn’t need much else besides the pumpkins to make the scene perfect.
Kelly admits that tending to the plot was a lot of work. They began preparing the spot about five months before the wedding and mowed it at least once a week. A week before the wedding, the couple went to the plot, and to Kelly and Michael’s dismay, it was as if the weeds had taken over during the night. “They were everywhere,” she said. “I just stood there feeling like we should just give up and have the wedding at the church.”
They didn’t give up, however. With a few extra hands, they removed all the pumpkins within a 30-yard radius, mowed, weeded, and put all of the pumpkins back as if they had never been touched. Hard work, without a doubt, but it turned out stunning in the end. Unfortunately, that was not the only glitch the Rogalias faced.
It rained the entire week leading up to the big day, so the day before the wedding they went to inspect the plot – only to discover the entire pumpkin patch had turned to mud. The Rogalias were not about to let a little rain stop them, so they formulated a plan of attack. They went to friends’ and neighbors’ homes and asked if they could rake their leaves. They filled truck beds full, and Kelly remembers riding in the back, covered in them. “Never did I think I would be doing that the day before my wedding,” she said. “It was one of the most memorable moments!”
On the morning of the ceremony, the sun shone brightly, giving them a picturesque Finger Lakes fall day. Their guests were carried by wagon the half-mile from the road to Tim’s Pumpkin Patch where Kelly and Michael were married, under the arbor constructed by Michael himself, among the vast fields of more than 50,000 pumpkins.
The theme, of course, carried over into the celebration afterwards. The reception was decorated with cornstalks, fall foliage, and, of course, pumpkins. The centerpieces for the tables were handcrafted wreaths made from grape vines wrapped around pumpkins. Miniature pumpkins served as place cards with names of friends and family written on them. Humorously, Kelly remarked that she was “worried about the guys helping, but to [her] surprise, Mike was quite crafty – although he’ll never admit it.”
In many ways this wedding reflected the same essence that many Finger Lakes weddings capture, but the simple ways Michael and Kelly were able to personalize every aspect set it apart. From crafting your own centerpieces to choosing a location that is purposeful and meaningful, there are countless ways to make your wedding yours.
When planning a wedding it is important to ignore the expectations that are so often fostered by bridal magazines and wedding guides, and instead remember why you are there in the first place. Despite the hard work, the Rogalias would not have changed a thing. Kelly and Michael not only saved a lot of money by doing things themselves, they had a fairytale wedding that integrated bits and pieces of the breathtaking Finger Lakes Region into the day. All that was missing was Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage.
by Hannah Kallet