Photography by David Bachman Photography

You know the saying, “Never say never?” Joseph Salandra and Jennifer Grafe are perfect proof that the old adage is true.

The story starts with Joe. “I thought I’d never get married again,” he says with a shrug and a smile.

“He was such a confirmed bachelor for so many years,” seconds Jennifer, his now-wife.

Then, there’s Jennifer. “I always said I was definitely not going to have a big wedding.”

Of course, everyone also knows that love changes everything. They’d been acquaintances for a few years, and it was Jennifer who made the first move, calling Joe to go on a date. Within a year, Joseph was proposing on Valentine’s Day, pulling her aside to propose during a poker night with friends. By the following May, Jennifer was saying “I do” in front of 250 guests.

This totally cute couple — they finish each other’s sentences! — celebrated their nuptials in the springiest of fashions. Every year, Joe hosts a Kentucky Derby party at his historic Meadowlands Farm in Washington County, and so, with mint juleps in hand, friends and family not only cheered on Mine that Bird’s come-from-behind sprint to the finish. More importantly, they toasted to the glowing, newlywed couple.

“Everybody says that I’m all lit up now that I’m with Jennifer,” Joe says with a grin. “It’s true. She makes me happy. I’m very fortunate that I found her. And she’s not doing too bad, either.”

Off to the Races

On Joseph’s sweeping farm property, EVENTURES set up big screens to broadcast the horse race, which the partiers viewed during the reception, held in a spacious tent on the farm, complete with a dance floor. The Boilermaker Jazz Band played during the five-course dinner (which included lobster mac-and-cheese!), catered by Chef Marc Alfano. Della Robbia Flowers arranged white hydrangeas and pink roses for perfectly spring-y arrangements. The couple served a signature drink, the Bella Christina — half Champagne, half pomegranate juice, topped with a raspberry— at each place setting, which guests used for toasting.

Party Time

Next, the party moved to Joe’s 8,000 square foot barn, where more guests arrived and got to dancing. The room had been transformed into a disco, complete with the disco ball from the now-closed club, Heaven (where the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel is now located), and smoke machines. Dancing Queen performed while guests were noshing on lots of yummy treats, including the wedding cake from Bethel Bakery, “about 100 dozen cookies” baked by Marie Merante of Merante Gifts, and Pittsburgh Popcorn.


A Horse, Of Course

For their favors, the Salandras set out Sarris milk chocolates shaped as — what else? — horses. They also gave their guests small, silver mint julep cups and white chocolate roses, also from Sarris Candies. Jennifer numbered each table with jockey and horse-shaped holders, which she found online from Caufield’s Novelty. For the afterparty in the barn, the tables were bedecked with jockey helmets and vases of roses.

Luck Be A Lady

Guests were invited to the soirée with invitations that were appropriately adorned with horseshoes and the words “Lucky in Love.” For their five o’clock ceremony, Jennifer wore a taupe and gold gown from Babette’s Gowns in Bridgeville. Selected by Joseph, it was the first (of a dozen dresses) that she tried on. “I walked into the store, we went upstairs, and I said here’s a dress for you right here. Try it on,” he recalls, laughing. In true Kentucky Derby tradition, the crowd wore hats, too. Joe, who wore his own tuxedo on the wedding day, handpicked Jennifer’s hat from his go-to milliner, Hats by Hazel, as well. The bride also wore diamond earrings and a pearl ring, gifted to her by the groom that day. Joe’s children, Adam and Lauren, stood as best man and maid of honor, and the couple’s Old English Sheep Dog, Duffy, wore his very own tuxedo from Doggie Clothesline, located in California. The ceremony included piano solos of “Blackbird,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” and “Musetta’s Waltz,” played by Mike Garson.

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