Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Hyde reception: ‘We infused our wedding with our love for art’

By Madeline DeDe-Panken, Special to The Chronicle

My now-husband, Michael Epstein, studies vision science; I am a historian.

Our worlds intersect in art museums, where we’ve spent countless hours together — including on one of our very first dates, when we first began to realize we’d each found our forever person.

Without going so far as to have a Theme Wedding, we thought it would be fun and meaningful to have our day reflect our shared appreciation.

Reception at the Hyde — Guests were invited to tour the museum galleries during an extended reception period during Michael Epstein and Madeline DeDe-Panken’s wedding celebration.

Here are a few ways we did it, many of which can be creatively adapted to other mutual interests.

Venue: The Hyde

I’ve loved The Hyde Collection since I was a child, so we were honored when they agreed to go out on a limb and allow us to use their beautiful space to host a full wedding reception, especially during a pandemic when rules kept changing — and we had to post-pone the big day from the original date in 2020 to 2021.

The venue you choose really does set the tone. Giving our guests — especially the out-of-towners — a chance to explore this upstate gem and all its offerings made the whole event feel uniquely artsy, relaxed and unmistakably “us.”

Rather than numbers, each guest table was named for a favorite artist. Here: Wassily Kandinsky.
Artist-made invitations

For our invitations, we opted for a modern, hand-painted design created by independent artist Ashley Austin of Fine Day Press. We found her on Etsy. She was even able to match the colors to the Hyde logo, and she made us coordinating day-of signs to post at the reception, helping to pull everything together.

Beyond china: Your gift registry

When it comes to gift registries, more couples are thinking outside the “fine china” box. Including donations to charitable causes, options related to personal hobbies and experience-based gifts are becoming increasingly popular.

In addition to traditional household items, we registered for memberships to support a few beloved cultural institutions. We also created an Art Fund, which we’ll be using to fill our home with classic prints and unique local finds.

Ceremony & readings

During our ceremony, we had a close friend read Frank O’Hara’s “Having a Coke With You.” A longtime favorite poem of ours, it is an ode to art, to New York City (where we lived for seven years), and to finding the exact right person.

Ceremony readings are a good place to infuse personality — even humor — into the proceedings.

Tables: Not just a number

Table names are a popular way to bring a creative spin to your reception, and for good reason. Naming tables after significant locations, movies, books — or in our case, artists — makes for appealing centerpieces, provides a window into the couple’s life, and avoids the fraught process of numbering tables. (Who’s Number 2? Who’s 15th?)

We chose 16 special-to-us artists, placed a painting by one on each table and designated place cards by artist.

The place cards included miniature stickers that Michael made through a vendor he found online. Each sticker was a detail from the guest’s designated table painting.

Collecting vintage-style frames for those table paintings during the course of our wedding planning also enabled another hobby: Scouring vintage shops, thrift stores and the Internet for “finds.”

Although all this required extra effort, it was one of my favorite parts of planning, elevating a wedding task into an enjoyable team endeavor.

Other fun ‘bits’

As long as we were already framing little art prints, we continued the motif for the rest of the decor and tables.

On our bar, we placed Édouard Manet’s “A Bar at the Folies-Bergère.”

In the restroom, guests were treated (cheekily) to Dada artist Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain.”

A Roy Lichtenstein cherry pie graced our dessert table — itself covered in a deluge of homemade pies provided in lieu of wedding cake by our friends, family members, and Auntie Mame’s Pies (delicions!).

As a bonus, we now have many of the art prints from the wedding displayed in our home. Several of the frames, we were able to reuse as we gifted wedding pictures to our loved ones.

A real, live artist!

Painter at the reception — Plein air artist Corey Pitkin created a one-of-a-kind memory during the reception.
Rebecca Gatto Photography.
When my mom first floated the idea to have a live plein-air artist painting the scene at the reception, I was skeptical. Would it be too cheesy? Over-the-top? Intrusive?

Trusting her gut and the talent of local artist Corey Pitkin was one the best decisions we made. Seeing Corey at work was a delight, and the one-of-a-kind painting he created has made a cherished memory into a family heirloom — another treat for our guests that, in the end, is a treasure for us.

Other forever pieces

As with that painting, we wanted more than great memories from our Big Day, incorporating our commitment to one another and our love for our community in other distinctive ways.

For our Ketubah — the traditional Jewish wedding contract, often a keepsake item — we commissioned a piece from a talented Ketubah artist, in the style of Jewish artist Mark Rothko.

Our Chuppah (Jewish ceremony canopy) was hand-felted by Glens Falls fiber artist and close family friend Joy Muller-McCoola.

Rather than the usual guest book, we asked everyone to sign the pages of a coffeetable book of modern art that Michael gave me more than a decade ago.

Now that book is filled with the well-wishes of our loved ones, alongside Michael’s original birthday inscription that reminds me of how far we’ve come, and how much more we get to do together.

A final thought

All weddings are unique, as each couple’s love story is theirs alone. To add creative oomph and make for a memorable guest experience, find ways to incorporate the things you and your partner love throughout the celebration. Our art-filled wedding was truly one of the best days of my life.
All photos/Rebecca Gatto Photography. Wedding coordinator was Letizia Mastrantoni of Events To a T.

Glens Falls’ Mady DeDe-Panken wed Michael Epstein of N. Jersey

Madeline DeDe-Panken and Michael Lewis Epstein were joyfully wed on September 5, 2021, in Glens Falls. Rabbis Linda Motzkin and Jonathan Rubenstein officiated and siblings Bill Epstein and Anna Smith served as Best People.

Following a ceremony in Glens Falls City Park, the reception was held at the Hyde Collection.

Madeline, 31, grew up in Glens Falls, the daughter of Cathy DeDe (Managing Editor of The Chronicle) and Michael Panken of Travelers Insurance Co.

Michael, 33, is the son of Bess Epstein of Delmar, and the late Jeff Epstein. He was raised in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

The couple met at Clark University. They have been together for 11 years and currently live in Medford, Massachusetts.

Dr. Epstein, a neuroscientist, holds a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Boston University. He earned his PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at The Graduate Center CUNY in 2020.

Madeline earned an MA in History at Clark University in 2013 and is currently a Doctoral Candidate in U.S. History at The Graduate Center CUNY.

The couple wishes to thank all of their friends, family and the local vendors who made their celebration possible.

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