In our very first Real Wedding Feature, we interview Signe about how she and her husband, Tom, planned their classic, elegant Upstate NY Wedding at The Appel Inn. We wanted to share their wedding because they did a fantastic job planning a wedding that felt authentic and aligned with their values, before there was much talk of what that looks like. Wedding blogs like A Practical Wedding and Offbeat Bride were in their infancy, and Pinterest wasn’t even a thing yet. Weddings were mostly religious unless you eloped at city hall, and personalizing your event usually meant that you bought napkins embossed with your initials and wedding date.

Yes, they were dark times.

So sometimes it is good to take a look back, and remember that there were people paving their own way, navigating the world of traditional wedding planning and taking only the parts they liked to create an authentic, meaningful wedding.

Editor’s Note: Signe & Tom’s wedding photographer failed to deliver usable proofs or digital copies of their images, so to this day, most of the photos they have of their wedding were shot by family and friends.


Tell us a little about yourselves as a couple.

Tom and I are middle school sweethearts. I always tell people, we “like-liked” each other first. Tom has been my best friend since January 2000. In high school we worked together at our local Taekwondo school, signed up for classes together, and when we went to college, we still only lived about 30 minutes from each other. Tom and I are just inseparable. We eventually moved in together at 19, and quickly Tom proposed while out in the middle of a quiet lake on a row boat. We planned for almost two years and got married on June 5, 2009.

Signe and Tom after their wedding ceremony.

How did your personal philosophies influence your wedding & now your marriage?

I grew up in the Presbyterian church with an attachment to the community aspects of church and not necessarily the faith. Tom grew up in the catholic church with no attachment to any part of it. We both were “forced” to go to church Sunday after Sunday with it really meaning nothing. I understand that it is important for parents to instill their ideological beliefs in their children in order for them to make a decision for themselves, but I knew from an early age that this was not the beliefs I had…and I didn’t know what I believed. Honestly, I still really don’t! I digress!

When we were married, our officiant was a Presbyterian pastor I grew up with and who was a family friend. Again, for me it was more about the community and not the faith.

The ceremony was outdoors, in front of a stream. It was absolutely gorgeous and what we both wanted. However, since we were not getting married in a church, some of Tom’s family chose not attend…which certainly helped our decision in not “running back to Jesus” in our married adult lives.

Now married for almost 8 years, we both seem to have a belief in the unknown. We believe in science and realism. We believe that the world works in mysterious ways and that maybe there is something bigger than us. We have decided that when we both die that we will still be eternally together. Now that we have a son (at just 2 weeks old) we will raise him to “love thy neighbor as thyself” and to respect all races, religions, creeds, genders, sexual orientations, etc. Isn’t this what Jesus really wants?

Secularly Wed Blog | Real Weddings | Classic Elegant Upstate NY Wedding at the Appel Inn
Signe & Tom exchange rings during their ceremony, officiated by Rev. Donna Kay Lewis

Did you include any religious traditions in your wedding?

Our officiant, Rev. Donna Kay Lewis, was willing to make our ceremony the way we wanted it, centered around love. This is all we really wanted. Technically our wedding ceremony was a Christian ceremony but we asked Donna Kay to remove a few aspects of the traditional religious ceremony which 8 years later I can’t even remember. Honestly the most important parts of our wedding were in no way religious, but were focused on our love and loved ones.

What was your favorite part about your wedding?

Too many things! The venue, The Appel Inn, in Altamont, New York, is a family owned venue with gorgeous grounds, a historic house, and octagonal Gathering Hall. The director, Laurie, is also the wedding coordinator for the venue and she was an absolute gem! Everything was planned and organized by her. We couldn’t have asked for a better wedding experience! Also, our cake from Villa Italia was AMAZING.

Signe & Tom’s cake from Villa Italia in Schenectady, NY

What was totally not worth it, either financially or emotionally?

Our photographer, who I will not name, ended up being over priced and quite unprofessional at times during the wedding. They were a husband and wife team who ended up bickering at each other at times. In the end, they didn’t deliver what was agreed upon so many of the photos we have from the wedding were mostly sourced from friends and family.

What advice do you have for other couples planning secular weddings?

Always stick to what you want your wedding to be about. There were decisions made during our wedding planning that took “church” out of our event. We could have tried to please others, but instead we wanted to make our wedding about us! At the end of the day, and years later, it’s important to look back on your wedding day as a day that represents the two of you in the best ways possible.

Venue: Appel Inn | Catering: The Elegant Touch | Flowers: Renaissance Floral Design | Bakery: Villa Italia | Custom Bridal Gown & Bridesmaid’s Dresses: Erica Greenwold Bridal | Menswear: Choppa & Sons | Officiant: Rev. Donna Kay Lewis

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