LAKE PLACID - In mid August, most schools are preparing for students and teachers to return to class. Lake Placid Middle/High School, however, was preparing for a wedding.
Hope Shannon and Dave Tooley got married in the lobby of the school Saturday, Aug. 17.
The couple just moved to Chicago after living in Boston for the last few years, but Hope grew up in Lake Placid and graduated from Lake Placid High School in 2004. She has two younger siblings who went through school there as well.
Photo — Evan Williams Photography
Dave Tooley and Hope Shannon get married at the bottom of the staircase in the lobby of the Lake Placid Middle/High School this August.
"There was one of us in that school for a long, long time," Hope told the News in a recent phone interview.
It wasn't her lifelong dream to get married at her high school, but when she started planning the wedding, it just made sense.
The couple got engaged in June 2012, and they knew they wanted to have a small, do-it-yourself kind of wedding since they both have small families. When they decided they wanted to have the ceremony in Lake Placid, they started looking around at venues and found them to be expensive, especially on a Saturday in August, Hope said.
They decided to hold the reception in Hope's mother's backyard, near the train station in Lake Placid, but they wanted the ceremony to be in a different location.
They didn't need a lot of space, but they needed a place that was wheelchair accessible and affordable.
Plus, "We wanted something unique," Hope said. "We didn't just want to get married anywhere that a bunch of people had gotten married before."
Hope's sister, Kerry Shannon, who works at the Lake Placid Visitors Bureau, said that as Hope was looking at other venues, she kept talking about how she wanted something like the historic look of the school's lobby staircase. It took a while before it occurred to her to just use that staircase.
"It finally hit me that the high school in the lobby would be really, really beautiful," Hope said.
Kerry said it was an appropriate choice for her sister and her new brother-in-law.
"A lot of people thought it was really weird, but it's unique, and it's historic," Kerry said. "It's very Hope, and it's very Dave."
Dave isn't an LPHS alumn. He grew up in Scranton, Pa., but he visited Hope in Lake Placid a bunch of times after the couple started dating in 2006 while attending Boston University. He had even stopped by the high school before, "just to kind of see where she formed," he told the News.
"I knew it was a nice space ahead of time," he said.
Once they decided on the school, they had to figure out if it would be possible. They were living in Boston at the time, so Kerry, as the maid of honor and the boots on the ground in Lake Placid, was tasked with figuring it out. She contacted Randy Richards, who was superintendent of the Lake Placid Central School District at the time.
"He was like, 'Well, that's interesting,'" Kerry said.
Richards connected Kerry with district clerk Karen Angelopoulos, who facilitated contracts being drawn up. After only a handful of emails exchanged, the school was booked, Kerry said. They charged a couple hundred dollars, which Hope said she thought was extremely reasonable.
There were only two requirements: They couldn't throw rice or confetti, and they couldn't have alcohol on the premises. Neither was a problem for the couple.
The school board also approved the use, Hope said.
"They didn't have an established procedure in place," Hope said. "Nobody had ever asked about this before."
Hope said district officials seemed surprised but pleased that the couple thought of their school for their special day.
"We were all very happy to make it work for her," said Roger Catania, who became district superintendent in May and was Hope's guidance counselor when she was in high school.
As far as anyone in the district can remember, no one has ever gotten married at the school before, Catania said. He said many in the district remember Hope and her siblings fondly, and that made it extra special that she wanted to come back to her hometown to have the first wedding there.
After the contracts were signed, Hope, Dave and Kerry mostly dealt with Al Bonaduce, head of maintenance at the school. Everyone agreed how helpful and accommodating he was. He thought of things the wedding party didn't, like if they wanted space to sit down and prepare before the wedding, and whether they wanted chairs set up the night before for the rehearsal. He and the rest of the custodial staff gave the entire lobby area some extra TLC, making sure it was freshly waxed and shiny before the wedding.
"He was incredibly helpful and actually really happy to be there," Dave said. "It was nice."
"He made himself available above and beyond," Kerry said.
Other school staff were also excited about and interested in the wedding, Hope said. The couple had expected to duck in and duck out unnoticed without bothering anyone. But there were a lot of people around, and Hope said she almost felt bad for not inviting them to come watch the actual ceremony.
"We didn't expect it to be such a big deal," she said. "It seemed to mean a lot to them, so that made it all the more better. We felt like we had such a good experience at the end of it."
The couple kept decorations to a minimum: They placed 16 to 20 small pots of purple and pink petunias up the bottom few stairs of the staircase, and they used the stairs as the backdrop.
Hope and Dave stood at the base of the staircase, while her brother Mitch stood over them on the second or third stair from the ground to perform the ceremony. Mitch got ordained online so he could be their wedding minister, an increasingly common practice nowadays, and Dave and Hope wrote the ceremony with him.
The three bridesmaids and three groomsmen, dressed casually in bright pastels, stood on either side of the staircase. One of the bridesmaids, Grace Lyon, is a Wilmington native.
A friend sat to the side and played ukulele during the ceremony, including the Dave Matthews Band song "I'll Back You Up" as the wedding march.
The 43 or 44 guests sat in chairs in two clusters on the floor of the lobby.
The photographer was able to take photos from the top of the staircase and encapsulate the whole wedding in what Hope said were some of her favorite photos. They also took pictures outside the school's cafeteria on the hill overlooking the Olympic Speedskating Oval with the High Peaks in the background.
After the ceremony, school officials let them drive a convertible onto the Oval that the couple drove off in as the attendees waved from the top of the hill.
They said the location worked perfectly for their intimate wedding.
"We kept it small on purpose," Dave said. "It was designed from the start to be just people that we actually felt comfortable with and wanted to have around when we're talking about love. It's a much better experience that way, I think.
"We designed it from the ground up to be small and intimate and very personal."
"If we had had a bigger wedding, we would have been more limited on where we could have had (it)," Hope said.
It was a good fit, but she noted that there would certainly be room for more guests if anyone were to use the school again for a wedding in the future.
Hope said they hope the school district can hold other weddings or similar events in the same spot in the future, which could be a good source of revenue during tough budget times.
"I feel like they could very easily turn that into a thing that they do," Hope said. "They seem to have all the basic components there."
Catania likes the idea of hosting more events. He noted that the high school is used often for things like musician workshops in the summer and as part of events like Ironman and the I Love BBQ festival, but he would like to see more things like weddings held there.
"We are in the center of the community in more way than one," Catania said. "We are in the center of a number of people's lives.
"We would love to see more people consider our facility."
Plus, he said the school is a large, beautiful building that is centrally located within the community.
He said a number of people over the years have commented on the beauty of the staircase and the layout of the school's central lobby.
Now the school district is planning to install a plaque and hang photos to commemorate the first wedding held at the school. Catania said it was Bonaduce's idea, and other school officials agreed it was a good one.
Hope and Dave said they didn't have a single problem with the location. If they were to do it all over, they would do some things differently, but that is not one of them.
"If we got married again, we would do it at the school in a heartbeat," Hope said.
Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.