Sherry L. VerWey and Ryan Sweeney’s love story didn’t begin with love at first sight. Actually, it took nearly 12 years for the two to realize what everyone else already knew. “Friends have called us the ‘Ross and Rachel’ of Highland High School, but we were the last ones to know it,” Sherry says.
The pair met in first grade, grew up only two blocks from one another in Highland, Indiana, and attended elementary school, high school and college together. It wasn’t until years after college when Sherry and Ryan reconnected online that everything finally fell into place. “We hung out a few times, friends like we had always been, but then he asked me to dinner,” Sherry recalls. “It wasn't until midway through the week that I panicked, thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, is this a date?’”
It was, and a week after their first date, a kiss sealed the deal. “When he finally kissed me, a kiss that had been building up for nearly twelve years, we both knew that this was more than just a date,” Sherry says.
A Faire Proposal
A self-proclaimed “nerd,” Sherry has attended the Bristol Renaissance Faire, held in Kenosha, Wisconsin, since she was 13 years old. On one trip to the fair with a small group of friends, it was “business as usual: comedy shows, pub crawls, joust,” Sherry says, "but at the end of the day Ryan was acting strangely.”
When Ryan wandered off with his camera and the fair began to close, Sherry set off to find him. As a security guard tried to direct them toward the entrance, Ryan dropped to one knee and pulled out a ring. “The security guard said, ‘Quick—your camera,’ and he took pictures of the whole thing,” Sherry says.
“It’s a perfect story for a perfect day, and we have a great picture to remember it by,” Ryan adds.
Handmaking a Halloween Wedding
When it came to wedding planning, the theme and date, Saturday, October 29, were an easy choice for the couple. “Ryan and I both love Halloween,” Sherry says. “We would usually host Halloween parties for all our friends, so what better than the party of the year on our favorite holiday?”
Sherry decided to create many of her own décor elements and invitations. As sole proprietor of Gypsysoul Creations, Sherry is no stranger to handmade creations. She offers special occasion calligraphy and revamps envelopes and invitations, plus sells her hand knit and woven scarves and shawls.
Over the course of a year of planning and creation, Sherry crafted a Halloween tree of lit willow branches painted black with hand cross-stitched, beaded Halloween characters for decorations, made with the help of her best friend; and a gallery of family and friends’ wedding photos and childhood photos of the couple set in vintage frames bought from resale shops. Sherry also revamped her printed invitations with calligraphy and Halloween embellishments.
No Reason to Worry
With a year of planning and crafting behind her, Sherry and her bridesmaids began the morning of the wedding with hair and makeup at Salon Sage in Highland, then headed to a hotel to dress.
With the fullness of the skirt and all the laces, all hands were on deck to help Sherry into her dress. “It took several bridesmaids to get me in that dress,” Sherry laughs. She had tried on more than fifty dresses before finding “the one,” an Oleg Cassini dress unlike anything she was looking for. While the dress was much more modern than Sherry’s fairy tale vision, “It was perfect!” Sherry gushes. “I fell in love.”
The bridesmaids dressed in black and white polka-dot dresses they had each selected and accessorized with orange accents and shoes. Staying with the coordinated but not “matchy-matchy” look, each bridesmaid carried a unique bouquet featuring fresh and felt flowers, charms made by Sherry and Halloween ribbons.
While the girls pampered and prettied themselves, Ryan and his best man prepared at his parents’ house. “I was nervous writing my vows that morning, but after that, I was calm,” Ryan recalls. “Everything felt right, and I knew I had no reason to worry about any of it.”
An Emotional Reveal
Because the couple wanted outdoor photos and knew they would be working with limited daylight on a fall day, they chose to do an outdoor reveal. “We knew that it would be emotional seeing each other for the first time that day and we wanted to make it special,” Sherry says. “I remembered reading that the Carmelite Monastery in Munster had beautiful grounds and a cave. Keeping with the Halloween theme, we figured it would be perfect.”
The reveal was an emotional moment for the couple. “I cried,” Ryan admits. “There are thankfully no obvious pictures of it. She looked absolutely amazing.” Ryan continues, “I remember turning to my best man, Brian, and telling him, ‘Well, that's it. There's nothing that can go wrong today that will ruin it for me.’”
A Touching Ceremony
Their ceremony took place at the Towle Theater in Hammond, where the theater’s youth ensemble had recently completed a run of Anne of Green Gables, which meant the stage was already decorated with real branches, hanging aged window panes, and a large tree trunk that extended floor to ceiling. Tasha Raylene, owner of Virtuous Events and the couple’s wedding coordinator, hung votives from the ceiling to set the mood. “We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful space,” Sherry says.
The couple’s very personal ceremony was officiated by Ryan and Sherry’s friend Theodore Laich, a nondenominational minister. “His words were so touching, and the ceremony was incredibly special with him presiding over our vows,” Sherry says.
Ryan, who had been nervous about reading his vows (the couple wrote their own), was calmed by the intimacy of the setting. “We had such a small group attending and I was so close with all of them that I wasn't worried about getting up in front of them on stage for the ceremony,” Ryan explains.
'Halloween Gypsy Caravan' Reception
After the ceremony, the newly married couple and their guests enjoyed passed hors d’oeuvres, a buffet of heavy appetizers, served at stations set throughout the reception space at the theater, and wine, craft beers and a few special beers home-brewed by the couple’s friend, Greg Miller.
In lieu of assigned seating, the couple opted for vignettes of couches, chairs, and coffee and highboy tables, along with a few traditionally set tables. “Anytime that we had a party, we would always mingle in the kitchen around the food, so we wanted to re-create this atmosphere at the wedding,” Sherry says.
“The whole atmosphere had a Halloween Gypsy Caravan feel, with nothing matchy-matchy, which I hate, and everything just blending into one another.” Sherry’s two favorite décor elements? “I loved the jack-o-lanterns everywhere, which we made at two pumpkin carving parties at my in-laws' house,” Sherry says, “and the gorgeous Halloween wall that was lit by Virtuous Events really pulled all the elements together.”
Reflecting on their wedding day, the couple agrees: “It was everything we hoped for and more than we could have imagined!”
Happily Ever After
Sherry and Ryan both work in social service positions in Northwest Indiana. The Sweeneys now live happily ever after in Hobart, with their cat Rhiannon and dogs Molly and Demus.