MEMORABLE WEDDINGS – Amanda and Robert
Text by Melanie Saxton Photos by Peary Photography
They both grew up in The Woodlands and attended Montgomery High School. But it wasn’t until after graduation that Amanda Winski and Robert Neighbors connected, romanced and finally tied the knot!
Amanda attended The University of Texas at Austin and interned for fashion designer Betsey Johnson. She graduated with a B.S. degree in Textiles & Apparel: Fashion Design and is an assistant apparel designer at Westmoor Manufacturing / Panhandle. She also helps manage a website dedicated to people with Crohn’s disease. Robert attended Texas A&M and Sam Houston State universities. He is a transaction processing senior specialist at JP Morgan Chase Bank.
In a memorable look back, the couple recalls their Sept. 6, 2014 journey to the altar at Chapel Dulcinea and a glorious reception at The Veranda Room in Austin, Texas.
They met in AP Calculus when Amanda was a junior and Robert a senior. Although they had many friends in common, they seldom saw each other outside of school. Fortunately, they reconnected through Facebook after graduation. After months of chatting, they decided to finally meet in person in The Woodlands over Christmas break — but it never happened.
Amanda then half-jokingly invited Robert to a frat party in Austin, despite the fact he lived three hours away. To her surprise, he said yes. They hit it off and enjoyed lunch the next day at Magnolia Café on South Congress in Austin. Sparks flew over Cobb salad and barbecue chicken.
Their unique courtship began five months after their first date. Amanda was home for the summer. One day, Robert had to take her to the ER due to a complication with her Crohn’s disease — something she’s battled since the age of nine. “He got thrown into that world pretty quickly, but was amazing and always has been in reference to my health difficulties,” Amanda notes. Incredibly, they were already talking about getting married after the second week of dating. Soon Amanda returned to classes in Austin while Robert remained in their hometown. Thus began four-plus years of long-distance dating until Amanda graduated and moved back to The Woodlands.
Amanda wanted a surprise proposal, which Robert delivered on his 25th birthday in December 2008. A celebration dinner at Pappadeaux was filled with the usual laughing and joking, but Robert had a secret plan and waited until the restaurant emptied. “He held my hand and told me how happy he was and how lucky he was to have me, and that he was going to spend the rest of his life trying to make me as happy as I make him,” says Amanda. He got down on one knee and popped the question, and of course she said yes. Both were instantly in tears!
The couple’s engagement lasted about six years due to Amanda’s ongoing health issues. Between getting engaged in 2008 and 2013 (the year before they married), she endured seven surgeries and countless stays in the hospital. Yet they enjoyed many great experiences as well. Amanda began an internship with Betsey Johnson in New York City, and Robert was able to come visit her for a week-long great adventure. They took several road trips and attended many concerts. They also enjoyed fun nights on 6th Street in Austin with friends, and volleyball on weekends.
NFL great Earl Campbell just happened to be present at their wedding rehearsal dinner at the Salt Lick in Austin. His marital “advice” to the couple was, “It’s easy to get into, but it’s hell to get out of!”
The couple envisioned a bright, playful wedding that reflected their personalities and incorporated the bride’s favorite hues of pink, turquoise and gold. During the ceremony, a string duet serenaded guests who were later treated to the Mario Brothers theme song and a musical selection from Lord of the Rings (the groom’s favorite).
Floral and Décor: The bride’s bouquet was filled with a variety of hot and medium pink roses, garden roses, pink calla lilies, pink celosia and foliage, which complemented the outdoor chapel’s natural elements of stone, wood and breathtaking wild plant life.
Bridal Party: Spike Gillespie officiated as parents of the bride, Judy Winski and Scott Winski, joined parents of the groom, Tammy and Hugh Neighbors, in witnessing the union of their children. Kathryn Winski served as maid of honor, and Anna Garcia served as bridesmaid. Matt Neighbors served as best man and Ryan Neighbors as groomsman.
Attire: The bride designed her own off-white silk taffeta ballgown as her senior year project at UT Austin. It featured a corseted back closure, pink tie, large off-white bow accent and a tucked skirt embellished with Swarovski crystals. She considers the gown her “something old” because it was created four years before her wedding. She also designed her veil with a gold and crystal comb barrette and off-white tulle. Her “something new” was jewelry, and her “something borrowed” were safety pins used to fix the tucks in the gown after her mother stepped on it right before the bride headed down the aisle! Her “something blue” were champagne ankle strap flats adorned with crystals from the Betsey Blue line as a nod to her mentor, Betsey Johnson.
The maid of honor and bridesmaid selected turquoise dresses and gold shoes of their own choosing. The groom wore a Vera Wang Black charcoal tuxedo with a turquoise shirt and tie. His socks were also charcoal with turquoise polka dots. The best man and groomsman wore Vera Wang Black charcoal tuxedos to match the groom with white shirts.
Top Wedding Moments: As the bride tried not to trip on the hem of her hastily repaired gown, her father told her, “I’m not giving you away, you’re just on loan!” Seeing her groom for the first time made her worries disappear. “He looked so devastatingly handsome, and his smile just put me at peace,” she recalls. The couple exchanged genuine, sweet and funny vows, and the bride became emotional. She kept taking and putting back her husband-to-be’s handkerchief, and she was so entirely focused on what was being said that she completely forgot that other people were present! The first kiss was perfect, and the wedding venue was filled with love and a feeling that things were finally as they should be.
The reception décor included teal Mason jar centerpieces wrapped in leftover lace from the bridal gown. Each was adorned with gold glitter ribbon and filled with rose buds and baby’s breath. Tables featured gold charger plates, teal table cloths and ivory chairs wrapped in gold covers. A large white-framed chalkboard served as the “guest book” (and hangs in the couple’s living room today), on which loved ones signed their names and well wishes with a gold pen.
The Cake: A buttercream-iced, pineapple-filled white cake rose three tiers, the bottom layer decorated in vertical pink and white stripes and the second completely covered in tiny metallic gold beads. The top layer was sparsely decorated with the same gold beads. A large pink fondant bow around the base and a crystal “Mr. and Mrs.” as the topper completed the confection.
Dancing: The couple’s romantic first dance was to Peter Gabriel’s The Book of Love. The bride surprised her father with the Sleeping Beauty song, Once Upon A Dream, but instead of singing it to him as she had when she was a child, he danced with her to the melody. The groom and his mother danced to Van Morrison’s Days Like This, with what the groom describes as “an Elaine-from-Seinfeld” flair at the end!” Later, the Cupid Shuffle got people out on the dance floor!
Top Reception Moments: The bride’s uncle gave a great Jewish toast. She notes, “The story is that after you give a toast, you smash the glass with your foot (which he did), the reason being so that the glass is never used for a lesser purpose.” The newlyweds hadn’t previously discussed whether or not they were going to smoosh cake in each other’s faces, so as they threatened each other with confection, the bride finally made the first move. One of her absolute favorite photos is of them kissing right afterward with cake on their faces.
The Exit: Everyone had fun and blew bubbles at the couple — the perfect finale to the bride’s dream wedding.