In August 2003, Matt Fisher waited at the Power Plant Live fountain, a single daisy in hand, for Sherri Chambers, his blind date, to arrive. Set up by a mutual friend, Fisher and Chambers had planned to spend the afternoon floating over Baltimore in a hot-air balloon. But when a thunderstorm rolled in, the couple decided to take a rain check and move their date to Babalu Grill.
“We hit it off right from the start,” says Chambers, who teaches art at Patapsco High School and works part time as a cake decorator for Charm City Cakes, the offbeat bakery at the center of Food Network’s hit reality series “Ace of Cakes.”
“We were joking around right off the bat,” says Fisher, a professional dog-walker for Baltimore-based Walk the Dog. “There wasn’t one awkward silence all night.”
More than two years later, in February 2006, Fisher and Chambers, both Baltimore natives, traveled to Berkeley Springs, W.Va., for the weekend. When Fisher coyly suggested they relax on a bench directly opposite “George Washington’s Bathtub,” Chambers knew something was up.
“It was freezing cold! I thought he was nuts,” she says. When Fisher finally popped the question, Chambers, in between shivers, replied with a resounding “yes.”
Immediately the couple set out to find a venue that was both large enough to accommodate their 220 guests and quirky enough to suit their personalities. When some friends recommended the Mansion House at the Maryland Zoo, Fisher and Chambers knew they’d hit the jackpot. They were even more excited when Rick Wilson, a member of the zoo’s Animal Ambassador Program, casually asked, “So, what animals do you want?” In the end, Fisher and Chambers added a few more guests to their list: Marty the porcupine, Sammy the toucan and three black-footed African penguins named Tux, Tails and Ascot.
Unimpressed by the sameness and high price of most wedding gowns, Chambers took a cue from Charm City Cakes co-worker Mary Alice Fallon-Yeskey, who recommended she visit Gossypia, a small boutique in Alexandria, Va. Chambers chose the first gown she set her eyes on there: a pure white Marilyn Monroe-inspired halter dress with a cropped over-jacket. “I came out of the fitting room, and my mother and I just knew that was it,” says Chambers. Paired with a 1940s-style bird-cage veil created by close friend (and Fluid Movement cohort) Valerie Perez-Schere, Chambers was a vision of vintage Hollywood glamour.
After a traditional ceremony at the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church— a scenic location Fisher had discovered on one of his many dog-walks— the couple arrived hand-in-hand at the Mansion House, where two small topiary trees and a swath of forsythia adorned the entrance, and long-stemmed tulips of yellow, orange and green filled the room with color. With sangria in hand (a nod to Fisher and Chambers’ first date at Babalu Grill), guests mingled and admired the decor and the wildlife. “The guests loved the animals,” says Fisher. “They kept everyone engaged, checking out the different animals all night.”
Catered by Wickey’s at Preston Hall, the reception featured an array of delicious snackables: mushroom tarts, chicken skewers, mini-pizzas and crab dip. For dinner, guests dined on apricot-and-juniper glazed salmon, chicken with wild mushroom sauce, grilled asparagus, vegetable orzo, garlic roasted potatoes and a salad with edible green and purple pansies.
Just as expected, the wedding cake was nothing short of spectacular. “It was huge and beautiful,” says Chambers of Charm City Cakes’ five-tiered butter cream creation, which was frosted an elegant ivory with intricate spring green embellishments. “Mary Smith [of Charm City Cakes] did an amazing job replicating the embossed floral pattern on our invitations.”
As if the actual wildlife at the reception weren’t enough, Aaron Henkin, a friend of the couple and host of WYPR’s “The Signal,” decided to add one more exotic guest to the mix when he disappeared midway through the party and returned in a giant penguin suit. “He really broke it down on the dance floor!” says Chambers. “We have some amazing pictures of everyone dancing with the penguin. It was crazy and hilarious.”
And what of that hot-air balloon adventure? “We never ended up taking the ride,” says Fisher, with a sigh of relief. “I’m terrified of heights, but I didn’t want to tell Sherri before our first date. I just played it cool and went along with everything.”
Seems like it worked out just fine.
Flowers Crimson & Clover Designs,2150 Boston St., 410-534-LILY
Food Wickey’s Caterers at Preston Hall, 25 W. Preston St., 410-727-2401
Venue Maryland Zoo Mansion House 443-552-5277, http://www.marylandzoo.org
Gown Gossypia, 325 Cameron St., Alexandria, Va., 703-836-6969
Photography X2 Weddings, 410-241-2767, http://www.x2weddings.com