This Delaware couple crafted memorable moments in a brewpub beside the water.
Words by Pam George, Photographs by Moonloop Photography
For Darrell Sparks and Joe Stevens, the second time was a charm. They first met through a friend in the 1990s, but it wasn’t until several years later that they reconnected. Hunkering down together during three consecutive blizzards one winter created heat.
“It really bonded us,” Darrell recalls. Because he lived in Newark and Joe lived in Wilmington, they were conveniently snowed in at one or the other’s homes.
The couple share a love of national parks, and Darrell proposed to Joe after they’d hiked 4.5 miles to a glacier in Glacier National Park in Montana. “Neither of us is into bling, so I bought matching bracelets engraved with the date,” Darrell says.
They set a date that allowed Darrell time to finish his master’s in social work. The craft brew lovers had attended several functions at Iron Hill Brewery on the Wilmington Riverfront and enjoyed them. So, they reserved the entire second floor for the afternoon. (Iron Hill needed the space back for dinner service.)
First, guests assembled outside on the riverwalk to watch a river taxi pull up to the dock. The couple waved from the boat while a jazz trio played a New Orleans–style version of “All of Me.” “We’d been to New Orleans together and really liked the music,” Darrell explains. The guests, who had no clue that the couple had planned a grand entrance, were delighted.
On the second-floor deck overlooking the water, a pair of pastors stood to officiate. “We were bonded to both of them,” Darrell says of the decision to have two. One had been his campus pastor; the other had been their church pastor. “They were very supportive of us,” Darrell says.
Darrell and Joe wore identical suits but different shirts and shoes—and no ties in keeping with the informal approach. Although they chose not to have attendants, they wanted one person from each side to serve as witnesses, so they asked their mothers.
After the ceremony, the party moved inside for an appetizer buffet prepared by the restaurant. “They were incredibly gay-friendly and had a great staff that worked with us,” Joe says of Iron Hill. The tables were garnished with fall floral arrangements from Bloomsberry Flowers in Wilmington.
For dessert, Cakes by Kim prepared a variety cut into bite-sized portions and served in small rectangular containers with forks. The couple wanted guests to sample several flavors, including Boston cream pie and Black Forest.
DJ Nick Vavala, who specializes in party tunes, got the crowd on the dance floor, but the festivities didn’t end with the reception. Since it was a beautiful afternoon, about a dozen guests joined the couple at Constitution Yards, an outdoor beer garden a few blocks from Iron Hill.
In keeping with their love of the outdoors, Darrell and Joe’s honeymoon included visits to Mount Rainier National Park, North Cascades National Park and Olympic National Park in Washington. Darrell was not in the mood to relax. In Portland, Oregon, he ran a half-marathon.
The only snafu throughout the celebration concerned the moms’ corsages, which were initially forgotten, but the ladies received the flowers by the wedding’s end.
The couple, who live in Newark with their dog, Jaxson, have since lost their mothers. As a result, their wedding day photos are a lasting tribute to love in more ways than one.
Ceremony and reception: Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant ironhillbrewery.com
Photographer: Moonloop Photography moonloopphoto.com
Florist: Bloomsberry Flowers bloomsberryflowers.com
Entertainment: DJ Nick Vavala
Signature Drink: Cosmopolitans
First Song: John Legend’s “All of Me”
Cake: Cakes by Kim cakesbykim.com
After-Party: Constitution Yards constitutionyards.com
Honeymoon: National parks in Washington, Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia.
Occupations: Darrell is a social worker and Joe is a human resources consultant.