Couple uses Ellicott City as backdrop for a 'walking wedding'

You've heard of a destination wedding, of course. But what about a wedding where getting there is, by design, half the fun?

Heather Beck, 35, and her fiancé Shawn Kettering, 39, weren't familiar with the notion either. Yet they went ahead and designed their nuptials as a "walking wedding" — a tour of Ellicott City's Main Street.

Having moved to Ellicott City (just over the Patapsco on the Baltimore County side, but considered Ellicott City nonetheless) just over a year ago, they felt at home.

"The community feels like a big family and I wanted to get all the merchants involved," the bride said. "Originally I wanted our guests to be able to visit all the shops, but we had to narrow it down."

The wedding was held Monday, June 4, and was attended by about 170 people. Monday is another unusual choice for a wedding, but the newlyweds, like many of their friends, are thespians — both are long-timers at Toby's Dinner Theatre in Columbia. And Monday is the one night of the week stages are traditionally dark, allowing the couples' colleagues to share in the festivities.

"Our wedding plan morphed into this," said Kettering, who wrote the script for the ceremony and directed the rehearsal — he is a director, after all. "First we wanted a beach wedding, then at a country club, then a kind of a scavenger hunt on Main Street where guests would stop at one place for a champagne toast, and so on."

On Monday morning, the women in the wedding party had their hair done at Oh la Lal Hair Salon off Old Columbia Pike, while the guys set up things at Ellicott City Brewing Co. and installed "Shawn & Heather's grand wedding" signage at Mt. Ida.

They dressed up for photos at Obladi Hotel's patio garden on Main Street, then joined guests for champagne and shopping at the Antique Depot across from the railroad station.

Next, folks window-shopped their way to the back of Tonge Row, where they could check out the new Scoop Ahh Dee Doo ice cream parlor and the Ghost Lounge Hookah Bar before hopping on a shuttle up to Mt. Ida. In hilly Ellicott City, after all, you can only go so far in long dresses and fancy shoes.

On Mt. Ida's level lot, the Chalice Messengers, a jazz band from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia, performed everything from "It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing" to the theme from "The Flintstones."

Guests picked up their party bags and umbrellas, marching with the band to the ceremony at the Howard County Historical Society.

But first the group assembled for photos, during which they traded comments such as "You were in 'Nunsense'!" and "I would never downstage a woman. Always be behind the woman!" Which was no wonder, as three-quarters of them were from Toby's — as attested to by doyenne Toby Orenstein herself, who was at the festivities.

At the Historical Society, the ceremony was standing room only, with two actors "on stage," as well as professionals, including the bride's sister Sara Beck and her husband Park Chisolm of the band Modern West providing music, and little cousin ring bearers Will and Jack Kettering "losing" the rings.

The ceremony was "so them, so happy-go-lucky," said guest Caroline Bowman, a Toby's "graduate" back from Broadway, where she is appearing in "Wicked."

"It was a performance, but the love is not."

the reception at the Ellicott Mills Brewing Co. on Main Street, guests admired and anticipated the glorious wedding cake baked overnight by sleep-deprived but still cheerful actor-friend Robert Beidermann (except for its Star Wars cake topper, pretty much the opposite in spirit of the whoopee pies the groom had made for rehearsal dinner dessert). And it soon became evident that not only were the Beck and Kettering families uniting in joy but so were the couple's other families from work and home.

As fellow performer Shannon Wollman said, "It's a magical night celebrating theater and friendship."

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