A PERFECT MATCH; The wedding of tennis star Pam Shriver and attorney Joseph Shapiro was a celebration of similarities - and differences.


It was a celebrity wedding. Brady Anderson was there, and Chris Evert and Billie Jean King, along with Hollywood directors and producers. But behind the big names and glitter was a story of love and loss, second chances and taking chances.

In a ceremony held at La Quinta resort in Palm Springs, Baltimore's own Pam Shriver -- a former professional tennis player once ranked as high as No. 3 in the world -- married Los Angeles law professor Joseph Shapiro.

Wearing a hand-beaded and embroidered silk sheath with a sweep train, the bride recited her vows in a simple 20-minute ceremony presided over by Jane Mykrantz, a Presbyterian minister and an old family friend.

Shriver's younger sister Eleanor was maid of honor. The bridesmaids were Liz Smylie and Baltimorean Elise Burgin, both former tennis stars. Missing was Shriver's older sister Marion Shriver Abell, who had died of cancer a little over a year before.

For Pam, who was close to her sister, the glorious day had an edge of bittersweetness. The engagement ring she wore originally belonged to her sister, and tucked in Pam's bouquet was a sprig of rosemary in remembrance of Marion.

Although it was a star-studded celebration, it also was an intimate affair, which Shriver recently spoke about publicly for the first time.

How they met

She was brought up in the Episcopal church; his heritage is Jewish.

Pam Shriver, at 36, is still a world-class athlete. As a TV commentator and chairman of a local tennis event that earns money for children's charities, she continues to be very much involved with the sport. Her parents, Margot and Sam Shriver, live in this area; and until recently Pam considered Baltimore her home.

Joe Shapiro is in his early 50s. Once a high-powered lawyer for Disney, he gave up his career to concentrate on his battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Now he's teaching business law at California State University, Los Angeles. At 5 feet 8 inches, he's considerably shorter than his 6-foot-1-inch bride.

"Until I was more mature, height was a prerequisite in a boyfriend," Shriver admits with a smile. "Now it's simply not an issue."

The two were brought together over dinner by Liz Smylie and her husband, Pete, at their California home in August 1996. They had already met once, five years before.

"But I was in full touring mode," Shriver says. "And he was in full Disney mode."

Liz Smylie and Shriver are close friends, even though Smylie and her doubles partner were the ones who stopped Shriver and Martina Navratilova's winning streak at 109 matches.

"When she and her husband brought Joe into my life," says Pam, laughing, "I finally forgave her."

The proposal

The two found they had more in common than some might think.

"We have comparable senses of humor," says Joe Shapiro. "And our life experiences are actually somewhat similar. We both spent 20 years of our lives running around the world in airplanes in a very competitive business."

As their relationship developed, they visited each other in their home cities. Sometimes Shapiro was able to travel with Shriver to tennis tournaments because he wasn't back working full time. Marriage wasn't really discussed.

The subject came up a month after Shriver's sister died.

"I was more willing to take a chance with a cancer survivor than some might be," she says, "Because I had seen how well my sister and brother-in-law did. Whatever challenges we had as a couple, I realized we could handle it."

Although no one could accuse Pam Shriver of being old-fashioned, she does, she says, cling to some traditions. She asked Joe to talk to her father before he talked to her. It took him several months, but in February 1998 he called Sam Shriver from Los Angeles and asked for his daughter's hand in marriage.

"As soon as he hung up the phone with Dad," says Shriver, "He came into the room, got down on his knees and proposed."

The diamond engagement ring -- and the sapphire and diamond band used in the wedding ceremony -- had been her sister's. Irvin Abell, Marion's husband, offered them to Pam after Marion's death. In return, Shapiro made a contribution to the school where Marion had taught, Jemicy in Owings Mills.

Wedding plans

When you're Pam Shriver and 36 years old, you get to have exactly the kind of wedding you want.

The couple decided on a date, Dec. 5 (before realizing it would fall on Joe's birthday). Pam had two criteria in choosing the location: First, she wanted someplace where the weather was nice. Second, she wanted something different from Marion's wedding.

"My sister had a big, beautiful hometown wedding at St. Mark's Episcopal Church. In the family's mind, she had gotten through her cancer. It was six months after her surgery."

The two also wanted a "neutral" site -- in neither's hometown. And they liked the idea of a really nice destination spot, so they could enjoy a long weekend with friends and family. They settled on La Quinta, a luxury resort built in the 1920s.

Shriver didn't want her attendants to have to buy dresses they would never wear again, so her gift to them was cocktail outfits from Panache in Lutherville -- tuxedos with a skirt instead of pants and a sheer camisole underneath.

Her own wedding dress she came upon almost by chance. Two Baltimore friends were taking her out to dinner -- "a girls' night out," she says -- and as a lark they stopped in Gamberdella, a bridal shop in Towson. The Lazaro sheath she eventually wore was one of the dresses she tried on that night.

"The dress must have been made for her," says Pam's mother, Margot Shriver. No alterations were necessary, not even letting the hem down.

As for photographs, Shriver wanted informal pictures that would capture the spirit of the wedding. She chose a photographer she had met through tennis, Melchior DiGiacomo.

"I wanted black and white because I find you notice things more. You're not looking at colors but expressions and faces."

One thing in particular made her sure afterward that she had made the right choice. "There are so many photos of me cracking up."

Coming up roses

Elizabeth Nuttle, who had been Marion's best friend in high school, is a local floral designer who specializes in weddings. Her gift to the couple was the bouquets and boutonnieres.

"I kept them simple because her dress was so elegant and I didn't want to take away from it."

The ivory roses she used were from California. "They came here to Baltimore, and then I schlepped them back out on the airplane with me."

The bride's round, old-fashioned bouquet of ivory roses with ivory ribbon was all that the guests could see. But beneath the roses Nuttle had included rosemary for remembrance of Marion and something old (a bit of lace), something borrowed (a snip of ivy from her own garden), something blue (a tiny blue bow), and a sixpence for her shoe. The "something new" was the bouquet's ivory ribbon.

The bridesmaids carried the same ivory roses with leaf-green ribbon.

Shapiro's boutonniere included a bit of rosemary with the ivory rose, in remembrance of his parents.

"On the surface he seems like a tough businessman," says Nuttle. "But when I gave him his boutonniere and told him why I had included the rosemary, he got very emotional."

Exchanging vows

The plan was to hold the ceremony in one of La Quinta's little gardens, a pretty space with a small waterfall and a grove of orange trees full of oranges.

"It was an elegant setting," says Nuttle, "Yet being Joe and Pam, the ceremony was very light-hearted. It was more of a family kind of wedding."

The ceremony would start at 4:30 p.m., just as the sun was setting. Afterward there would be a cocktail party before everyone moved indoors for dinner.

There was just one problem. At 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 5, 1998, the temperature was 50 degrees -- if that.

"I suggested we all wear those white robes they provided in the rooms," says Margot Shriver.

Pam Shriver, the least covered up of the wedding party, didn't notice the cold.

The couple used the traditional Presbyterian wedding ceremony, with modifications to make it nondenominational because this would be a mixed marriage -- and Presbyterian wasn't part of the mix. Wherever the Father, Son and Holy Ghost were mentioned, for instance, "Lord" or "God" was substituted. The reading was Genesis 1:26, the sixth day when God created male and female in his image.

The minister told the couple to speak their vows not just to her, but to everyone.

Shapiro remembered her advice only after he had said a quiet "I do." He turned to the wedding party, raised his voice, and added, "I surely do."

When her turn came, Pam echoed him. "I surely do."

At the end of the ceremony, the groom smashed a glass in accordance with Jewish tradition.


The cocktail party on the terrace was cut short because of the cold, and the wedding party went in to a dinner of elaborate hors d'oeuvres, rack of lamb and a birthday cake for Joe.

"It ended up working out great," says Shriver, with the pleasure brides feel no matter what goes wrong.

A DJ provided the music, and the first dance was to Jimmy Buffett's "Changes in Attitude, Changes in Latitude" with its lyrics about travel, life changes and airport lounges.

Everyone who was invited to the wedding was invited for all the weekend events: the rehearsal dinner Friday, golf and tennis before the ceremony Saturday, the wedding dinner, and brunch Sunday morning.

It was a small wedding, as celebrity weddings go, with only 195 guests -- and only one no-show, someone whose plane had been grounded.

At another event just before, La Quinta's wedding planner told Margot Shriver, 20 percent of the guests hadn't shown up -- not unusual for an out-of-town ceremony. Which says some- thing about how their friends felt about the Shriver-Shapiro wedding.

The honeymoon took place three weeks later in Hawaii.

The newlyweds have bought a three-bedroom, one-story house -- or home base, as Shriver calls it, because they both still travel -- in Brentwood, Calif., "four miles due east of the ocean." Their lives there revolve, she says, around recreation time and their newly discovered mutual interest in computers. "Our lives mesh incredibly well," she adds. If they have kids, it will be just one. "And we're not going to wait too long."

Pub Date: 06/06/99

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