When Elaina Sainato volunteered to work at a Landmark Education seminar in November of 2009, she had no idea that in return for that good deed, she would be rewarded with the man of her dreams.
But when financial planner Vincent Renda walked into the seminar, it was love at first sight "” at least for Elaina.
"I approached him and started talking to him," she recalled. "We spoke a little bit at the seminar, but then after he left, I was like, 'I'm not done!' I looked him up and I emailed him."
The two hit it off, and in time, became an item.
About a year-and-a-half later, at another Landmark Education seminar, Vincent had a surprise in store for Elaina.
"I was coaching a program that he was in and at the end of one of our sessions, he got up in front of everybody and made a big speech about love and transformation and being open and vulnerable, and then he called me up and got on one knee in front of everybody and he proposed," the 31-year-old holistic wellness consultant recalled.
The couple, who now live in Queens, were married June 23, 2012.
They celebrated their union with a decadent Italian wedding reception.
"My mom said, 'When people leave here, they're either going to roll out from drinking too much or eating too much or dancing too much,'" Elaina recounted. And from her description of the affair, it sounds like her mom was spot-on.
The reception was held at Mallozzi's Ballroom in Schenectady.
"It was more than we expected," Elaina said. "The cocktail hour was about three rooms filled with different stations "” everything from Italian to Asian. Everything you could dream of, they had there."
Then there was dinner: filet mignon, a chicken dish, a fish selection and vegan and vegetarian options.
Their cake was a dream, made from Kahlua and vanilla cream, amaretto and rum, and decorated with fresh flowers.
As with any good Italian affair, the food kept coming.
"We had a Viennese hour," Elaina recalled. "There were candy stations, there was cherries jubilee, all the Italian pastries you can think of, chocolate mountains and fountains. It was crazy."
The bride, her 32-year-old groom and their guests danced the tarantella all night long, accompanied by local band The Accents, and DJ Nick Coluccio.
The whole day was amazing "” from the elegant ceremony held at St. John the Evangelist Church in Schenectady to the gorgeous, tall vases of Gerbera daisies, orchids and calla lilies that graced the tables in the reception hall, Elaina said.
But what stands out most in her mind is something else: "How much love was there, and how grateful we were," she said. "We still talk about how grateful we are to have the family and friends that we have, and how we are kind of an example for our communities of what real love really is. It was just a magical day."
Reach Gazette reporter Kelly de la Rocha at 395-3040 or firstname.lastname@example.org.