Home press It's a family affair at Oheka Castle - Newsday

It's a family affair at Oheka Castle - Newsday


Special to Newsday

January 20, 2008

Home is where the heart is and, for Kelly Melius, where the wedding is. Not a bad idea, considering she lives in a French-style château in Huntington. Oheka Castle Hotel & Estate is the second-largest private residence in America and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It also happens to be owned by Kelly's dad, Gary Melius.

"There was never any doubt the wedding would be held at Oheka," Kelly Melius says. "It is where we live, work and fell in love."

Melius, 40, and John Dipreta, 35, met at work. She is Oheka's director of catering sales, and he is its banquet manager. Dipreta says he became smitten by Melius' "positive outlook and endless energy for helping others."

Melius says simply that Dipreta is "my best friend."

They dated for seven years before Dipreta surprised Melius by popping the question at Oheka's annual Valentine's Day dinner.

On Oct. 12, the two exchanged vows on a crisp, sun-drenched day on Oheka's verdant sprawling grounds. Four hundred guests attended.

Melius declined to comment on her wedding costs, noting that she and her husband were able to slash expenses because of their inside knowledge of the business. Without that, the same wedding could easily have cost half a million dollars, she says.

Before the ceremony, arriving guests were greeted by the music of an 18-piece orchestra as they entered the grand ballroom for the cocktail hour.

Then came the wedding. Samantha Bellando, 17, Melius' daughter from her first marriage, was maid of honor and wore a champagne-colored bias-cut dress. Melius' wedding gown, a St. Pucchi design, was an untraditional light butterscotch color. Gizay Michaels of Huntington combed her hair in a loose French braid caught by a custom-created hair clip from Thomas Knoells Designs. Dipreta wore a three-

button tuxedo designed by Salvatore Cardillo.

Melius and Dipreta arrived at their reception in a horse-drawn white carriage.

One "awwww" moment was when the half-dozen wee flower girls (ranging in age from 3 to 5 and looking like little enchanted wood sprites in their ruffled, cream-colored taffeta dresses with floral garlands perched precariously on their heads) daintily stepped out of the carriage, throwing white rose petals along the wedding party's path.

Inside, florists Arlene and Aubert Lee -- owners of Fleurs De Florissima in Huntington Station -- decorated the tabletops with white orchids. Mary Ann Doyle of The Finishing Touch in Hicksville provided white tablecloths trimmed in gold.

The spread was lavish and included a chicken entree served with nested small blue potatoes resembling robins eggs. The wedding cake was 8 feet tall and decorated with Swarovski crystals. Dessert waiters proffered trays of Good Humor ice cream bars.

An Arabian Nights fantasy brought the evening to a close. John and Michael Tardi of MME Productions of Bellmore created a Moroccan-themed after-party, complete with see-through tent swathed in bright jewel-like tones. Entertainment included sword-swallowers, dancers, flame-throwers and a very real looking camel.

The revelry continued until 4 a.m. "We want our guests to remember family and friends together, having a great time," Melius says.