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The words “Happily Ever After, Starring Nikki & Gary — November 16, 2019,” filled the marquee at the Loew’s Jersey Theater in Jersey City, N.J., where the stage had been set for Nikole Klarberg to marry Gary Schneider in the place where Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Duke Ellington once performed.
An audience of family and friends walked into the warm glow of a 1920s-themed costume party, seemingly pulled from the pages of “The Great Gatsby.” Many of the 150 guests sipped
cocktails in the lobby while mingling with jazz singers, tango dancers, flappers and cigarette girls — all waiting for the curtain to rise on Ms. Klarberg, 37, a public relations and marketing executive, and Mr. Schneider, 47, a certified financial planner and wealth adviser.
“This venue is very much a reflection of Nikki, it’s colorful and funky and fun and amazingly different,” said Rebecca Henderson, a childhood friend of Ms. Klarberg, moments before the bride and groom stepped onstage.
“Gary is a lot more low-key, but he loves Nikki for who she is, this crazy, adventurous, wonderful person who simply loves life,” Ms. Henderson added. “They are both good people who support each other and balance each other very well.”
Ms. Klarberg and Mr. Schneider met in January 2017 through the dating app Bumble.
“I thought the most intriguing part of his profile was the fact that he enjoyed reality TV,” said Ms. Klarberg, who lived near Mr. Schneider in Midtown Manhattan. “That got me really excited.”
Mr. Schneider was equally intrigued by her profile, “especially all of the vacation photos she posted,” he said. “They were taken in different places around the world, and many included members of her family. That told me a lot about who she was, a very family-oriented person who enjoyed traveling. She just seemed like a whole lot of fun.”
Shortly after connecting with Mr. Schneider, Ms. Klarberg left on a business trip to Milan. They agreed to meet in person the following month, on Valentine’s Day, for a first date at a neighborhood restaurant.
She arrived with miniature chocolate cakes, and found him sitting at the bar in the company of a stuffed teddy bear wearing a tag with her name on it
“I found her to be a very attractive, very creative, high-energy person,” Mr. Schneider said. “We just talked and talked, and there was never a dull moment in our conversation.”
They talked about Ithaca College, where Ms. Klarberg graduated, and the University of Michigan, Mr. Schneider’s alma mater.
They talked about Ms. Klarberg’s mother, Rindi Klarberg, who helped manage her family’s New York auction house, Tepper Galleries/Hutter Auctions, and her father, Barry Klarberg, the founder and chief executive of a wealth management firm for athletes, entertainers and others. He also holds an ownership stake in the New York Yankees, as well as the Major League Soccer team New York City FC.
Mr. Schneider said that his mother, Victoria Schwarz, was an executive assistant at various advertising firms, including Ogilvy & Mather, and that his stepfather, Andrew Schwarz, had retired as an operations manager at UPS.
Six hours later their conversation ended, along with any doubt either may have had about finding the significant other each had been searching for.
“Gary was the kind of guy you could talk to forever,” Ms. Klarberg said. “We discussed everything from Michigan football to having a baby together, it got that deep.
“He was very engaging, and I also found him to be charming and very respectful,” she added. “He was just a really nice guy, and I felt both an instant connection and immediate attraction between us.”
Three days later, they went on a second date, and continued seeing each other for three straight weeks. Mr. Schneider then asked Ms. Klarberg to be his girlfriend.
She turned him down.
“As much as I liked Gary and enjoyed his company, I felt that things were moving a bit too quickly,” Ms. Klarberg said. “At the time, I had just ended a two-year relationship, so I needed a little breathing room. I simply wasn’t ready yet.”
Mr. Schneider, who had also ended a two-year relationship just before he met Ms. Klarberg, was startled. “I had already told my friends that I met this great girl, so I was a bit stunned when she turned me down,” he said. “I was bummed, but I understood where she was coming from.”
A week later, Mr. Schneider received a greeting card in the mail. Inside it read: “Will you be my boyfriend.” His hands began trembling when he read the three words that followed: “I Love You.”
The card was signed by Ms. Klarberg.
“It didn’t take me long to figure out that Gary was one in a million, and I was fortunate to have in my life,” she said.
“He was actually the exact opposite of every man I had ever gone out with,” she added. “Everything about him was different, from his looks to his education to his career and his religion, but yet being with him felt so right, and the whole thing just had me so pleasantly surprised.”
They began dating exclusively, and Ms. Klarberg’s three younger brothers, Matthew, now 35, Ryan, 33 and Jake, 27, all of whom live in Manhattan, were soon treating Mr. Schneider like family.
“Gary was a great guy, and an old soul, just like my sister, and he fit in perfectly with the rest of our family,” Ryan Klarberg said. “Since Nikki has met Gary, she has, in a very good way, become a completely different person.”
In March 2018, Mr. Schneider moved into Ms. Klarberg’s apartment. The most valuable possession he took along was his Vizsla dog, Dakota.
“Just about everything else I owned ended up in storage,” Mr. Schneider said, laughing. But Nikki, me and Dakota, we became an instant family.”
On Jan. 15 2019, Mr. Schneider brought a package up to their apartment that Ms. Klarberg had recognized as a pair of silver sparkly sneakers she had ordered online. When she attempted to try one on, she found an engagement ring that Mr. Schneider managed to hide inside.
“It was a wonderful surprise,” Ms. Klarberg said. “I couldn’t wait to share the news with family and friends.”
They each called their parents first, then Ms. Klarberg called her brothers, and Mr. Schneider reached out to his sister, Victoria Beyer, 32, who lives in Westfield, N.J.
Since getting engaged, Ms. Klarberg and Mr. Schneider have teamed up to get behind a number of charitable causes. They are both active board members of the Colleen Giblin Research Laboratories for Pediatric Neurology.
“I have never had the kind of stability in a relationship that I have had with Gary,” Ms. Klarberg said. “There have never been any surprises or any fighting. It has just been so easy between us.”
The couple were married Nov. 16 on the Loew’s stage. The groom walked down the aisle flanked by his parents, and the bride followed to a live rendition of “Some Enchanted Evening” — sung by Wendy Lane Bailey — as many in the theater’s restored red velvet seats began dabbing at tears.
A vintage Wonder Morton Pipe Organ began to play when the couple stepped before their officiant, the former New York Giants football center, Bart Oates, who is now a bishop in the Church of the Latter-day Saints.
“I charge you Nikki, and you Gary, to remember that your future happiness be a mutual consideration,” Mr. Oates said. “It is the duty of each of you to find your greatest joy in the company of the other, and to never show anger when it comes to disagreement, and to be willing to apologize when your spouse feels hurt.”
Later at the reception, held in what was once the theater’s grand lobby, Tiffany Davenport, a longtime friend of the bride, complimented the newlyweds. “Gary gets Nikki like I’ve never seen a man get a woman before,” she said. “There are no wrinkles, and they both have the same outlook on life, and what’s most important is that he gives her the space to be herself, and she brings to him the ultimate love and support.”
After their marriage performance, the couple watched from an upper tier of the theater as many of their guests, including the model Carol Alt, mingled while enjoying dinner and drinks.
“I married my best friend tonight,” said the bride, planting a tiny kiss on the groom’s cheek. “We had fun putting on a performance out there, but when we said that we would love each other in sickness and in health, until death do us part, neither one of us was acting.”
ON THIS DAY
Where Loew’s Jersey Theater, Jersey City, N.J.
When Nov. 16, 2019
What They Wore The bride donned a L’Amour by Calla Blanche vintage-inspired dress adorned with Swarovski crystals. She also had on her great-grandmother’s diamond necklace and bracelet “to add a sentimental touch of something borrowed and old,” she said. The groom wore a black tuxedo with matching velvet accessories and a feather boutonniere. He strutted about on a vintage Gatsby-esque cane.
Sparkling Debut At the reception, the bride changed into the same silver sparkly sneakers that the groom had put the engagement ring in and proposed with.
Time to Make the Doughnuts Parting guests received goody bags full of candy popular in the 1920s, as well as gourmet popcorn. They also had a chance to make their own doughnuts at a station on the premises.