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A town square for an unsquare town

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Standing for the vitality of Red Bank, its community, and the fun we have together.

MARRY US, RED BANK!

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Tom Labetti and Eileen (nee Weller) Labetti of Elm Place got married recently at St. James Church on Broad Street.

The red-haired bride beamed magnificently, the wedding party looked youthful and happy, and the newlyweds headed off for their reception in a classic red Corvette.

A perfectly nice affair, to be sure, but not exactly the kind of thing that usually merits media attention beyond the wedddings & engagement page in a local paper.

Except that redbankgreen is hyperlocal media, and the Labettis are a hyperlocal pair — in one significant sense, at least. They wanted their wedding to reflect not only their tastes, but their values. Which in this case meant that they were determined to keep as much of the money they’d be spending on their wedding in Red Bank.

They didn’t want it spread among the malls, Manhattan’s diamond district and some unbelievable-discount-on-Vera Wang-outlet in Brooklyn. They preferred that it land in the cash registers of the stores not far from their house. Thousands of dollars.

Now that’s what we call a civil union.

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They weren’t psycho about it. Neither Eileen nor Tom intended to settle for goods or services they didn’t really want in order to make a point. And in the end, they found they did have to venture out of town for this and that.

Still, RiverCenter, the public entity charged with promoting the downtown and now the West Side business district, should consider making the Labetti experience the centerpiece, so to speak, of a marketing campaign. Theme: ‘Get Married to Red Bank.’

Why? Not to prove that the downtown has everything consumers need — goods and services for a wedding would hardly be evidence of that — nor to refute those who say the stores are, on the whole, just too upmarket for the folks who live here (ditto).

It’s more that the story of Tom & Elieen’s wedding is a good reminder that a certain commitment on the part of the citizenry is needed to make a local marketplace work in a furiously competitive world. Economic choices matter.

redbankgreen readers may recognize Tom’s name and face. We featured him a year ago, when he was fighting the telecommunications giants who want to create a two-tier Internet, with a faster lane for monied interests and a slow lane for everyone else.

He’s a forward-thinking, idealistic 34-year-old who works in information technologies in New York. Eileen is 32 and works in marketing in Tinton Falls.

They didn’t sit down out the outset of the wedding-planning process and say “Let’s keep it local.” In fact, they shopped elsewhere early on. But they kept finding what they really wanted here, which only fueled a desire, as the yearlong process went on, to do as much as they could within Red Bank’s borders.

“Whether we set out on a mission, I don’t know about that,” says Tom. “But I think it’s important to support the local stores, because the stores are one of the reasons the town does so well.”

“Normally, when we have a choice, we stay in Red Bank,” says Eileen.

All told, Tom estimates he and Eileen poured 75 percent of their wedding spending into Red Bank or the immediate vicinity. And when it was all over, some basic truths were reinforced, not the least of which is that keeping it close to home cultivates a genuine sense of community, they say.

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“I feel like I have a relationship with all the merchants, because I’ve been working with them for a year,” says Eileen.

Here’s a rundown of the wedding preparations, with some comments from before the Big Day and some from after they returned from their three-week honeymoon in South Africa, Zambia and Namibia.

Engagement rings & wedding bands; necklace: All from Hamilton Jewelers on Broad Street, bought after Tom “cross-shopped” the diamond district in New York (around the corner from his office).

The couple all but gushed about the service they got from Hamilton. Eileen was particularly thrilled that the jeweler took a diamond from her grandmother’s engagement ring and set it into a refurbished necklace for the wedding.

“They definitely build a rapport with their customers,” says Eileen. “They’re actually going to come to the ceremony!”

Wedding dress: Shopped for in one day, basically, starting in New York. “We went to a few extremely aggressive places,” says Eileen. “It was, in my opinion, a nightmare.” Also shopped a bit in Millburn.

Where’d she end up? Mustillo’s, also on Broad. Bought her gown and got the chocolate-colored, strapless dresses worn by the bridesmaids there, too.

“They are phenomenal,” Eileen says of the shop’s employees. “They’re very family-oriented, extremely attentive. When I picked up my dress, I said, ‘I’m going to miss coming in here so much.'”

Tuxedos: Needed for Tom and his best man only. Love Lane Tuxedos, Broad Street.

Photographer: “We shopped a couple of the main Red Bank photogs, but they were a bit more then we wanted to spend,” Tom said in an email. “We found out about a mini-chain with better prices. Their Red Bank office is in one of the nondescript office buildings off Newman Springs Road.”

Florist: Eileen found one she loves in Red Bank, but logistically it didn’t work out, because the wedding reception was going to be at a beach house the couple owns in Manahawkin.

Catering for 110 guests: They came very close to going with a caterer who works out of her restaurant in the Galleria, but after a recommendation from the woman who cuts their hair (see below), they went with LaFontaine Culinary Arts in Middletown.

Lori LaFontaine provided a buffet consisting of raw bar, sushi, pasta, beef, and “a smoked turkey that she found somewhere in Vermont,” says Tom. “It was delicious.”

Sinful indulgences: Instead of a wedding cake, they went with cupcakes wrapped in lemon leaves, made by Beverly Schoenberger of Rumson, and 200 Rice Krispy treats from Zebu Forno, on Broad Street.

Bridal accessories: Sassy Chic Boutique, Shrewsbury.

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Bridal party hair & nails: Cheveux, on Monmouth Street.

Bride’s shoes: Barefoot Bride, Fair Haven.

Hotels: Wedding guests stayed at the Molly Pitcher and Oyster Point hotels.

Are you hearing the sound of cash registers ringing yet?

Rehearsal dinner for 30 people: La Pastaria on Linden Place, just around the corner from their house.

Flowers for the rehearsal dinner: Sickles Market, Little Silver.

Reception tent: Paul David Partywares, Shrewsbury, “a great, semi-hidden party rental place off Shrewsbury Avenue,” says Tom.

Band: Big Bang Baby, a Shore cover band from god-knows-where. All Tom knew was that the manager was in Wall. “They were great,” he says.

Limos: Tom couldn’t remember the name of the company, but says they’re not locally based.

Beer/Liquor: Shortly before the wedding, they hadn’t decided between the Spirits Unlimited store on Newman Springs Road and another Spirits closer to the Manahawkin house.

Immunization shots: A health center in Tinton Falls.

Marriage license: Engraved, er, issued by registrar Pam Borghi at Red Bank Borough Hall.

Let’s not forget the Church: St. James on Broad Street.

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