Sara Glickman and Ben Shlesinger had a somewhat unrealistic, though indisputably charming, dream: That the National Zoo's panda cub, Bao Bao, attend their panda-themed wedding.
"We actually sent an invite, decorated with panda stickers, to 'Bao Bao and Family' to come to the wedding, adding bamboo as a meal choice on the RSVP card," says Glickman. "Sadly, she responded that she was unable to attend, but thank you. I get it, she didn't want to steal the spotlight, very sweet of her."
Don't worry. Even without the coveted, no-show guest, even with no bamboo in sight, the wedding was still great. And had plenty of beary special, and perhaps surprisingly restrained, touches: Panda masks for guests to wear and a panda cake topper that was a gift from a friend and had to be displayed next to the cake due to extreme heaviness. (Hey, giant pandas are a few hundred pounds; plus-sized panda cake toppers are also to be expected). And Shlesinger wore panda cufflinks, which were a present from his bride.
Pandas are not a new interest. Shlesinger, who is a writer and editor, has been an animal lover with a special fondness for the black-and-white endangered bears since he was a child. Glickman, a CPA, is the enthusiastic convert.
"Pandas have played a pretty big part in our courtship/relationship," she says.
Just for an example: Shlesinger and Glickman have had two sets of panda-related Halloween costumes in their two years together. The first year, he dressed as a panda while she was his keeper. More recently, Shlesinger dressed as an amped-up Bao Bao, and Glickman pretended to be a member of the paparazzi, trying to snap a photo.
It was "a play on the British royal baby. Ben was the 'royal panda baby.' Panda costume, huge pacifier, crown, etc.," she says.
The two often travel to see pandas, too. In fact, Shlesinger proposed while on a panda-watching voyage, "a trip for his birthday weekend to see the pandas at the Toronto Zoo, of course," says Glickman. "It was very cute. He asked a family to take pics of us at the overlook, and they were all giggling but I didn't know why, until I saw he was down on one knee. And then of course we all, the family included, burst into tears."
The pair's goal for their wedding -- which took place at the end of May at a hotel on the University of Maryland campus -- was "sort of just, make sure the guests have as much fun as possible, while getting some elements of 'us' involved," says Glickman. "Hence the panda elements, photobooth, writing our own vows, the enormous amount of desserts, our favorite food group!"
No, Sara Glickman and Ben Shlesinger didn't wear panda masks all through the wedding. Photo credit: Jennifer Lust
But when they did, it was awesome. Photo credit: Jennifer Lust
And so far, married life has been as much of a blast as the wedding. Except for one big thing: a lack of pandas.
"If we had all the money in the world, we'd go to the Wolong Giant Panda Reserve in China for the honeymoon," says Glickman. "But, unfortunately no panda-themed honeymoon for now. We just bought a home and still don't have a lot of furniture."