— Forgive Jeff and Cheryl Whitaker if they don’t want to go near a piece of wedding cake by the end of 2009. In an amazing bit of happenstance, the couple are marrying off all four of their daughters in one calendar year.
The Whitakers, who pulled off their own miniversion of the Brady Brunch when they married in 2004, bringing two daughters apiece into the family fold, were delighted and immediately overwhelmed when the young ladies all found love and engagement rings in rapid-fire succession.
TODAY staged a wedding gabfest Monday, bringing all the couples, along with the proud parents, to the set. On hand with the Whitakers were Katie McConnell and her new husband Tyler (they married Jan. 17), Kimberly Whitaker and her fiance Jeff Ervick (May 1 wedding), Lindsay Gideon and her intended Adam Liszewski (June 13 wedding), and Kelly Whitaker with fiance Mike Houser (Oct. 24 wedding).
Here come the brides
Youngest daughter Katie, 23, was the first to get engaged and the first to marry. She’s become the family’s marital pioneer and is helping her older sister and stepsisters navigate through the planning process.
“I had to figure it out all for myself,” Katie told TODAY’s Natalie Morales. “I spent so much time looking on the Internet and through magazines and all of that. But it’s so nice having everyone else now doing the same thing.”
The next two engagements came in quick succession — Jeff asked Kimberly, 29, for her hand last April, and just two weeks later, Adam popped the question to Lindsay, 26. Mike and Kelly, also 26, made it a total family affair when they announced their engagement over Thanksgiving.
“It’s like watching a movie happen right before my eyes,” dad Jeff Whitaker told TODAY. “It’s a real adventure. I never had the feeling that they would all be engaged together, but as soon as the youngest [got engaged] we had a fear, and then it worked its way up the ladder.”
Kelly, for her part, considers herself lucky to be trailing the marital pack in her family this year — as the last to get engaged and the last wedding date on the calendar, she’s got a fount of reliable experts to draw upon.
“It was pretty helpful, because I didn’t really have much experience with the ins and outs of the wedding planning process,” she told Morales. “Just being able to go through everything with them step by step, learning the millions of things that go into the big day, it was great.”
The weddings are scheduled for the family’s Annapolis, Md., hometown, but each daughter is putting her personal stamp on her own nuptials and parties. Kimberly told TODAY while the women are “all planning really different weddings,” they have shared ideas and experiences when it comes to florists, caterers and DJs.
The price of love
Of course, the million-dollar question is how the family can foot the bill for four weddings in one year. Jeff Whitaker told Morales everyone is not only involved in wedding planning, but in raising the money. His ex-wife Linda Morelock and her husband Mark are helping pay for Kimberly’s and Kelly’s weddings. Likewise, Cheryl’s ex-husband John Gideon and Cheryl's mom June Blessing are kicking in for Lindsay’s and Katie’s weddings.
Still, Jeff acknowledged the hit on his pocketbook. He’s back to working full-time instead of part-time, and he’s parting with one of his most treasured possessions. “I do have my personal ’57 Chevy up on the Internet,” he told Morales.
Happily, the noncompetitive daughters aren’t stepping on each other’s toes when it comes to their weddings. They’re giving all concerned a chance to breathe, Lindsay told Morales.
“I’m having a summer wedding, (Katie) had a winter wedding, (Kimberly) has a spring and (Kelly) has a fall, so they’re all in a different season,” she said.
While the gals, only six years apart in age, have been confabbing constantly in putting together their dream days, mom Cheryl Whitaker told Morales that her job as ringleader Mom has been a little more hectic, since she has to select four different mother-of-the-bride dresses, “a different one for each wedding.”
“I’ve had a little problem picking things out, trying to make sure I get what they want me to have,” Whitaker told Morales, adding, “I’ve sent a few back.”
While making it through four family weddings in one year is exhausting for Cheryl to even think about, she wouldn’t have it any other way. She told TODAY how gratifying it is to watch the blended family grow even closer as their weddings dates draw nearer.
“The best part is really how these girls have embraced each other and really become friends,” she said.
“You never know when you meld two families if that will happen, but I see how close these girls have become. They are looking forward to sharing it with each other, and listening to them talk to each other makes it even more special.”
The prospective grooms have been bonding as well. Kelly’s fiance Mike noted the past holidays were the first time the whole family got together with every daughter engaged, which made for some spirited and animated conversations.
“We could all share in the festivities; it worked out well,” Mike told Morales.
Jeff Whitaker said he looks forward to many more family get-togethers in the future — and the possibility of having grandchildren also come in batches.
“It brings a lot of energy to the house, and holidays are a blast!” he told Morales.