The former Stephanie Lynn Dowling and Patrick Matthew Sandlin were married Sept. 3 at 5100 Banquet Hall on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia after having to switch to a smaller venue because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The couple cut their guest list of 220 down to about 50 guests and got everything ready in two weeks despite a few challenges.

Michelle Taylor, the wedding coordinator, made the decorations and arranged the flowers. The couple’s color scheme included various degrees of purple featuring plum, lilac and lavender with each of her seven bridesmaids wearing a different shade.

After months of searching at bridal boutiques for the perfect dress, Stephanie decided to go with a custom gown. She looked beautiful in her princess ball gown adorned with over 3,000 crystals made by Kashian Alfred. The bride’s glam squad included makeup artist Jacen Bowman and hairstylists Tiffany China and Mark Hubbard.

Stephanie Dowling is the daughter of Brenda E. Davis and Stacey Dowling. She lived in North Philadelphia with her mother, grandparents, aunts and cousins until the age of 9 when they moved to West Philadelphia. Stephanie is a graduate of Strawberry Mansion High School, the same school her parents attended. They even had some of the same teachers. Her father was the owner of a popular banquet hall in the heart of North Philadelphia, Dowling’s Palace where Stephanie quickly became one of the most sought-after bartenders. Stephanie worked in the club business for almost 15 years before hanging up her pourers. She later found employment at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel where she spent two years before moving onto Windsor Suites Hotel in Center City. She was recently named the Windsor’s Employee of the Quarter, which was no easy task, especially during a global pandemic. When Stephanie isn’t working, she can be found at home watching one of her favorite reality television shows or reading one of her hundreds of books. She is an avid reader who claims that Barnes and Noble’s NOOK app was one of the best things ever invented.

Patrick Sandlin was raised in both West and North Philadelphia, due to the fact that he spent almost every summer in North Philadelphia with his grandmother. His parents are Shelmon Jr. and Patricia Sandlin. When it came time to enter high school, he attended Benjamin Franklin like many Sandlin men before him, including his father and older brothers, Shelmon III and Parris Otto. His grandfather even helped build the school. After graduation, Patrick once again followed in the footsteps of his older brother, Parris and attended Penn State University. After returning home from college, Patrick joined the Overbrook Chargers, the same semi-pro football team as his oldest brother Shelmon III. To make money for team travel, he became a security guard at a nightclub on South Street, where he met the love of his life and now, bride. Patrick is a Master Mason (Past Master of Paradise No. 1). He’s also Noble (Shriner) with Pyramid Temple No. 1. Patrick is also an avid Eagles fan and has a Facebook podcast that he started with his cousin Dante and his brother, Shelmon III.

The bridal party consisted of the couple’s family and best friends. Stephanie’s Maid of Honor was Ryann Johnson and her Matron of Honor was Canise Nelson. Her Bridesmaids included Latoya Coney, Kaylah Hamilton, Imani Ferguson, Tenesha Jenkins and Kearstin Jordan. Parris and Shelmon Sandlin served as the Best Men. The Groomsmen included Keith Johnson, Seth Andrews, Marvin Atwell, Philip Barnes and Jarrard Faulkner. Savion Dowling was the ring bearer and Madison Brown was the Flower Girl.

Patrick and Stephanie met while working at a nightclub on South Street about 10 years ago. Patrick insists they really met a year prior, at her dad’s banquet hall but Stephanie says she doesn’t remember that. Patrick made the first move by offering Stephanie a ride home from the club because it was late. They lived fairly close, so for her safety, he thought he should escort her home.

Before proposing, Patrick went the traditional route and had a conversation with Stephanie’s father. After getting his blessing, he proceeded with his plan. Patrick proposed to Stephanie on her birthday at her family’s long-running poetry night, Jus Words. Patrick had one of the singers who performed during the open mic sing Stephanie’s favorite song (Kem’s “Share my Life”) after Patrick read a love poem. His plan came together like a fairy tale. Stephanie was in complete shock as Patrick went down on one knee and popped the question. Of course, she said “yes.”

The reception was held in the same location as the ceremony. DJ Shockwave kept everyone dancing and feeling great with the selection of songs he played throughout the night. This was no easy task with three professional DJs in attendance including the groom.

Stephanie’s best friend, Khalif Townes, gifted the happy couple an all-inclusive honeymoon to Cancun, Mexico. Thanks to COVID-19, they had to put their travel plans on hold. The newlyweds are hoping to take their honeymoon in February.

Reflections … in Their Words

“Planning a wedding can be very stressful but planning a wedding during a global pandemic is enough to make someone lose their mind. We were constantly wondering whether or not our wedding was even going to happen and in the end, the wedding we originally planned didn’t happen but we wouldn’t allow it to stop us. With the love and support of our family and friends, we stood before our loved ones on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, and said ‘I do!'”

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