As ‘Good Morning America’s’ Ginger Zee goes from whirlwind romance to wedding bells, she shows off four different dresses — though she’s keeping the real one under wraps until the big day.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that love struck like lightning for Ginger Zee, the 33-year-old meteorologist and storm chaser for “Good Morning America.” Nearly two years after meeting fiancé Ben Aaron, 32, reporter for NBC’s “New York Live,” Zee can still recall how quickly she fell head over heels. “We met at a work event and walked back across Central Park together. Within a minute of talking to him, I was crazy about him,” she says. The feeling was mutual: “It was one of those moments when you’re like, ‘Yes, this is the girl.’ Instantly I knew,” Aaron says.
On June 7, the former NBC Chicago weather forecaster will tie the knot with Aaron in an outdoor ceremony in Petoskey, Michigan (a five-hour drive from Chicago). It was crucial for Zee, a Michigan native, to have her wedding in her home state — specifically, along the lake where she spent every summer as a child. “Leave it to me to plan a wedding after the coldest winter in 30 years,” she laughs. “It’s a rough time of the year in Northern Michigan. [The weather] can be anything. But I figure I’ve treated weather pretty well my whole life — I think it can give me one day.”
For Zee, planning a wedding was a serious priority adjustment — the ambitious meteorologist has spent most of her life focused on her career. After becoming interested in meteorology in high school, she studied the subject at Valparaiso University before earning her on-air chops here in Chicago from 2006 to 2011 (she still comes back three or four times a year and maintains close ties to local charities like the Brain Injury Association and the Chicago Children’s Choir). When Zee joined “Good Morning America” in 2011, it was the culmination of nearly 15 years of work.
But now, Zee’s experiencing somewhat of a personal climate shift. “I was not one of those girls who dreamed of the day I was going to get married,” she admits. “Never in my entire career have I met someone who, if they needed me to move and I had to stop doing what I’m doing, I’d do that,’ ” she says. “Ben is the first person that’s reminded me that work isn’t first.” Her devotion will be made official as Zee legally takes Aaron’s last name after the “I do’s.” Both Zee and Aaron took new surnames for TV (Zee was born Ginger Zuidgeest and Aaron was Ben Colonomos), and while she will continue to use “Zee” on TV, at home she’ll be Mrs. Colonomos.
Zee’s new outlook is understandable — the couple’s story is about as close to a Hollywood rom-com as they come. After their meet-cute in Central Park, the two began dating; their first romantic outing was at Lincoln Center fountain, where they sat listening to music from Aaron’s iPod and people-watching, matching passersby to each song. They laid back and looked up at the sky (an apropos activity for the weather-minded Zee) and ended the night with their first kiss in front of the fountain. “It was really quite cheesy and cute and romantic,” she recalls.
Despite their considerable chemistry, the duo kept things casual at first. “He always says I broke up with him twice, but that’s not true!” Zee laughs. “We were just dating on and off at first because that’s just how you date.” But as their relationship grew more serious, they started a tradition: meeting each other at the Lincoln Center fountain when they went out — something Aaron now insists he did intentionally to create a memorable proposal spot. “Having her [at Lincoln Center] just reminded me of how excited I was to be with her on that first date,” Aaron says.
In August 2013, he made good on his plans, popping the question to Zee in their special place. Zee, for her part, was totally shocked by the proposal. “I was in my workout clothes, we were supposed to be meeting friends, which was a story he made up,” she says. For ring delivery, Aaron used another staple from their relationship: banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery. “He had the pudding and the ring was inside the box. Not inside the pudding — he wouldn’t want it to get all messy,” Zee laughs. The camera-friendly couple got an appropriately cinematic finishing touch: As a shaky and crying Zee nodded yes, a construction crew working on the fountain burst into applause.
These days, Zee and Aaron have moved on to their next phase as a couple: planning the perfect wedding. So in advance of their big day, we asked Zee to give us the inside scoop on all of the details (hint: it includes beachfront vows, multiple shoes and plenty of intricate, personalized touches).
“This is the traditional look I would have done had I been in a church — I feel like a princess or duchess in this dress.” —Ginger Zee
Memeka by Gustavo Cadile: chantilly lace gown, $5,500; email Sales@memekastudio.com
Dana Rebecca Designs: Anna Beth earrings, $1,760, Cy Fredrics Jewelers, 2719 Pfingsten Road, Glenview; Danarebeccadesigns.com
“This was my Carrie Bradshaw moment — the floral is so bold but really gorgeous.” —Ginger Zee
Memeka by Gustavo Cadile: strapless brocade gown, $3,740
Dana Rebecca Designs: Rima Naya earrings, $2,090; Sylvie Rose bracelet, $990; JEB cuff, $1,980
“I need to dance, and this dress screams party.” — Ginger Zee
Memeka by Gustavo Cadile: strapless tulle dress, $2,995
Dana Rebecca Designs: Lauren Joy medium drop earrings, $2,860; Sophia Ryan bracelet, $9,020
“So simple yet perfect. The material this is made from feels like heaven.” — Ginger Zee
Memeka by Gustavo Cadile: Silk crepe with crystal waist detail illusion gown, $3,410
Dana Rebecca Designs: Jessica Leigh earrings, $2,640
For the nuptials, Aaron had one ground rule: He didn’t want to be meeting anybody new at the wedding. He and Zee whittled the guest list down to their closest friends and family, saying their “I do’s” during an intimate, 50-person ceremony at the Inn at Bay Harbor in Petoskey, Michigan. “When I took [Aaron] to Michigan for the first time, he got a sense of how much it means to me,” Zee says. “It’s where I camped on Lake Michigan my whole life, every summer and every Labor Day. It was one of the only traditions my family stuck with. I want to showcase Michigan, [I want] to be able to get married and have this union of my life on the beaches — on the most beautiful part.”
Though Zee never dreamed of wedding dresses until she met Aaron, she says she now understands the garment’s significance. “[Trying on your wedding dress] is an iconic moment in someone’s life. You know your life is going to change — you’re joining your life with someone else’s.” She’s sure to stun in a gown by Pnina Tornai. “I’m trying to keep it a secret from Ben,” she says. “I went to Kleinfeld’s to try dresses on, but I didn’t think I was going to find the dress the first day I went. It’s lace, which I didn’t think I wanted at all. I’d say it’s traditional in some senses but with major modern twists — so major I know that at some point in my life I will say, ‘Whoa, that was a bold choice.’ I want it to be very sexy.”
Zee kept her wedding budget down with a small ceremony, but she did splurge on her footwear: She’ll sport two sets of custom, weather-inspired shoes from Denver-based company Design Your Pedestal. For her walk down the aisle on sand and grass, she’ll wear wedges decorated with tornadoes down the heel and a cracked-ice finish. At the reception, Zee will change into a pair of ice blue stilettos decorated with clouds that say “Love” and a rainbow on the sole. “I’m in love with them,” she says.
Music for the night will be a family affair: Zee’s brother, Sean, will be the main entertainment along with his band The Outer Vibe. But Zee sees the evening turning into a musical free-for-all. “On both sides, our mothers are performers. There’s no way that Janice and Dawn are not going to grab a guitar and get up there,” she says.
The families will also come together to give the bride and groom a little good-natured ribbing. “We’re letting our parents do a toast that’s more of a roast for both of us, because, well, we’re getting married a little later, you know?” says Zee. She adds that they won’t have any shortage of material for jokes. “I’ve certainly dated some good [guys] … some not so good.”
Zee’s friend and wedding planner Francesco Bilotto is creating an ethereal atmosphere for the small ceremony. The outdoor service will feature a white, ivory and silver color palette, with guests seated in two facing semicircles while Zee and Aaron say their vows in the center, surrounded by rose petals and baby’s breath. Zee’s love of weather will be reflected in the dining area, which will be decorated with pomander balls of flowers designed to resemble snowballs or clouds.
The meteorologist predicts her future.
SIX MONTHS: “I think we will be in the same place. We even might stay in the same apartment. I think we will be in that honeymoon phase. We keep joking that I never see him because I travel so much — it’s going to be the best marriage ever; we never see each other [laughs].”
ONE YEAR: “After a year we will be warding off questions from our parents about when children are coming. We definitely want to have kids. I think we will be thinking about it around there.”
FIVE YEARS: “I hope that we at least have started a family. I never know how my work and my life will be balanced, I just know that I want it to be someday. I know he’s going to be a great father and if we’re not able to have our own kids or something else happens, we both love adoption. Adoption is in our plan either way, whether we can or can’t have our own [kids]. I’m up for more [children], he’s pretty OK with just one or two, but family will be a big part of the next five years.”
Photographer: Billy Rood
Hair: Dora Smagler
Makeup: Lisa Hayes
Styling: Francesco Bilotto; Francescobilotto.com
Flowers: courtesy of Plant Shed New York Flowers, 209 W. 96th, New York, NY; Plantshed.com