Maksim Chemerkovskiy can still remember the the thrill of experiencing love at first sight. Though, admittedly, it took place a full decade-and-a-half before he met now-wife Peta Murgatroyd in 2009.
Not long after emigrating from his native Ukraine, the future Dancing With the Stars standout was visiting family in New York's Long Island when he first spied Oheka Castle in Huntington, some 36 miles outside of downtown Manhattan. With 137 rooms and 109,000 square feet of space, "I thought it was very Gatsby-esque," he raved to Us Weekly of the French chateau-style space, which was stately enough to score a starring role in Taylor Swift's 2014 "Blank Space" music video. "I remember I wanted to strive for the ability to organize a wedding in a place like that."
So that was one item checked off the list when he officially solidified his on-and-off romance with fellow ballroom dancer Murgatroyd in December 2015, dropping to one knee on stage at Miami's Olympia Theater.
"We've got our location, we've got our date set," Murgatroyd told E! News the following June. "I can try on some dresses now. I think it's time to start doing all that and getting a wedding planner."
Which she did, tapping DWTS troupe member Nicole Volynets Gamer to oversee the operation (and eventually serve as one of her seven Amsale-clad bridesmaids). But by crunch time, the two-time mirrorball winner—then a new mom to her and Chemerkovskiy's son Shai—was so in the weeds that she admitted to E! News eight weeks before the big day that she'd "had a stressful morning, actually, trying to organize rooming situations for people." (Chemerkovskiy, for the record, joked that he wasn't a details man: "I just add to the stress.")
And yet every last minute of anxiety and worry—at the time of her chat with E!, Murgatroyd admitted her hand-beaded, pearl-encrusted Karen Sabag Couture ceremony gown was "still in Paris"—was forgotten when the Auckland-born, Perth-bred dancer began her happily ever after with her Tom Ford-outfitted prince on July 8, 2017.
Their wedding was the sort of fairy-tale-type day generally reserved for Disney flicks, right down to the pictures-or-it-didn't-happen rainbow that came out the minute she and her new husband finished saying their vows.
"I couldn't believe it when I turned around," she admitted to Us Weekly of the post- "and you may now kiss your bride" surprise. "It was amazing—perfect timing."
So, yes, the #chmergatroydwedding as it was billed on the 'gram, with the ballroom series' professionals and celebrity alum in attendance flooding the Internet with images, lived up to its idyllic setting.
"The whole experience, the three days were just absolutely incredible," Murgatroyd said, referencing their welcome party and day-after poolside bash. "I wish we could do it all again." Agreed Chemerkovskiy, "It was everything we ever dreamt of."
For him, the magic began even before he spied Murgatroyd from his perch underneath their lisianthus- and hydrangea-covered chuppah.
Just hearing the first strains of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, a nod to Murgatroyd's 16 years of ballet training, was enough to incite tears. But when he saw his future mother-in-law walk then-6-month-old Shai up the petal-strewn aisle, "I lost it," he admitted to Us Weekly.
By the time Murgatroyd came into view wearing the couture piece that fulfilled all her ball gown fantasies ("I wanted something full to walk down the aisle in. I wanted an off-the-shoulder cut because it's romantic"), any semblance of his standard tough guy demeanor had vanished.
"I was so emotional," he said, "I didn't care what it looked like."
Murgatroyd, in heels she'd chosen during her very first trip to Ukraine with Chmerkovskiy, attempted to keep it together. But by the end of the 30-minute nondenominational ceremony led by their friend Greg Havio, she, too, was in tears.
She'd had a hand in every word that was exchanged, the couple determined to weave in bits of his culture (Murgatroyd performed the Jewish tradition of walking around her groom seven times) with hers.
The only thing left to chance, actually, was the vows, Chmerkovskiy having made the risky decision to kind of wing it. "People were telling me, 'You're going to see her walk down and you're going to know exactly what to say,'" he explained to Us Weekly. "What they didn't say is, 'You're going to see her, freeze up and forget what you wanted to say.'"
Still, "It was beautiful," Murgatroyd insisted. "He made me cry." Then came the sealed with a kiss moment, followed by the rainbow that felt as if it had been commissioned just for them. As Chmerkovskiy put it, "People lost their s--t!"
That's one way to get a party started. Though, admittedly the couple's crew, some 300 strong, had been celebrating for months.
There was the initial February 2016 masquerade-themed fete that forced the duo to reconsider their original plan for a destination wedding like the one they'd attended the previous summer.
They'd tossed around the idea of flying just their nearest and dearest to some far flung locale, "then we got engaged and threw a little get-together and it was 125 people," Chemerkovskiy admitted to E! News of realizing just how impossible it'd be to whittle down their guest list. "We don't want to upset anybody. We want people to have a night to celebrate us and celebrate with us."
So they picked a date smack dab in the middle of the summer "so it doesn't conflict with any of the seasons," he continued of DWTS commitments, "so we can bring our past partners and our troupe of dancers and stuff like that."
Even with fellow DWTS OG Julianne Hough hosting nuptials for 200 across the country at her grandparents' place in Idaho, a whole bevy of franchise luminaries turned up in New York to toast the Chmergatroyds.
Professional dancer Sharna Burgess served as a bridesmaid, as did Rumer Willis, who'd partnered with the groom's brother (and best man) Val Chmerkovksiy for a season 20 win in 2015. Tony Dovolani suited up as groomsman and show alums like Candace Cameron Bure and Nyle DiMarco (who nabbed a mirrorball with Murgatroyd in 2016) RSVP'd yes to the over-the-top affair.
The festivities began at the historic estate that Friday evening, the bride already all dressed in white for the bash that featured rose centerpieces, rolled cigars and the type of dance moves you'd expect from a crew of that pedigree.
Which meant everyone was warmed up by the time they arrived at the main event inside a ballroom covered in crystals, candles and all-white floral arrangements that towered over tables, snaked up candelabras and even hung from chandeliers.
"I think when we first got announced into the ballroom as husband and wife, like, that was an awesome moment," Murgatroyd shared with Us Weekly. "And just seeing the ballroom and everybody there and everybody clapping and just everyone was so happy for us and I could feel the love."
That blissed-out sensation continued through the toasts, laced with sentimental memories ("I cried," she admitted), five-course meal and the first dance that saw the lifelong professionals forgo any fancy choreography, happy to just be as they swayed in each other's arms.
By then Murgatroyd had slipped into a feathery frock more suitable for a long evening of dancing that culminated in what has become somewhat of a tradition among the DWTS crew.
"We always end up in a circle. All the dancers crowd around and everyone gets a turn at going into the circle," shared Murgatroyd. "It was completely lit. Everyone was just having the best time, it was such a big celebration."
And yet the moment that stuck out in Chemerkovskiy's mind a year later as they were marking their first anniversary was their quiet City Hall vows that had taken place with none of the fanfare employed for the main event.
There was no ball gown, no 15-person band, no floral wall—just a bouquet of pink roses and a few friends to capture what Chemerkovskiy called "one of the most exciting days of my life!"
He could recall the thrill of each moment, he continued in his anniversary post. "Everything felt very festive. I couldn't take my eyes off my future wife the whole ride to the City Hall and it was is if New York City herself was marrying us. I can't believe it's been a year. I still can't believe you chose me. I can't believe I get to live this dream with you by my side for the rest of my life."
It's almost better than he first imagined it.