“My gown was “Hillary” by David Tutera and it was love at first sight. I first saw it while looking through a bridal magazine and as I turned the page, I gasped. LITERALLY. I thought it was the most beautiful gown I had ever seen. Horticulture is a passion of mine and the lace was exquisite, depicting realistic, cascading flowers against the blush background. It absolutely took my breath away. There couldn’t be a more perfect dress for a garden wedding and it looked so beautiful I was certain it wouldn’t fit within my budget. I made an appointment with the dress shop, House of JonLei Atelier, right away and was so very happy to learn that it was! The women in the shop were wonderful and helped me make the gown my own by purchasing additional lace to create shoulder straps. We also added lace to the sash and buttons to the back, enhancing the gown even further. What was truly amazing about this gown was that it changed hues depending on the light, varying from a soft beige to the palest pink. It was “me” in a dress and it was stunning! My niece, a junior bridesmaid, wore a coordinating dress by Joan Calabrese.
We were married on a beautiful October afternoon in the Rose Garden at George Washington’s River Farm in Alexandria, VA, home of the American Horticultural Society where I worked as a gardener and overlooking the Potomac River. During the portrait session, I asked our photographers to take pictures of me and my former boss raking. He put me right to work!
We had a Vintage French inspired wedding with French bistro cuisine, classic French music and champagne. I used blush, cream, copper and gold leaf hues in all the decorative elements to coordinate with my blush gown – bridesmaid dresses, florals, even the welcome glass of champagne was French and pink to give our guests a hint at what was to come! Everything except the florals was DIY, from the invitations to the napkins!
My niece and nephew, who were also part of the wedding party, collected whelk shells that I gilded and used as a floral arrangement at each place setting. My florist and I visited a local lavender farm to pick our own lavender to use in the shells, bouquets and favors. I made lavender-infused sea salts and bath salts, and lavender wands as favors. Other decor details that I designed and crafted myself include:
• Wedding invitation suite
• “Head” Table banner – My husband Terry’s last name is Head (and yes, together our names are HeadCase, haha!)
• which leads me to… wait for it… Two Heads Are Better Than One silhouette…
• Let Them Eat Cake banner for the cake table
• Wine bottle menus with labels edged in gold leaf
• Place card holders – a trio of wine corks tied with a ribbon and embellished with a gilded paper rose
• Table name cards – gilded in gold leaf and named after French towns visited on the honeymoon
• Bride and Groom chair signs decorated with streaming ribbons in rose, cream and copper
• Seating Chart displayed in a gilt frame, reminiscent of the menu chalkboards that are so common outside French bistros
• Wine Cork Heart – there was a lot of wine drinking involved here, but my neighbors and I persevered!
• L & T initials painted in gold and copper leaf and embellished with gilded paper roses
• “oui!” cocktail napkins
Our first dance was “La Vie en Rose.”
Our signature drink, the “Ooh La La!” was a champagne based cocktail with St. Germain and my homemade lavender simple syrup. We also had a dessert drink which I named “Hot French Kiss” – a hot apple cider with cinnamon liqueur, whipped cream, and garnished with a cinnamon stick.
The bridal party gifts were silver bracelets and boutonnière holders crafted from vintage flatware.
Perhaps the best part of the day was the heart and arrow shaped cloud above our heads during the ceremony, captured by one of our guests with her cell phone! If that isn’t a good sign, I don’t know what is!”
Photos: Jodi & Kurt Photography
Bridal Salon: House of JonLei Atelier
Flowers: Alicia Jayne Florals
Venue: River Farm
Event Planner: Magnolia Bluebird Design & Events
Makeup: Kim Giammaria of Beauty Mark
Hair: London Bob Hair Design
Vintage Jewelry: Joan Miller of J Miller Designs
Caterer: Federal City Caterers
Music: The Johnny Artis Band
Cinematography: Ryan Geldermann