When these two fellow med students turned loves planned their dream day, there were a few “musts” on the list. A beautiful outdoor setting, personal details to reflect their heritage, and (of course) just the right vendors to capture the memories. Enter KT Merry who captured it all in one perfect gallery. Along with Jonathan Clark who crafted the film below, she photographed a celebration that’s certain to put shades pink and purple on the wedding palette map.
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From The Bride… Chris and I always tell people that we met in the dark. We both were doing our training at the same hospital in Chicago- me in plastic surgery and he in radiology. I walked into the dark room where radiologists do all their work, looking for help, and Chris was the first person to look up from the computer. Months later I was at a medical school reunion and mentioned to a former classmate who worked with Chris that I thought he was cute, and one of my friends who was with me at the reunion launched a major effort to find out who this guy was and cajoled me into going out on a near blind date with him several weeks later.
What an adventure it has been – after meeting in Chicago, one year later we moved to New York City for my fellowship training, and one year after that, we moved to San Francisco where I took my first job (finally after 11 years of post-college training!). In our final month in New York, Chris surprised me by proposing in our tiny studio. The proposal was a combination of both of our styles – I love grand romantic gestures and Chris prefers unique, intimate moments. He wrote me a long poem in a scrapbook I keep filled with momentos from our time together – Broadway ticket stubs, subway tokens from cities we have visited, restaurant menus. He secretly videotaped the entire proposal from a camera in our apartment capturing a private moment between the two of us, followed by a previously planned black-tie celebration at Cipriani’s for my fellowship graduation.
We never expected to end up in California, but as we started planning our wedding, we quickly decided on Napa as our destination. Chris is Canadian, and we have friends and family all over the country and world, and we were sure Napa would be the perfect place to celebrate with everyone. While it would be a destination wedding for most of our guests, it was only 90 minutes from us, allowing me to be involved in all aspects of the wedding planning. We spent months visiting or researching every venue in Napa Valley without finding anything that fit our vision for the wedding celebration. Then we visited Black Swan Lake Estate, and I remember we looked at each other during the visit, and we both knew that we had found the perfect place. It was January, and despite the lack of leaves on the trees or flowers in the garden, we could already imagine how beautiful it would look in September which is harvest season in Napa and when we wanted to have our wedding.
The venue was magical. Throughout the nine months we planned this wedding, every time we were on site for a visit, it became more and more beautiful. I have always wanted to have an outdoor wedding with the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception held completely outdoors under the stars. And the estate was large enough to give each part of the wedding a new and unique feel. The estate was so beautiful on its own, we didn’t feel like we needed that much to embellish it besides our wonderful friends and family.
Knowing we were getting married in the middle of harvest season, when there would be lots of natural greenery, I wanted to incorporate bright pops of color. I chose purple and fuchsia flowers and bridesmaid dresses because I have always loved these colors and knew they would look amazing amongst all the ripe leaves and vines. We were married down by the lake, under these beautiful weeping willows. For the bridal entrance, an antique Rolls Royce drove my father and me through the vineyard road down to the lake where Chris was waiting for me at the foot of the trees.
My younger brother was our officiant, and we wanted our ceremony to be interactive, so during the ceremony, our wedding rings which were tied to a small wreath, were passed among our guests so that everyone could touch our rings and bless the symbol of our marriage prior to Chris and I exchanging them. All of our guests then walked through the vineyards up to lawn for cocktail hours, and then moved on to the terrace where everyone sat at two long king’s table under an arbor of trees with glimmering crystal chandeliers suspended from the roof formed by the tree branches.
It was really important to us that the wedding reflect our different backgrounds – Chris’ Canadian roots and my Vietnamese heritage. We found an amazing stationery company in Baltimore that designed our wedding invitations and printed material. Our wedding invitation included a custom portrait of the two of us under the willow trees, with an early reveal of my wedding dress (for anyone who was paying attention), and the invitation also had a timeline of all of the cities we have lived in across the world, both before and after we met.
We also incorporated other Canadian and Vietnamese elements into the wedding- we had his and hers cocktails using Canadian whiskey and maple syrup and a Vietnamese lemonade with passionfruit. Our passed hors d’oeuvres at cocktail hour included mini Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches and fresh spring rolls. I also changed into a traditional Vietnamese dress (ao dai) and hat for the cake cutting, though instead of wearing the traditional red ao dai, I had a purple ao dai made to match our wedding colors. Our guests liked my Vietnamese dress (and especially the gold hat) the most since most had never seen the traditional wedding outfit. Though I loved my white wedding dress, which my mother had picked out for me. It had a detachable tulle overskirt which I wore during the ceremony and most of the reception. But to surprise our wedding guests, we had our wedding instructor choreograph into our first dance an opening sequence in which Chris twirls me out of the overskirt to reveal the rest of my dress underneath.
We had such an amazing time and the despite small hiccups (right before the wedding, about 20 of our guests got on the wrong shuttle and ended up at the wrong wedding), the day was exactly how we imagined. Many of our guests commented on how special it was to meet all of our other guests – friends and family who represent all the different periods of our life from childhood to adulthood. With our wedding it was finally possible to gather all the people who have been such an important part of our past and present together in one place to celebrate the start of our new future together. We got to spend an entire weekend with friends and family who had come from both near and far- as far away as Singapore and Kenya to be with us. We are so glad to have the memories captured so beautifully by both our wedding photographer and videographer. Everyone would tell me before the wedding, “Enjoy every moment, because your wedding day is going to go by in the blink of an eye.” And it sometimes seems like life since the wedding has gone by in the blink of an eye, but it is truly wonderful to know that we get to spend the rest of our lives together making even better memories.
Photography: KT Merry | Cinematography: Jonathan Clark | Event Planning: Little Blue Box Weddings | Floral Design: HuntLittlefield | Wedding Dress: Romona Keveza | Cake: Sweet On Cake | Stationery: Jolly Edition | Bridesmaids' Dresses: Amsale | Catering: Elaine Bell Catering | Hair + Makeup: A-List Makeup | Lighting: Twilight Design | Band: PopFiction | Groom's Attire: Black By Vera Wang | Transportation: Beau Wine Tours | Venue: Black Swan Lake Estate | Belt: Millie Icaro | Classic Rolls-Royce: Nationwide Limousine Service | Linens: La Tavola | Matron + Maid Of Honor Dresses: Donna Morgan | Rentals: Classic Party Rentals | Vietnamese Dress: Chau Nguyen Fashion