You can mark my words, this Annapolis garden fête from Theresa Choi + Blue Sky Films will go down as a Mid-Atlantic fan favorite. With romantic details around every corner and swoon-worthy bloomage for days, there’s no reason not to make a nice, long trip to the gallery for so much more. Join me right here!

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From the Bride… My now husband and I were set-up by a close friend, who after numerous attempts of telling me, “I had to meet this guy” I finally succumbed to the discomfort of blind dates and went out with Matt. Maybe friends know best? Fourteen months later we were married by that same friend, who conveniently is an assistant pastor at our church, in a small white chapel dating back to the 1800s. I never had a moment’s hesitation on marrying Matt or where we would celebrate – my parents’ home in their garden. My sister had her reception there ten years earlier and for the most important day of my life I knew there was nowhere with more comfort and preexisting joy. My parents’ home has always reminded me of Orchard house from Little Women and having a “Meg wedding” in their gorgeous garden seemed idyllic.

What started in concept as a more casual garden reception was quickly elevated once the dress was found. Second dress I tried on, called “Tinkerbell” (never got over the fact that my mom made me wear a turtleneck under my tink costume in 4th grade, this must be my 2nd chance, no turtlenecks on your wedding day mom!!), I was done. I added a slim jeweled belt to the dress to define the waist and a custom pink veil was made to match the subtle shade. The gown brought a romantic and more formal attitude to the day and with that French touches, garland, silver pieces, and men in tuxes became appropriate and wonderful additions.

In fact, the French influence was already at the very beginning of our union with my Christian Dior “Oui” ring Matt proposed with. We visit Boston often, where Matt is from and where I went to law school (and no we didn’t meet in Boston funny enough. He actually moved to the DC area when I moved to Boston. What is it they say, timing is everything???). Timing issues resolved, on a trip to Boston together I spied the unique “Oui” ring at Christian Dior and fell in love immediately. After a loooong Frenchy wait for the ring to be made in France and Matt no longer able to wait, he proposed with a ring he made out of paperclips saying, “IOU” instead! Knowing him to be a man of his word I happily said, “oui!” and as with all happy endings, the ring did finally make it to my finger (thank you to John Page at Chevy Chase Christian Dior for making this happen!) and joined many other French details of the day. I selected bundles of olive branches for the boutonnieres and bridesmaid bouquet, which I had seen in traditional French weddings (it is also a symbol of peace and tranquility, definitely an emotion I had marrying Matt), French music from the movie Amélie played while we cut our French inspired wedding cake and a decadent dessert table with macaroons and a traditional French wedding cookie were served.

Even with the more formal feel to the day, Matt and I maintained our personal loves and touches throughout the ceremony and reception. I hand-drew and water colored the artwork for the invitations and programs with a floral design for guests to anticipate the outdoor reception setting. I walked down the aisle to a favorite instrumental piece, “Carl Goes Up” from the animation movie, “Up.” It was the perfect fairytale piece to match the whimsy of the small chapel and my dress. My mom found a wonderful floral and gold fabric that she made table runners for the long banquet tables at the reception. The floral fabric struck the perfect balance of formal with outdoor whimsy with a classic paisley pattern but in a soft palette with gold touches. The tones in this fabric really inspired the soft colors used in the flowers and throughout the rest of the wedding. We used all of my mom’s silver pieces for dinner, coffee service, dessert, the flower girls’ containers, and two antique silver candelabras of my maternal grandmother’s for the dessert table. Using her special silver pieces not only helped formalize the day but made it feel like it was a very personalized event, where we brought out our best pieces for a big celebration.

Another special “silver” piece was Matt’s late grandparents’ canoe, The Bud & Betty, that was displayed with artwork I created to honor their wedding day and ours together. The boat was stationed near the bar and kept self-serve drinks cool for guests who just wanted to grab a beer and prevented the dreaded bar line. We chose one of our cocktails to be a Dark & Stormy as a nod to the Bud & Betty’s unique sail feature. Another signature cocktail featured my grandmother’s famous bourbon slush (a mix of lemonade, tea and, of course, bourbon!) that my sister made and was a huge hit with guests who enjoyed the cool, adult style snow cone in mini martini glasses. In honor of my dear, late maternal grandfather I carried one of his handkerchiefs embroidered with my new initials wrapped around my bouquet. My sister’s married initials are on the same handkerchief from her own wedding. Matt and I also created a moon photo booth from scratch to celebrate a shared favorite scene from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” when George lassos the moon for Mary. It’s the perfect display of both our talents, his engineering skills crafted the structure and I painted the display and the face of the moon.

In addition to our own touches, loved ones contributed their own talents to make it even more special. A friend of mine, who owns a catering company, Paper Fan Catering, created a Dutch Masters inspired cocktail table to reflect my love of those artists. My Aunt Claudette, who I am named after and is a fabulous cook (I just got the name), made special dishes to add to the catered items, including her well loved shrimp appetizer. My mom made several desserts for the dessert buffet too, including Boston cream pie cupcakes, in honor of a our mutually loved city and mini mint chocolate chip bundt cakes, my favorite Thanksgiving dessert.

Guests were brought to the reception in an Annapolis trolley and entered through the front door that was draped in floral garland and flanked with silver lanterns for late night lighting. Inside, a champagne tower, the cocktail table and a schedule of the night’s events were placed near the seating cards which were organized under family surnames. Guests who were friends had their place cards under the title, “Friendmily.”

The interior of the home was covered with more floral garlands and large wreaths to carry the outside garden feel throughout the home. Even with a tight budget I knew there was no way around blowing up a big beautiful flower bill and Wicked Willow was worth every cent! I would say no other vendor exceeded my expectations the way Randy with Wicked Willow did in creating so many blooming masterpieces. He created everything from the vine and floral wedding party hair wreaths to the stunning and wild arrangements for the buffet tables. He got exactly the feel I was going for, soft drapey floral garlands, wreaths, bouquets, but all with substantial presence. He also took on heroic efforts to preserve the last-of-the-season dogwood branches for my own bouquet, knowing my desperate desire for them even past their prime. He is top notch in my book and if I had room in the budget for weekly high-end floral deliveries, he’d be it.

For those active guests who didn’t find staring at sumptuous flowers for an hour enough entertainment, we had yard games on the lawn, near the bar/pool area. Following cocktail hour, the garden gate was opened leading guests to dinner under a large white tent with long banquet style tables filled with gold taper and votive lights and soft touches, including branches from my grandfather’s farm (literally over the hill and through the woods) that were painted gold, with gold nests and soft blue eggs filled with fresh blooms all seated on the floral runners my mom made. The dinner and dessert buffets were placed in the garden with the cherry tree my dad planted for my sister’s wedding in full bloom, gleaming with strung lights as a backdrop. The dinner included a classic early summer dinner menu of Southern glazed ham, orzo with chicken and summer vegetables, corn pudding cakes, summer potato salad, yeast rolls and a salad of goat cheese and fresh strawberries from a local farm. Those strawberries appeared on the cocktail table, dinner salad and the dessert buffet. My aunt graciously picked literally buckets of these fresh berries the day before the wedding. My mom’s delicious homemade preserves were also on the dinner table, to accompany the yeast rolls, made with strawberries from the same farm – we have been dedicated patrons of this farm since I was a child. After dinner, we danced to classic tunes from Sam Cooke to Aretha Franklin, with one or two current tunes making an appearance before heading through a, frequently seen but no less fun, sparkler exit to our getaway car.

We are old souls and the day touched on that with traditional, romantic decor, food and tunes, winks to loved ones gone too soon, and classic movies we can’t get enough of. We spent a perfect 72 degree Maryland day (thankfully since I did my own hair!) laughing, eating and dancing in a familiar garden on a uniquely special and magical night. The soft setting of the garden leant itself perfectly to creating a whimsical outdoor wedding reception that was a dreamy concoction of Orchard house with personal and French touches. The day did have it hitches – such as our wedding cake getting pre-guillotined (not a desirable French touch by the way) – but so many things went right, we got to create a wedding that didn’t come in a box, exhibited our shared loves and we got hitched! Just as Style Me Pretty showcases, these are fabulous days to be a bride, when personalization and style are without limits and couples are free to create a non-cookie-cutter day that truly reflects them. That’s truly the best.

Photography: Theresa Choi | Videographer: Blue Sky Films | Flowers: Wicked Willow | Invitations: Eden's Invites | Ceremony Venue: St. Paul's Anglican Church | Bridesmaids Dresses: Jcrew | Bride Engagement Ring: Christian Dior - Chevy Chase (John Page) | Bride Makeup: Nicole Zuravleff | Bride Wedding Band: Bony Levy - Nordstrom | Bride's Dress: Betsy Robinson's Bridal Collection | Cocktail Catering: Paper Fan Catering | Dinner Catering: Palate Pleasers | Flowergirl attire: Janie and Jack | Groom Ring: Smyth Jewelers | Groomsmen\'s Attire: Annapolis Formal and Tuxedo | Macaroons: Sweet Heart Patisserie | Rentals: Eastern Shore Tents and Events | Transportation: Discover Annapolis Trolley Company