Colorful Backyard Rhode Island Wedding
July 6, 2015
New England
We're in love with this Rhode Island wedding, from the vibrant turquoise and orange palette to the custom quahog and monogram designs that the Bride herself designed! It's a whimsical celebration with a waterside ceremony (including a boat ride!) and a tented reception at the family home, thanks to amazing vendors like Riley & Grey and Newport Tents! Rupert Whiteley captures it all right here!
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From the beautiful Bride.... I met Ed at a black-tie New Year’s Eve party at the Ocean House in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. At the time, I was pursuing my design business from Rhode Island while Ed lived in Manhattan. We began dating immediately, and seven months into our relationship, Ed was offered a new job in Bermuda, so we spent the next eighteen months shuttling between there and Westerly, RI, a seaside town we consider our ‘true home’, having both summered there throughout our childhoods, and now the place where both sets of our parents live.

Ed proposed in February 2014 on a very frosty and windy barrier beach by my parents’ home in Shelter Harbor. We knew immediately that we wanted to have our wedding there – in warmer weather, of course! For generations, my family has owned a unique property overlooking Quonochontaug Pond and Block Island Sound. It has been the site of many storied parties, including the traditional Shelter Harbor Annual Fourth of July celebration, attended by hundreds of neighbors and guests and an event worthy of Norman Rockwell. We knew this site could handle a crowd and would be the perfect place for our wedding.

Although we met at a black-tie affair, Ed and I knew a formal event wouldn’t suit our style or location – we envisioned something laid-back, yet elegant, with emphasis on the festivity, dancing and fun for our guests, many of whom would travel long distances to share our day. As a graphic designer specializing in colorful prints and patterns, I craved a vibrant wedding palette, but one still appropriate for the Fourth of October. We chose shades of navy, turquoise and orange, intermingled with a well-recognized Rhode Island icon, the ‘Quahog’ – or Cherrystone clam. As a print and pattern designer with eight months to juggle my wedding and work schedules, I grabbed my watercolors and started painting like a fiend, eventually realizing that my hallmark ‘fish scale’ design from Tipsy Skipper would be the obvious and perfect vehicle for our theme. After incorporating our clam shell into its pattern, I experimented with weaving our initials into it and settled upon a whimsical monogram which became the logo for the Lloyd/Sweeney nuptials. The Quahog debuted on our ‘save-the-date’ mailing, and the monogram, established on the invitation, carried through to the cocktail napkins, embroidered chair covers, table runners, flags and signage, becoming a recurring theme throughout the wedding weekend.

Since Ed and I were now well-acquainted with Bermuda and would soon be full-time residents, we had come to appreciate the British Colony’s heritage, so I visually linked the old with the new by including the island’s Hog Penny as a symbol of our new life together. Finally, a little research revealed a handy coincidence: my fiance’s Celtic family crest just happened to include wild boars, amazingly similar to the Bermuda hogs! This new inspiration seemed divine providence, as we had just selected Preppy Pig BBQ, to cater the event. With our theme established and pork on the menu, ‘Qua-hogs and Hog Pennies’ launched a great deal of lively conversation and anticipation!

As a textile designer, the most enjoyable wedding preparation involved the incorporation of our clam and monogram designs into decorative accessories for the wedding. I transformed our monogram digitally into a subtle ‘repeat’ pattern for fabrics that would suit table runners and pillows. Our ceremony was to take place on a large pavilion in front of a massive granite fireplace, so in order to create a warm, welcoming look, I had numerous large, comfortable pillows made for the seating areas, some with our clamshell design and others embroidered with our monogram. The table runners were trimmed with grosgrain ribbon, which proved the perfect mix of quaintness and elegance on the dinner tables.

In my professional life, I’ve designed many custom ties and scarves for weddings, clubs, hotels and special events, and my own wedding presented a special opportunity to design a custom tie, just for us. For this project, Ed had full design authority, and to my delight, he was thoughtful and clear about the elements he wanted me to include in the pattern. He chose quahog shells, the Bermuda Hog, and a pig roasting over an open flame. Fortunately, Ed shares my passion for color, so neither of us had a moment’s hesitation about a bright orange tie. At the rehearsal dinner, every male family member received one to wear the following day, and since we ordered extras, many of our other guests wore them, as well.

One of the most wonderful experiences in the wedding preparation process was meeting Candace Morgenstern, a renowned Newport floral designer whose expertise and extraordinary creativity was evident everywhere at the wedding. Inexperienced and somewhat intimidated by all things horticultural, I was apprehensive about making decisions on centerpieces, bouquets, altar arrangements and other decorations, but after Candace’s visit, I knew I could relax and enjoy the ride. Understanding my vision readily and enthusiastic about the setting and unconventionality of our wedding, she not only chose the perfect flower combinations, but even incorporated small quahog shells in the arrangements! My bouquet had lovely small shells scattered among the foliage, while Ed’s boutonniere was actually a clamshell with a small flower nestled inside it.

Weather is always the wild card when planning an outdoor wedding, so while we hoped for fair skies, we also planned for potentially inclement conditions. While a large tent was to be the site of the reception, the actual ceremony would take place on the pavilion overlooking the water, followed immediately by cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Several days before the wedding, the forecast appeared grim, so we chose to have the entire property tented. A marquee led to the patio area and fireplace, which were also covered. Thank goodness! On the wedding day, it rained as forecasted, so I pulled on my Hunter Rain Boots, which I had bought in turquoise precisely for this prospect and embraced the day. As luck would have it, the rain subsided just as my small wedding party stepped into the antique boat ferrying us to the ceremony. Umbrellas in-hand, my maid-of-honor/sister and two flower girls/nieces embarked on the short cruise to my family’s dock where my father awaited to escort us up the stairway to the altar. Our crowd of guests watched from the upper pavilion, enjoying the sight of my turquoise wellies peeking out from beneath my hemline as I disembarked!

The ceremony was intimate and brief, officiated by a family friend, Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice, Robert Flanders, who wore our bright orange tie under his judicial robes! Losing no time between ceremony and celebration, champagne flowed and hors d’oeuvres were passed as a raw bar of oysters, shrimp and quahogs beckoned to seafood lovers.

Upon their arrival, our guests had seen turquoise pennants flying from the peaks of the large reception tent, emblazoned with our monogram. Inside, however, were my favorite surprise elements; instead of poles supporting the tent structure, our tent décor company had actually installed three authentic tree trunks, retaining the bark and upper branches that were wrapped with lights and spread out over the tables and dancefloor, creating an ‘enchanted forest’ atmosphere for the evening. Underneath the lighted branches were two extended farm tables with our monogrammed fabric runners. Arranged on either side of the farm tables were round dining tables for ten. Medium-sized clamshells, collected throughout the summer by my family members, were placed at each table setting as escort cards. My mother, a talented calligrapher, inscribed each guest’s name on a shell. Larger clamshells served as perfect signs for the buffet tables, and my own watercolor design decorated the custom menus at each place setting. The wedding favor was a custom pint glass which held each guest’s water at dinner and featured our “Qua-hog’ design.

The rain resumed as the guests were seated for dinner, and Dark ‘n’ Stormies became the appropriate impromptu signature cocktail. The lights from the trees created a warm atmosphere on a damp fall evening, and the heating system kept everyone comfortably dry. The rain caused the tent’s perimeter lights to go out unexpectedly, but no one noticed with the champagne and cocktails flowing! Preppy Pig BBQ had been smoking brisket on-site since 8 A.M. and had prepared the most delicious salmon, as well. Candied bacon was displayed in mason jars on the tables, and platters of warm cornbread were eagerly devoured.

Ed’s brother-in-law, James Nicholas, owns and operates the seasonal St. Clair Annex Restaurant in Watch Hill, famous for homemade ice cream since 1887. It was an obvious choice to feature St. Clair’s ice cream in lieu of a traditional wedding cake. Three flavors were served, including a custom ‘Apple Crisp’ flavor, which James made especially for our wedding. Months before, I had noticed an ice cream vending cart featured at a Greenwich event in Martha Stewart Weddings. After much research, I tracked down the owner, arranged to rent the cart, and drove down to Rowayton, Connecticut to pick it up. It was even turquoise to match the wedding colors and with Candace Morgenstern’s floral touches, was a charming prop inside the tent. An employee from The Annex ‘scooped’ guests’ ice cream from the cart, and with the individual key lime pies provided by Preppy Pig BBQ, each table had an array of delectable desserts.

The band Young Love and the Thrills was absolutely extraordinary and more than pleased our wide age range of guests! They put a unique spin on many of their songs, somehow switching from ‘90s rap to classic songs from the 1950s. Our guests packed the dance floor all night – we had an unforgettable time! Even the band members enjoyed themselves; so much that the whole group stayed for the After Party at the fireplace. Magically, the weather had cleared, the stars were twinkling, and the full moon was shining so brightly on the water, it seemed almost daylight. As the older folks headed home, our friends returned to the fireplace pavilion where the fire was now roaring and corn hole boards were set up beside the s’mores bar. A few of the guys took moonlight swims off the dock – some with their clothes on! It was a wonderful end to the evening.

Hosting our wedding at my family’s home was key to my full enjoyment of this once-in-a-lifetime celebration. It gave us the freedom to fully customize our preferences and didn’t restrict us to certain vendors or caterers, as is often the case at clubs and hotels. However, some of the site planning was more challenging than a more traditional venue. New England’s coastline is rocky, and to accommodate the large tented event, an excavator was required to remove some granite boulders and re-grade the land. A tremendous help in the process was the assistance of Bill Corcoran, owner of Newport Tents, who met with us several times to check on the leveling process and helped us determine the best tent layout.

The advice of experienced wedding planner Brandi Lacoste certainly expedited preparation and saved us from making a number of costly errors and oversights. Brandi’s attention to detail highlighted important strategies that never would have occurred to us otherwise. Kelli DuBeau, owner of Exquisite Events Design LLC, helped bring together all of my ideas and inspiration by conceiving ways to incorporate my custom designs without overwhelming the décor. Rupert Whiteley’s photography was completely unobtrusive and spectacular, as well. Despite the assistance and counsel of these experts, however, much of the wedding remained a number of do-it-yourself projects requiring the help of my parents, who fortunately share my sense of adventure! During months of planning and working on wedding details, I found Pinterest an invaluable resource that provided me with loads of inspiration.

From the outset, the goal of the Lloyd/Sweeney wedding was to remain calm and retain fun. With the proper setting, planning and professional advice, we were able to ensure that what could have devolved into stress and tension headaches never did! Limiting preparation to eight months helped me keep to an efficient schedule and condense the tough decisions into a reasonable time frame. Working together with my family in a relaxed home environment assured that everyone’s preferences and opinions were explored and that all vendors understood them. The laid-back atmosphere of home was enjoyable for planners and vendors, too, because they could be more creative in the comfortable, flexible environment, visit whenever convenient for them, and interface with each other in advance of the wedding. In the end, it was only the weather that was unpredictable, and even that was no real complication with the proper planning. The result was a weekend of laughter, festivities and wonderful memories of a one-of-a-kind marriage celebration Ed and I will never forget.
LookBook Designers
Additional Vendor Credits
Wedding Dress
J. Crew
Bride's Shoes
J. Crew
Bridesmaids' Dresses
J. Crew
Invitation Letterpress Printing
Albertine Press
Flower Girls' Dresses
Coren Moore
Bride's Rain Boots
Hunter Rain Boots
Stationery Design, Groom's Tie Design, Custom Monogram And Logo
Kearsley Lloyd