A Southern Spring Wedding Tucked Away in a Secret Garden
October 27, 2016
Al FrescoOutdoor WeddingsSpring Weddings
Tucked away in a secret garden, a knight in shining armor and his lovely Bride, decked out in a Jenny Peckham dress and a hair piece that I've already pinned to my Pinterest boards, say "I do" and start their happily ever after. With Mary McLeod of Amy Osaba's talent on full display and Simply Sarah's images captivating us, every pic is straight out of a fairytale - get all heart eyed in our Vault right this way!
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From the Bride... Jim and I met in a rec soccer league here in NYC. Over the summer of 2012, we both signed up as individuals and were placed on the same team. About six months later, we started dating secretly, not wanting to get our teammates involved. It didn't last long before we were eventually caught stealing kisses at the bar after games. A few months later, I tore my ACL during one of our games. Jim, my knight in shining armor, swept me up into his arms and carried me off the field, only then to be greeted with the true challenge of carrying me up all four flights of stairs of my East Village walk up apartment. It was in this moment, and the weeks following my surgery that I knew I had found someone special. I was at my weakest and most vulnerable, and there he was, only a few months into our relationship, nursing me back to heath, carrying my bags as I crutched around the city, hailing cabs, cooking dinner, and just keeping me from wallowing in self-pity.

In July 2014, we planned a weekend getaway to Charleston to celebrate Jim's birthday. We flew out of NYC at the crack of dawn and headed straight to Middleton Place, a plantation I'd wanted to see just outside of town. We leisurely walked the grounds, and finally decided to take a break from the sweltering heat and humidity on a bench by the lake. Jim started getting all sappy as we chatted, which I thought was due to his turning a year older. Suddenly, he was down on one knee asking me to marry him. I was so utterly shocked, that I was able to say yes, but couldn't speak for the next 5-10 minutes. We giddily walked around the rest of the grounds, and before leaving, a random girl walks up to us and asks if we just got engaged. We answered yes, and she continues, first apologizing for maybe appearing to be creepy, and then admitting that she saw the whole thing happen from across the lake because she was watching an alligator. Said alligator was apparently less than 10 feet away from us the entire time. She offered to send us her photos, and sure enough, there it was!

We knew we wanted to have a longer engagement; I needed to finish my thesis, and we wanted to actually enjoy the planning process instead of rushing through everything. We ended up being engaged for almost two years before tying the knot. As for the wedding planning process, we knew we wanted to get married outside, so this was our sole starting point. I've known of Dunaway Gardens for years - one of my bridesmaids got married there. We researched and visited locations around NYC, but nothing felt right or compared to the image of Dunaway in my head. When we went to visit my family in Georgia for Christmas, we scheduled a tour of the grounds. Even in the dead of winter, we knew that this was going to be our place. The unrestrained nature and history of the grounds (it was a theatre retreat in the 1920s), especially the enchanting intimacy of the hanging gardens were exactly what we were looking for.

We used the venue as our inspiration for the details of our wedding. We knew it would be lush and green in late April, and we picked soft, pastel colors, greens, and metallics as our loose color palette to complement our already gorgeous surroundings. We wanted the day to feel natural, intimate, and ethereal, with nature and twinkling lights and stars as our witnesses. One of our best decisions was a family style dinner of delicious, Southern style food. We chose to have a live band because our friends and family love to dance and party, so we needed everyone to have a good meal beforehand. My dad built the head table for us - a beautiful and sentimental touch. We can't wait to use it in our house one day. Mary McLeod did an amazing job of bringing the gardens into the reception tent, creating magnificent chandeliers out of greenery, which were one of the few things I asked for specifically from her. The day before the wedding, my mom, bridesmaids, and I spent about an hour or two creating herb bundles (and drinking champagne!) that served as the escort cards.

I remember during the ceremony forcing myself to keep looking out into the crowd and trying to make eye contact with as many people as possible. It made the ceremony feel more intimate and kept me from getting too nervous. As Jim and I exited the ceremony down this huge flight of stairs, I remember finally getting down to the bottom, realizing we actually did it, and him picking me up and swinging me around before our wedding party followed us out. Those simple moments of pure happiness are some of the most memorable to me.

One of my favorite moments of the reception was my dance with my father. I wasn't allowed to know what song he selected, but I knew we were the last of the "dances". The music began, and he started talking about how Brad and Janet had a pretty good love story and made it through a crazy time (for anyone that doesn't know, Brad and Janet are the couple who end up trapped at the mansion in The Rocky Horror Picture Show). We danced the first bit of "The Time Warp" together, and suddenly the crowd closes in, all in sunglasses, hiding my dad from view. Next thing I know, he is in a crazy mad scientist wig. Everyone is laughing, dancing, and singing - I couldn't have imagined a more fitting or better way to start the party.

It was so special to have people from all walks of our lives at the same huge party, from childhood besties and family friends. Our lives had come full circle, together.
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