All of my fellow spring brides, get ready for a big dose of inspiration–today’s beautiful wedding took me right back to my favorite, flower-filled time of year! After Claire and Mitch relocated to central Virginia from Boston and Mitch proposed with an elaborate scavenger hunt that led Claire through their favorite memories of Charlottesville, it was only fitting that they welcomed their friends and families to their beloved home state for their June wedding. Along with the abundant florals inspired by Belle Haven, they incorporated plenty of sentimental details into their reception, including a gallery of watercolor paintings by Claire’s grandmother. Beautiful and meaningful is always a win in our book!
Thank you so much for Jen Fariello for sharing Claire and Mitch’s gorgeous day with us!
Going wedding dress shopping was such a fun experience! I am an identical twin, and my sister, who lives in New York City and who was planning her own wedding eight months before mine, took me shopping a month after I got engaged. Even though it was very early in our planning, I was in the city to run a race, and I was too excited to not go look! I ended up falling in love with a gown but was nervous to act on it because I hadn’t shopped around. Over the next five months, I went shopping with my friends, older sister, and mom, and tried on many dresses, but somehow, I always knew I would go back to the dress I first fell in love with. I loved the English netting and Chantilly lace. It made me feel so beautiful and special.
Our flowers included white, blush, and coral charm peonies, garden roses, lamb’s ear, and astilbe. My vision for the flowers was for them to be “big and flowing.” This was particularly the case for my bouquet and for the gorgeous floral crown that I wore during the reception. The inspiration for our flowers came from Belle Haven, which has gorgeous antique mint walls in the bridal dressing room, and wallpaper and teacups with a whimsical floral motif by Shelly Hesse, a Southern artist. We incorporated the wallpaper and teacups into the table settings during the reception.
Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? We decided to have a first look so that we could share a special moment together before the wedding and reception, and so that we could include our dog, Sophie. We chose to have our first look in a tree-lined allée, just one of the many special features of the Belle Haven property. The pine trees created a very intimate environment and as I was walking down my own personal “aisle” to my soon-to-be husband, I couldn’t help but think about how lucky I was to be marrying my best friend.
We wrote our own vows, but decided early on that we wanted to make them short and sweet. I loved how Mitch emphasized that we were “in it together,” something I had felt strongly during our preceding six years together. My favorite line was: “No matter what lies ahead for us, I will see it as a journey, one that can only be completed by the two of us together. You are my best friend. From this day forward, we will face all of life’s experiences together and share one another’s dreams and goals.”
Our most memorable moment had to be after we recessed down the aisle together and had some time alone as husband and wife. Even though we had shared a first look, this time together allowed us to take in and appreciate such a momentous time in our lives. We had a few moonshine cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, including yummy pork belly sandwiches, and enjoyed each other’s company before we joined the rest of our guests to celebrate. While we walked out to the tent where our guests waited, we passed our bluegrass band, who were just wrapping up their cocktail hour set. We danced privately to a few songs, which really became a wonderful, fun memory for us both.
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? Mitch grew up on a farm in West Virginia, so we wanted to make sure that our special day reflected some of his background as a “mountaineer,” as well as our shared life in Charlottesville. It was so much fun to work with our wonderful caterer to develop signature moonshine cocktails to be served in mason jars for our cocktail hour. We also used the Jeep Wrangler that Mitch’s family has on their farm as our sendoff vehicle. In addition to these personal elements, we wanted our ceremony and reception to feel distinctly Southern and local. From the ceremony underneath two large adjoining oak trees, to the bluegrass music, to the outdoor tented reception under the Virginia “honey” moon, to the wine and beer that we offered from local Charlottesville vineyards and breweries, our special day incorporated everything we love about living in central Virginia.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: Unfortunately, neither of our grandparents could travel to attend the wedding. To honor and include them, we worked with our wonderful planner, Meghan, to create a gallery of watercolors that my grandmother had painted. We created a seating area with some beautiful furniture and a floral chandelier by our florist Southern Blooms, and Meghan hung the framed watercolors from the tent, so it looked like they were a floating backdrop to the seating arrangement.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? While it helps to have a set plan and vision for your wedding, don’t be afraid to be flexible and go with the flow on certain things. You’ll probably find that your vision will shift as one decision influences the next. We started out with a “rustic elegance” theme in mind and ended up with a whimsical, French country feel. At the end, we had things that went together rather than things that were completely matchy-matchy. Also, even if he is not overly interested, include the groom! Mitch dove headfirst into much of the planning, particularly the creative aspects; however, even if your groom does not show as much enthusiasm, chances are, he is interested in and can be of great help with the planning process.
Want to see more from Claire and Mitch’s sweet wedding? Take a peek at their highlights film by Shaking Hands Productions below!
How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Mitch and I met over five years ago while we were both living in Boston. We were teammates on a co-ed soccer team and were friends for over a year before we started dating. I always thought his bright blue eyes and Southern drawl were so cute, and I was over the moon when Mitch asked me out on our first date to what would become our favorite bar/restaurant in downtown Boston. For over a year, we split our time between the gorgeous brownstone neighborhoods of Back Bay where I lived and the culturally diverse community of “Southie” where he lived. During that time, we took advantage of all things Boston: riding bikes around the Charles River, going to Red Sox games, and checking out the beaches and museums. When I was accepted to a PhD program at the University of Virginia a year later, he agreed to move down to Charlottesville with me. Mitch had previously attended UVA for architecture school and couldn’t wait to show me all of his favorite things about the town and university.
Tell us all about the proposal! We lived together in Charlottesville for about four years before getting engaged. While we had fond memories of New England, this small college town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of central Virginia had become home. In his proposal to me in January 2013, Mitch created an elaborate scavenger hunt that allowed me to travel back through some of our favorite memories together in Charlottesville, including some of the houses and apartments we’d lived in together, our favorite restaurants and stores, and specific locations that hold very special meaning to both of us. The scavenger hunt ended near Shenandoah National Park, my favorite place to run. There, in what had become one of my most special places in Cville, was Mitch (and our beloved French bulldog, Sophie) on one knee with a beautiful ring. It was such a special, magical moment–one that I know we will never forget.
When did y’all get married? June 14, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 105
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We had one reading at our ceremony, “How Falling In Love Is Like Owning A Dog” by Taylor Mali. We loved how it was light-hearted and that it emphasized how love, like a dog, can at times require work, but how it can also be endlessly fulfilling. As our french bulldog was present at the ceremony (snorting and smiling down the aisle and in the background), it was the perfect representation of our little family.
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. We loved the music that accompanied and enlivened our special day! We decided that we wanted a bluegrass band for the ceremony and reception, to represent Mitch’s West Virginia upbringing. When we found the Bellevue Rhythmaires out of Richmond, we were so excited. They were amazing and learned some new songs for our ceremony, including “All My Days” by Alexi Murdoch for when I walked down the aisle and “Wildfire” by John Mayer for when we recessed as a married couple. For our first dance, we chose “You Got What I Need” by Joshua Radin, a singer-songwriter that we both love and have seen in concert many times.
Describe your wedding cake or dessert. In keeping with our relaxed and intimate Southern feel, we wanted to have a dessert table full of yummy mini pies instead of one big formal cake. We had strawberry rhubarb, peach crisp, and blueberry cobbler. In addition to these pies, we had a small two-tier lemon cake with buttercream frosting. At the end of the night, we also surprised our guests with a cupcake trailer that served mini cupcakes.
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $75,000-$100,000
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? Mitch works in architecture and is a talented artist. We knew from the beginning that we wanted him to design and hand letter our invitations, papers, and signage. He ended up designing and printing all of our paper suite and painting our signs himself. Not only did it save us some money, it was yet another meaningful element of our wedding.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? After the wedding, we traveled together on our dream honeymoon through Italy, Greece, Turkey, and France. We currently live and work in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but are looking forward to moving back to Charlottesville and traveling more in the near future.
Photographer: Jen Fariello / Videographer: Shaking Hands Productions / Planner: Shindig Weddings and Events / Venue: Belle Haven on the James / Florist: Southern Blooms / Dessert Baker: Sweethaus / Catering: The Catering Outfit / Rentals: Festive Fare / Lighting: Skyline Tent Company / Band: Bellevue Rhythmaires / DJ: John Garland / Bride’s Gown: “Treasure” by Monique Lhuillier / Bride’s Veil: Veiled Beauty / Hair Stylist: Lucas Shaffer / Makeup Artist: Carolyn Thombs / Bride’s Shoes: “Jealous” in Blush by Stuart Weitzman / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: “Niceties” and “Idlewide” by BHLDN, Jenny Yoo for BHLDN, Amsale / Groom’s Attire: Perry Ellis / Groom’s Shirt and Bow Tie: Calvin Klein / Calligraphy: Marcardin / Watercolor Wedding Portrait: Laura Shema of Jolly Edition