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Bride Mandy shares her romantic woodsy wedding!

If you’re looking for design inspiration for your wedding, today’s bride, Mandy, has a couple great places to find it: consider a piece of decor you really love or your relationship itself! She shared, “As an event designer, I’m always drawn to beautiful patterns and textures, so it really never came as a shock that the entire wedding’s inspiration began with one simple, yet beautiful area rug. My ultimate goal was to design our day to be effortless, ethereal, full of patterns & textures, and in the end, dripping with a whole lot of romance that was truly symbolic of our love for each other.”

This wedding, and the bride’s and groom’s heart behind it, are indeed dripping with romance. My favorite part? The wooden boards inscribed with quotes from the couple’s texts, words, and letters to each other throughout their relationship that lined guests’ path to the reception. If that’s not romance, I don’t know what is! See the rest of the jewel-toned rustic goodness in our tenth-anniversary issue, available now!

Big hugs to Renee Hollingshead Photography for these photos!

Chris and I got married at Murray Hill in Leesburg, Virginia on Saturday, June 18, 2016. It was a stunningly beautiful day on a scenic private residence that overlooks the Potomac River. I always imagined my wedding outside, and the lawn beside the home and the boxwood gardens provided the perfect place for that wish. Our reception then took place in the property’s converted llama barn, which features on open-air side and rustic wood detailing. The reason for the date held huge importance to me as it was also my parent’s wedding anniversary, and they celebrated a wonderful 33 years on our wedding day. My father chose to surprise my mother with thirty-three lavender roses, and they were able to share a moment on the dance floor as their first dance song played before dinner.

What was the weather like on your big day? I can honestly say it was perfect. For weeks leading up to the big day, I was seriously on edge. Rain was in the picture, and the forecasters couldn’t quite pinpoint exactly when it would happen. I can remember sitting near a window at dinner with my family on Thursday before our wedding day and watching it rain so hard it was raining sideways. Waking up on Friday and Saturday it was like all of that hadn’t happened and there was only an abundance of sunshine.

I gave the girls a few instructions. The dress had to be chiffon (light and airy), it had to be long, and it needed to be in a set color palette that was a range of cool blues and grays. I wanted my bridesmaids to have some freedom to pick a color or a style that best suited them.

All day while getting ready, all I wanted to do was see my husband. There was an unexplainable anxiety for me – maybe I was just crazy, but it felt wrong to spend any second of our most special day without him. Laura and Renee, our photographer, had done a fantastic job of scoping out the most perfect area on the property for our first look. A heavily wooded slope on the side of the house created such a magical backdrop on such an amazing day. I’ll never forget the feeling that washed over me when I reached the top of the hill and saw Chris (still with his back turned towards me) at the bottom. It was like all the air instantly left my body. He quite simply took my breath away. It hit me like a ton of bricks. This was the moment. This was going to be my forever.

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I had my sister, my mother, and my father along for the adventure. We started looking in August after the proposal, and I visited Love Couture Bridal on a whim – not quite ready to pick out a dress yet. Two or three dresses in, I tried on the blush Carina Corset and Ahsan Skirt from Watters and fell in love. I knew I wanted to continue to amp up the ethereal quality of the ensemble so I ordered additional tulle fabric and lace too. The seamstress there worked tirelessly over the months leading up to the wedding to fully customize the skirt with hand sewn blush lace appliques that cascaded delicately down the skirt and a dramatic cathedral length tulle train.

Our flower girl, Hadley, stole the show. Moments before walking down the aisle, the two-year-old, red-headed cutie was certainly not feeling it. I was sure she would be escorted by her mother, and I was okay with it. Something changed dramatically as she approached Laura. She straightened up with her dusty blue basket and marched onward, delicately dropping petals as she went. Turns out Hadley got to the end of the aisle and decided to dump all of the remaining petals at the end of the aisle – all I could hear was the roar of the guests from my hiding spot. I couldn’t help but smile. Oddly enough, those laughs calmed my nerves.

My favorite line from my vows to Chris have in a way become a saying for each other, and it just so happened to be the closing words of my vows: “Until forever this will be true. Because there is no one I could ever love, that way that I love you.”

Tell us about your wedding flowers. When I first met with Philippa, I told her my vision for the flowers: organic, lush, and romantic. Peonies and dahlias are my favorite flowers, so I knew I had to use them on our wedding day. I wanted the color palette for the flowers to focus on the ivory, mauve, blush and deep Bordeaux tones and hoped the splash of greenery would provide necessary texture and freshness. Philippa created the ultimate bouquet full of texture, color, and dahlias the size of my head! The organically composed bouquet featured big, beautiful blooms with burgundy peonies, dahlias, astilbe, garden roses, scabiosa, seeded eucalyptus, Italian ruscus, and umbrella fern. It was finished with long trailing hand-dyed silk ribbons cut to varying lengths in a variety of widths and shades of indigo, dusty blue, pale gray, deep merlot, and soft pink.

After cocktails, guests were encouraged to make their way through the wooded grounds to the barn for dinner. Along the pathway, Syzygy created beautiful wooden signs that featured quotes from text messages, letters and cards exchanged between Chris and me.

If you had to ask me what my favorite tangible item or décor piece was from the day, it would be rather difficult, but I know I swooned over the custom printed fabric panels Chris made for us. With the generosity of his mother and the company, he worked tirelessly to print for me my every whim. The botanical print really brought the barn to life. It was feminine and slightly whimsical but also the perfect bit of elegance with its colorful array of deep blues and splashes of burgundy. They were so beautiful.

In keeping with the rest of the day’s design, I wanted everything to read romantic and a little bit eclectic so the floral pattern used on the ceiling and dance floor became the starting point in the design of the space. It was the perfect blank canvas – concrete floors and a wooden beamed ceiling. I knew I had to add several layers and textures to soften the space and keep it cozy and personal to both Chris and me.

Our head table was composed of custom-made wooden chevron tables and was dressed with a lush runner of florals, greenery and colored pillar candles in burgundy and blush pink. Chris took the time to decal every charger with the name of our bridal party guests to serve as place cards at the table. Chris and I sat in beautiful hooded dome chairs that were further dressed with cascading flowers on top.

Ridgewells Catering provided a beautiful cake for our wedding day – a partially naked cake that was lightly frosted and dressed with coordinating flowers. We had a hard time choosing a flavor but landed on a delicious blueberry key lime with lemon genoise cake, fresh blueberries, key lime custard and vanilla buttercream.

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. They say that our eyes are the windows into our souls. And when I first laid my big blue eyes on Chris, I instantly knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with his soft-spoken, caring, and extremely loving soul. I certainly never expected that while interviewing for a position at Syzygy Events (as my mother-in-law’s assistant!) that I’d eventually gain my soulmate. A few months into my job, shameless and innocent flirting led to a strong desire and necessity for more. Saying goodbye at the end of every long work day meant I had to spend time away from him. So dating ensued, and eventually, I knew I couldn’t picture my life without Chris in it. He means everything to me. After the fact, I learned the truth – Chris had told his mother as I left my interview that I was the woman he was going to marry. He knew that just from meeting me, so as you can imagine, we are big believers in love at first sight.
Describe the proposal! Early December of 2014, Chris told me that he booked us a special DC “getaway” to celebrate another successful busy season at work. It was a week or so before Christmas, and I wasn’t going to turn down some relaxation with him. We pulled up to the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown and I was instantly on edge – it seemed too good to be true. I opened the door and I’m standing in the Presidential Suite (I mean, Oprah had stayed in this suite!) – the room was dim but flooded with the warm glow of candlelight everywhere. Petals dressed the floor leading through the large suite directly to the bedroom where soft metallic balloons fully enclosed the ceiling. I had just enough time to notice the blinking red light of a video recorder when I realized I was on film; I turned around to see my husband on one knee! I couldn’t tell you what he said, but all I remember was saying yes before even seeing the ring.
How many guests attended your wedding? 120.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while planning your wedding? I certainly struggled with learning when to let go! I had to be fully involved at every moment, and I felt an immense amount of pressure to have the “perfect” day because I work in this industry, but my planner, Laura Ritchie, was an angel. She is truly amazing at what she does and she always made sure I was seeing what was really important about the day- Chris and me. Saturday morning came and the stress had all washed away. I only remember how beautiful the day was and the happiness in my husband’s eyes.
What were some of the highlights of the reception? I think my dad delivered a great speech to welcome all our guests and begin the reception. And shortly after he completed his speech, he surprised my mother with thirty-three lavender roses in honor of my parent’s wedding anniversary. I made sure to ask for their first dance song at that moment and it was a beautiful moment seeing my parents share the spotlight for a dance together. There love is certainly one that I admire immensely and it was very touching to witness so much love in one perfect day.
What was the funniest moment? At one point on the dance floor, we had Chris’s uncle and his son both on the dance floor. Both were doing their generation’s version of the dance known as “the running man” and for some reason, I couldn’t get enough of it. It was that or turning around and seeing my father on his back on the dance floor doing the “dead bug” during the song, “Shout”.
What advice would you give to someone currently planning his or her wedding? Be true to yourself. It’s easy to get carried away in what you think other people will think, but at the end of the day, all that matters is you and your spouse. It’s YOUR day. That and don’t blink, because just like everyone else says, it will be gone in a blink of an eye. To this day, I wish I could relive every emotion from the day – it was an unbelievable ride and a day filled with so much love and happiness. Soak it in.

Photographer: Renee Hollingshead Photography | Videographer: Mwendo Weddings | Planner: Laure Ritchie of Grit and Grace | Designer: Amanda Autry of Syzygy Events International | Venue: Murray Hill | Florals: Philippa Tarrant Floral Design | Catering and desserts: Ridgewells Catering | Bride’s gown: “Carina” Corset and “Ahsan” Skirt by Watters | Bridal salon: Love Couture Bridal | Bride’s shoes: Oscar de la Renta | Bride’s accessories: Thomas Knoell Designs | Hair and makeup: Hair and Makeup Artistry by Claudine | Men’s fashion: Men’s Wearhouse | Paper goods: Butler’s Pantry Calligraphy | Rentals: Syzygy Events International | Party Rental Ltd. and DC Rental | Linens: La Tavola Linen | Transportation: Limousines, Inc. | Lighting: Digital Lightning | Officiant: Leora Motley | DJ: Dan Huynh via Premier DJ Services | Host hotel: Lansdowne Resort | Bride’s robe: Girl with a Serious Dream | Bridesmaids’ robes: Plum Pretty Sugar and the Heart Collective

Written with love by Catherine
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    Even before their engagement, Katie had already envisioned her dream setting for her and Scott’s wedding, and when she spotted Murray Hill in a local magazine, she knew it was the perfect place to carry out that vision. With the help and guidance of their planner Grit & Grace, plus stunning blooms by Holly Heider Chapple, Katie and Scott welcomed guests to an understated, yet completely beautiful, wedding celebration. And, while their wedding cake was the focal point of their dessert buffet, how fun is it that they had “his and her favorites” up for grabs, including cookies and dairy milk for Scott and mini cannoli and French macarons for Katie? Personalized touches like that are always so special!

    Big hugs to our friends and Blue Ribbon Vendors Jodi and Kurt Photography for sharing this sweet day with us!

    I was absolutely in love with my wedding flowers. Holly was so spot on with her floral design. We wanted to include subtle shades of green, white, and yellow, with pops of coral poppies. Unfortunately, the time of year made poppies a bit harder to find, so Holly warned me early on that she would do her best but couldn’t guarantee that she would be able to get them. However, the day of, when I received my bouquet, it was overflowing with poppies. Holly had managed to find them from a local grower, and they couldn’t have been more beautiful.

    How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? We did premarital counseling with Scott’s brother, who officiated the wedding, and his wife. The premarital counseling was very helpful for us, as we were able to continue to learn more about each other and how we approach life and faith.

    Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We did write our own vows. We both struggled with finding the perfect words to describe our love for each other, but knew that we both wanted to try to use our own words in front of our family and friends. Scott’s favorite line of my vows was when I promised to continue to listen to country music as long as it wasn’t too twangy (I didn’t like country music prior to meeting Scott, but now am a huge fan!). My favorite part of Scott’s vows was, “From the first time we met in the parking lot of a softball field, I knew that you were going to be someone very special to me. Your laugh, your smile, your eyes, and your yoga pants all told me I had finally found the partner I had been longing for.”

    On our way home from getting engaged, Scott had already downloaded a local wedding magazine on his iPad for me to look through. I already had a vision in mind for the setting, and while flipping through the pages, I stumbled upon one of the real weddings featured in the magazine that fit my vision perfectly. It was a barn wedding with Edison string lights that were simple, understated, and so beautiful. I immediately told Scott that that was where I wanted to have our wedding. The following week, we visited Murray Hill and fell in love with the property and it’s owners, Peggy and John. With a ceremony location overlooking the Potomac River, a beautiful garden and reflecting pool for the cocktail hour, and a whimsical stroll through the woods to get to the three-sided barn on the property, they had everything that we had envisioned for our special day. We knew we didn’t need to look any further and booked our wedding date that same day.

    What is the one detail or vendor that you were so happy to have as a part of your wedding? Without a doubt, our wedding would not have been as big of a success without Megan Pollard from Grit and Grace. We had looked into several other vendors in the area, but, by chance, interviewed Megan first. We left that first meeting with Megan and cancelled all other interviews with other planners. She was exactly who we were looking for. Megan was there day and night to provide her professional (and personal) opinion on anything and everything we needed. She understood what we wanted and knew how to make it happen. As our big day came to an end, marking the end of our professional relationship with Megan, we texted her as we rode away from the venue to ask if we could be friends now. She simply replied, “I’m glad you feel it too.”

    Our favorite detail of the wedding was: Some of our favorite details of our wedding were our table numbers and guest book. Each table was the name of a city that Scott and I were fortunate enough to travel to over the course of our relationship. To tie into the travel theme, our guest book was a vintage atlas with a sign that said “Eat Well & Travel Often–Let Us Know Where We Should Go.” We wanted our guests to show us their favorite spots in the world and give us some ideas of where we should travel to in the future.

    What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? We both are big bourbon lovers. Our signature cocktail during the cocktail hour and reception was Woodford Bourbon and Ginger Beer. Although, in true Southern style, we spent most of the evening enjoying the Woodford on the rocks!

    During our first few weeks of dating, Scott was set on convincing me to like country music. He kept sending me lists of songs to listen to and I kept putting it off until he finally sent along Hunter Hayes’ “Wanted.” He said next to it “I think you’re really going to like this one.” When I finally listened to it, I realized all the lyrics perfectly described my feelings for him…I was hooked. I knew at that moment that that would be our song. The father/daughter dance was to The Cranberries’ “Dreams” (acoustic by Katey Sweeney and Jonathan Padden). The first concert I ever went to was with my dad to see The Cranberries on my 10th birthday. The concert was unforgettable and such a special moment for me and my dad that I wanted to honor it by having one of the songs for our dance. I also spent months trying to convince my son, Malcolm (10 years old), to dance with me at the wedding. He was a little shy and said he didn’t know how to slow dance. I said that it didn’t have to be a slow song and that he could even choose a country song if he wanted. Malcolm decided on one of his favorite country singers, Luke Bryan, and had an absolute blast dancing that night. It was the perfect way to start off the party and invite our guests to come join us on the dance floor.

    How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Scott and I met through mutual friends while playing co-ed softball. Scott was new to the Northern Virginia area after growing up in Virginia Beach. The softball team was short a few players one Saturday morning, so his roommate invited him to come out and play. The first person Scott met as he strolled onto the field was me! After a few more softball games and a trip to a wine festival, we realized we had a connection, and the rest is history.
    Tell us all about the proposal! I joined Scott at a business conference at the Ritz Carlton in Sarasota, Florida. After coordinating with the hotel staff and his co-workers, the stage was set for the big event. The backdrop would be the hotel’s beach club at sunset, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Using a book we had been working through, “101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged,” Scott began to go through questions he had created to set up the big question. The final question Scott asked was, “Will you marry me?”
    When did y’all get married? May 30, 2015
    How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 187
    Tell us about finding your wedding dress. Finding a wedding dress was a lot harder than I had anticipated. I am more of an independent dresser–not one to go out and shop with others because I hate the pressure. Having a slew of people join me as I picked out one of the most important garments of my life was a little overwhelming. I bought a dress that was beautiful and timeless, but it wasn’t me. When it came in nine months later, I realized I made a mistake. I quickly started researching other options and stumbled upon Nicole Miller’s Janey Gown from BHLDN and fell in love. It was everything I wanted in a gown, and had a quick turnaround time so it arrived just in time for the big day.
    Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? Scott and I decided not to do a first look, since we had both always dreamed of that moment when you turn the corner and see your husband/wife for the first time as they walk down aisle. We were a little more traditional in that sense and feared we would regret missing out on that opportunity. However, in hindsight, that is one aspect of our wedding we had wished we had been more open to. I was able to do a first look with my dad and son, and the pictures we captured from that moment were some of my favorites from the day. It also would have probably helped to calm my nerves to see Scott beforehand.
    What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 and Ephesians 5:21-33
    Describe your wedding cake or dessert. While we had a wedding cake, the focal point was our dessert buffet. Scott grew up in a household where–to this day–his family receives milk from a milkman who delivers directly to their home. He and his brothers had a ritual every night of having Oreos with dairy milk. I, on the other hand, have a deep love for cannolis and macarons. We decided for our wedding day that the desserts would speak to “his and her favorites,” including chocolate chip and Oreo cookies with shots of dairy milk, mini cannolis, French macarons, and sugar cookies in the shapes of softballs and baseball bats.
    What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? We were able to save money by purchasing our own alcohol for the wedding. It was a little extra work to coordinate amounts and make sure it got to the venue, but in the end, it was worth it for the money we were able to save.
    What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? At one point during the reception, everyone was on the dance floor and “Wagon Wheel” came on. Everyone started singing in unison and then all of a sudden, Scott, Malcolm, and I all got hoisted up on people’s shoulders and were sitting above the crowd watching all the happiness and joy around us. We felt completely supported (both physically and emotionally) by all our loved ones and were absolutely elated.
    What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Don’t forget about the real reason you’re getting married; you love your partner and want to spend the rest of your life with them. Wedding planning is filled with deadlines, stress, and compromise. At the end of the day, always realize being married and planning a wedding are two different things, with one distinctly more enjoyable than the other!
    What’s next for you as a couple? What memories are you looking forward to making together? Since our big day, we’ve added a four-legged friend to our family. Harper is a beagle/lab mix that we rescued from South Carolina. She is a Southern belle at heart, but won’t hesitate to enjoy a good pair of leather shoes from time to time. We will continue to travel and eat our way through our bucket list of vacation spots.

    Photographer: Jodi and Kurt Photography | Planner: Grit & Grace | Venue: Murray Hill | Florist and Lighting: Holly Heider Chapple | Caterer, Cake, and Dessert Baker: Ridgewells Catering | Rentals: DC Rentals | DJ: Premier DJ Services | Signs: Sweet Carolina Collective | Paper Products: Brave Creative Design | Bride’s Gown: “Janey” by Nicole Miller | Bride’s Headpiece and Earrings: Ayajewellery | Hair and Makeup: Claudine Fay | Bride’s Shoes: Seychelles | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: J. Crew | Menswear: Jos. A. Banks | Dance Floor, Chalkboard Escort Card Board, and Furniture: Revolution Event Design & Production | Tent: Capital Party Rentals | Welcome Bag Cookies: Fresh Bakes | Ceremony Musicians: St. Charles String Quartet | Floral Linens and Cocktail Tables: La Tavola Fine Linen Rental | Invitation Suite: Haute Papier | Custom Koozies: Christine Meahan Designs

    Grit & Grace and Jodi Miller Photography are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

    marissa Written with love by Marissa
    2 Comments
    1. avatar Jane Nash reply

      What a beautifully written piece perfectly describing my daughter, Katie and son-in-law, Scott’s wedding! It was an absolutely magical day filled with so much happiness, joy and LOVE! Great attention to every detail created a true weekend that all of their guests truly enjoyed. We are so fortunate to live in Loudoun County with an abundance of highly artistic, experienced and professional wedding providers. From the venue, the gorgeous flowers, the dresses, delicious food and cake, music and so much more, it was an extraordinary and special wedding event always to be remembered leaving memories to be celebrated year after year! Congratulations on your upcoming 1st wedding anniversary, Katie and Scott!

    2. avatar steven reply

      Wow, what a beautiful wedding, just perfect!

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