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Tara and Nicholas
"It was perfect," says Tara Maietta of her first date with Nicholas Gudz, back in 2004. The two recent college grads, introduced by a mutual friend, instantly connected over dinner at a downtown New York City restaurant. The only problem? "Literally days later, he had to move back to his hometown upstate," she says. By the time Nick returned to the Big Apple the following year, Tara was dating someone else. "We'd bump into each other at social gatherings, but we never got the chance to see where a relationship would take us," she says. With Nick's relocation to Southern California soon afterward, that possibility seemed even more remote, though they both made a point to stay in touch.
The odds didn't improve until 2010, when Tara took a job in Los Angeles. She was now single, and their connection proved to be the real thing. One more move awaited them, though: back to NYC in 2012, where Tara began a sales job at Oscar de la Renta and Nick cofounded a site for financial advisers. On an October night in 2013, she returned to their apartment, exhausted from a long work trip. Nick was on the sofa, with candles flickering and Coldplay on the stereo. "She thought I was trying to make her feel better," he recalls. "But as we chatted I reached for the ring box I'd hidden in the cushions." He nervously presented the diamond; she enthusiastically accepted it.
They were set on a California wedding, until planning from so far away proved too big a challenge. Knowing they wanted a "natural but sophisticated" outdoor celebration, a friend suggested the Eolia Mansion at Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford, Connecticut. The estate's 230 acres include a lavender field, a lighthouse, an orchard and, notes Tara, "the most beautiful English gardens you've ever seen." They were told the venue was booked for the next two years—only to later get word that Friday, July 11, 2014, had opened up unexpectedly.
Seizing the day, quite literally, eight months after that fateful call, 143 guests joined the couple in the formal gardens for a nondenominational ceremony, followed by live jazz and cocktails overlooking the Long Island Sound. Dinner inside the mansion ended with peach cobbler and ice cream sandwiches. There was cake, too, but the newlyweds skipped the ceremonial cutting. "I didn't want the music to stop!" says Tara. When it's been more than a decade since that first perfect date, you don't want to stop for anything.
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Along with picturesque gardens of roses, daisies, and lavender, the sprawling Italianate-style mansion, built in 1906, has 42 rooms.
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Tara borrowed her garter from her grandmother, who wore it at her own wedding 66 years earlier. Including Tara, four women in the family have worn the heirloom piece.
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The First Look
Tara and Nick decided to do a first look before walking down the aisle. "Our photographer had us stand back-to-back," she says. "We could feel each other's hands, smell each other's scents, and, most of all, feel this intense energy between us." After a solid two minutes, the two turned around. "Nick looked at me as if I had never been more beautiful," Tara recalls. "And he had never been more handsome. He swung me around, and we danced under the pergola." Nick and Tara—he in a Sebastien Grey suit, and she in Oscar de la Renta—were all smiles once seeing each other.
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The bride's pale blue organza gown was intricately embroidered with taffeta appliqués and delicate beads. It took 25 people and 650 hours to make the Oscar de la Renta dress.
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The Bridal Bouquet
The floral pattern on Tara's dress made a breathtaking backdrop for her bouquet of 'Café au Lait' dahlias, sweet peas, astilbes, eucalyptus, jasmine vines, pokeberry greens, olive branches, and astrantias.
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A Petite Bouquet
Tara's maid of honor carried a posy of nigellas, astrantias, peonies, pokeberry greens, dahlias, and sweet peas, created by Hana Floral Design. The inspiration for all the day's flowers, says Tara, was "California meets The Secret Garden," with greenery and pale blooms mingling with woodsy elements like mosses and ferns.
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An antique handkerchief from the maid of honor (who held it during the ceremony in case the bride got teary) was just one vintage touch. "I love all things old," Tara says. "My best friend [and maid-of-honor] Michele and I go to Cold Spring Harbor, New York, every year to antique." Michele picked out old books from the same shops the longtime pals frequent to use as bridal shower décor and gifted the bride with this tome as a special keepsake of that day. Rosary beads from Nick's mother, which Tara now keeps by her bedside, were a third "something old."
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A Fragrant Ceremony
Bundles of lavender were tied to the chairs along the aisle.
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Scents to Remember
Cones of sage, lavender, mint, and rosemary (said to symbolize long life, devotion, virtue, and loyalty) were set out for guests to toss as the newlyweds made their way back up the aisle.
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The Outdoor Ceremony
Tara and Nick exchanged self-penned vows under a pergola in the garden. Afterward, they slipped the papers with their promises into a bottle they buried on the property. "We came back to dig it up on our first anniversary," says Tara, "and we celebrated right there with Champagne."
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The Celebration Continues
After the ceremony, guests made their way to the tented cocktail hour with waterfront views.
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Passed appetizers included strawberry-cucumber soup shots, seared ahi tuna on wonton crisps, grilled shrimp on polenta, petite rosemary lamb chops, and gruyére gougéres. Spiked blueberry lemonade was the evening's signature sipper.
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A Seating Chart
An oversize kraft-paper banner (measuring almost 12 feet in length!) listed the seating assignments. "It was far too long," says the bride, here holding it up with her maid of honor. "But it looked amazing!" They ended up cutting it in half and hanging it near the reception entrance.
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Inside the mansion, arrangements of dahlias, peonies, roses, sweet peas, and herbs graced round dinner tables.
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Inside the Mansion
Eucalyptus and jasmine-vine garlands ran down the center of the rectangular ones. The meal, which took place in three of the estate's ground- floor rooms, began with a watermelon and feta salad, followed by a choice of pan-seared sea bass, rosemary-crusted beef tenderloin, or roast chicken breast with chardonnay wine sauce.
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Mom and Dad
Devotion—and great parties—runs in the bride's family. "My parents are still truly, madly in love with each other after 35 years," says Tara of her mom and dad, shown here post ceremony. "Plus, they're always the first people on the dance floor—and the last ones to leave!"
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A Nature-Inspired Cake
"We were certain from the start that we wanted more than one cake," says Tara. They served three in total (all by Ana Parzych Cakes), each presented on a moss-lined table, including this chocolate-and-raspberry creation.
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A Floral Cake
An impressive three-layer Tahitian vanilla pound cake was decorated with sugar flowers, berries, and vines.
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A Dress-Inspired Cake
The fondant appliqués on this toasted-almond confection resembled those on the bride's gown.
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A Moonlit Moment
Post-vows, the newlyweds took a stroll down to the water. Later that night, a super-moon rose, surprising partygoers with its size and brightness. "It was magical," says Tara. "Our guests still talk about it."
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Location, Eolia Mansion at Harkness Memorial State Park
Event planning, True Event
Catering, Gourmet Galley Catering
Flowers, Hana Floral Design
Photography, Elizabeth Messina
Officiant, Chaz Zezulka
Stationery, Regas Studio
Calligraphy, Miss Multee
Cake, Ana Parzych Cakes
Bride's gown and veil, Oscar de la Renta
Hair, Holly Corsano
Makeup, Ashlee Glazer
Maid of Honor's Dress, Jenny Yoo
Groom's suit and bow tie, Sebastien Grey
Mother of the bride's dress, Oscar de la Renta
Father of the bride's attire, Vera Wang Black
Lighting and Draping, Ryan Designs