An Energetic Waterfront Wedding Set Against Upstate New York's Finger Lakes
When Jeremy Outinen asked Charlene Peninah Ochogo on a date—they were both students at the University of Florida in 2011—he didn't know that Charlene hadn't actually been on a date before. Which, ultimately, explains said first date: A nervous Charlene, dressed in white, hadn't looked at the menu when the waitress arrived, and pointed blindly to an entrée. Her choice? Baby-back ribs, which she gingerly ate with a fork and knife to avoid making a wreck of her dress. Jeremy took her out again to make sure that this dining quirk wasn't really a thing (it wasn't). Two dates turned into many and eventually—six years later, on the weekend after Charlene graduated from Boston College Law School—he asked her to be his wife.
When it came time to plan their wedding day, they started broad; they typed "outdoor weddings, Finger Lakes, New York" into Google, and crossed their fingers. Charlene had visited the area once before, and knew how lovely it was—plus, both she and Jeremy are Florida natives and appreciated the idea of being married outside ("Unlike Florida, New York was a place we could make that happen without risking a hurricane or a plague of mosquitoes," says the bride). The duo came across the Aurora Inn, and set up a site visit five months after their engagement. "We made the happy mistake of visiting the Aurora Inn first, which meant we couldn't help but compare everything to it—and everything else came up short," explains the pair, who loved the big green spaces, waterfront view, and privacy the upstate locale afforded them.
Charlene and Jeremy worked with their event designer Kate Brown of LoveWell Weddings and their day-of coordination team to craft an elevated event—which took place on August 31, 2019, in front of 116 of their closest friends and family—that also spoke to their personalities. Their ultimate goal? To put family first. "Family and friendship are the values most important to us, so we poured those two years of planning into making this the best party anyone attending had ever been to," they share. (Their prenuptial parties alone, from the day-before wine tour and burrito and karaoke-filled rehearsal dinner, achieved this). Their guests had fun—but the couple didn't lose themselves in the process. They prioritized putting their relationship on full display, a customized beer unity ceremony and all.
The Aurora Inn's lush outdoor spaces—set so close to the water—impressed the Florida natives. "Our ceremony site was right on the water—so close you could hear the waves coming onto the shore," explains the duo. "This was as close to Florida as we could find in upstate New York."
Their quad-fold invitation suite, which the bride designed on her own (and had printed at a local FedEx!), paid homage to the locale with a watercolor illustration and map of the area.
The Second One
"So, this was actually the second wedding dress I bought," reveals Charlene. "I did the thing where I got all excited and got so into planning that I bought my dress before we'd even picked our venue. The more I planned, the more I knew that dress wasn't a part of the vision we were creating." She went back to the drawing board and wound up with a gown from Allure Bridals that she never saw coming: "It was huge, first of all. It had enough tulle and crepe and petticoats to literally stand up on its own without me in it. But the moment I put it on, I felt like a literal queen—and I knew it was the one."
The bride's natural bouquet featured garden roses, spray rose, ranunculus, lisianthus, peony, eucalyptus and olive greens, sage, and astilbe in a mix of coral, blue, white, and green.
A Group Effort
Charlene enlisted her maid of honor, Devin, and bridesmaids Lane and Alexa to curate gowns for the bridal party. "They really put in the legwork and researched at salons in New York and Philadelphia to find designers and colors we liked," she says of the Jenny Yoo and BHLDN ensembles. "From there, I assigned each bridesmaid a designer and a color that best suited her complexion and told her to pick one of the 20 dresses available to her that best suited her body and personality. Everyone's choices were so stunning and so them."
Moment with Mom
The bride spent the morning getting ready with her bridesmaids and mother, who wore colorful, traditional attire on the big day.
Jeremy donned a navy-blue suit from The Groomsman Suit with a white shirt and dark brown shoes; his suspenders and bow tie tied his look to his groomsmen's. The gentlemen took a more casual approach, overall—they skipped jackets entirely.
The First Look
A bright, vine-covered corner of the inn served as the site of the couple's first look. Both Charlene and Jeremy felt nervous before the moment—until they saw each other, that is. "Then we had to pick our jaws up off the floor," they say. "We finally had each other to take on the greatest day of our lives together."
Sign and Snap
A calligraphed windowpane detailed the ceremony's proceedings—and told of the duo's personalized Snapchat filter: "It featured cartoon version of us and included a picture of our golden retriever, Muenster," they say.
An Emotional Moment
Jeremy swiped a tear away as he watched his bride walk towards him on the aisle, escorted by both of her parents; "Somewhere Only We Know" by Simply Three sounded in the background as the bride processed in.
The Ceremony Begins
Set against the Finger Lakes, the pair's service featured plenty of personal moments, from a beer unity ceremony (they mixed two beers together and drank them, while their officiant—their longtime friend, Brian—solemnly intoned, "You may now drink the beer") to a hand-written vow exchange. "This was something we knew we wanted to do from the start and we're so happy we did," says the couple. "We both cried (and made each other cry) reading them."
A Special Focal Point
"We kept the aisle and the seats bare to highlight one of our favorite pieces: the altar," notes the pair of the ceremony décor. "Our friend Renae let us borrow the arch from her wedding—a beautiful real wood rustic arch that our florist Stacey Twigg of Ithaca Flower Shop made even more amazing with two sets of climbing floral arrangements at the base."
After sharing their first married kiss, the newlyweds recessed back up the aisle to Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams Come True." Following the service, guests moved onto the cocktail hour, where they sipped on the duo's signature drinks (a cucumber-basil gin and tonic, dubbed "Pinky Up Potion," for the bride and a Mexican mule titled "Dance Floor Juice" for the groom) and noshed on an impressive amount of hors d'oeuvres, from coconut-crusted scallops and caprese tarts to cheese, fruit, and veggie crudités and sushi. "We just wanted to make sure that everyone was practically stuffed before dinner!" jokes the duo, who stole away for a few portraits before rejoining the party.
Inside the Tent
Charlene and Jeremy's reception unfolded underneath a draped tent, where their color palette—coral, shades of dusty blue, white, and green—were translated on the tabletops. The couple says that their event designer, Kate Brown at LoveWell Weddings, and on-site coordination team, helmed by Kim Jones at the inn, executed their vision perfectly come the big day.
A mix of round and rectangular tables defined the space; some stations were topped with white linens, while other wooden iterations were left bare for a natural, rustic look. Overhead, a greenery-draped chandelier cast a warm glow on the celebrants.
Small porcelain vases, filled with colorful dahlias, roses, sweet peas, and hydrangea, were placed on the uncovered tables.
Mad Lib Menus
"Kate designed the menu for each place setting, since we'd be dining en famille with big platters of food for everyone to share," explains the duo. "Each menu was tucked into a bright coral napkin; [the backs featured mad libs] so guests could fill out with their thoughts about the wedding and any marriage advice they had for us. We got back over 80 of them, and we still pull them out to make us laugh."
During the party, guests enjoyed lawn games, including corn hole, ladder golf, giant Jenga, and KanJam, on the green just outside the tent. "Everyone from the kiddos to the grandparents had a great time playing," recall Charlene and Jeremy.
An Interactive Seating Chart
The newlyweds' seating chart was about as creative as it gets and was actually born out of a last-minute DIY encouraged by Kate. "I learned how to do some origami and folded 116 sailboats for the escort card display, then wrote all of our guests' names on them," shares Charlene. "We had each guest take their escort card, then had our fantastic photo crew, consisting of our nieces and nephews, Grayce, Baily, and Adam, snap a picture. We ended up getting a picture of every guest at the wedding—it's hanging up in our house right now!"
There was another special moment on the dance floor later on in the evening: "Jeremy got to dance with his 94-year-old grandmother, and man, she can still move!" says Charlene. The duo followed this up with what they call their "Pop-Punk Power Hour;" they coordinated with their DJ Steve Turner of Turner Music Productions to play a 30-minute set of their favorite pop-punk songs from the 90s and early 2000s—from Fall Out Boy and The Killers to Jimmy Eat World and Paramore. "The crowd went wild. Just about everyone was on the dance floor for the entire thing, belting their lungs out," the couple says.
A Special Performance
A bridesmaid and groomsmen teamed up for the couple's first spin, performing an acoustic version of Beyoncé's "Love On Top." "Charlene loves Beyoncé, and after hearing an acoustic version of this song on YouTube, she knew that it would make a perfect, unconventional first dance song," says Jeremy.
The couple's donut sign was a sweet surprise for guests, but arguably one of the trickiest parts of the celebration, notes Charlene and Jeremy. "We wanted to display our donuts, but the loaded donuts from Glazed & Confused couldn't slide horizontally onto a peg, so we had to make our own," they say. With just a drill, they built a shelved wall to house the desserts; Jeremy hammered in every single nail after the duo's landlord and neighbor Andy helped them with the angular cuts. Post-construction, Jeremy's parents, Leslie and Scott, helped them stain it."
The result? A display worthy of the next-level donuts, which came in an assortment of epic flavors like "Pardon my Strawberry French Toast" (a maple-glazed treat with cream cheese, freshly sliced strawberries, and powdered sugar) and "What the Fluff?" (complete with a peanut butter glaze, fluff buttercream, and a chocolate drizzle).
Ice Cream Cake
The catering team at the inn heeded the couple's main cake request: Ice cream needed to be involved. The resulting confection? A simple white cake with a layer of vanilla ice cream in the middle, topped with matching florals.
Photography, Alexandra Meseke
Venue and Catering, Aurora Inn
On-Site Coordination, Kim Jones at Aurora Inn
Event Design, Signage, and Menus, Kate Brown at LoveWell Weddings
Videography, Jacquelyn Daley Parnell
Flowers, Stacey Twigg of Ithaca Flower Shop
Bride's attire, Allure Bridals
Bride's shoes, Badgely Mischka
Hair and Makeup, Nicole Rodriguez
Groom's attire: The Groomsman Suit
Engagement Ring, Tobak Fine Jewelry & Diamonds
Music and Lighting, Steve Turner of Turner Music Productions
Donuts, Glazed & Confused
Rentals, She Rents Vintage
Transportation, First Student