Brittany and Andrew’s Pretty Fall Wedding at Thomas Jefferson’s Childhood Home
A shared love of music brought Brittany Gary and Andrew Heare together in 2012, after both expressed their love for new band the Head and the Heart on their Match.com profiles. The pair met for drinks and spent more than three hours talking and laughing. Andrew, a high-school history teacher, told his students that it was “the best first date” he’d ever been on. Brittany, director of client services at Feedback and event assistant at Merriment Events, couldn’t have agreed more. One year later, the couple planned to celebrate Andrew’s birthday at a family dinner in Richmond, Virginia, but once they got to the restaurant, Andrew led Brittany to the adjacent river and proposed. Onlookers on a nearby balcony erupted in applause; Andrew had invited friends and family for a surprise engagement party.
The couple wed on November 1, 2014, at Tuckahoe Plantation, Thomas Jefferson’s childhood home. Around 175 guests attended the ceremony that was designed with bright autumn colors and a diamond motif. “I wanted to make sure everyone had an amazing time enjoying great live music, eating delicious food, and socializing,” says Brittany.
Figuring that Virginia was a central location for both local and traveling guests, the Richmond-based couple decided on a hometown wedding. Their search led to Tuckahoe Plantation, a National Historic Landmark built in the early 18th century. Brittany was drawn to its Southern charm and picturesque landscape, while Andrew admired the 300-year-old history of the property.
The Stationery Suite
Sarah Parrott of Parrott Design Studio created the letterpress invitations, which featured a hand-drawn diamond motif. A floral-print envelope liner brought in the orange and blue color palette of the wedding. Jen Maton of If So INKlined Calligraphy, Illustration and Design hand-lettered the couple’s names and wedding venue to be incorporated into the invitation design and addressed the outer envelopes.
Brittany visited Bella Rosa Bridal in Richmond and chose an Alyne Bridal gown—the third one she tried on. After a few alterations—namely adding a sweetheart neckline and removing long sleeves—the flattering fit and tiered layers of lace made Brittany feel “amazing.” After trying on a veil, Brittany couldn’t help crying. “There were tears all around, including the consultant! Needless to say, I was pretty confident in my choice,” says Brittany. The bride also donned a lace bolero from Bella Rosa Bridal for the ceremony. Tory Burch gold sandals and jewelry from Nordstrom completed the look.
A silver sash with pearls and beads came attached to Brittany’s dress, but she replaced it with a gold one from Bhldn to match her warm wedding colors.
Brittany’s white-gold engagement ring, which boasts a scalloped edge and double halo, was custom designed by a local jeweler. Her rose-gold diamond wedding band matched perfectly. Andrew’s classic yellow-gold ring was engraved on the inside with “Swept Away 11.01.14,” since his bride walked down the aisle to a rendition of “Swept Away” by the Avett Brothers.
The Ring Dish
The ring bowl, which Brittany ordered from Paloma’s Nest, was engraved with the couple’s wedding date and “You Are the Best Thing”—a shout-out to the first dance song of the same name by Ray LaMontagne. The couple wanted to give the ring bearer, Andrew’s nephew Jackson, something special to carry down the aisle.
Brittany chose seven close friends, some of whom she’s known since elementary and middle school, to serve as her bridesmaids. Her best friend since sixth grade, also named Brittany, was the maid of honor. The women wore one-shoulder blue chiffon dresses from The Dessy Group. Once the bride saw the chilly temperatures predicted for her big day, she ordered a variety of neutral-colored pashminas from Amazon.
Andrew’s older brother, Kyle, was his best man. Brittany’s brother, Brandon, served as a groomsman, along with a few of Andrew’s fraternity brothers from college and close friends he’s known since childhood. Along with the groom, the men wore Egara suits from Men’s Wearhouse and striped bow ties from Collared Greens. A gold pocket square set Andrew apart from his friends.
As an alternative to traditional paper programs, Brittany and Andrew opted for a chalkboard scribed with details about the ceremony. Local chalk artist Li Prillaman of Chalk It Up RVA created the vibrant piece. A mosaic background and trees nodded to the rustic outdoor venue. “It didn’t look like a chalkboard at all—she really made it a true work of art,” says Brittany, who hopes to display the program in their home.
Brittany’s father, Richard, walked his daughter down the aisle while a bluegrass duo, Eight More Miles, played a cover of “Swept Away” by the Avett Brothers.
Brittany and Andrew share a favorite moment of the day: the bride’s walk down the aisle. Andrew adamantly refused a first look. “I really wanted that traditional and special first moment of seeing my bride for the first time that day walking down the aisle,” he says. “I couldn’t hide my excitement—and maybe a few nerves!” Brittany agrees that Eight More Miles’ version of “Swept Away,” which they learned specifically for the wedding, made the moment even more special. “The combination of hearing the beautiful lyrics of that song, walking with my dad, seeing all of our friends and family sitting there for us, and seeing my husband standing at the altar was breathtaking and so special,” she recalls.
Since the couple viewed the 4 p.m. ceremony as the focal point of the day, they spent a lot of time thinking about music and readings. Their pastor, Pete Bowell of Hope Church in Richmond, officiated the service. Two nontraditional readings from the bible, Song of Songs and Colossians, were chosen to emphasize love and the couple’s faith.
For the recessional song, Eight More Miles played “Only Wanna Be With You” by Hootie & the Blowfish. The upbeat tune set the tone for the reception and surprised Brittany’s mom, a Darius Rucker enthusiast. “My mom was so smitten—it could’ve only been better if Hootie were there in person!” says Brittany.
The Wooden Arbor
The ceremony took place in a romantic garden of crepe myrtle trees that led to a wooden arbor. Janie Medley of JM Flora Design embellished the structure with fall blooms. “I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw it for the first time. It brought tears to my eyes!” says Brittany.
During cocktail hour, the newlyweds took portraits with photographer Katie Stoops and guests mingled in a heated tent, as the original plans for cocktails in the garden were scrapped due to chilly weather. Passed hors d’oeuvres included mini crab cakes with avocado salsa, peppered buttermilk biscuits with smoked duck, deep-fried oysters with spicy remoulade, and mini open-faced BLTs on buttered brioche toast.
Burying the Bourbon
The couple decided to participate in the Southern tradition of burying a bottle of bourbon exactly one month before the wedding, in hopes of good weather on the big day. Not only is Jefferson’s Bourbon one of their favorite brands, it’s also a shout-out to the previous resident of Tuckahoe Plantation. Brittany and Andrew dug up the bottle after the ceremony, and then both took a sip before sharing with their wedding party.
Guests drank wine, beer, hot apple cider, and two signature cocktails: the Henry (bourbon, Root liquor, lemon juice, ginger syrup) and the Henrietta (pear vodka, pear nectar, lime juice, rosemary syrup, rosemary sprig). The couple wanted to include their pug, Henry, in the wedding, so they ordered custom wood stir sticks with gold foil pug silhouettes from ForYourParty.
The cocktail-style reception was held in a Sperry tent on the plantation’s front lawn. To encourage mingling, the newlyweds offered seating at round tables for about 60 percent of guests. The informal cocktail reception included three-sided stations; though not everybody ate at the same time, guests could choose to talk, dance, stand, or sit and eat. The fork-friendly, tapas-style foods and large artisan cheese display in the middle of the tent kept people nibbling all night. Coral, gray, and blue linens adorned the bar and food tables, while votive candles gave the entire space a warm glow.
The centerpieces included ranunculus in shades of red and orange, garden roses in hues of peach and golden yellow, and lots of fall foliage, including golden bittersweet, smokebush, privet berries, and maple leaves. Some of the leaves were spray-painted with a touch of gold to complement the warm fall palette.
Wedding designer Courtney Spencer of Merriment Events decided to repurpose the wedding program easel to host an enlarged dinner menu. Parrott Design Studio printed the big display, which was then mounted on a stained wooden board. Courtney embellished the menu with the chair markers from the ceremony seating.
A Pimento Catering supplied many Southern staples, like butter-roasted herb chicken, fried green tomatoes, creamy corn-studded cheese grits, pan-fried Virginia trout, macaroni and cheese, balsamic-roasted Brussels sprouts, strip loin of beef, and roasted autumn root vegetables. “People still tell Andrew and I that it was the best food they’ve ever had at a wedding—which is so great to hear because we really felt like that was an important element to our day,” says Brittany. Peach, apple, and bourbon-pecan pies were served for dessert with ice cream and coffee.
Outside of the tent was a s’mores station around a fire pit, with a selection of marshmallows: vanilla-bourbon, pumpkin spice, and caramel. Also on offer were three types of chocolate: milk, dark, and milk with hazelnut. Wooden benches and white chairs around the fire created extra seating, and knit throws protected guests from the chill.
Skyline Tent Company helped the couple source about 20 affordable Moravian/Moroccan-inspired star pendants in two different sizes. The stars, clustered above the dance floor, tied together the reception’s design.
Brittany and Andrew selected a pumpkin spice cake with a cinnamon-brown-sugar buttercream frosting. Working with Sweet Fix, they brought the diamond motif and bright colors of their wedding into the cake design; they were hand-painted onto the fondant.
A Birthday Celebration
The wedding date fell on Brittany’s birthday—and Andrew’s birthday was the week before—so the colorful cake served double duty. To create a birthday mood, Brittany blew out long white candles before cutting the three-tiered dessert with her husband as the song “Birthday” by the Beatles played in the background.
A Loud Surprise
Party horns and confetti streamers were passed around, and the birthday girl got a pair of “happy birthday” sunglasses. “I thought about how special it was to be able to celebrate Andrew’s and my birthday by having all of the people that mean the most to us in one place,” says Brittany. “That will never happen again, and I will always get to remember not only our wedding and the start of our life together, but also my birthday and being surrounded by so much love.”
The First Dance
The newlyweds danced to “You Are the Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne, performed by The Jangling Reinharts.
The Sparkler Send-Off
Guests lined the long, historic plantation walkway to give the newlyweds a sparkler send-off.
Photography: Katie Stoops
Location: Tuckahoe Plantation
Event Planning and Design: Courtney Spencer of Merriment Events
Catering: A Pimento Catering
Flowers: JM Flora Design
Officiant: Pete Bowell of Hope Church in Richmond
Stationery: Parrott Design Studio
Cake: Sweet Fix
Ceremony Music: Eight More Miles of Sam Hill Entertainment
Reception Music: The Jangling Reinharts of Sam Hill Entertainment
Hair: Jerod Jeffers of Salon Van De
Makeup: Gracia Triplett
Lighting: Skyline Tent Company