This couple used their long-distance relationship to inspire a seriously stylish day.
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Stephanie and Chris
Chris and Stephanie's love story began in 2007, on a mutual friend's boat in Chicago, Illinois. Though both were in relationships at the time, that first meeting left an impression on each of them (Stephanie remembers the shirt Chris was wearing, and Chris swears that Stephanie took an opposing stance to her own political beliefs to kindle conversation). Despite geographic differences, the pair eventually began dating—conquering long distance from Missouri to Singapore and later London, where the couple now reside together.
After two and a half years of dating, Chris hatched a proposal plan. Without Stephanie knowing, he flew from London to St. Louis to ask her parent's permission, then to Chicago the next day to ask Stephanie's sister over breakfast. Three months later, Chris took Stephanie on a trip to Polignano a Mare, a small coastal town in Italy. (The country had been the backdrop of many happy trips and memories for the couple and later informed stylistic elements of their wedding day.) He popped the question during a walk along cliffs overlooking the ocean—surprising the bride-to-be with a round diamond set in a simple yellow gold band.
With Stephanie hailing from St. Louis, Chris's hometown being Atlanta, and friends from all over the globe, the wedding was a destination one no matter what locale they chose. "After scouring the country for a venue that wouldn't be too hard on our guests, we settled on the Swan House in Atlanta," says Stephanie. The large airport nearby made it easy for guests flying in, and the venue was a cab's distance away, making a stress-free commute for international guests hesitant to drive in a different country.
The couple designed their wedding day keeping in mind the cities and countries that had been host to special moments throughout their relationship. They went with an old-world-European-meets-modern aesthetic, with bold décor set against the Swan House's aged stone façade and overgrown foliage. They worked with Atlanta-based event designers Tailor & Table to create a palette of black and white with saturated pops of pink and red. With 147 guests from near and far joining in on the celebrations, the couple wed on May 21, 2017.
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"Our invitations and calligraphy were a priority as the written word (in the form of email) was our lifeline through years of long-distance dating," says Stephanie. The couple spent hours deciding what the invitations by Blue Eye, Brown Eye would say: "We wrote our invitation wording from scratch in order to express how we felt about our celebration," says Chris. The host and request lines read, "Together with our families, we invite you to join the celebrations as we stand together extending our friendship, our partnership, and our love of one another." Playful splatters of ink added a finishing touch to the calligraphed design.
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On the morning of their nuptails, buckets of rain fell from the sky. "We had a conference call with our event designers and planner to decide whether or not we would hold our cocktail hour and ceremony outside, as planned," says Stephanie. "As Swan House's gardens were the reason we selected our venue, we decided to go for it." They moved their ceremony from the back lawn (which had flooded during the rainfall) to the front of the venue as a result. "It ended up being absolutely perfect for the event," says Stephanie.
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Stephanie went dress shopping in Atlanta with her mother, future mother-in-law, and her sister (who surprised her by secretly flying in from Chicago). "I knew that I wouldn't have the opportunity to have all three of those women with me again, so the pressure was on to buy a dress on that trip," says Stephanie. "I was after a dress that would stand the test of time, be representative of my style, and backless." She went with a simple Rivini gown with cap sleeves and the dramatic low back she wished for. "I felt like the most beautiful version of myself in it," she says. Chris wore an on-palette black tux, PINK shirt and pocket square, grosgrain-accented shoes by Santoni, and a silk bow tie.
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Before she even decided on a gown, Stephanie purchased a pair of black knotted-satin N°21 shoes. "It was important to me to have shoes I could wear again and again," says Stephanie. "These took my breath away the first time I saw them—architectural, tall, dramatic, and my favorite color."
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The bride held a bouquet of peonies, scabiosa, sweet peas, ranunculus, and amaranthus in saturated red and pink hues that channeled the bougainvillea blooms in Italy.
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Black and White Bridal Party
Stephanie gave the bridal party (all family members) the liberty to choose their own dresses. "They all have incredible personal style, so I issued two pieces of guidance: long and navy or black," says Stephanie. The groom and groomsmen wore black tuxedos. Red and pink bouquets and boutonnieres tied it all together.
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The flower girls, ranging in age from nine months to nine years, wore mismatched white dresses and delicate flower crowns.
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Upon arrival, guests enjoyed cocktails at custom-built bars in the venue's boxwood garden. "The thinking behind the timing was that declarations and celebrations of love are even more moving after a glass of champagne," says Stephanie.
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The Ceremony Setting
The ceremony took place on the front lawn of the venue. Modern white chairs were a stark juxtaposition to the historic exterior.
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Stephanie entered the ceremony with her father as the string trio played "Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley. The couple's families entered to "Beautiful Day" by U2.
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A black-and-white rug marked the spot (which Tailor & Table later gifted it to the couple for their new home). Readings included a letter by John Steinbeck on falling in love and "Union" by Robert Fulghum.
The couple penned their own vows and exchanged gold wedding bands. Chris surprised Stephanie with an additional diamond band.
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The lovebirds exited the ceremony to a version of "Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, stopping for a kiss on their way up the aisle.
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Tented cards held table assignments inside. "Barely legible was my guidance," says Stephanie, who loves extra loopy calligraphy.
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Guests made their way to the venue's ballroom for the reception. A blend of black and white table linens, each topped with a garland or a bright arrangement, stuck to the palette—and harkened back on their relationship. "The black and white striped linens were derived from our home, the garlands were reminiscent of Italy, and the bold colors reflected our personal style," says Stephanie. The couple loved the containers and vases that held the flowers so much that they ordered one of each piece for their home.
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Long tables were dressed with garlands and golden taper candles. Modern black chairs added a bit of edge to the design.
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A small wedding cake anchored a table with other sweet offerings.
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The dessert table also included a selection of bite-sized cupcakes, pies, and tarts.
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The newlyweds took to the dance floor, first to the tune of Rascal Flatts' "Bless the Broken Road." "We dated several times over the decade we've known each other and the lyrics of this song fit our relationship so beautifully," says the bride.
As the evening came to an end, guests surrounded the couple in a dancing circle, which was Stephanie's favorite moment of the day. "We were able to take in all of their love and smiling faces as we left," she says. "I felt so overwhelmed with love."
The duo stayed at a hotel nearby, which they walked to (hand-in-hand), as their family and friends passed by in cabs, honking their horns and shouting their congratulations.
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Photography, Clary Photo
Location, Swan House at Atlanta History Center
Event planning, Kristen J. Scott Events
Catering, Bold Catering & Design
Flowers and Rentals, Tailor & Table
Stationery and Calligraphy, Blue Eye, Brown Eye
Cake, Bold Catering & Design
Bride's gown, Rivini
Veil, Carol Hannah
Hair and Makeup, The Moore Agency
Groom's suit and Menswear, Guffey’s of Atlanta
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