A Romantic, Monet-Inspired Wedding at a Château in North Carolina
In fairy tales, star-crossed lovers know if they keep looking skyward, eventually those stars might just align. Rebecca Marín and Clay Shepherd spent years circling each other at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, but never met; Rebecca had even attended a party at Clay's apartment when he was out of town, they later discovered. "We found a picture of her sitting on my couch! Wild," he says. But it was nearly three years after graduation—after Rebecca, who'd been working at Vogue magazine in New York City, returned to Texas—that they were introduced, over barbecue with friends in Austin. It was a dinner that Clay, who lived in Dallas and had just been in a car accident, almost didn't attend. "Going that night—when I had every reason to stay home—was one of the most meaningful decisions I ever made," he says.
They clicked instantly as friends, texting and hanging out whenever the other was in town. Six months in, they admitted it was something more and began ending weekends together, and countless nights talking into the wee hours. "I'd never done that with anybody," says Rebecca. She'd been thinking of launching a wedding-planning business, and Clay, who works in finance, encouraged her to move to Dallas so they could start The Wildflowers together. "He's so kind, so loyal, so driven. My friends were like, 'How did you find this man?'"
Clay was equally smitten. For their one-year anniversary, he planned an elaborate trip to France—where he proposed in the rose garden of Domaine des Hauts de Loire, a castle where swans and songbirds abound, and dandelion petals float in the wind. Afterward, as if to underscore the magic, they were sitting by a window, sipping Champagne, when "a blue butterfly came in and circled our table twice, then flew back out!" Rebecca says. "I took it as a sign of good luck."
Back home, Rebecca had one directive: Do nothing for two months. "It's so important to enjoy being engaged before you delve into planning!" she says. When they did begin, they decided to re-create the feeling of that engagement trip. They chose the Biltmore Estate, George Vanderbilt's French Renaissance–style château in Asheville, North Carolina—an hour and half from Franklin, where Clay's family has owned cabins for generations. The weekend began with a bluegrass and barbecue rehearsal dinner at Antler Hill Barn as a nod to the area and their first dinner at a BBQ joint.
On May 27, 2017, 94 guests assembled on the Biltmore's manicured grounds and watched Rebecca's parents lead her down the aisle to Françoise Hardy's "Brûlure." The couple were wed under an arch of roses that echoed the ones they'd seen at Monet's home, Giverny. A friend read Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How Do I Love Thee?"
But it was a simple moment after the ceremony, before they danced to the waltz from 2015's Cinderella, that Rebecca will never forget. "I was telling Clay I was nervous about dancing, because my feet were swollen," she says. "He got a chair, took me around the side of the house, sat me down, and gave me a foot rub." In that instant, in the shadow of a castle, a prince became a king.
Dearest, Save the Date
Save-the-dates by Plume Calligraphy looked like hand-written letters (with each guest's name penned individually), complete with the couple's new crest and French lavender inspired by their proposal trip.
"I thought of our color palette in two minutes—that's what happens when you have your inspiration first!" Rebecca says. "Every idea came from France, from the mauves at the rose garden to Marie Antoinette's light-blue walls." Wedding stationery included that same custom crest by Plume Calligraphy and, naturally, butterflies.
The Picture-Perfect Location
They wed at the Biltmore Estate, George Vanderbilt's 1889 château in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Blooms for Days
For her first look with her groom, Rebecca held an understated bouquet of mauve lilies of the valley. Her second bouquet was big and lush, and featured the same romantic blooms used throughout the day, courtesy of Bows + Arrows Flowers.
Rebecca and her 10 bridesmaids, each in a custom dress by Nha Khanh, posed for photos in the estate's rose garden. When trying on gowns, Rebecca realized that what she'd thought she wanted—a "big, poofy princess dress"—didn't suit her five-foot body. "I needed something that wouldn't overwhelm my frame," she says. She opted for a Mira Zwillinger wedding dress and cathedral veil that evoked the same ethereal vibe. She had short sleeves removed from the dress. "I usually don't bare my shoulders, so I thought they would make me more comfortable, but it didn't feel right. In the end, this was the perfect choice."
All Boxed Up
Boutonnières by Bows + Arrows Flowers included delphiniums, lilacs, clematis, and garden roses, tied with velvet ribbons.
A Moment with Mom
Rebecca shared a smile with her mother in the estate's rose garden.
The Ring Bearer
Ring bearer Eli posed with a shield and sword from the Biltmore's toy shop.
The Flower Girl
Their flower girl, Cora, wore a crown of hyacinth, garden roses, muscari, and mock orange.
Here Comes the Bride
"The tradition of the father walking you down the aisle stems from a long time ago, when it was a transaction—daughter in exchange for cattle—which doesn't really resemble our current way of life," Rebecca says. "Having both my parents walk with me meant they were bringing me to my new life with Clay."
"When the song came on for Rebecca to walk down the aisle and I saw her coming, I'd never been so happy in my life. In that moment, it was the best song I'd ever heard," says Clay of his favorite wedding moment.
Love in Bloom
The ceremony aisle was lined with blooms. Over 1,000 stems of delphinium in shades of mauve, lavender, and blue were used in the celebration.
I Thee Wed
Rebecca and Clay took their vows under a flower arch. "During the ceremony, we held hands and would squeeze three times to signify 'I love you,' " Rebecca says.
A Meaningful Read
Rebecca's "bridesman," Chase Wade, read Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning during the ceremony.
The Guest Book
In lieu of a traditional guest book, guests signed a coffee-table book of Monet paintings.
Taking in the Views
Rebecca and Clay posed on the Library Terrace at the Biltmore.
Find Your Seat
Escort cards were displayed simply—a few bearing the same 3-D butterflies that were on the invitations—on a flower-adorned table.
Clay's cousin and cousin-in-law, Chris and Elizabeth, and aunt and uncle, Janet and Doug, smiled for the camera at cocktail hour, where guest took in the views of the mountains in the distance and the lawns of the estate.
The Reception Setup
A long, velvet-topped table was set under arches of oak-leaf hydrangeas and garden roses for the bridal party and their dates. Dinner was a classic French feast of pan-seared duck with blackberry gastrique and beef with rosemary jus.
In the Round
Round tables set around the long head table were topped in ivory or teal velvet linens. Centerpieces included peony, garden roses, hellebores, clematis, lilac, jasmine and sweet pea.
One Enchanting Evening
The estate's Italian garden was the setting for the reception, where the tent, the house, and the sunset reflected into one of the three pools.
The Wedding Cake
The white cake was flavored with blackberry preserves and buttercream filling, and studded dramatically with fresh flowers.
Rebecca and Clay left the reception hand in hand at 11:30, as their guests sang "Hey Jude" by the Beatles and waved sparklers. "I have no clue why they chose that song—they were all really happy and had been enjoying the open bar! It was a very sweet moment," Rebecca recalls.
Happily Ever After
The couple departed the reception in a 1955 Rolls Royce.
There were zero drops of rain on the wedding. "Clay's grandmother, Margaret Shepherd, had passed away a few days before, and it famously 'never rained on her parade,' " Rebecca says. "It was supposed to rain all day, but it held off until after the last shuttle departed the reception—and then fell into a torrential downpour!"
Location, catering, and cake, Biltmore
Event planning and design, The Wildflowers
Event coordination, Weddings With Tara
Flowers, Bows + Arrows Flowers
Couple's Photographer, Kayla Barker Fine Art Photography
Videography, Shark Pig
Stationery and calligraphy, Plume Calligraphy
DJ, The Flash Dance
Bride's gown and veil, Mira Zwillinger
Hair and makeup, Claudia Mejerle
Bridesmaids', mother of the bride's, and mother of the groom's dresses, Nha Khanh
Flower-girl dress, Nellystella
Flower-girl shoes, Mini Melissa
Groom's tuxedo and bow tie, J.Crew
Menswear, The Black Tux
Ring bearer's attire, Janie and Jack
Lighting and rentals, Classic Event Rental
Tent, Sperry Tents
Transportation, The Elite Line
Welcome baskets, A Signature Welcome
Guest book, Monet or the Triumph of Impressionism
Painted backdrop, Valerie Teele
Glass boxes (bridesmaids' gift), La Rousse