The couple's surprise tea ceremony was a nod to traditional Chinese culture.
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Ivana Xu and Nevin Zhu's relationship timeline is a unique one. It all began in 2010 when Ivana, an investment banker, went along with her friend on a first date. Nevin, a software architect, happened to be joining his buddy, as well. Though it didn't work out between their pals, Ivana and Nevin stayed in touch, often socializing in a group setting. But in February 2011, the pair went to a party together before the Super Bowl. "After that day, we began to see each other exclusively and began our quest to travel the world," Nevin says.
A year later, Ivana woke up one morning and thought getting married would be a good idea. Nevin agreed, so the Dallas-based couple applied for a marriage license at city court. Afterwards, they headed to Cartier to pick out their rings. An impromptu honeymoon in Hawaii followed. "It was very spontaneous; we did not think about any consequences," Ivana says—like upset family members.
Still, Ivana and Nevin consider their spur-of-the-moment nuptials to be one of the most exciting things they've ever done. Though they don't regret it, over the years they came to realize that they should have a "proper" wedding before considering themselves to be married. Now, Ivana thinks of the time prior to their formal celebration as the couple's engagement. So, four years after getting married, Ivana and Nevin began planning their wedding!
When Ivana envisioned her big day with Nevin, an ancient love story was in the back of her mind. King Qian Liu wrote a letter to his wife, Queen Lady Wu, while she was away, which translates to: "The wildflowers have all bloomed beautifully, it's a good time to come home (and enjoy the view)." It made sense, then, that The Wildflowers plan their wedding. In designing Ivana and Nevin's special celebration, planner Rebecca Marín Shepherd drew inspiration from Ivana's three outfits and the transition from summer to fall with a color palette of deep reds, ginger, marigold, butterscotch, mauve, and a medium blue.
On September 30, 2017, Ivana and Nevin were joined by around 100 guests in Grapevine, Texas, as they solidified their marriage in a formal ceremony at The Laurel.
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The Wildflowers helped set the tone with the stationery, designed by Southern Fried Paper. A dragonfly motif and the natural ceremony and reception setting were incorporated into the light-pink, laser-cut invitations. The couple requested that guests RSVP by phone and arrive in style with a black-tie optional dress code.
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Ivana and Nevin's donned their first outfits of the day for their Western ceremony. They chose classic, elegant style: Nevin looked suave in a tuxedo from The Black Tux, while Ivana wore a Denise wedding dress that she purchased in Suzhou, China. "This city has been making textile products for literally thousands of years," Ivana says. "I tried probably 100 dresses in 30 stores while I was there for two days." The bride accessorized with a Jennifer Behr headband and earrings and a choker from APM Monaco.
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A few of Ivana's bridesmaids posed in custom made blue silk-and-tulle dresses from Lan Gui Yu in Suzhou, China, which the bride specifically chose to echo the wildflower theme. The ladies were Ivana's classmates from middle school, high school, and college, and a former roommate. Two flew in from China!
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At 5:00 p.m., guests watched as Ivana and Nevin tied the knot (again) on the lawn of The Laurel. Love Notes officiated the nonreligious ceremony, which lasted less than an hour and incorporated vows the bride and groom wrote themselves. Then, the happy couple recessed up the aisle to the sounds of applause and cheers from loved ones.
Following the ceremony, cocktail hour began on the patio of The Laurel. Blackberry mojitos and maple-fig Old Fashioneds were enjoyed while jazz played in the background, and mini tequila lime lobster tacos and comte Swiss skewers were passed. Little did their guests know, Ivana and Nevin had a surprise in store: The couple arrived to cocktail hour wearing traditional Chinese dragon and phoenix Qun Kwa ensembles, ready for a surprise Chinese tea ceremony.
Nevin particularly enjoyed this part of the day. Though initially he was skeptical about wearing attire "that is out of its time," seeing Ivana eased his nerves. "All worries were lifted when my beautiful bride walked out with a matching wardrobe, and alas, I felt whole," the groom says.
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Guests gathered around with their cocktails as Ivana and Nevin honored their closest family members by kneeling before them and serving tea. "The tea ceremony was truly the highlight," Nevin says. "I was having heaps of fun entertaining the guests and participating in a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
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Following tradition, after each family member was honored and served tea, they presented Ivana and Nevin with one of these envelopes containing money. Red is a color that symbolizes good luck in Chinese culture—a reason it was included in the wedding palette.
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When it was time to move inside for dinner, guests found their seating assignments on a chart featuring illustrations of dragonflies and flowers, designed by Southern Fried Paper. Each guests' name was handwritten beneath their table number by The Left Handed Calligrapher.
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Most people in attendance were local, though some flew in from the East coast, California, and China. Everyone was lucky to have a beautiful Texas fall day, with weather in the mid-60s and sunny skies.
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The main hall was laid out with a combination of round and long tables covered in taupe, gray, and beige velvet linens. Velvet Louis XV chairs added a special touch to the head table, while wooden cross-back chairs were used everywhere else.
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Bows + Arrows created arrangements of lush, autumnal flowers with pops of summertime hues for the centerpieces. "The flowers were just dreamy," the bride says. Assorted candles added to the cozy, intimate ambiance.
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For the table numbers, the decorative frame that was laser-cut on the invites was replicated and printed in berry ink.
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Elegant ivory plates and chargers and white hemstitch napkins were topped with a scrolled place card for a sweet and feminine touch. Dinner included crisp prosciutto-and-brie-stuffed chicken, herb-crusted seared sirloin, citrus-roasted sea bass, artichoke purée, crispy sweet potato threads, and seasonal vegetables. The caterer, Food Glorious Foods, actually played a significant role in their venue choice. "We loved them and went to every venue they work with," Ivana says.
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One Inspirational Dress
Ivana had one final wardrobe change for the reception—a strapless, tea-length dress from Denise , which was adorned in dragonflies. She accessorized with Miu Miu shoes. After dinner and heart-warming toasts (in both Chinese and English), the couple's friend sang them a traditional Chinese song, and Ivana and Nevin's choreographed first dance was to "City of Stars" from the movie La La Land.
"No matter how much we practiced, we never felt ready," Nevin says, of the choreography. "However, when the light shined, and the room fell silent, everyone's presence seemed to fade away and it was just Ivana and I standing there."
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Additional miniature desserts from Layered Bake Shop included apple strudel pies, cream puffs, donut holes; white chocolate mousse, mini cupcakes, assorted macarons, and strawberry, red velvet, wedding, and vanilla cake pops.
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Ivana and Nevin gave guests Chinese candies in these red rectangular boxes, tied with a charm in the shape of the "double happiness" symbol. The couple's special day ended with sparklers and a getaway car.
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Photography, Jenny McCann Photography
Location, The Laurel
Event planning, The Wildflowers
Catering, Food Glorious Food Catering
Flowers, Bows + Arrows
Videography, byDesign Films
Officiant, Love Notes Weddings
Stationery, Southern Fried Paper
Calligraphy, The Left Handed Calligrapher
Cake, Layered Bake Shop
Music, LeForce Entertainment
Bride's gown, Denise (ceremony & reception)
Bridesmaids' dresses, Lan Gui Yu
Groom's suit and menswear, The Black Tux
Wedding bands, Cartier