A Romantic Garden Wedding in the Heart of Houston, Texas
After meeting through mutual friends in 2012, Juliette Cao and Dino Nguyen began studying together at local cafés. The students (she was an undergrad, he was in med school) eventually took their relationship to the next level. "We are both pretty serious people on the outside, and I love that we are able to not take ourselves too seriously when we are around each other," says Juliette, who has a background in medical sales and is currently getting her master's degree. Three-and-a-half years later, the couple was living together in Houston, Texas, when Dino, who works as a family medicine doctor, planned an epic proposal that incorporated the couple's two Pomeranians, Riro and Tuco.
Juliette returned home from work one day to find the dogs freshly-groomed and wearing collars and ties made by Dino's sister. A pouch containing the engagement ring box also hung from Riro's neck. Being rightfully confused about the dogs' ensembles, Juliette began taking photos of the dressed-up pups. "Since Riro is groomed to look like a lion, I thought it would be funny to hold him up like Simba during my proposal," says Dino. "But Juliette moved too quickly to pet the dogs and saw the pouch around Riro's neck with the ring box inside. I quickly got down on one knee. The proposal did not go completely as planned, but thankfully, she said yes!"
On September 30, 2017, Juliette and Dino got married with 120 guests (and their beloved pups) at McGovern Centennial Gardens at Hermann Park in Houston, Texas. They loved how the venue's private gardens allowed for a beautiful and intimate outdoor ceremony, even though it was in the middle of a big city. The wedding had a romantic garden theme with a blush-and-ivory color palette, lush floral arrangements, and lots of greenery. "We also often referred to our theme as fine-art and ethereal, since that style of wedding really speaks to me as being effortless and romantic," says Juliette. "It was important that the palette didn't compete with the natural feel of the venue. We wanted all of the flowers and décor to seem organic to the space."
The Stationery Suite
Nib and Pixel designed the stationery suite, which featured watercolor elements on deckled-edge paper. Hand-painted flowers and trailing greenery adorned the main cards, and a painting of the venue decorated the envelope liner. A mix of calligraphy and block font gave the items a streamlined look, while vintage stamps and a white wax seal added an extra hint of romance.
Dino wore a tuxedo and shoes from Suitsupply, which he paired with his Warby Parker glasses. Juliette stunned in a form-fitting Galia Lahav wedding dress with sheer sides, Chantilly lace details, and a soft flower appliqué on the left shoulder. The dramatic cathedral-length train had alternating layers of ivory and blush tulle, which gave the dress extra dimension.
"The moment I tried it on, I instantly felt like I had walked into a dream. It was so feminine and romantic," says Juliette, adding that the gown's "romantic garden feel" ended up informing many design decisions for the big day. Her blush tulle veil (by the same designer) matched her train. She kept jewelry simple with a white gold and diamond tennis bracelet and diamond teardrop earrings.
"I wanted the bouquet to be very romantic, textural, and larger than normal to fit with the scale of the train on my dress," says Juliette. Bows and Arrows Flowers arranged her clutch with garden roses, dahlias, ranunculus, spray roses, snowberry, white scabiosa, blushing bride protea, and greenery.
Bows and Arrows Flowers also made the boutonniéres, which were comprised of pink and white ranunculus, snowberry, and greenery. Soft gray ribbons were the perfect finishing touches.
A few months before he proposed, Dino went to the jewelry store with Juliette, who picked an engagement ring style she loved. Dino then spent some time speaking with the sales consultant alone. "After we got engaged, I found out that he bought the ring the day we went together. I had no clue that's what was happening and thought it was super sweet of him!" says Juliette. The engagement ring and wedding bands all came from Tacori.
The Bridal Party
Close friends made up the bulk of the couple's wedding party. Juliette's sister served as maid of honor, and Dino's two brothers were his best men. Juliette's six attendants wore Jenny Yoo dresses in three different shades of light pink. The women carried bouquets with light-colored flowers and trailing pink ribbons.
The First Look
The bride and groom had a first look two hours before to the ceremony. "We were so glad that we were able to have that time together to enjoy the moment before all of our family and friends came," says Juliette, adding she had "tons of butterflies" before seeing her husband-to-be.
Dino credits the first look as his favorite moment of the day. "I had no idea what the dress looked like or how it would all come together. She looked amazing, and it definitely brought a tear to my eye. That is when it hit me: I was about to get married to the most beautiful person in world, and I was definitely the luckiest man alive," he says.
The Ceremony Site
The ceremony took place in a private garden. Ivory and blush sweetheart rose petals were scattered across the aisle, and an arched arbor decorated with greenery and garden roses anchored the space. The ceremony was called for an hour prior to sunset, in the hopes that the weather would be cooler and the light would be soft.
Rose Petal Packets
As guests entered the ceremony, they were given vellum packets containing white and pink rose petals, with instructions to toss the blooms at the newlyweds as they recessed up the aisle.
Nib and Pixel created ceremony programs on deckled-edge cotton paper, in the same mix of typography and calligraphy as the invitation suite. Each had the processional order of family and bridal party, as well as the order of the ceremony and list of songs that were played by a string quartet, Third Floor Strings.
Furry Ring Bearers
The couple's Pomeranians served as ring bearers, and they were escorted down the aisle by the flower girls. Each pup wore a custom-made tuxedo by AnnaHappydog.
Juliette walked down the aisle alone to "Canon in D" by Pachelbel played by Third Floor Strings. The simple ceremony included the officiant's thoughts on marriage, handwritten vows, a traditional ring exchange, and two readings: 1 Corinthians 13:4-13 and "A Lovely Love Story" by Edward Monkton. According to Juliette, "It was really special to walk down the aisle to see how all of the planning had come together to create such a magical ceremony. Even though we had a first look, seeing Dino standing under the arch waiting to become my husband is a moment I will never forget. It couldn't have been more special."
After the ceremony, the newlyweds recessed to "La Rejouissance" by Handel.
Guests attended cocktail hour in the main garden of the venue. Some people stood at cocktail tables while others relaxed at a seating area with an ivory couch, chairs, and wooden accents. Passed hors d'oeuvres by Café Natalie included coconut lobster skewers, bulgogi on jalapeño corn cakes, and fried mac 'n' cheese balls.
The Seating Chart
Nib and Pixel wrote all guests' names on a clear acrylic for the seating chart. "We wanted a seating chart that wouldn't compete with the beauty of the venue but would still be very dreamy and romantic," says the bride.
The reception took place in a private indoor area at McGovern Centennial Gardens, which was decorated with greenery and vine arches, mimicking the ceremony arbor. Long rectangular tables were topped with pink linens and an ivory tulle overlay, which was chosen to match the bride's dress. Arrangements and garlands by Bows and Arrows Flowers matched the color palette and incorporated garden roses, dahlias, ranunculus, spray roses, snowberry, white scabiosa, blushing bride protea, and greenery—the same flowers in the bride's bouquet.
The Place Settings
Each place setting had antique silverware, a nude linen napkin, and antique crystal glasses. White boxes containing strawberry macarons by Oui Desserts served as favors. Nib and Pixel designed a menu encased in clear vellum with blush and nude ribbon, a white wax seal, and calligraphy. Café Natalie catered the sit-down dinner of arugula and goat cheese salad, pan-seared Chilean sea bass, filet mignon, wild mushroom risotto, and asparagus with truffle butter.
The Ghost Chairs
In lieu of traditional place cards, Nib and Pixel calligraphed each guests' name in white lettering on acrylic ghost chairs. Each first name was hand-lettered in calligraphy, and last name was written in the same font used on the acrylic seating chart, menus, and programs. "Tons of guests mentioned how much they loved the personalization and we definitely saw snaps and pictures on social media with everyone's personalized chairs. It ended up being a favorite design element!"
Buttercup Bakery made a four-tier cake with two different flavors: vanilla bean and rosemary with fresh blackberry compote and crème fraiche buttercream (Juliette's pick), and dark chocolate with espresso mousse filling and vanilla buttercream (Dino's pick). The first three tiers were covered in smooth buttercream with crisp edges, while the bottom tier had ruffled beige fondant to mimic the deckled-edge paper used in the invitation suite. Sugar greenery and flowers representing café au lait dahlias, Juliet garden roses, and roses in various stages of bloom dressed up the confection in shades of blush, mauve, nude, and ivory. "The sugar flowers were so realistic that some guests commented they thought they were real flowers!" says Juliette.
The First Dance
The newlyweds danced to "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Haley Reinhart, played by JPL Entertainment. "This song was used in our engagement video and has very sentimental place in our hearts," says Juliette. The pair also chose the final song of the night: "Perfect" by Ed Sheeran.
For the send-off, guests held LED balloons to light up the night. According to Dino, "To sum up the wedding in one word, it would be 'perfection.' I married the love of my life while surrounded by my friends and family. We even managed to have our dogs take part in the wedding as well. I could not have asked for more."
Photography, Dana Fernandez Photography
Location, McGovern Centennial Gardens
Event planning, Jennifer Laura Design
Catering, Café Natalie
Flowers, Bows and Arrows Flowers
Videography, byDesign Films
Stationery and calligraphy, Nib and Pixel
Cake, Buttercup Bakery
String Quartet, Third Floor Strings
Reception DJ and lighting, JPL Entertainment
Bride's gown and veil, Galia Lahav
Hair and makeup, Hey Lovely Makeup
Bridesmaids' dresses, Jenny Yoo
Groom's tuxedo, shirt, tie, pocket square, and shoes, Suitsupply
Menswear, The Black Tux
Groom's glasses, Warby Parker
Transportation, AFC Transportation
Vow Books, Seniman Calligraphy
Favors, Oui Desserts