An Ultra-Personal Wedding on the Groom's Family Farm in New York
Kayla Zemsky was acting very out of character. At the last minute, she'd decided to fly from New York City to her childhood home in Buffalo mid-week, even though she'd miss work. The reason? Her parents were throwing a dinner for the artist Andy Goldsworthy; Kayla was a huge fan and ultimately couldn't bear missing the event, so she went straight to the airport from her job at a museum, bringing only what she had on her at that moment. Her impulsive decision paid off when she ended up seated next to Michael Myers, Andy's project manager, during the meal. They exchanged contact info and Michael, who lived in Buffalo, mentioned that he'd be in the city two weeks later. "I later learned he was only planning to be in Connecticut and made a side trip to take me out to dinner," Kayla says. He ended up extending his stay another night—and soon enough, they were going back and forth to visit each other.
After three years of dating, Michael popped the question while they were hiking in Switzerland. "I had enough of an idea that it might be coming to do my hair before heading out," Kayla says. Michael, however, was so nervous that he didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. He needn't have worried though; she said yes, and they trekked to a restaurant on the other side of the mountain to celebrate with Champagne. "We didn't quite take into account the rest of the hike we'd have to complete after lunch," Kayla says. "Still, it was perfect!"
Wanting a wedding that felt as personal as possible, they settled on Chestnut Hill Guest House and Farm, a bed and breakfast operated by Michael's mom on the family's farm in Buffalo. And when it came to planning, everyone came together to ensure the day was as authentic as possible, with stationery illustrated by the mother-of-the-bride to a chuppah and walkways built by the groom. "We tried to touch every detail," Kayla says. All their hard work paid off on September 16, 2017, when 258 of their loved ones gathered for a relaxed, joyful day that offered a small taste of the bride and groom's life together.
This mini field guide was painted, calligraphed, and hand-tied by artist and mother of the bride, Leslie Zemsky. Inside were event details, a map of the area, an illustration of suggested attire, and recommendations for local food and activities. In addition, the couple worked with Leslie to design a custom "36 Hours in Buffalo" sheet of newsprint, modeled after the column from The New York Times. Also in the envelope: a pencil displaying the phrase "Buffalove 9.16.17."
Talk about dedication: The couple and their mothers took a three-month letterpressing class in order to create their invitations. First, all of the calligraphy and artwork was done by Kayla's mom, and then the team spent hours hand letterpressing the invites and assembling the pieces with a ribbon and personalized name tag. Finally, for a sweet finishing touch, they stuck vintage stamps on the envelope. "They were such a process to send that we brought our post office donuts as a thank-you," Kayla says.
A Warm Welcome
Tote bags—which featured more art by Leslie—were filled with a map, water, snacks, ibuprophen, and a custom umbrella printed with the same pattern used for the invitation's envelope liner (a design element that ran throughout the wedding). "Luckily guests didn't have to use the umbrellas—but we have gotten a lot of photos of them brightening up rainy days ever since!" Kayla says.
A folded map, which was included in the welcome bag, highlighted the locations of all the weekend's events. It was stuffed with a handwritten note thanking each out-of-town guest for making the trip.
The Rehearsal Dinner
The night before the wedding, the couple kicked things off with a rehearsal dinner at Swan Street Diner for a group of 50. The bride's family (plus the bride and groom) have been working to revitalize the Larkinville neighborhood of Buffalo through redevelopment and chose this spot for their special event.
Kayla wore the dress her mother had sewn for her own wedding and it fit perfectly without any adjustments!
The rehearsal dinner was the first meal served at the Swan Street Diner's new home. The restaurant officially opened a few weeks after the wedding.
Guests enjoyed Caesar salad, fried green tomato sliders, mini meatloaf melts, and petite grilled cheeses before digging into fry cakes with vanilla ice cream. After the meal, the couple showed off another part of the town they love so much by inviting all of their guests to join them at Larkin Square for live music, drinks, food trucks, and lawn games.
Simple, Chic Attire
"I didn't connect with a lot of overly 'bridal' looks," Kayla says. She went to three appointments but didn't find something she loved until she looked at Katie Ermilio's website and was thrilled to discover that the designer made custom wedding dresses. "Katie completely understood my desire for something timeless," Kayla says. "Since the dress was so simple, we had numerous fittings over the year to make sure it sat just right. I couldn't have been happier with the final result—I felt like the most beautiful, comfortable version of myself."
All that remained of Kayla's grandmother's veil was the headpiece. Wanting to incorporate it into her look anyway, Kayla and her mother bought new material and sewed a cathedral-length veil with lace edges onto it. Kayla ended up being such a big fan of it that she kept it on through cocktail hour.
"I loved my florist's style so much that I gave her free rein on the flowers," Kayla says. Erin Lalley Bauer of Fern Croft ultimately ended up using blushing bride protea and roses, mixed with assorted leaves and vines.
Kayla wore Mansur Gavriel pink silk satin d'orsay heels on the big day.
Kayla asked two long-time friends to be her maids of honor. (Meanwhile, Michael's younger sister acted as his best person.) "I have always loved the look of an all-white bridal party," Kayla says. She fell in love with two jumpsuits from Delphine Manivet and knew they'd be a hit. "It was a fun way for my maids of honor to stand out and look amazing but also be comfortable," she says.
For Distinguished Guests
In addition to bouquets for the bridal party, Kayla requested something special for other important women involved in the day, like the mothers, ushers, and the handful of other pals who got ready with her. "Fern Croft completely blew me away with the most beautiful, contemporary, chic wrist corsages I have ever seen," she says.
The groom—along with his mother and sisters—spent all summer planting flowers and tending the fields on the stunning 95-acre property. Michael also built wooden walkways, benches, a fire pit, wedding aisle, and chuppah. Michael milled oak planks from trees on the farm for the walkway and platform, and the chuppah was made using a 120-year-old Japanese Scholar tree that was in the front yard of Kayla's childhood home and needed to come down before it fell. "It was upsetting to see it come down but special to be able to then use the wood," the groom explains.
"It was incredibly special to get married at my family farm," Michael says. "Growing up there, I feel such a connection to the place and so to get to bring all of our friends and family there was such a highlight of the wedding. It felt both casual because it was my home and a place we have enjoyed so much together, but also unique in that many of our guests had never visited and got to see a part of our life. My whole family put a lot of heartfelt work into growing flowers, painting the barn, mowing the fields, and sprucing up every inch. All the effort added up to make the day beautiful and special in every way, and now the farm means even more to me."
Guests were asked to arrive a few minutes early so they could take a 10-minute walk down a trail in the woods to the ceremony spot. (Golf carts were available for elderly loved ones, of course.) "We wanted them to experience as much of the place as possible—and it kept the front two fields that we used for cocktails and reception a surprise," Kayla says.
A Sweet Souvenir
As a gift, the bride's parents hired Anne Watkins to document the day in watercolors. She painted three large canvases of the ceremony and about 30 smaller scenes and portraits. "We were completely blown away," says the bride. Once they complete their home renovation, the couple will be hanging many of the pieces and they look forward to surrounding themselves with the special memories.
The Procession Begins
Kayla's cousin's children walked down the aisle together as the flower kids.
The Ring Bearers
Michael has grown so close with Andy Goldsworthy, the artist he works for, that he considers them family. So it made sense that Andy's son, Joel, would come from Scotland to be the ring bearer. The couple's two-year-old nephew was also up for the job, but since he needed a little help down the aisle, Michael's sister and best person, Bekah, gave him a lift.
The Bride's Entrance
Both of Kayla's parents walked her down the aisle. She didn't pick a specific processional song, instead asking the string quartet to just play something beautiful.
The ceremony—which was presided over by both the bride's childhood rabbi and New York governor Andrew Cuomo (whom the father-of-the-bride works with)—was one of the couple's favorite parts of the day. "There was so much love and humor woven into it," Kayla says. It felt extra personal because they'd spent a weekend at the rabbi's home so he could get to know them as a couple. "The time we spent with him helped us get ready not just for the wedding but also for our marriage," Kayla says. The bride and groom wrote their own vows, their parents stood with them at the chuppah, and their siblings each read one of the seven blessings of a Jewish ceremony. "It really felt like a merging of families," Kayla adds.
Both the bride and groom count the ceremony as their favorite part of the day, enjoying how personal it was and the humor and love woven in.
Once the ceremony was over, the newlyweds spent a few minutes on their own, walking the trail in the woods. "Find a moment to be alone as a couple during the day," Kayla recommends. "It's hard to sneak away but the time is worth it!"
While photos were being taken, guests moved into a nearby field for nibbles, drinks, and lawn games. Food included passed hors d'oeuvres, a raw bar, and a Mediterranean station—and they also had a cocktail truck serving up libations made with honey from the farm, in addition to a traditional full bar.
The BuffaLoveBus, an old VW turned into a photo booth, made its first appearance during cocktail hour.
On a String
To get to the reception, guests had to enter through the "welcome barn," where they found illustrated escort cards strung up between two beams.
The reception took place beneath a sailcloth tent in a field just above the cocktail hour site. Erin of Fern Croft worked hard to match the tent to the beauty of the farm, even felling trees from the property to tie them to the poles.
Dinner Is Served
Guests sat at wooden farm tables with varied floral arrangements and beeswax candles. The menus for the four-course meal—which outlined the offerings that included cheese and mushroom ravioli, rack of lamb, and lemon wedding cake—were painted by the mother of the bride and tied to linen napkins printed with the couple's crest. Kayla and Michael also wanted to incorporate a piece of Martha's Vineyard into the day, where they vacation every summer, so they collected rocks from the beach and asked Kayla's mom to write each person's name out so they could be used to help guide guests to their seats. Since the wedding, the newlyweds have gotten plenty of photos of the rocks in the homes of their loved ones.
The Photo Fun Continues
The BuffaLoveBus turned up again outside the reception tent. "It was a big hit!" Kayla says.
As a surprise for guests, a friend of Michael's arranged for fireworks to be set off over the pond.
Dancing the Night Away
After the couple's first dance and the Hora, a lively evening of dancing followed. The band kept the dance floor packed even longer than scheduled—so long in fact, that the police arrived to shut the music down. "That was not planned, but we chose to take it as a sign of a good party!" Kayla says with a laugh.
Once the music had been shut down, everyone retreated to the fire pit for s'mores, wings, and pizza. "The quiet bonfire was the perfect ending to the night," Kayla says. The last bus took guests back into the city around 1 a.m.
Michael's close friend, who keeps bees at the family farm, helped fill jars with honey to pass out at the end of the night. The containers were too large to be TSA-approved at the airport, so they also put out address labels and mailed the honey to any guests who didn't want to check their bag on the flight home.
The couple took home a sweet of their own—some wedding cake. Michael's friend baked a lemon cake that the newlyweds didn't get to eat during the reception, so they took a slice home to enjoy in bed before falling asleep.
Flowers, Fern Croft
Officiant, Rabbi Ronne Friedman
Rentals and lighting, McCarthy Tents & Events
Bride's gown, Katie Ermilio
Bride's shoes, Mansur Gavriel
Makeup, Katie Mann of Crown
Bridesmaids' jumpsuits, Delphine Manivet
Flower Girl dresses
Painter, Anne Watkins Watercolors
Cocktail service, Dram Bus