A meaningful venue and the bride's favorite flower inspired this part formal, part casual celebration.
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Julia and Mitchell met when Mitchell first moved to New York City. Someone introduced him to Julia at a charity event, and according to Mitchell, they were "fast friends." Their romance didn't blossom as quickly, though—it took 18 months for the couple to start dating.
Mitchell, who works in the energy industry, popped the question in Aiken, South Carolina, where Julia's parents live. "We went on a lovely walk in the woods and he got down on one knee in a beautiful clearing where I grew up horseback riding," Julia, the co-founder of Bloomerent, recalls. "I didn't let him know that I had seen the ring box in his back pocket the entire time until a few months later."
The couple decided to return to that charming town to tie the knot. "We wanted to bring our guests to a place we love and cherish," says Julia. Their venue, Joye Cottage, and their location, Aiken, wound up inspiring their black-tie wedding's part formal, part casual theme.
The May 5, 2018, celebration had another big muse, too: lilacs. The bride's favorite flower inspired the couple's purple-heavy color palette, as well as their overall event design. "I had a specific vision for the flowers throughout the wedding. I wanted the ceremony to be quite muted with my bouquet of lilac standing out. The lilac would continue to increase in the cocktail hour until our guests entered the tent, where it overflowed," she explains. Their 275 guests were lucky enough to see her vision come to life.
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"Our dear friend, Steve Naifeh, was beyond generous and allowed us to get married at his home, Joye Cottage," shares Julia. The historic property, which Steve and his partner, Gregory Smith, "painstakingly restored," is "magical," according to the bride. "Steve and Greg poured so much love and thought into the renovation that it felt like a reflection of their love for one another," she explains. The venue set the tone for a touching affair.
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Mitchell's outfit mixed traditional elegance with a personal, regional touch: He wore a custom tuxedo from Michael Andrews plus Lucchese cowboy boots. Julia chose her Marchesa wedding dress for its vintage-meets-modern feel—the same vibe she tried to incorporate into the rest of the day. She accessorized with a custom veil, diamond studs from her groom, and Tabitha Simmons shoes. She also honored her roots by pinning a sixpence inside her dress—a family tradition meant to symbolize good luck.
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The couple's formal portraits took place before the ceremony so that no one would miss out on the later festivities. They took their photos at Crossways, the oldest home in Aiken—the owners, Robert and Jane Hottenson, doubled as wedding guests.
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A Walk to Remember
Julia's ceremony entrance was unique in that she walked part of it alone. Halfway to the arch, both of her parents joined her and escorted her to her groom. Her journey came with a special soundtrack: Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune," her favorite classical song. She says she always knew she'd play it during this special moment.
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An Expert Officiant
Julia's brother officiated the ceremony. According to Mitchell, "he stole the show—he was absolutely amazing." In fact, his "personal, loving, and kind" words impressed everybody in attendance. Other family members recited readings.
The ceremony was personalized in another way, too: The couple wrote their own vows. "I will truly carry the words and sentiments with me forever," says the groom.
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Cocktails Al Fresco
After the ceremony, guests made their way to the garden for cocktail hour, where seating areas were set across the grounds. "With the backdrop of the house and the gardens we didn't need much other decoration," Julia shares, but they did have one statement piece that GLDN Events dreamt up: a second flower arch. "When she pitched it to me, I couldn't totally envision it, yet I trusted her opinion. Our guests loved taking photos in front of the arch and it created a beautiful entry to a beautiful evening."
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Find Your Seats
When it was time for the reception to start, guests made their way to their tables with the help of a lattice seating chart. The display (featuring escort cards calligraphed by Ashley D. Studio) suited the garden venue.
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A Tented Reception
Guests sat at long tables, which both encouraged conversation and helped the family-style meal (which was meat-and vegetable-heavy) go seamlessly. In fact, the whole thing resembled an elevated dinner party.
Arrangements were suspended above the tables for the "overgrown-yet-formal" look Julia craved. The purple flowers and the green foliage looked as if they were floating.
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Each place setting was graced with a keepsake napkin, all beautifully hand-embroidered by Mitchell's aunt. Those weren't the only statement linens, though. A blue watercolor pattern was digitally printed onto the tablecloths.
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A Giant Centerpiece
It was the overall layout that really impressed. "We went for a star-like setup with a large tree at the center and tables branching out in different directions. Our guest felt like they were dining in the forest," Julia shares. As night fell, the branches were illuminated so their shadows danced on the tent. According to Julia, this made the atmosphere "even more magical."
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Raise a Glass
"The toasts were my favorite part of the wedding," says Mitchell. "Our guests laughed, then cried and ultimately were left with a sense of joy and excitement for our marriage." He especially appreciated the speech Julia's parents made: "Their marriage sets a high bar for ours, and their partnership is one Julia and I aspire to emulate."
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For their first dance, the bride and groom chose "A Sunday Kind of Love" by Etta James. "We both love Etta James, and when Mitchell was in business school, Sundays were always the day I missed him most," Julia explains.
The couple made the most of their time on the light-up dance floor with an impressive lift. Their guests did, too—the police stopped by four times before things were officially shut down! We'll blame it on the sparkly disco balls—they definitely got the party going.
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A Delicious Dessert
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Photography, Landon Jacob Photography
Event planning, GLDN Events
Catering, The Swell Party
Stationery, Eliza Gwendalyn (invitations and save-the-dates)
Day-of paper goods and Calligraphy, Ashley D. Studio (day-of items)
Cake, La Dolce
Music, Big Sam's Funky Nation
Bride's gown, Marchesa
Bride's shoes, Tabitha Simmons
Hair, Jordan Sparkes
Makeup, A.K. Bridal
Groom's suit, Michael Andrews
Groom's shoes, Lucchese
Groomsmens' tuxedos, The Black Tux
Lighting, All Access Audio Video & Lighting
Transportation, Captain Telegram