This Couple Brought the Outdoors in for Their Spring Wedding in New Jersey
Kelly Conlin and Drew Strong met in an unexpected place: The Pentagon. "I wouldn't call it love at first sight but working with someone is a good way to get to the bottom of things quickly," she explains of the early days of their relationship. "We started out as work besties over countless lunch outings and Starbucks runs but fell quickly into happy hours and dinner dates thereafter."
Over the course of several years together, the couple had a few conversations about getting married, so Drew was able to hatch up the perfect proposal plan. After visiting family for Thanksgiving, they were driving back from New Jersey to their home in D.C. when Drew asked Kelly if they could go on a dinner date. Kelly made a reservation for that Friday at one of their favorite restaurants. Little did she know, Drew planned to ask her to spend the rest of her life with him on the sidewalk outside the restaurant just moments after completing their meal. He convinced her that they were off to a bar for a nightcap, so Kelly was on the hunt for their Uber when Drew got down on one knee with his late grandmother's antique ring. When they returned to their apartment, Drew put on a playlist he'd been curating for a few years with songs that reminded him of her and their time together. They drank Champagne and reveled in the moment.
A year and a half later, on April 14, 2018, it was back to New Jersey for their wedding. They chose Natirar in Peapack-Gladstone for the ceremony and reception, and the mansion and sprawling grounds set the scene for their formal, classic affair. "Our wedding was the perfect expression of Kelly and me as a couple but also as a symbol of joining our two families," Drew says.
The couple originally looked at wedding venues in Colorado, but none of them felt right. Feeling a bit defeated by the search, they started to consider locations closer to home when they remembered that Kelly's parents had mentioned Natirar and the restaurant on the property. After a quick internet search revealed they were debuting a new reception space, Kelly called and discovered they had just one date left available. When they traveled north to tour the property, they immediately knew it was the spot where they'd get married. "I love traditional spaces that tell stories and are elevated with smart, modern design and the mansion at Natirar is exactly that," she says.
An Inspired Stationery Suite
Kelly and Drew selected a Bella Figura stationery suite from Engraved Images, which featured a simple monogram and a traditional block font throughout. The envelope liner introduced an Hermès-inspired scarf print that Kelly conceptualized and a graphic designer friend, Chelsea Culmann, executed. The motif incorporated several significant elements that wove the bride's and groom's families together, including each state they have roots in (magnolias for North Carolina, dogwoods for Virginia, and oranges for Florida and Tennessee), their initials represented in the middle of a pentagon, and a Celtic knot as a nod to their Irish backgrounds. There was also a crescent moon in honor of Kelly's father, light blue football laces because of their love of the game, and their wedding date.
Welcome to the Garden State
Custom candy boxes from Sugarfina served as more more than just a sweet welcome to the weekend: Thanks to booklets that outlined the meaning each aspect of the envelope liner, guests got to know the bride and groom a little bit better.
While Kelly was in school in North Carolina, she fell in love with the enormous magnolia trees across campus. They make her nostalgic and carry so much meaning that she and Drew actually named their black lab Magnolia (she goes by Maggie). Naturally, the leaves were incorporated into the design of the day. "Wreaths are a symbol of welcoming, which seemed perfect for the front doors of the mansion," she says.
Drew wears a suit and tie to work most days so it felt right to up the ante with a custom tuxedo from Suitsupply. "Picking out each component was hands down my favorite wedding planning exercise," Drew says. He chose a U-shaped vest that was traditional but still a little unexpected, just like the dark blue color of his shawl-collared ensemble. As far as accessories, he chose classic black with a twist, as is evidenced by his velvet Magnanni loafers.
Kelly only tried on six wedding dresses during her visit to Elizabeth Johns Couture, where she found Anne Barge's "Langham" gown. "I didn't know exactly what my dress would look like but the second I put it on, I knew it was made for me," she says of the soft white ball gown with wide-set straps and a modified V-neckline. Her sister gave her a sweet patch that read, "I've got your back" which was sewn inside the bottom of the skirt. The bride crossed off her "something new" and "something borrowed" in one go thanks to a pair of simple diamond earrings that her parents gave her the morning before the wedding. Her dad had gifted them to her mom years prior.
Drew's pocket square was a happy accident. While working with Knotty Tie to print a few fabric renditions of their custom scarf design, the company surprised the couple by isolating the floral and orange motif in the pattern and creating a repeat of it as an option for pocket squares.
Her White Bouquet
Jardiniere Fine Flowers kept Kelly's bouquet soft and timeless, using roses, sweet peas, ranunculus, and a few sprigs of greenery.
A Family Heirloom
Drew popped the question with an engagement ring that had belonged to his late grandmother, whom he was incredibly close with. "When we were kids, Grandma Jack asked me to pick a ring I liked best for my future wife," Drew says. "I thought it was so cool that the ring was nine diamonds in the shape of a diamond. I guess I chose pretty well because Kelly loved it."
"Interestingly, the ring was meant to be a 'stand in,'" Kelly explains. "Drew wanted me to have the opportunity to pick out my own ring but still have the surprise of not knowing when to expect a proposal. But I fell in love with it, and it suits me to a tee."
Their Two Attendants
Drew has one brother and Kelly has one sister, and though they debated including dear friends in their wedding party, they ultimately decided to limit it to just family. Craig wore a midnight blue pin dot tuxedo from The Black Tux that complemented Drew's without being too matchy, and Erin donned a full-skirted Alfred Sung dress in a similar color.
The browns and greens of the magnolia foliage complemented the wood paneling in the great room, where they adorned the fireplace with an asymmetrical installation.
Surrounded by Windows
Though the walls of windows meant there was plenty of natural light in the conservatory where the ceremony was held, Kelly and Drew wanted to bring even more of the outside in. Large trees and potted greenery created a focal point up front, with branches hanging over the aisle.
Two Junior Bridesmaids
The couple's junior bridesmaids walked down the aisle in sateen twill dresses by Dessy.
A Hand-Crafted Ceremony
Kelly and Drew felt strongly about finding the right officiant and verbiage for the wedding ceremony: They wanted to repeat the traditional vows that countless couples have said over the years, but they also wanted the service to be true to who they are. In working with their officiant to find the most appropriate readings, they landed on Robert Fulghum's "Union" and "An Irish Marriage Blessing." After being declared husband and wife, the duo recessed to a strings version of "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys.
Time for a Drink
Cocktail hour took place in the great room and outside on the patio of the mansion.
A Low-Key Cocktail Hour
Guests enjoyed a charcuterie station and live jazz music during cocktail hour. Another popular pick was the signature drink—a Manhattan made with Woodford Reserve, which Drew loves to make when having company over. "It felt like a familiar way to welcome our guests," Kelly says.
One More Thing
Kelly's parents collected restaurant matchbooks and she grew up with huge bowls of them around her house. "We needed one more small personalized item for the cocktail hour and as I was browsing for favors, I saw these matches and knew immediately that they were the perfect little detail.
Classic Escort Cards
Escort cards were affixed to a lattice structure that was hung over live boxwood by We Tie The Knots, who planned the celebration. It was a nice preview of the greenery that filled the reception room.
A Lively Ballroom
Natirar's ballroom features a wall of greenery, which provided a beautiful focal point for the reception. Textured tablecloths from La Tavola Fine Linen Rental gave the room some warmth, and the ivory-and-green floral centerpieces brought it all together. The seasonal meal began with an amuse bouche before the first course: a spring garden salad. Then it was time for a corn velouté with fried rock shrimp, polenta croutons, and micro herbs. The main entrée was a duet of short ribs and a rib eye, served with mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, brussels sprouts, and a bordelaise sauce.
When guests needed a break from dancing, they got comfortable in the lounge area. The cozy spot was dressed up with pillows printed in the day's signature print by Knotty Tie.
A Small White Cake
The in-house pastry team at Natirar created this two-flavor, two-tier white cake. Inside was a delicate lemon cake with buttercream icing and a German chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream. Outside was a combed stripe pattern (that matched the straps on the bride's wedding dress) with a few fresh blooms.
Kelly's sister gave her this personalized jean jacket ahead of her bachelorette party. "It's hands down the best maid of honor gift I've ever seen," she says. The vintage Levi's number has Kelly's married name across the back and when the collar is flipped "est. April 2018" is revealed.
The Dessert Buffet
To ensure guests spent the bulk of their time on the dance floor, the couple skipped a seated dessert course in favor of a buffet of sweets. Guests grabbed small bites like macarons and brownies between songs.
The music was a key detail for the couple, who chose "That's How Strong My Love Is" by Otis Redding for their first dance—a soulful classic that was an ironic choice, since the groom's last name is Strong. At the end of the night, the band played "You Make My Dreams Come True" by Hall and Oates, which is the couple's song.
Photography, Rachel Havel
Location, Catering, and Cake, Natirar
Event planning, We Tie The Knots
Flowers, Jardiniere Fine Flowers
Videography, Matt Conlin Productions
Music, The Original Faze 4 Band
Rentals, La Tavola Fine Linen Rental
Bride's gown, Anne Barge
Hair, Behavior Salon
Makeup, Contoured By Chrissy
Maid of Honor's dress, Alfred Sung
Junior Bridesmaids' dresses, Dessy
Best Man's tuxedo, The Black Tux
Transportation, My Limo
Welcome gifts, Sugarfina
Scarf Design, Chelsey Culmann
Scarf Printing, Knotty Tie Co.
Match boxes, ForYourParty