A mariachi band, a first-dance bachata, and a Greek Revival reception venue made this Austin fête one for the ages.
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When Austin-based freelance makeup artist Laura Martinez embarked on a European vacation with her boyfriend of roughly eight years, Jae Yu, in 2016, she thought she knew what to expect. After all, it was their first trip to Europe and she had done most of the planning. Yet at sunrise on the pair's first full day abroad (which just so happened to be Christmas Eve), Jae threw Laura a curve ball when he dropped to bended knee amid the Jardins du Trocadéro in Paris, with the Eiffel Tower as their brilliant backdrop. Despite having met in high school and kicking off their courtship when both were 23, "Jae has always had a way of unexpectedly surprising me," Laura says. Following her ecstatic "yes," Jae pointed to yet another surprise: one of Laura's best friends Jenny Fu—who happens to be a professional photographer—had been snapping candids of the sweet scene. "Prior to that point, I tried to keep it together," says Laura, "but this was beyond anything I ever expected."
After celebrating their way through Paris, Venice, and Barcelona—and scooping up a Cartier wedding band for Jae while in Europe—the couple returned to the States to design an oval-cut engagement ring for Laura (Jae proposed with a faux bauble, knowing his future wife wanted to be a part of that process). Next, they got to work planning a sophisticated springtime wedding that paid homage to both the bride's Mexican heritage and the groom's Korean roots.
On May 19, 2018, Jae, a reservoir-engineering manager, married Laura at Saint Mary Cathedral in Austin, the city where they met as teenagers. "It was a culmination of the 10 years we have been together," Jae says of the wedding, adding, "It was the most romantic event of my life." Following a Catholic ceremony, the couple and their 55 guests sipped Old Fashioneds and French 77s al fresco at Hotel Ella—a 1900 Greek Revival manse in the heart of downtown—before dining and dancing the night away.
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Laura and Jae's wedding invitation and wax seal bore a graphic designed by the bride. "Yu in Korean means willow tree, so I figured I would try and incorporate a willow branch in our logo," she explains of Jae's last name. Laura used Microsoft Word to compose the non-calligraphed portion of the invitations and printed them at home on Silk & Willow deckled-edge cotton paper from calligrapher Poppy Seed Signs, who penned the couples' names, reply card text, and addressed outer envelopes.
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The reception site, Hotel Ella, is situated within the historic Goodall Wooten House, a Greek Revival-style estate built between 1898 and 1900. The property features tons of European-inspired architectural touches, like intricate woodworking by a Swiss carver. Inside, the boutique hotel and event space is filled with modern art and furnishings. The couple fell for the venue's worldly aesthetic and love-centric story (the home was built by Goodall Wooten for his wife, Ella, just after they wed). "I felt like I was having a destination wedding even though I was in my hometown," says Laura.
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Dressed to Impress
Within weeks of Jae's proposal, a trunk show for one of the bride's favorite wedding dress designers, Galia Lahav, came to Houston, where Laura lived at the time. "I honestly didn't think I would find a gown that day," says the bride, who's seen her fair share of bridal looks thanks to her job. Yet the fifth gown she tried on ticked off two of her musts: it was sheer in some areas and an atypical color. When she learned that the designer could make the ball-gown skirt detachable to reveal a sheer column on underneath, she was sold. "I loved every part of my dress," says Laura. "I felt like a princess with the skirt on and Beyoncé once I took it off."
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The wedding dress—made of sheer tulle with lace appliqués and a smattering of rhinestones—informed the nuptials' pink-heavy color palette and romantic aesthetic. With an attention-grabbing gown, Laura kept her accessories minimal (pearl, pavé diamond, and rose gold drop earrings by Nadri and her engagement ring did the trick). Kat Tran, a hairstylist and one of Laura's bridesmaids, fashioned her modern ponytail and the bride did her own makeup. Though she toyed with different color combinations, she decided to go with something simple, natural, and timeless in the end.
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The bridal bouquet—a lush bunch of pillowy peonies, fragrant jasmine, and clusters of tiny rice flowers finished off with silk ribbon—oozed springtime charm. Laura requested that florals throughout the day be more freeform than formal; otherwise, she passed the reins completely to Lady Diane of Black Petal Floral Design.
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Jae's navy tux, which was custom-made by Geno Suits You, bore personal touches aplenty. In addition to the wedding date sewn into his collar, "Jaeyoncé" (Laura's nickname for her fiancé throughout their engagement) was embroidered inside the jacket, and his surname, "Yu," was stitched onto the cuff of his dress shirt.
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Though the pair exchanged traditional wedding vows during their Catholic ceremony, they swapped handwritten affirmations beforehand with their family and closest friends gathered around. "For me, that was the most beautiful moment we shared because we were able to express in our own words our vows to each other," says Laura of the informal mini ceremony, which took place just after their first look on the verdant grounds of Hotel Ella.
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Jae and Laura chose Saint Mary Cathedral for both its historic beauty and its convenient location; it was situated just over a mile away from the reception site. A spring shower blew through just as the couple exited the chapel as Mr. and Mrs., which Laura dubbed as a sign of good luck.
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Oversized floral arrangements perched on the altar, a bevy of candles, and the bride's sweeping Galia Lahav veil added to the chapel's splendor. Rich notes from the organ rang out during the ceremony; tunes included Johann Pachelbel's "Canon in D," played during Laura's walk down the aisle with her mother, and Jean-Joseph Mouret's "Rondeau" for the recessional.
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The couple's wedding party consisted of friends, Laura's niece and nephews, the latter three of whom served as junior bridesmaid, junior groomsman, and ring bearer. Inspired by the bride's gown, attendants donned blush-hued Vera Wang cowl-back crepe dresses with an illusion front; the men rented dapper duds from The Black Tux.
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During cocktail hour, guests sporting black-tie optional attire mixed and mingled throughout Hotel Ella's open-air pool courtyard and covered porch. Bartenders whipped up French 77s and Old Fashioneds while partygoers noshed on savory hors d'eouvres like bacon-wrapped dates and empanadas.
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Jae's mother's vivid hanbok was handmade in Korea and complemented the day's blush-and-navy color palette. As a finishing touch, she wore a pale pink corsage to match her son's boutonnière. Her words of advice to Jae on his wedding day? "She told me to treat Laura with love and respect," he notes.
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Mariachi Relámpago upped the fun factor during the reception's seated supper. "Our guests loved this!" says Laura of the mariachi band. "They were requesting songs, dancing, and singing along." During the performance, guests dined on Ōra King salmon and pan-roasted chicken.
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Center of Attention
The most show-stopping flower arrangement—and one of Laura's favorite visual elements of the day—was the lush floral arch situated behind the couple's sweetheart table (the structure for which was rented from Mancino Rentals). From where they sat, Laura and Jae had sightlines of all their guests and wedding party, who ate at round tables laid out in two semi-circles before them. When it came time for toasts, as shown here, the couple stood at the front of the room, basking in love and laughter.
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For their first dance, the pair started off slow, swaying to Etta James' "At Last," then cranked up the tempo with a bachata dance to "Quiereme" by Johnny Sky. Jae's second-favorite part of the wedding? "The feeling of relief after our first dance," he laughs. (His favorite was the first look, "because of how beautiful Laura looked.")
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Though Laura wanted a naked cake, she didn't want it to look like any other. Sweet Treets Bakery solved that dilemma by piping on a floral motif inspired by the lace appliqués of her gown. On-palette seasonal blooms like roses, peonies, and anemones served as fresh finishing touches for the three-tiered Italian cream and strawberry champagne confection, which the newlyweds cut to the sounds of "Marvin Gaye" by Charlie Puth courtesy of Texas Pro DJ.
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A Dazzling Exit
Jae dipped his newly-minted wife as they exited amidst a sea of sparklers held by loved ones.
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Photography, Hannah Mayson
Ceremony location, Saint Mary Cathedral
Reception location, Catering, and Lighting, Hotel Ella
Event planning, Lovely Day Events Austin
Flowers, Black Petal Floral Design
Videography, Waterloo Films
Stationery and Calligraphy, Poppy Seed Signs
Cake, Sweet Treets Bakery
Rentals, Mancino Rentals
Bride's gown and Veil, Galia Lahav
Bridesmaids' dresses, Vera Wang
Groom's tux, Geno Suits You
Menswear, The Black Tux
Transportation, Transportation Consultants