A Summer Wedding on the Hudson River with 1970s Italian Flair
Ali and James met through mutual friends, but it wasn't until about four months into their friendship, on New Year's Eve, that Ali realized "something was up:" James was ready to ask her out (they become a couple just two months later, following a birthday dinner for one of their said mutual friend). Three years after that, she had that same feeling when a few small clues suggested that James was about to ask her an even more important question.
Though she was expecting a proposal while they spent the day together in New York City, where she works as a prop stylist and he's a lawyer, she forgot about it after a morning of sightseeing didn't end with a ring. But on their way to catch the ferry back from Governor's Island to Brooklyn, James finally surprised her by dropping to one knee for a "sweet and subtle" proposal.
The newly-engaged couple immediately began planning a summer wedding for 113 of their guests on July 28, 2018, choosing Southwood Estate in Germantown, New York, for its location on the Hudson River (and its pool). They decided on a palette of warm-weather shades including sage, coral, lilac, and yellow; put together a carefully-chosen custom playlist for their DJ; and stocked the bar with natural wines from their favorite neighborhood wine store. "The mood was inspired by '70s Italian with a touch of disco," says Ali. "I wanted it to look sort of like you just happened upon a ruin of an estate in the Italian countryside and had an incredible party there."
The Colors of Summer
Ali worked with one of her close friends and bridesmaids, Jenna Saraco, to design an invitation suite that set the tone for the summery feel of the wedding. "I found a photo of these tiles in sage, a dusty coral, and a mustard yellow," Ali says. "I thought it was such a pleasing combination." The letterpress invitations from Press New York featured coral wording on extra-thick white cardstock, while the rest of the elements incorporated the other shades. "We loved how they looked all together and I felt like they really complemented the overall look and aesthetic of the wedding," says the bride.
Her Custom Wedding Dress
After Saraco and her business partner, Nicole Steriovski, also one of Ali's bridesmaids, worked on a wedding dress photo shoot for Aurora Vestita, Ali became obsessed with the designer. "I knew I didn't want the traditional type of wedding dress," she says. "Vestita was exactly what I was looking for!" Owner Rawan Rihani created her off-the-shoulder gown with a tiered skirt in pleated matte silk, which Ali paired with long earrings from Sophie Buhai and Tabitha Simmons shoes. Her citrus-colored bouquet was accented with long eucalyptus stems. "I didn't really have a vision for my bouquet!" says Ali. "I told my florist—who is also my friend—just to make something that is interesting and kind of wild, colorful, but still has a Mediterranean vibe. I think she did just that!"
Toe the Line
The bridesmaids chose their gowns—also by Aurora Vestita—from a limited color palette of coral, blush, nude, and yellow, while the maid of honor wore lilac. "The bridesmaids all wore different shoes in fun, bright colors that complemented their dresses," says Ali.
To go along with the "summertime chic" dress code that the couple envisioned for their wedding, James chose a Lazio blue check suit from Suit Supply, pairing it with tassel loafers and a light brown tie from the same company. "Formal didn't feel right and neither did cocktail," says Ali, "so we went with 'summertime chic,' which seemed to embody the right mix of fancy and also appropriate dress for the season." Ali and James planned their first look and portrait session for before the ceremony, taking posed and candid shots around the property—and even a few with George the Wedding Dog, a Southwood fixture (he belongs to the owner) and Instagram star.
James asked his groomsmen to choose their own suits in navy blue, so they'd provide a contrast to his lighter outfit. Instead of having the girls carry bouquets, Ali let the shades of their dresses provide the event's color. "I knew I wanted it to be colorful, and I was inspired by a photo I found from a Shine Goya fashion presentation," she says. "I just loved the mix of colors and how nice and summery it would look against the backdrop of the Hudson."
Home Sweet Home
The couple planned for the ceremony to take place outside of the mansion, the main building on the Southwood Estate property, which they loved for its water views and stunning art installations. From their visit, they knew it was exactly what they pictured for their wedding. "The house is covered in the most incredible paintings and sculptures, and then outside are these super cool metal sculptures made by the previous owner," says Ali. "The juxtaposition between the old historic home and the more modern, mid-century art was exactly the eclectic kind of venue we wanted." Another selling point: The property included three homes the couple could rent for their guests—and a pool, where they hosted a day-after pool party and cookout instead of a traditional post-wedding brunch. "We love a good pool in the summertime!" says Ali.
A Beautiful Backdrop
Though the view of the Hudson River from the ceremony location provided plenty of breathtaking photo opportunities, Ali and her florist, Catherine Pearson, worked together to come up with flower "walls" that created a focal point for the exchange of vows. "I wanted to have something that framed us that didn't cover up the beautiful scenery behind us, and was also something different and interesting from what you see at most weddings," says Ali. "Our florist attached all sorts of different flowers to create an interesting backdrop that was modern and cool and still really beautiful."
Down the Aisle
Ali's mother and father walked her down the aisle from the porch of the mansion house as the 1970 recording of Os Mutantes' "Baby" played. "Not only do we love that song, but it just seemed to fit the occasion perfectly and embody the time of year and the exact moment," says Ali. "The song has moments where it sounds almost like the wind is gently blowing, like you can hear the trees rustling and picture an outdoor setting. Everything about the song reminds me of summer."
With This Ring
The couple kept their ceremony brief—about 15 minutes—and treated guests to aperol spritzes as they arrived to help combat the summer heat. A close friend officiated as Ali and James each said a few words before exchanging traditional vows in a non-religious ceremony.
The Happy Couple
After the vows, the newlyweds led guests to the cocktail hour, exiting the ceremony to "You and I, Pt. II" by Fleetwood Mac. "It is super joyful and fun," says Ali, "and felt like the right note to exit and continue onto the party!" But before joining their guests, they took a quick detour for a few moments alone—one of the groom's favorite parts of the day. "It felt so great to be in the moment, and there was just so much excitement that it was really all happening," says James. "It was such a special moment for us to just be together, just the two of us, and relish in our happiness and celebration of what the day is all about."
Hot Days, Cool Bites
With a forecast calling for storms, Ali and James decided to set up a second tent for the ceremony and cocktail hour—but at the last minute, the skies cleared to give the couple the outdoor event they hoped for (along with a stunning sunset). As guests mingled outside the tents during the cocktail hour, servers passed rustic wooden trays of bite-sized summer fare, including melon skewers with crispy prosciutto and basil, mini lobster rolls, and short rib sliders.
Room with a View
The tent held a combination of rectangular and round tables, and though a seating chart directed guests to their table, they chose their own chairs. Low centerpieces incorporated bright blooms and fresh produce. "I wanted the décor to feel like each moment on each surface was like a small still life, so we incorporated fruit along with the florals," says Ali. "I also wanted everything to have a Mediterranean nod, so we stuck to grapes, lemons, artichokes, pomegranate branches, and then did these gorgeous amphora vases for all of the vessels."
Subtle white plates, silver flatware, and natural linen napkins from La Tavola allowed the florals to be each table's statement piece. Saraco designed menus that matched the invitation; they detailed the different options available during the family-style dinner from Hunt & Harvest. "Food was really important to us," says Ali. "We wanted it to be summery and fresh, exactly the kind of food we want to make if we were grilling in the backyard." The same thoughtfulness went into choosing the natural wines the couple served, which were sourced from Vine Wine: "I'm really into natural wine, so I made sure to provide a curated selection of natural wines that I picked out," says Ali, "in addition to conventional wines for those that didn't want natural—we still kept everything organic, though!"
Disco balls suspended from the ceiling of the tent set the party's mood. "I knew I wanted to involve disco balls in the décor somehow," says Ali. "My florist was able to hang them and intertwine them with florals and greenery to really complete the look of coming across a party in a wild setting—like if you were to come across a disco in a rundown Italian mansion, [which is] what I was going for!"
The First Dance
For their first dance, Ali and James picked "I Wanna Be Your Lover" by Prince—a nontraditional option that they considered an obvious choice. "We love Prince! His music fit perfectly with the vibe of the wedding," says Ali. "And also the message is true!" They opened the floor to the rest of the guests after about a minute of dancing on their own. "Neither of us," says Ali, "are good being the center of attention like that."
A Custom Playlist
The couple left the order of the tunes up to their DJ, DJ Con of 74 Events, but offered plenty of guidance with "a really long, thought-out playlist for each moment," says Ali. "It was an eclectic mix with touches of '70s like Steely Dan, '70s psych bands Os Mutantes and Azymuth, '60s Brazilian, '90s R&B, and some deep disco cuts—besides the dancing portion, where we definitely got into some Drake, Prince, and older rap like Jay-Z and Ja Rule."
Illustrator Max Pepper, a friend of the couple, created a hand-drawn wedding logo that included a sketch of the mansion house, their initials, and the date; Ali and James then had the logo printed on koozies and matchboxes that served as favors.
Fresh raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries accented a semi-naked vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream frosting from The Cakery. "I wanted it to feel easy and effortless, not too buttoned up or fancy," says Ali. "We ate it for breakfast with our friends who stayed with us on the property the next morning!"
Photography, Nato Tuke of Weddings by Nato
Location, Southwood Estate
Event planning, Modern Kicks
Catering, Hunt & Harvest
Flowers, Catherine Pearson
Cake, The Cakery
Music, 74 Events
Bride's gown, Aurora Vestita
Hair and makeup, La Tua Bella Beauty Bar
Bridesmaids' dresses, Aurora Vestita
Groom's suit and accessories, Suit Supply
Lighting, Events Unlimited
Transportation, Coxsackie Transport