Guests got close to nature at this fall celebration.
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Rivka and Aaron's relationship got off to a rocky start when she tried (unsuccessfully) to strike up a conversation at a college gospel choir event—she says he ignored her; he claims he was just shy. But over the weeks that followed, they quickly bonded over inside jokes about green shirts, long conversations during dinner, and Beyoncé. "One night, I tweeted that the man I was going to marry would sing Beyoncé's 'Love on Top' to me," says Rivka. "One night later, guess who sent me a clip of him singing 'Love on Top'—the man I am going to marry." Their friendship deepened during the next few months, until they officially started dating. "It was easy, and for some reason just felt right," says Rivka.
A few years later, over Rivka's birthday weekend in October, the couple made plans to go hiking at a nearby state park. "The leaves changing is my favorite thing about fall, and Aaron knows this," says Rivka. "I even made a comment to Aaron like, 'This would've been the perfect place to get engaged,' and he just chuckled." When he asked if she was ready for the second part of her birthday present—the first part was a shawl he'd given her a few days earlier—she was so thrilled that he'd put more thought into a gift, that she didn't even expect a proposal. "The next 30 minutes are a blur to me," she says, "but I think I said yes."
From their home in St. Paul, Minnesota, Rivka, a nurse, and Aaron, a photographer and graphic designer, began planning an October 6, 2018, wedding in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. The mountain location offered a perfect opportunity to admire the fall foliage—just like their engagement spot—and the out-of-the-way town became a relaxing weekend destination for their 200 guests. "It was personal and intimate in every way," says Rivka. "It was the perfect celebration of beauty and culture."
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When she started researching venues, Rivka had a clear idea of the perfect spot. "I had two criteria: I wanted to be deep in the woods and surrounded by the mountains," she says. She found Mayflower Venues, which comprises a group of properties, and fell hard for their location in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. "There was a light drizzle and the leaves had just turned—the mountains were calling," she says. "It was perfect."
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After what Rivka describes as "many days of binging Say Yes to the Dress," she knew she wanted to wear a blush-colored wedding dress—but her shopping trips turned up only more traditional hues. In the end, she designed her own gown, incorporating parts of her favorite looks from several different dresses to create a semi-sheer bodice with embroidery and beading and a layered tulle skirt. She had a blush version custom-made on a trip to China with her family.
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Rivka chose ivory bridesmaids dresses to contrast her blush gown, but let the women choose their own styles from a selection she curated at Azazie. "I had 12 bridesmaids—I know, crazy large," says Rivka, "but we really wanted to honor those friendships in life that got us to marriage." Along with bouquets of lush pink and white flowers, each woman wore a crown made of coordinating greenery.
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To accentuate the surrounding scenery at their outdoor location, Rivka requested a full, colorful bouquet that included antique garden roses, spray roses, dahlias, peonies, and eucalyptus. Aaron's boutonnière featured a sprig of huckleberry from his home in Minnesota.
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A Family Affair
The couple's loved ones—including Rivka's family who traveled from Ghana and Europe to attend—became an integral part of their wedding day. "I didn't mean for it to happen this way," says Rivka, "but in almost every aspect of our wedding, we tried to utilize friends and family. I don't know if they necessarily loved it, but it made it all the more intimate for a wedding of 200."
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In the Navy
Aaron and his 11 groomsmen wore navy blue suits and printed neck ties from The Dashery, a Minnesota boutique the couple was happy to support. "Aaron has been friends with some of his groomsmen since he was 8," says Rivka. "We really wanted to have those who stood up with us serve as a testament to the pillars in our life."
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A simple white frame structure created a focal point for the ceremony, held outdoors at the entrance to the woods, while a large-scale floral arrangement added a dramatic accent. "I wanted the beauty of the outdoors to really speak for the venue," says Rivka. "I am not the girliest girl around but I wanted there to be romance and some femininity in the outdoors. [The florals were] the complement that really brought it all together."
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His Favorite Moment
Rivka and Aaron chose not to have a first look, so their first glimpse of each other happened on the aisle—it was an emotional moment. "I was overwhelmed by my beautiful bride," says Aaron, "and I was overjoyed to begin a life with my best friend."
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The walk down the aisle was just as momentous for Rivka: "I looked at Aaron, and the last six years of ups and downs and long distance were all worth it," she says. After escorting her down the aisle to Daniel Caesar's "Blessed," her father gave her a hug before taking his seat.
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The bride and groom asked a close friend to officiate their non-denominational ceremony, which included readings from Song of Solomon and e.e. cummings. "We wanted the message of our ceremony to really be about love," says Rivka.
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As the newlyweds left the ceremony to the song, "Can I Have This Dance," they paused for an embrace and kiss on the aisle strewn with autumn leaves.
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The duo posed for portraits around the property while their guests nibbled on passed appetizers at the cocktail hour. On display: The couple's new weddings rings, both from Etsy. "I wanted a floral petal design and saw an opal option," says Rivka. "Opal is the birthstone for October which is my birthday and our wedding anniversary—it was perfect."
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Rivka changed into a BHLDN gown more appropriate for a party because, she says, "Dancing in tulle was not an option." After ordering five gowns online, she settled on a spaghetti strap dress with silver beading and a sheath shape.
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For their first dance, Rivka and Aaron chose a modern twist on a classic tune: Beyoncé's version of "Ave Maria" (Rivka's maid of honor sang, while her cousin provided the music). "Queen Bee is a big part of our love; I have always known she'd be a part of our wedding somehow," says Rivka. "'Ave Maria' is a beautiful, classic song, and Beyoncé's version is amazing."
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After a dinner from Historic Catering—that included roasted lemon-thyme chicken, maple balsamic vegetable strata, sweet and spice Thai beef tips, and Nigerian jollof rice—the newlyweds offered a non-traditional dessert. "Aaron's mom and sister have made wedding cakes forever," says Rivka. "We were both caked out. We had donuts and it was the best." They served six different flavors from Glazed Doughnut Shop, including triple chocolate, cider, vanilla sprinkle, and gluten-free maple glazed.
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Photography, O'Malley King
Venue, Mayflower Venues
Catering, Historic Catering
Flowers, Flour and Petal
Videography, Laura Sui
Bride's reception gown, BHLDN
Bride's shoes, Steve Madden
Makeup, Anthony Goddard
Bridesmaids' dresses, Azazie
Groom's suit and menswear, The Dashery
Lighting, Hilltown Tents
Donuts, Glazed Doughnut Shop