These Brides' Cherry Blossom-Inspired Wedding Unfolded in a Virginia Vineyard
Julia and Mechelle met online while they both attended graduate school in Austin, Texas, and hit it off right away. Over several years, the couple openly discussed marriage, and they decided the timing was right to take the next step in their relationship once they finished their graduate degrees.
"We both knew early on that neither of us wanted a big proposal, or really a proposal at all," Julia says. Mechelle adds, however, "When we went to pick out our rings, the staff handed a ring box with my engagement ring in it to Julia. It kind of forced us to have this more traditional moment where she held up the ring box for me and offered me the ring. It ended up being a very emotional and intimate moment right in the middle of the jewelry store. We're grateful for that."
A few weeks after the engagement, the couple had plans to move to Oslo, Norway, where Julia began a one-year research position as a post-doctoral fellow. Just before they left, however, they fell in love with Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyards in Charlottesville, Virginia, and booked it right away; they secured the venue for April 27, 2019, and then jetted off to Norway. They worked with planner Marilyn Speight with Just a Little Ditty from afar to pull off a semi-formal celebration with magic and enchantment themes; the design was also inspired by cherry blossoms. With 150 guests traveling from all over the country, as well as England, Switzerland, and Kenya, they wanted to plan an event that felt like a party first and a wedding second.
The Engagement Rings
"Neither of us had any family heirlooms that we planned to use for our rings, so we had the opportunity to start from scratch," Mechelle says. "We were able to pick out pieces that reflected us and that made it a fun and special process." Mechelle was drawn to a sapphire and diamond wedding band and then selected an engagement ring that paired with it, while Julia selected a simple classic solitaire that doubles as her official band.
The custom invitations featured scenes from places that held special meaning to the brides, including Texas, where they met, Norway, where they spent their engagement, and the venue where they tied the knot. A cherry blossom wreath detail was included on their save-the-dates and the pair's ring boxes as a nod to the cherry blossoms seen throughout the venue on the day.
A Wedding Dress for Julia
Julia's Essense of Australia ball gown, which she found at one of the two stores she perused in the D.C. area, where the couple now lives, featured a sweetheart neckline and embellished straps. "I loved that it had sequins under the first layer so that it would sparkle when in direct light, but was still subtle."
This bride paired her gown with shoes that her mom wore for on her own wedding day 35 years ago. "We had to get the rubber cap on the heel replaced because it had disintegrated in the intervening decades," Julia shares. The finishing touches to her bridal look were diamond earrings that belonged to her late sister and a tear-drop necklace.
Julia's round, tight bouquet was comprised of ivory, peach, coral, and blush peonies, ranunculus, and lilacs.
Mechelle's Bridal Look
Mechelle went to a few different stores on the hunt for her dream wedding dress and found herself falling in love with Monique Lhuillier's bridal collection. She had the opportunity to visit a Monique Lhuillier store in Los Angeles and tried on several traditional gowns, as well as a few bold, patterned options. She ended up with the latter: The bride chose a high-low strapless gown with a floral pattern and thin black strap across the waist. "I was hesitant to choose something so different and nontraditional," Mechelle says. "But, I loved everything about my dress. It fit right in with my vision of the wedding day."
A Pop of Black
She wore black suede Stuart Weitzman sandals on the big day and borrowed tanzanite earrings from her photographer, who is also a close friend, to wear with her statement gown.
Mechelle held a loose bouquet with cherry blossom branches, ranunculus, and lilacs in a palette of blush, cream, and white.
Bridesmaids in Pastel
The bridesmaids, all friends of either Julia and Mechelle, wore floor-length Jenny Yoo dresses in varying tones of blush and sage. Some wore solid-colored gowns, and some wore pattered options, mirroring both the brides' respective fashion choices.
An Enchanting Location
Julia and Mechelle chose their venue, Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyards, for its stunning views overlooking Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. "Something about it just feels magical, like everything is as it should be," Julia says. From the moment the pair walked onto the property, they knew they wanted to exchange vows there and create a mood of enchantment and awe on their wedding day.
The First Look
The couple's first look in the vineyard marked Julia's first time seeing Mechelle's patterned gown—luckily, Mechelle got the subtle nod of approval she was looking for from her bride. Mechelle herself had been worried, for no particular reason, that she wouldn't love Julia's dress, but she was pleasantly surprised that she did. "I loved how it was softly sparkling in the sunshine," she says.
Cherry Blossom Arch
Their ceremony took place on the venue's grass lawn overlooking the mountain scenery. A rounded ceremony arch was covered in cherry blossoms and other blush, pink, and white hydrangeas and peonies with more volume on one side for an asymmetrical look.
The Ceremony Unfolds
Mechelle walked down the aisle unescorted to "Canon in D" before Julia followed with her parents to Ray Orbison's "Pretty Woman."
Julia's sorority sister, Anisa, officiated the couple's non-religious ceremony, which also included an original reading by Mechelle's friend from high school, Marielena. The couple wrote their vows together on a napkin over breakfast at a diner the day before the wedding and moved them into custom vow books to use during the ceremony.
The Cocktail Hour
Guests moved to the lawn and veranda next to the ceremony space for the cocktail hour, where lawn games, including corn hole, life-size Jenga, and ladder golf, were set up. The couple hired a string quartet to play '60s Motown music while hors d'oeuvres like grilled peaches with shishito peppers and kimchi and skirt steak tacos were passed around. Guests enjoyed wine—like Pippin Hill's Chardonnay—assorted beers, and cocktails.
See-Through Seating Chart
Following the cocktail hour, attendees found their table assignments listed on a clear acrylic board that featured the couple's initials and the cherry blossom wreath seen on the invitations.
Cherry Blossoms Everywhere
Dinner was served in the Granary, which is the venue's main event space. Cherry blossom chandeliers hung above the head table; glass orbs filled with twinkling lights adding a romantic touch. A larger cherry blossom wreath installation created a dramatic décor moment over the dance floor. A rectangular head table sat the brides, their wedding party (and their guests!), and their officiant. Round tables were set up to accommodate up to ten guests each.
On the Tabletops
Each table was topped with textured white linens; each place setting included a soft gray napkin, custom-made blush chargers, white dinner plates, and gold flatware with matte black-dipped handles.
Dinner Is Served
Guests enjoyed a starter course of hydroponic tomato followed by their choice of a roasted beef tenderloin paired with a Chesapeake Bay crab cake or a vegetarian chickpea cake. Dinner was paired with Pippin Hill's Viognier and Cabernet Franc wines.
The First Dance
Julia and Mechelle shared their first dance to"Stand by Me" by Ben. E. King; the lyrics spoke to both brides. They showed off their skills, having taken dance lessons for a few weeks before the wedding. "Unfortunately, nothing could prepare us for dancing together while both of us were wearing bustled and poofy dresses," Julia says, "We mis-stepped and tripped a few times, but we made it through!"
Immediately after dinner, guests joined the happy couple outside on the lawn, surrounding them in a circle (sparklers in hand!) to watch them cut their Maliha Creations cake. The confection—an almond cake with hazelnut buttercream and chocolate cake with Bailey's-infused chocolate buttercream—featured the cherry blossom wreath detail seen throughout the day; on the back, a silhouette of one of the pair's engagement photos was translated through fondant. The couple also offered an ice cream bar and s'mores for an extra-sweet end to the evening.
The duo's loved ones were given mugs emblazoned with custom artwork; they were filled with chocolate fudge, which Mechelle made herself in remembrance of her late grandmother.
Photography, Rebecca Yale
Videography, Monachetti Weddings
Venue and Catering, Pippin Hill
Event planning and design, Just A Little Ditty
Flowers, Southern Blooms
Stationery, Rock Paper Scissors
Vow Books, Wedding Story Writer
Calligraphy, SA Style + Design
Mechelle's gown, Monique Lhullier
Mechelle's shoes, Stuart Weitzman
Julia's gown, Essense of Australia
Stylist, Madly Bride
Hair and Makeup, Avenue 42
Bridesmaids' dresses, Jenny Yoo
Cake, Maliha Creations
Dessert, Crozet Creamery
Lighting, Blue Ridge
Transportation, James Limo
Ring Boxes, The Mrs. Box