A Summer Camp-Inspired Wedding in the Woods in Argyle, Texas
A few days before starting medical school in August 2015, Chris McElrath found himself at a house party in front of a broken margarita machine. But when he apologized to the party's host, Lizzie Cochran, for damaging it, they realized it had only run out of mix—and thus began a relationship that lasted all through school, where friends dubbed Chris, an anesthesia resident, and Lizzie, a surgery resident, "Chrizzie." The couple spent much of their time together outside school camping and hiking, so Chris' proposal during a picnic at Lake Texoma in 2018 was a natural fit for their personalities.
As Lizzie and Chris began planning their big day, they wanted to incorporate that same love of the outdoors into a family-focused event that didn't feel formal and stuffy. "When thinking about what we wanted our wedding to be like, it was important to me to be able to spend as much time as possible with all of our family and friends, something that I think can be difficult to do in a traditional wedding format," says Lizzie. So—in a nod to Lizzie's six years as a camp counselor—the pair rented out the Briarwood Retreat Center in Argyle, Texas, for Memorial Day weekend, offering their guests free stays in the on-site cabins and days filled with karaoke, archery, hiking, swimming, and ziplining. "It was important to us that it be laid back and chill," says Chris, "while also having enough traditional elements to communicate that our commitment to each other wasn't something we were taking lightly."
The culmination of the weekend was the couple's ceremony in the Briarwood chapel in the woods on May 26, 2019, where 150 guests supported Chris and Lizzie as they exchanged vows. "Because both of our families got to spend so much time together," says Lizzie, "when it came time for the wedding on Sunday night, it truly felt like a big, celebratory family reunion."
Lizzie's Suzanne Harward sheer, lacy wedding dress, with its high neck and puffed sleeves, included a feather-covered skirt and "strategically-placed lace flowers" on the bodice. "I was going for a woodland fairy vibe, and also wanted to be able to walk and move in my dress," says Lizzie. "The unique design and incredible detail made it an obvious choice."
Instead of a veil, Lizzie wore a simple jeweled headband. She also lent her hair and makeup skills to the rest of the bridal party. "I have very short hair and I knew it wouldn't take me long to get ready," she says, "so I styled most of my bridesmaids' hair before getting ready myself!"
Lizzie and Chris added traditional gold bands to their left ring fingers come the big day—the bride's prettily complemented her upside-down pear-cut engagement ring.
Two of a Kind
The bride found her gown while on a dress shopping trip to New York with her bridesmaids and her mother—the matron of honor. "My mom also fell in love with a dress by the same designer, which later served as inspiration for the colors worn by the other bridesmaids," explains Lizzie.
Wild at Heart
Lizzie's requests for her bouquet were simple: "A loose, wildflower style with big, bright blooms," she says. "Lots of color!" The bridesmaids' bouquets and men's boutonnières followed the same wildflower-inspired aesthetic.
The Bold and the Beautiful
The blue, burgundy, blush, and gold tones in her mother's dress repeated in the bold shades Lizzie chose for the rest of the bridal party. "The colors were designed to be bright and cheerful and to stand out against a green, forested backdrop," says Lizzie. "I chose a few and let the bridesmaids pick which ones they wanted to wear. That way everyone could choose something they would feel good in, while also making sure that the bridal party still appeared cohesive."
Navy All the Way
Chris and his groomsmen wore navy blue Kenneth Cole suits accented by crisp white shirts and pale blue ties—colors that also coordinated with the mother of the bride's floral lace gown.
All Together Now
Standing together, the wedding party's ensembles fell into place; their collective looks also spoke to the rest of the event's decorations, which proved challenging, explains the bride. "I think deciding on color palettes and décor was probably the hardest, but most satisfying part of the process," says Lizzie. "I am all about lots of color and texture, while Chris is much more subdued. It took a lot of back and forth, but I think the end result was very reflective of both of our ideas and styles."
At First Sight
After a weekend spent with the entire group, Lizzie and Chris chose to see each other privately before the ceremony. "I was a little nervous beforehand, because Chris hadn't seen my dress until that point, but it all worked out and I think he liked it!" says Lizzie. "It was nice to get to see each other and hang out a little bit before the ceremony."
The couple's flower girl wore an ankle-length gown with a full tulle skirt and a lace bodice; a pale pink sash coordinated with the pink, white, and blue flower crown her mother crafted for her.
Get with the Program
A simple, minimalistic program listed the order of the service's events.
Into the Woods
"Lizzie always wanted to get married outside," says Chris, "so Briarwood Retreat Center's little chapel in the woods provided the perfect backdrop for our ceremony." The space was "pretty picturesque on its own," says Lizzie, so the couple kept their décor simple, adding only two large floral arrangements—and a lush tree garland—from Kate McLeod Studio.
Lizzie's father walked her down the aisle to a traditional tune with a personalized twist: "One of our best friends, who was also a groomsman, played violin," says Lizzie. "A special orchestration he created at my request consisted of 'Here Comes the Bride' transitioning into the Buffy the Vampire Slayer theme song." Before her dad gave her away at the altar, the duo exchanged an epic secret handshake.
Tying the Knot
The personalized service included a speech from one of Lizzie's bridesmaids; following the formalities, the couple jumped the broom. Chris and Lizzie did write their own vows, but recited them to each other after the wedding weekend, during a private moment.
A Happy Couple
After Lizzie and Chris left the "chapel" as husband and wife, they posed for just a few portraits—and then joined their guests for cocktail hour. Small bites included mini crab cakes and quesadillas, while bartenders served up a custom version of a Moscow mule that the couple named "Doctor's Orders."
Chris and Lizzie played up the summer camp atmosphere of their locale in all aspects of the celebration. Welcome bags included water bottles customized to read "Camp Chrizzie," plus vacation essentials like sunglasses and snacks. "We also decorated the chain link fence around the camp swimming pool with cups that spelled out 'Chris + Lizzie,'" says the bride.
Doctors in the House
The camp's picnic gazebo provided a sunny and relaxed spot for the couple's fajita buffet dinner from Gil's Elegant Catering; the couple attached a large tent to it, which offered space for dancing.
A sweet personal touch to the party's design? The newlyweds traded the usual "Mr. and Mrs." chair signs for "Dr. and Dr."
A long hanging floral arrangement suspended over the head table became one of the Chris and Lizzie's favorite parts of the décor.
Most of the guests were seated at round tables dressed in simple white cloths, where delicate bud vases holding a few bright blooms added to the natural beauty of the reception.
In Your Arms
For their first dance as newlyweds, Chris and Lizzie asked DJ Richy Smart to play "May I Have This Dance" by Francis and the Lights with Chance the Rapper. "Chris and I both love Chance the Rapper and saw him live together," says Lizzie. "We picked this song because it was fun, uptempo, and a departure from standard first dance ballads."
Hitting the Dance Floor
As the DJ kept guests on their feet, Chris and Lizzie also shared dances with their parents; the bride and her father chose "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid for their turn on the dance floor. "I was obsessed with the movie as a kid and always made my dad act it out with me," she says. Chris and his mother opted for Ben D. King's "Stand By Me," and put in plenty of rehearsal time. "I loved watching Chris and his mom's dance," says Lizzie. "They had prepared way more than I realized, had the whole thing perfectly choreographed, and totally killed it!"
Light blue icing on a cake from Sugar Bee Sweets offered a pretty background for fresh flowers; they coordinated with the couple's color palette. "I don't remember the flavors," says Lizzie, "but they were delicious!"
Photography, N. Barrett Photography
Venue, Briarwood Retreat Center
Event planning, Partridge and Pear Weddings
Catering, Gil's Elegant Catering
Flowers, Kate McLeod Studio
Officiant, Charles Dent
Cake, Sugar Bee Sweets
Music, DJ Richy Smart
Bride's Gown, Suzanne Harward
Bride's Shoes, Marc Jacobs; Teva
Menswear, Kenneth Cole
Rings, Diamonds Direct
Save-the-Dates, John Cochran Art