Photography by Charlotte Jenks Lewis.
Maddie & Nat married in her parents’ stunning backyard under a clear tent filled with twinkly lights and candles (how romantic is that!), and chose details that are utterly timeless. A stand out? The organic, dramatic florals with a major focus on wild greenery. You think Maddie’s bouquet is gorgeous? Just wait until you see the overhead arrangements at the reception! Every detail of this celebration is so beautifully put together you will just want to dive straight on into the images – so go ahead!
What was the best advice you received as a bride? Someone once told me that your marriage is for you and your spouse, and your wedding is for your family and friends. Make the comfort and enjoyment of your guests your top priority, even if that means compromising on some parts of your ‘vision.’ That especially goes for your close family and wedding party, many of them will bend over backwards for you, but you shouldn’t expect or demand that. At the end of the day, having the people you love the most truly relax and enjoy themselves at your wedding will give you so much more satisfaction than having everything go exactly according to your plan.
Maddie’s beautifully fitted Reem Acra gown is the perfect choice for the day she and Nat envisaged. It’s relaxed and elegant, with the subtle beaded botanical details reflecting the focus on nature they so wanted.
Why did you choose this location for your ceremony? Our wedding took place at my parents’ home in Potomac, Maryland. It obviously holds a lot of meaning for us as a couple and we loved the idea of getting to relive that day every time we’re back to visit. I’d always dreamed of getting married there, but once Nat and I got engaged and started researching all that goes into hosting a backyard wedding, we were a bit intimidated and almost backed down from the idea. Fortunately, we found the amazing Arney Walker at Pineapple Productions, a company that happens to specialize in outdoor weddings at private homes and historic venues. We knew from the start that we were in capable hands, and partnering with someone who’s an expert in the logistics of outdoor weddings (and all that go with them – tents, generators, restroom trailers, etc.) allowed us to focus on the more creative aspects.
Is there anything that you’d like to share about your wedding ceremony? Wedding planning can be stressful but the process of planning our ceremony really helped us put it all in perspective. Amidst all the other small details and stressors it kept us focused on our relationship and the symbolic significance of taking this leap together. This part of wedding planning can be overlooked but is well worth savoring.
Your ceremony in three words. Classic, intimate, personal.
How did you go about planning your ceremony? We put a tremendous amount of thought and effort into planning our ceremony – we really wanted to use it as an opportunity to celebrate each other and capture this moment in our relationship. One big priority for us was to be able to strike a chord with all of our guests, religious and non-religious. We wanted everyone to feel moved on a personal level and for no one to feel alienated or bored. We went with a non-denominational officiant, incorporated a few religious aspects, and spent a lot of time finding unique secular readings.
Who officiated your ceremony? How did you choose him/her? We found the incredible Maureen Burke through WeddingWire. We could tell right from our first Skype session that she would be a great match for us. Maureen is incredibly kind hearted and what stuck with us is that she really believes in the emotional power and importance of the wedding ceremony. She takes no shortcuts and does nothing by formula or script. We put in many hours of research on our own, and corresponded with her over several months to come up with a ceremony that was deeply personal and unique to the two of us.
Did you include any traditions in your ceremony? Nat and I are both half-Hungarian, so we followed the Hungarian tradition for exchanging rings. It’s very simple you wear your rings into the ceremony on your right hand, and switch them over to your left when it’s time to exchange rings. Nat is half-Jewish, so we also did the breaking of the glass.
What were your ceremony readings? Wedding Prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson, Wedding Ghazal by Erica Funkhouser and A Blessing for Wedding by Jane Hirshfield.
What were your vows like? We wrote our own vows. We each wrote our own first two sentences and wrote the last sentence together.
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? We did a ceremony “in the round.” It wasn’t what we set out to do initially, but just happened to be the best option given the size of our wedding and the orientation of our ceremony tent. Our officiant, Maureen, came up with the idea of rotating us in a very subtle way throughout the ceremony, so that we got to see our guests on every side and no one was stuck facing our backs. It worked beautifully and being (literally) surrounded by our loved ones during the ceremony definitely heightened the experience for the two of us.
What was your ceremony music? Pre-processional, we had a string quartet playing some of our favorite contemporary music (Weezer, Arcade Fire, The Flaming Lips). I walked down the aisle to Edward MacDowell’s To A Wild Rose, and our recessional was The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love.
Did you include any other traditions in your wedding? I didn’t have anything specific planned for my ‘something old, new, borrowed and blue.’ My aunt dropped by unexpectedly about ten minutes before the ceremony and gave me a gorgeous antique ring to wear that ended up being my ‘old’ and ‘borrowed.’ It had belonged to my great aunt, who brought it over from Hungary, and we later found out it’s nearly two hundred years old.
Did you have a signature cocktail? We served negronis (our favorite classic cocktail) and something called a “Happy Hemingway,” which is essentially a Hemingway daiquiri crossed with a French 75: grapefruit, light rum, maraschino liqueur, angostura bitters and champagne.
How would you describe your reception? It felt like an intimate dinner party with all our best friends and dearest family members in one place. Everything flowed so smoothly. We served dinner family-style, which is something we felt very strongly about from the get-go. Having a less structured approach to service made the whole evening more relaxed and let our guests mill around the tent, meet new people, and take photos.
Beehive Events did our florals, including gorgeous hanging installations that made a big impact as soon as you walked into the tent. This was an idea that came late in the game, because of our decision to go family-style, which leaves very little room for décor on the tabletops. Beehive Events also brought in some gorgeous custom made furniture, like a copper top bar and navy mohair field benches, which gave the whole space a refined yet homey vibe.
If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently? Everything turned out more perfect than we could have imagined… and partly for that reason, the only thing I’d change if I could go back would be to spend less time and mental energy on some of the smaller details. Although I’m a firm believer that the small details matter, I realized on my wedding day that those small details will be taken care of just fine as long as you’re working with great vendors. You really can lean on them they are pros for a reason. For all the time I spent thinking and rethinking our floor plan or the color of the linens, there were a thousand smaller decisions I didn’t think about at all and still got taken care of.
Do you have any budget tips for other brides? Be smart and selective about the things you splurge on. Be transparent with your vendors about your budget, as the best ones will get creative with you to meet your needs.
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? We love entertaining and both have somewhat of a background in restaurants and hospitality. We wanted to create a really lovely atmosphere that would make our guests feel comfortable and relaxed and be the kind of place they’d want to stay all night. This was another reason that an “at home” wedding made so much sense for us.
We were also inspired by the setting. There was a lot of natural, organic beauty to play off of and we loved the idea of hosting a sort of ‘black tie garden party’. We felt like the occasion called for some formality and elegance but ultimately wanted to keep things low-key and understated.
What type of cake or dessert did you serve? Our wedding cake was a mille crepes cake from Lady M Confections in New York, in three flavors: green tea, coconut, and vanilla. Looks simple on the outside, but it’s outrageously delicious. A family friend also made us traditional Hungarian dobos torta as the groom’s cake, and our caterer made madeleines (my namesake cookie), ginger crème brulée and brownies.
What was your wedding menu? Nat and I are big food people, so for a while we were looking at amazing options that were not quite realistic! We ended up working with Occasions Caterers, a super-polished and professional DC-based catering company. They provide excellent service and hospitality, which was important to us, and customized a menu that was delicious and refined, but not too stuffy. We also incorporated a few ideas that were personal to us.
One of our close friends comes from a fishing family in Nova Scotia, where Nat is also from. He brought down a selection of incredible seafood for cocktail hour: Black Point oysters, snow crab claw, pink shrimp, and scallops. It was an awesome way to give a nod to Canada.
We felt strongly about serving dinner family style, which we’re starting to see more and more of now, but back when we were planning our wedding some more traditional caterers (and family members) still found it outside their comfort zone. We just really enjoy the conviviality of that kind of dining and love that it enables everyone to sample many different dishes.
What was your favorite moment or part of the reception? My father has always been a great public speaker, but his toast at the beginning of dinner was especially memorable. He had, unbeknownst to me, saved a coupon book I made him as a Father’s Day gift when I was a little girl, and decided this would be an appropriate occasion to transfer it to the new man in my life. He read each page aloud – from “good for one car wash” to “good for Maddie getting you three beers from the basement” – until he got to the last: “good for five ‘I love you’s’.” He stopped, and said: “Nat, I have no doubt that you’re going to hear plenty of “I love yous’ in the years ahead, and even more important for a father, I have no doubt that you’re going to deserve every last one of them. So I’m going to hang onto this one.” He ripped that page out, put it back in his pocket for safekeeping, and handed the rest of the book to my new husband. It was such a creative and touching way to honor our father daughter relationship, and pass the torch.
Another highlight was having my 95-year-old Hungarian grandmother stand up to give a toast, which was another last minute surprise for us. She is one of our greatest role models and we loved that all our guests got to get a glimpse of her incredible spirit and sense of humor.
What was your first dance song? Father/daughter or mother/son dance? Our first dance was to Etta James’ At Last. We did our father/daughter and mother/son dances simultaneously, to Let There Be Love by Nat King Cole (the groom’s namesake). It’s a really cute and upbeat song that mentions oysters, chili con carne and champagne in the first stanza…perfect for a food loving couple!
Please tell us about any other special details or moments from your reception. The dance floor got wild. We have several friends known to go all out and they really fed off one another. There were split pants, a necktie limbo, and more sweat than you can imagine. Our DJ Stylus Chris was a total pro. He has amazing taste in music himself and really knows how to read a crowd.
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? Don’t be afraid to buck tradition, and make sure that every decision is a reflection of your personality, not just the default way of doing things. The last thing you want is to have a wedding that’s just like everyone else.