Whimsical Backyard Wedding with Southern Charm and Midnight Blue
Midnight blue and magnolia garlands were only a couple of the signature elements of Olivia + Bruce’s whimsical backyard wedding. A dreamy white tent created a hidden oasis meant just for these college sweethearts, and it was filled with everything from plush vintage furniture and towering garden centerpieces to an oyster shucking station and Art Deco plates. Color took center stage in the bride’s family residence set in Virginia, and we feel fortunate to have a glimpse into their fairytale day. Which of course made no compromises for the South Carolina gamecocks game post-ceremony.
We get to watch the scenes unfold in these stills from Amelia Johnson, and my are we excited for you to see all the special details in their day!
Coordinated with class and a whole lotta Southern charm by Pamela Barefoot Events & Design, bold colors abound across the flowers, custom round bar and checkerboard dance floor.
The bride, Olivia, spills the deets below:
After we got engaged, I immediately knew that I wanted to get married at my parents’ house in Richmond, Virginia. My family moved a lot growing up, but Richmond just feels like home. We chose Labor Day weekend for our wedding since we knew we would have friends and family traveling far and wide for the event, and the extra travel day would be appreciated. Late summer is also when the yard at my family’s home is absolutely stunning. The property is minutes from the city, yet tucked back in the heavily wooded area that surrounds the James River. I dreamed of the rich green backdrop we would have for our wedding photos and envisioned our out-of-town guests witnessing what I believe to be the most beautiful time of year in Virginia.
My one worry all along was that we could still get a blazing hot day that time of year, but Mother Nature threw a curveball and we actually had the end of Hurricane Harvey sweep through Virginia during our wedding weekend. My smart mother had a backup plan for rain and it took a couple last minute adjustments, but I saw it as a blessing. I would take rain on my wedding day over 100-degree weather any day! As soon as we started taking pictures, the rain suddenly stopped and we had a cool, comfortable temperature all night. The cloudy day created the perfect lighting for our photos, the forest around us looked greener than ever, and I no longer worried about a hot day stealing energy from our guests.
I am endlessly thankful to my parents, who let Bruce and I pitch some (VERY beautiful) tents in their back and front yards and invite 250 people to their home for our wedding ceremony and rehearsal celebration. Richmond has so many incredible, historical venues throughout the city, and we did look at some of them, but it ended up meaning the world to me to get married and create the most special memories of our lives so far at my family’s beloved home.
Not to mention, we were the first of our friends to get married after college and we knew they would be partying far past a venue curfew! Having the wedding at our home was not only convenient for me as the bride, but also for our guests. There was no traveling required between the ceremony and reception, and everyone was welcome to stay as long as they had the energy to dance!
I love anything colorful and whimsical. The initial source of inspiration was my wedding gown – it was the third dress I tried on at Kleinfeld’s in NYC during my very first dress shopping appointment. I thought I wanted something minimalist, but after trying a couple simple gowns and not feeling the excitement I had hoped for, the Kleinfeld’s consultant smartly took the lead and brought me the opposite. My dream dress that I ultimately wore on my wedding day was a Tony Ward mermaid-fit gown adorned with intricate lace, floral embroidery, beading, and a dramatic 12-foot train. It was anything but simple. Once we had the dress, the rest of the inspiring details came easily to my mom and I. My mother was the true mastermind behind making my vision for our wedding – a fun and whimsical “Alice in Wonderland” world meets modern Art Deco – to life.
Doesn’t this tent from Commonwealth Event Company seem to have no end?
The mismatched lounge furniture from Paisley & Jade is absolute Heaven on Earth. We’re especially digging the vintage wood buffet that served as the cake table – you’ll see it soon enough!
I wanted my love for crazy and color to be displayed in our wedding flowers. I wanted our guests to see the bold florals throughout the ceremony and rehearsal and think of a whimsical garden from the Alice in Wonderland story. We got married in the backyard standing in between two 6-foot tall arrangements in Victorian vases, bursting with hot pink and pastel pink garden roses and accented with white, slight hints of yellow and orange, and plenty of textured greens. These playful and romantic florals were carried into the rehearsal space in the form of tall, dramatic center arrangements on the round tables, floral runners down the long tables, and vases of fresh flowers on every cocktail table and lounge table surface.
We decided on black tie optional as the invitation attire, and I chose mismatched midnight blue gowns for my bridesmaids – as universally flattering and dramatic in contrast against my white gown as black, but softened for the late summer season – and the perfect canvas for the colorful bridesmaids’ bouquets we dreamed up. The colors we were inspired by were midnight blue (from the bridesmaids’ dresses), hot pink (from the roses), and gold. The cocktail tables were covered in hot pink medallion printed tablecloths. I chose gold accents in the glassware, flatware, and dinnerware to pop against the dark blues of the dinner table linens.
Modern elements and Art Deco styling were also in mind when we made our choices. Perhaps my favorite piece we rented was the large gold round bar that served as a dramatic centerpiece for the cocktail area of the space. Next was the black-and-white checkerboard dance floor that gave an art-deco edge to the entire space (I knew no one could resist dancing on a big checkerboard, and it looked awesome in photos). Clear acrylic chairs gave a modern touch and kept the space between each table feeling open and airy. We also wanted to offer multiple seating options throughout the night so guests would not feel confined to their seats at the tables, so we rented an assortment of mismatched vintage sofas, chairs, coffee tables and side tables and arranged cozy lounge areas around the cocktail bar. Later in the night, all of the young kids in our family were comfortably napping on these sofas, which meant the parents could stay longer and party on!
Probably the most important to me overall was that our guests felt as comfortable at our wedding as I felt getting married at my family home. My husband and I spent an entire weekend collaborating with our parents and playing matchmaker with our friends and family until we had the perfect seating chart. We seated each guest thoughtfully with the hope that it would spark as much chemistry as possible on this night. Place settings were decorated with each guests’ name carved in cursive from wood and painted gold – a handmade craft custom ordered from Etsy that was surprisingly affordable, but communicated to each guest how special it was to us that they were there. The round bar was our strategy to encourage conversation and minimize guests feeling like they had to wait in line to get a drink. Food was available at all hours of the night, from the cocktail hour to the after-party appetizers, because the only thing Bruce and I enjoy less than waiting in line for a drink is not knowing where the food is!
Sharper Palate dished up everything from tray-passed hors’douvres to an oyster station we’d spend far too long at.
We also opted for a formal sit-down dinner with each course plated and served by a professional wait staff. As soon as guests took their seats, we wanted them to fully relax and engage with the company around them as you would in a fine dining atmosphere. It was important to Bruce and I, as well as our parents as hosts, that our guests had everything they needed to savor the memorable meal served that night and felt pampered throughout the experience. Our friends and family so amazing, they deserve nothing less!
Stunning velvet linens from Pressed Fine Linen!
Besides the favorite memories I was fully expecting to treasure forever (the year spent planning this event with my amazing mom, getting ready with my girls, the father-daughter dance, and Bruce and I’s first look, of course), there are two other amazing and unique memories I will always have from our wedding day.
The first is the moment that the South Carolina Gamecocks won our first football game of the 2017 season. There were a ton of conveniences in having the wedding at my parents’ house, but nothing was more epic than being able to exit from the ceremony in the backyard and sneaking into the basement to watch the final moments of Carolina’s win before walking to the front yard for the reception. It was a surreal moment looking around and seeing every great friend I made in college cheering for the Gamecocks just like we’ve done at tailgates together for years, but this time they were in formal gowns and tuxes and I was in my wedding dress! And we were in my family’s basement!? On a day where so many nerves and emotions are involved, watching the end of a Carolina game felt so familiar, but the circumstances were so funny and unique that we will have that special memory with our college friends forever. Not to mention that the Gamecocks winning kick started the party BIG time.
The second special memory that sticks out to me is moment I saw our wedding gift from my sister Maggie – our wedding cake. My sister is an extremely talented cake decorator in Atlanta, and I was so appreciative and thrilled when she offered to make us one of her wedding cakes as her gift to us. I showed her the colors and flowers I was incorporating in our décor to help start her creative process, but gave her free reign after that to create whatever her heart desired (and told her not to be afraid to get crazy! I knew I wasn’t a plain white wedding cake gal). But the cake my sister brought to our wedding day was more perfect and more ME than I ever could have imagined or envisioned myself. It was a stunning 4 tier rounded cake with chocolate, lemon, and two tiers of almond (my favorite), frosted with white buttercream and wrapped halfway up each tier with intricate hot pink lace carved from edible fondant, garnished with pink garden roses. It took my breath away with how perfect it was and I could not believe that my sister had made it herself. I was in awe and so proud. I will always cherish that she did that labor of love for Bruce and I – and I will never ever doubt my sister knowing me or my taste!
Photography: Amelia Johnson
Videography: Design Films
Event Coordination: Pamela Barefoot Events & Design
Floral Design: Beth Daly
Venue: Family Residence in Richmond, VA
Wedding Dress: Tony Ward
Hair Stylist: Aveda Salon
Rentals: Paisley & Jade
Fabric: Fabrication Events
Linens: Pressed Fine Linen
Catering: Sharper Palate
Tent: Commonwealth Event Company
Ceremony Music: Belle Arte String Quartet
Sound: Event Technologies