A Stylish, Bohemian Garden Wedding in Miami Beach
Stephanie de Souza and Harris Mandler met four years before they tied the knot, when the bride—an event planner—recruited her future groom's father, Mitch, to chair a non-profit event she was running in their hometown of Miami Beach, Florida. Tasked with scouting other companies to contribute to the good cause, Mitch suggested that Stephanie meet his son, Harris, a certified financial planner and the vice president of AXA Advisors. Sparks immediately flew between the pair.
Though the bride says that she was filled "butterflies" when she met Harris and the groom describes meeting Stephanie as "love at first sight," the couple didn't start dating officially until a year later. Fast forward a year-and-a-half, when Harris whisked Stephanie away on a staycation weekend in Miami Beach to celebrate one of her major work accomplishments. She didn't know it then, but Harris' reason for the celebratory trip was twofold—he was also planning on popping the question.
"Saturday night, as I was getting ready for dinner, he pulled me onto the balcony, which he had covered with red rose petals," the bride says. "He got down on one knee, and, well you can guess how the rest of the story goes. It was beautiful and intimate and perfect." The savvy groom had even coordinated for a photographer down below on the pool level to capture photos of the life changing moment. He also organized a small family party, complete with his and her parents, at a nearby restaurant.
Following a year-and-a-half long engagement, Stephanie and Harris said "I do" on February 10, 2018. The lovebirds welcomed 140 guests for a stylish, elegant wedding full of bohemian details at Miami Beach Botanical Garden. The groom describes the evening as "straight out of a fairy tale."
When selecting stationery, Stephanie wanted simple invites that evoked the vibes of the garden, and GG Press Miami delivered. The organic, handmade suite also featured a custom illustration of the venue's bridge. A dusty blue ribbon, blue-gray envelope, and white wax seal completed the upscale look with a flourish.
A Romantic Garden Venue
Though the couple's botanical garden venue was just a few minutes away from their home, the happy occasion was a destination wedding for many of their loved ones. "We wanted the wedding to be a glimpse into our lives. My family is from all over the world so although it was not a destination wedding for us, it was for many friends and family members. This was our opportunity to share with everyone how we happily live," says Stephanie, who chose the site for its "intimate space with a romantic garden setting that felt relaxed and natural."
Cozy, Bohemian Vibes
"Before we were even engaged, Harris used to talk about how he wanted our wedding to look like the Soho Beach House—very much our style, a boho-chic vibe," Stephanie says of their vision for the big day, which mirrored the look of their home décor. "So I focused on essentially bringing the feel of indoor home to the outdoor garden wedding. That meant a lot of rugs, eclectic lighting, vintage seating, and patterned tile."
Stephanie, her mother, Harris' mother, and the bride's seven bridesmaids got ready together on the big day. They wore sleek, satin robes, and celebrated with a Champagne toast.
A Dreamy Dress
At first, Stephanie had "no clue" what her dream wedding dress would look like. That all changed when she saw this stunning number from Lazaro. "The dress had a Champagne tint which gave it a more organic feel, and was made from a mixture of lace and tulle that flowed down to a long train."
Instead of wearing a headpiece, the chic bride converted a veil into an extra-long tulle cape, which hung from her shoulders. She accessorized with jewelry from Maria Elena and Gucci shoes to complete her look.
The bride fixed a blue thistle into her low chignon for her "something blue."
"I begged my florist, anything but roses. And she totally got me. She declared a no rose zone for my wedding day," Stephanie recalls of her collaboration with Stephanie Cruz of Primrose Floral + Event Design. "I didn't want feminine or soft florals. I knew I wanted them to be a bit more masculine, edgy, and asymmetrical." Together, the pair selected a combination of king proteas, blue thistles, and other nontraditional blooms to bring the bride's vision to life.
Harris looked dapper in a custom blue and gray tuxedo from Hamilton Douglas—something he still wears at other black-tie occassions to this day. The groom completed his look with a slew of accessories, including a paisley bow tie and bespoke shirt (also from Hamilton Douglas), Trafalgar at Nordstrom suspenders, BCR Designs carbon fiber studs, a Rolex watch, socks by Happy Socks, and shoes from Saks Fifth Avenue.
The groomsmen were asked to sport black tuxedos with a white shirt (no ruffles allowed!), black suspenders, simple black cufflinks, and black shoes. The couple gifted them pocket squares and bow ties from Tie Bar, as well as festive socks to wear on the big day.
The groom sported a few sentimental pieces on the big day. His blue thistle boutonnière, for example, matched the bloom in his bride's hair. He also wore several family heirlooms: a World War II Air Force pin from his late maternal grandfather and engraved cufflinks that had once belonged to his dad's father.
The First Look
The couple's first look took place at
: "It was very exciting and a little nerve wracking, because you have to walk slowly for the pictures," the bride recalls. "In my head I was just thinking, let me hold him and hug him and kiss him already! When I poked his shoulder and he was able to turn around it felt like the day had finally come. Earlier that morning was a little surreal and a whirlwind. But the moment we hugged and kissed, it truly felt like our wedding day was here."
Harris felt the same way. "I had the biggest smile on my face when I saw Stephanie. Her dress was the most beautiful dress I have ever seen and she looked breathtaking," he says.
The Ceremony Begins
The ceremony commenced on the Miami Beach Botanical Garden's Great Lawn. To create a bohemian, homey aisle, the couple used a rug runner from their house, the rug runner from Stephanie's parents' home and another rug runner from a friend for an eclectic, welcoming spread.
"We didn't want to overpower the beautiful garden, so we chose a simple chuppah with an asymmetric floral arrangement. Under the chuppah was a vintage table for the officiants and a vintage rug," Stephanie says. "And surrounding the chuppah and down the aisle were lanterns we took from our house and my parent's house."
Let's Do This
Timeline cards, which featured a map of the garden and a fun "Let's Do This" slogan, were handed out ahead of the ceremony. The bride enlishted her father to bring the notes to life: "I found a map of the garden online and then asked my father to hand-draw it. He is an architect so it was right up his alley—and it was very special for me to have something he drew in the wedding."
Dog of Honor
The couple's miniature schnauzer, Didi, acted as their ring bearer on the big day. "Harris likes to tell people that meeting Didi solidified our relationship," says the bride. "I'm pretty sure he fell in love with her before me and then he kind of had to fall in love with me after that. She is a part of our family and is like our child to us."
Didi honorably carried out the duties of ring bearer on the big day, walking down the aisle with the couple's wedding rings tied to her floral wreath neckpiece. "When the ceremony ended and everyone yelled mazel tov, my friends say Didi howled excitedly, as well," Stephanie adds.
Say You Won't Let Go
Both Stephanie and Harris were walked down the aisle by both of their parents. Thanks to guitarist Ben Pila
, the groom entered to "Ho Hey" by The Lumineers; the bride processed in to "Say You Won't Let Go" by James Arthur.
"The most memorable moment was when my wife walked down the aisle looking like the most beautiful princess I have ever seen," the groom recalls of one of his favorite big-day highlights.
A Traditional Ceremony
"Harris is Jewish and I am Catholic, so we had both a priest—Father Joaquin Perez
—and a rabbi officiate our wedding. They worked together, going back and forth between prayers, traditions, and explanations of each religion," Stephanie says of their interfaith ceremony.
After saying "I do," the newlyweds walked happily back up the aisle to "Shape of You" by Ed Sheeran.
Cocktail hour kicked off in the garden; guests mixed and mingled to celebrate the newlyweds as passed apps (including seared tuna on crip wonton, petit filet mignon on sundried tomato brioche, mini chicken and avocado arepas, bite sized lobster rolls, mini grilled cheeses, and veggie tartar) by Thierry Isambert circulated. Specialty "his" and "her" cocktails were also served. The groom's drink was a spicy tequila margarita, while the bride's was a pisco sour.
Handmade décor completed the cocktail hour space. "My parent's, Harris, and I created this [oversized flower installation] from scratch with wire, tissue paper, concrete, and a lot of glue. This was a tedious project but as Harris says, 'the de Souza's love a good craft project,'" Stephanie jokes. "It brought us together for some laughs, crafts, and creative brainstorming. I was so happy with how they came out."
Lantern Escort Tiles
Guests made their way to their seats with lantern-shaped escort tiles, which Stephanie had personally calligraphed. "The tile fit our bohemian theme and they also served as our [favor] gift to our guests," she says. The artistic bride also handled the rest of the event's calligraphy, including the welcome sign and table numbers.
The reception kicked off on the venue's Banyan Lawn. "We had a mix of wooden farmhouse tables and linen-covered circular tables, along with wooden crossback chairs on all tables. This kept with the theme of bringing our indoor house décor outdoors," Stephanie says.
The Head Table
The couple sat at a head table (in lieu of a sweetheart table for just the two of them) and marked their spots with peacock chairs accented with flowers. The table was set with organic gray and blue plates, Champagne coups, goblet glasses, and delicate linen napkins accented with blue ribbon.
Dinner was served in the form of interactive food stations. The menu included two salad options, skirt steak with three different sauce options (mango, spicy, and traditional chimichurri,) shrimp, chicken, and chorizo paella, vegetable paella, plus mac and cheese—a must for the bride, who loves the dish.
For the after-party, caterers brought out a mini burgers, franks in a blanket, chicken and waffles sliders, mini portabello and fontina quesadillas, and Jamaican beef patties—a de Souza family favorite.
The newlyweds hit the dance floor to "All of Me" by John Legend; music for the party was coordinated by DJ Michael Feria of Event Factor. "We both love John Legend and this song just spoke to us. It also was a fun creative tune to fox trot to. Harris and I went to dance lessons and our teacher had so much fun with the song that he planned a number of turns and a finale jump and spin," Stephanie says.
One of the bride's friends designed the dance floor, which Stephanie describes as the "splurge of the wedding" that proved to be totally worthwhile.
Cake and Desserts
Elsie's Flour Shop created the couple's wedding cake, a combination of chocolate buttermilk with a salted caramel filling and coconut cake. The confection was topped with gorgeous florals from PrimRose.
On the surrounding dessert table were a variety of sweets: chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, vegan raspberry brownies, lemon thyme shortbread cookies, and blondies.
Reflecting upon the big day, Stephanie says that it would be "far too hard" to chose just one favorite moment: "Every moment was so special. The ring ceremony, our first kiss as a married couple, running onto the dance floor as man and wife, our first dance, the father-daughter dance, all of the speeches, dancing the night away with everyone. It's too hard to decide! It was all so memorable and amazing."
Happily Ever After
The new Mr. and Mrs. Mandler celebrated with a mini-moon in St. Lucia right after the wedding. Six months later, they traveled to South Africa for their honeymoon, making stops in the Cape Town area before adventuring on a safari in Kruger Park.
Photography, Alee Gleiberman
First look, The Confidante Hotel
Reception location, Miami Beach Botanical Garden
Event planning, K Events
Event design, Blue Thistle Productions
Catering, Thierry Isambert
Flowers, Primrose Floral + Event Design
Officiant, Father Joaquin Perez
Stationery, GG Press Miami
Cake and desserts, Elsie Padrón
Music, Ben Pila
DJ and lighting, Event Factor
Bride's gown, Lazaro
Bride's accessories, Maria Elena
Hair, Elena DeVera
Makeup, Cristina Liviero
Groom's suit, Hamilton Douglas
Groomsmens' accessories, The Tie Bar
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