A Charmingly Bespoke Fall Wedding in New Jersey
Sarah and Greg
Choosing a venue is often among the most challenging steps of planning a wedding—but that was not the case for Sarah Storms and Greg Greenwald: They made their decision on the day they got engaged, in July 2014. It was easy to settle on Sarah's childhood home in Far Hills, New Jersey. The sprawling white-brick Colonial on 26 rolling acres boasts not only ample charm and a name to match—Willow Springs Farm—but also a unique pedigree: The house was built for August Belmont, founder of the Belmont Park racetrack. For Sarah, however, it is simply the source of precious memories involving pool parties and Thanksgivings and overnight guests. "It was always a magical place to me and my brother and sister," she says. "Getting married at home is all the headache people tell you it will be, but so worth it for the feeling of watching all the people you love most convene in the place you love most."
The couple's courtship was similarly natural, ever since the September 2011 day when a mutual friend introduced them in Greg's hometown of East Hampton, New York. "It instantly felt like we were old friends," recalls Greg, a construction project manager in New York City. "Everything was sort of fairy-tale smooth, which we took as a sign." For Sarah, their first day together was "one of the most memorable of my life."
After Greg's proposal during a trip to Cape Cod, Sarah got to planning, using her experience as a stylist and editor (she's worked at Elle Decor and other magazines) to create a handcrafted event of lush autumn warmth. She incorporated fresh colors and plenty of fun elements—like piles of temporary tattoos of foxes and pheasants in each bathroom (the animals are visitors on the property and were included in motifs that appeared throughout the wedding). These details juxtaposed the European stateliness of the house itself, as she'd intended. "The last thing we wanted was to have a stuffy, formal-feeling wedding," she says.
And so, on a cool, brilliantly sunny October afternoon last year, some 195 guests arrived to an acoustic guitarist playing James Taylor songs, and warm cider in glass mugs. Soon afterward, Sarah and Greg stood in the front courtyard of the house and recited their vows in a personalized Roman Catholic ceremony. The party then moved through the house to a cocktail hour on the back terrace and a rustic, huntsman-style feast that included fennel-crusted pork loin, Muscovy duck, and delicata squash. The dancing to a band that followed culminated at midnight in an impromptu, swaying group hug of the couple and both sets of parents. "It wasn't rehearsed or contrived, just a moment of us all acknowledging how our family had suddenly grown," recalls Sarah. A fitting ending to a day that was all about reliving memories—and making new ones.
The Stationery Suite
With Happy Menocal, Sarah created a casual, irreverent take on the family crest for stationery and other details. Welcome bags were stamped with the image of a fox—one of the crest's elements—and filled with apples from the wedding property, local honey, an itinerary for the weekend, and a notepad and pencil.
A Stylish Sisterhood
The bride was flanked by her sister, Megan (left), and the groom's sister, Alexandra, who wore navy cashmere sweaters, custom silk faille skirts, and suede pumps. All three carried bouquets that featured tree peonies, ranunculus, and heirloom garden roses by Brrch.
As for Sarah, she went the semi-custom route too. "I tried on a few things at a salon with my sister and mom," says Sarah, "but I wanted something simpler." Enter Delphine Manivet: At her showroom in New York, Sarah found the "Prospère" style; she and Manivet redesigned the tea-length original slightly, adding a high-low skirt. The after-dinner dancing dress was a sample, also by Delphine. "I put it on for fun and took a twirl, and it was just too perfect," recalls Sarah.
The wedding bands were carried in a pouch made from a Japanese printed cotton originally earmarked for the bridesmaids' skirts.
Sapphires were the order of the day for Sarah and Greg—as the stone's color is one of the couple's favorite. He sourced the stone for her engagement ring from a sapphire specialist and worked with a jeweler to construct the design. The couple had a pouch made for their wedding rings from a Japanese cotton print the bride had originally planned to use for the bridesmaids' skirts. During the ceremony, Sarah wore a sentimental "something old": her grandmother's pearls, which had been recrafted into a bracelet.
Urns placed around the property held pink roses, Russian olive branches, and amaranth.
Cider to Sip
Guests sipped warm punch made with spiced tea, lemon, clove-infused honey, rum, and cinnamon as they awaited the late-afternoon garden ceremony.
The programs were printed using the same pattern used in the fabric of the rings pouch.
While a string ensemble played a custom arrangement of a song called "Old Pine" by Ben Howard, Sarah and her father emerged from the front door and started the walk down the 80-foot sisal runner to join their 195 guests for the garden ceremony. "I was so excited at seeing Greg that I basically ran for him and forgot to kiss my dad in acknowledgement of this epic handover!" Sarah recalls. The feeling was mutual, as Greg notes, "The moment the front door of the house opened and Sarah began to walk out, in her amazing dress … it was such a powerful experience."
A Soaring View
The ceremony took place in the front courtyard of the farm, which featured oversize urns filled with willow branches and stunning vistas of the hillside. Just five minutes before Sarah walked down the aisle, the blinding fall sun dipped behind the clouds.
A Special Ceremony Touch
One of Sarah's favorite memories of the wedding week was working with her mother, sister, and other relatives and friends on last-minute bits and pieces—including filling envelopes with crushed dried flowers for the ceremony toss.
The couple shared a joyful moment right after the ceremony.
Sarah had cufflinks engraved with a note in her handwriting as a present for her dad. And gave some of her closest gal pals fox earrings from Harrison Morgan.
Cocktail hour featured his-and-hers specialty drinks: an old-fashioned with rye and bitters for Greg, and a pear-elderflower Champagne cocktail for Sarah. Guests sipped the beverages and enjoyed small bites as a world-music band played, among other things, Brazilian jazz, during cocktail hour.
Sarah collaborated with Sferra on linen napkins in an array of muted tones, embroidered with the couple's initials.
Colorful Escort Cards
Each escort card was stamped with a wax seal sporting the couple's initials.
A Vibrant Tablescape
The bride chose navy pillar candles "to add gravitas and a grounding element to the table," and to coordinate with the vintage blue-and-white china.
The Place Settings
Guests dined on vintage china from Borrowed & Blu, set on hemp linen tablecloths. The bride worked with Karen Robinson of K Style Designs to come up with the color combination for the linen napkins: a rich mustard with sage green rolled edges. For a handful of guests who are extra special to the bride and groom, "We love you" and the couple's initials were embroidered in a handwritten style as a sentimental addition.
Dancing the Night Away
"I remember trying to temper the size of my smile," admits Sarah, "and not laugh with incredulity that I was actually here, marrying this amazing person."
A Special Performance
As guests danced, Sarah's dad, Brian Storms, took a turn as guitarist, playing "Wild Thing," by the Troggs.
Footloose and Fancy Free
All the female guests were given linen bags, stamped with the couple's initials, that contained slip-on canvas flats for dancing.
A Sweet Spread
The dessert table—laid with a rich blue velvet "tablecloth" and an array of sweets, many of them on Sarah's mother's silver serving plates—provided a sumptuous, decadent finish. Offerings included three cakes (pear with salted-caramel filling, chocolate with rosewater-raspberry filling, and ginger with lavender-rosemary icing), several kinds of mini tarts, and apple-cider donuts, all baked by Lael Cakes.
The pomegranate-seed-topped lemon-meringue tartlets were a big hit.
In addition to the three cakes, the dessert table included apple cider doughnuts, mini plum pies, fig tarts, and lemon meringue tarts, also by Lael Cakes. The fox design on the cocktail napkins was a reference to an animal seen often on the grounds of the house. It also appeared (with some pheasants) on temporary tattoos set out in the restrooms—all of which were used up by the end of the evening.
Fun in the Photo Booth
Guests' favorite photo booth props included bowling pins, trophies, bearded masks, and an American flag.
Take Home Treats
Guests took home a late-night snack of pumpkin bread from a local baker.