An Anniversary Party Inspired by the Couple's College Days in Virginia

couple share side hug during anniversary party
Rachel May Photography

Donna and Richard Tadler met just before beginning their sophomore year at the University of Virginia—and 43 years later, they gathered with friends and family at their home in Charlottesville, Virginia, to mark four decades as husband and wife and celebrate that first encounter. At a backyard party, which was dreamed up by their "very organized" daughter, Devon, and "incredibly creative" event planner Jacin Fitzgerald, the couple celebrated with 150 loved ones. They describe the summer event, held on August, 8, 2019, as "relaxed and fun [with] minimal fuss," which was, for the most part, thanks to their daughter. "It was Devon's gift to her father and me—all the planning done with a minimum of agitation for us," says Donna.

The couple settled on a subtle UVA theme, "since the school is what brought us together in the first place," says Donna, noting that they used the university's colors—dark blue and orange—to anchor the design. The finishing touches? They incorporated collegiate details like cafeteria trays and school pennant illustrations, too.

Though making the guest list came naturally, the couple did run into one challenge in terms of locating those from the pre-Facebook generation: "Tracking down some of the people who were with us from the start of our relationship," says Donna. "Forty years of love, raising children, making a home—we were celebrating all of that by holding a celebration of our friends, who we both feel are what made these last 40 years the success they've been and are."

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Naval Flare

navy and cream anniversary party invites with dog decals
Rachel May Photography

Invites from Southern Fried Paper set the tone for the event by conveying key details in a lighthearted tone—"Please join us for food trucks, libations, dinner, and dancing"—and subtly referencing the couple's wedding year with dates blind embossed in the top corner. Summer-inspired accents included pale orange painted edges and a seersucker envelope liner.

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02 of 14

A Perfect Match

anniversary party couple family photo
Rachel May Photography

Donna wore a Tibi romper in dark blue seersucker and drop earrings from Hughes-Bosca Design, a company owned by two of the couple's close friends. Richard's white plaid dress shirt matched the blue-and-orange color palette.

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Cut It Out

anniversary party couple life sized cutout decor
Rachel May Photography

Richard and Donna's original wedding photos appeared throughout the event's décor; a life-size cut-out of a big-day portrait greeted guests at the edge of a stone walkway.

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Go, Team!

anniversary party locations sign with dog decal
Rachel May Photography

A custom illustration of the couple's dogs holding University of Virginia banners adorned a custom wooden sign; this directed guests around the property. (Variations of the image graced the rest of the paper goods, menus, and cups, too.)

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Natural Beauty

outdoor brick home anniversary party
Rachel May Photography

Hosting the party at their home was a natural choice, says Donna. "We bought this house as our 'retirement' home, but also as a place for my family to gather. I am from the area and all three of my brothers and their families live here," she says. "My parents are both deceased, so it means a lot to me to have a place for all of us to be together. The minute we walked into this home, we both felt a very strong vibe that this was our place. With all that in mind, it just seemed right for our celebration to be held here."

Existing landscaping around the property inspired the rest of the floral design from Beehive Events, which included arrangements of potted plants overflowing with bright foliage and seasonal flowers. In keeping with the laid-back feel of the party, the couple set up comfortable lounge seating under adjustable patio umbrellas and offered lawn games, including giant Jenga and cornhole.

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Dining Hall

outdoor white tent anniversary party
Rachel May Photography

The bulk of the party took place under a sperry tent, nestled onto the couple's back lawn.

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Comfortable Seating

anniversary party tables white linens outdoor tent space
Rachel May Photography

Inside, rectangular wooden dining tables and smaller rounds dressed in pale blue linens were set up, offering shade and a view of the central dance floor.

08 of 14

Berry Sweet

natural themed floral and berry centerpieces
Rachel May Photography

Natural centerpieces with a just-picked look included loosely arranged leaves, flowers, and raspberries. Dark blue runners set off the red accents and white blooms, while continuing the UVA theme.

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Margaritas on the Rocks

Margarita bar anniversary party menu
Rachel May Photography

"We made sure to have a specialty margarita bar with three versions made to order," says Donna. Also on offer? A full bar, which served up gimlets—her favorite drink.

10 of 14

Dig In!

Raw bar anniversary party menu
Rachel May Photography

In lieu of a formal dinner, the couple offered a variety of passed appetizers and food stations from The Catering Outfit; the menu included a raw bar, a taco station, and Southern favorites like mini fried chicken sandwiches and pimento macaroni and cheese. A food truck from Sam Jones BBQ served up smoked hog with sides of baked beans, sweet potato muffins, and slaw. Wooden signs listed the options at each station, while custom napkins featured an illustration of the couple's dogs.

11 of 14

Tray Chic

classic cafeteria trays food station table
Rachel May Photography

As a playful nod to the couple's history as college sweethearts, guests used classic cafeteria trays—lined with UVA-logo paper—to pick up their choices from the food stations. Wrapped sets of wooden utensils displayed in woven baskets also included the personalized artwork.

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What's on Tap

beer tap filling orange cup
Rachel May Photography

Richard's favorite local beers—all on tap from Tap Truck NC—were served out of a 1954 Ford panel truck.

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Love Is Sweet

wedding photo display on cupcake dessert table
Rachel May Photography

On the dessert table, a photo of Donna and Richard during their 1979 cake cutting was placed by an assortment of treats, including a reproduction of their wedding cake and trays of bite-sized cupcakes.

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anniversary party couple dancing on outdoor party floor
Rachel May Photography

Photography, Rachel May Photography
Event planning, Jacin Fitzgerald Events
Catering, Catering Outfit (food stations and margaritas); Sam Jones BBQ
Flowers and rentals, Beehive Events
Stationery, Southern Fried Paper
Music, Party on the Moon
Bar Service, Beer Run (beer kegs); Tap Truck NC
Linens, La Tavola Fine Linen Rental
Tent, Skyline Tent Company

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