A Colorful, Flower-Filled Wedding in Newport, Rhode Island
As an editor at Martha Stewart Weddings, Colleen Banks didn't have a hard time deciding on a look and feel for her wedding to Stephen McManus, whom she met in college at Fairfield University. "Our wedding was Gucci-inspired with lots of bows, color, and florals," she says. "It just fit our personalities so well, and I love bows!" Truth be told, it's hard to imagine a grouping of elements—bright colors, bows, flowers, and fashion—that is more them. The fun pair, who once dressed as a spot-on denim-clad Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears for Halloween, clearly knows how to have a good time.
Even their proposal reflected this. "Steve and my best friend tricked me into visiting Fairfield for 'a family weekend,' and Steve surprised me on the campus quad and popped the question," says Colleen, now a freelance editor and stylist. "Right after, I was surprised again to find out that Steve had rented out our college bar, The Seagrape, and all our family and friends were waiting there to celebrate with us."
So when Colleen and Steve (who works in equity research) decided to make it official, they did so with a candy-colored celebration on July 28, 2018, at Belle Mer in Newport, Rhode Island, where 275 of their nearest and dearest (including one special VIP) gathered near the ocean to watch them wed. "It was so special because it really reflected me and Steve," Colleen says. "We are easy-going people who love to have fun—and that was exactly the vibe."
Calligrapher and artist Stephanie Fishwick designed the floral invitations, which were flat-printed on pink paper by Alpine Creative Group. The chic suite introduced the day's floral theme, as well as the color palette: red, pink, cornflower blue, marigold, and green. Bows, lips, and a pair of love birds made their way into the invite's decorative border; vintage postage stamps finished off the romantic look.
Float on By
The couple considered several locations within driving distance from New York and New Jersey, where the bulk of their guests live. But, at the suggestion of a former Martha Stewart Weddings coworker, they checked out Belle Mer in Newport, Rhode Island, and fell in love with its waterfront location. They built the rest of the weekend around it, starting with a rehearsal dinner at The Landing and a brunch and pool party at Gurney's Newport the day after the wedding. All locations offered views of the water and the boats sailing by.
Custom tote bags printed by Spoonflower greeted guests at their hotel rooms. Each bag included a mini bottle of Newport Vineyards wine, chocolate from Rhode Island Rocks, a box of Anchor Toffee packaged with a rose wax seal, Inpopnito popcorn, Del's lemonade mix, fortune teller fish, and a hangover kit—all tucked into a paper pouch printed with the same rose pattern used throughout the wedding day. A map made by another former colleague outlined where the various events would take place.
Ready to Rehearse
The night before the big day, Colleen and Steve welcomed guests to The Landing, a waterfront seafood restaurant in downtown Newport. "It started as our rehearsal dinner with close family and friends and then many people came later on in the night for welcome drinks," says Colleen, who wore a Gucci dress to the "nautical Gucci" themed event. Her fiancé was decked out in Lululemon pants, a Black Lapel jacket, J.Crew shirt, Bonobos pocket square, and Florsheim shoes. "Steve gave a speech to welcome everyone there and it was my favorite part as it set the tone for the weekend and kicked off the celebrations," Colleen says. "We also gave our family and friends their bridal party gifts that night, and it was fun watching them open and seeing their reactions."
Belle Mer's waterfront views might have been the couple's favorite part of their venue, but it's neutral palette was also a draw. "It's all white, which we loved because we were able to add in our colors and they really popped," Colleen says. There was also one practical reason why they selected the venue: "We also loved the rain plan, which was important to us even though luckily it did not rain!"
Colleen and her 'maids (plus her niece, Madison) spent the morning of the wedding getting ready at Gurney's Newport. "We had the basics—brunch and mimosas!" Colleen says. The group wore pink and floral pajamas, which Colleen picked out as part of their gifts.
"I had no clue that this would be my dress, and I actually had no clue what I even wanted," says Colleen of her Dolce & Gabbana lace wedding dress. "I tried on 113 dresses—I know! I loved this one so much because it was the perfect balance of understated but so special. It had everything I was looking for and the lace on the dress was so rich and beautiful."
The bridal party, made up of Colleen's friends and family, wore a collection of floral dresses in pretty pastel shades from various designers including ASOS, Joanna August, Reformation, Revolve, Show Me Your Mumu, and Vivetta. Each important woman carried a bouquet that riffed off Colleen's massive clutch, and all were tied with an on-theme ribbon from Ribbon Connections. "The flowers were the most amazing ever," Colleen says. "Even men were commenting on them!"
Colleen showed her gratitude for her bridesmaids with boxes of hand-picked items: Lelet NY hair bows, Bounkit earrings, Winky Lux lipstick, Silky Eye Mask eye masks, and personalized clutches from Leatherology.
They weren't the ones who received special trinkets. The trio of flower girls got Snap't necklaces and charms, Petite Plume pajamas from Maisonette, and Nailmatic nail polish. The guys received shark bottle openers, fun socks, and a bottle of whiskey with a colorful flask.
The bride's Rochas pumps hit every style note of the day: a pastel flower pattern and gorgeous bows.
A Brimming Bouquet
Close friend and Martha Stewart Living editor-at-large Naomi DeMañana not only served as the event designer for the wedding, but also created Colleen's sprawling bouquet, which overflowed with roses, ranunculus, and carnations.
One Cool Cat
Steve, outfitted in a Black Lapel suit, J.Crew shirt, a floral tie from Ties.com, and his Rolex from Colleen, soothed the couple's Persian cat, Shelby, while he got ready with his groomsmen at Gurney's Newport. "Shelby couldn't quite shake the nerves," Steve says. "She was a little overwhelmed by all the people, the photos, and the events of the day but in the end, I think she was happy her parents tied the knot!"
A red heart patch that read "Always"—an Etsy find—was sewn into the inside of Steve's jacket as a surprise. He pinned a red boutonnière accented by a soft blue grosgrain ribbon on his lapel.
Cocktails with Bite
"Steve and I joke because he loves little kid cocktails, and he always wants to order them when we're out, but he gets embarrassed," Colleen says. "He's a real sucker for a Shark Attack cocktail, so I did my own twist on his guilty pleasure with the more refined shark stirrer." The groom and his guys enjoyed the bold blue beverage before heading to the wedding venue for photos.
"Rather than what could have been a morning filled with stress, it was great to hang by the pool at Gurney's, enjoy time with my wedding party, and get excited about the day ahead," Steve says. After pool time, the guys slipped into Black Lapel suits, J.Crew shirts, and mismatched floral ties from Ties.com, which were a gift from the groom.
The First Look
Both Colleen and Steve were thrilled with their first look. "I felt so happy and excited!" Colleen remembers. "Steve looked so handsome and was smiling so big and it was one of my favorite moments of the day." Steve agrees: "Despite all the cameras, it really felt like it was just us two. I couldn't get over how beautiful Colleen looked."
In addition to handling all the real flowers, Naomi DeMañana fashioned ring pillows from Spoonflower-printed floral fabric made with Stephanie Fishwick's artwork. One held the groom's white gold band, and the other kept the bride's Cathy Waterman band secure.
A Serene Ceremony Scene
A dramatic floral archway filled with roses (Colleen's favorite flower) and carnations framed the spot where the pair exchanged vows on the Island House Yard at Belle Mer.
Have a Heart
As guests arrived at the ceremony, they were greeted with Champagne and handed a tiny bag of confetti hearts and a pink double-sided wedding program, which "included the timeline of the ceremony, our bridal parties, a note from me and Steve, and, most importantly, a cue to throw our confetti hearts at the end of the ceremony!" notes Colleen.
Fit to Be Tied
"The ribbons on the back of the chairs from Ribbon Connections were in the colors of our wedding and were in all different materials—silk, velvet, grosgrain, and some even striped, to celebrate my love for bows," Colleen says. "It seemed fitting because we were tying the knot!"
While the wedding featured some modern elements, certain aspects of the event stuck to the classics, like the bride's processional song: Pachelbel's "Canon in D."
"Our ceremony was the best," says Colleen of the 40-minute service led by Reverend Scott Spencer, who read the vows that the couple had written to each other. In addition to two other Bible readings, Colleen chose a poem that her late grandfather wrote to her late grandmother while he served in the Korean War. The pair also had their musicians sing "I Wanna Grow Old With You" from Steve's favorite movie, The Wedding Singer. Colleen says, "I just felt so much love and happiness in that moment!"
The bride wore a custom-made veil, designed by Daphne Newman, made of the same lace from her wedding dress.
After making it official, the newlyweds recessed to "Tartini Sonata in G Major" as heart-shaped confetti flooded the air.
We Are Family
Before the wedding, KT Merry snapped the majority of the group photos on the grounds of Belle Mer. Here, the bride and groom are flanked by their parents, with their moms in complementary pink dresses.
Guests helped themselves to the couples' favorite drink, "Tito's and Gray," which are vodka sodas with a splash of grapefruit juice, during the cocktail hour. Colleen's sister crafted stir sticks topped with pre-tied bows found on Etsy. The groom's favorite beer (Miller Lite) was also at the ready, as were local beers, wine, and Champagne.
Cocktails with a View
Guests spread out during cocktail hour on the lawn, where they also enjoyed Reuben bites, mini beef Wellington, lamb lollipops, and the fare set out on four food stations.
The newlyweds mingled with two guests of honor: Martha Stewart and Darcy Miller Nussbaum. "Martha brought a fun presence to the wedding," Colleen says. "Not only were some guests surprised and star struck, Martha photobombed a group of our friends in the photo booth, which made for the funniest moment!"
The Martha Crew
Many of the guests—14 total including Martha herself—had worked with Colleen at Martha Stewart Weddings, which was her first job out of college. "I worked for the company for eight years, so I got very close to many of my coworkers," Colleen says. "MSW just holds a special place in my heart. It really formed me into the person I am and taught me so many things in my job and about myself. Many of the MSW peeps ended up coming early and helped set up or tie bows or anything, just on their own without me asking, which is just how you are after working at MSW—you can't help but to lend a helping hand!"
Guests found their seating assignments with escort cards made by Colleen and her mom. "It ended up being one of the more tedious tasks," Colleen admits. "We used light blue paper and vintage Valentine's Day scrapbooking ephemera from D. Blumchen. We then took velvet ribbons from Ribbon Connections to tie bows and affix safety pins to the back of the bows. Then we used a glue dot to attach them to the cards so that each person also got a bow pin to wear for the night!"
I Love Hue
"My mom and I made pink and blue linens trimmed with red grosgrain ribbon for the tables. They draped over the white linens from the venue," says Colleen. The floral arrangements only added more color and were bolstered further by the big grosgrain bows around the vessels themselves.
Guests took their places among red and pink roses and carnations before settling into a dinner of seared East Coast halibut, chicken breast, or quinoa-stuffed, herb-roasted portobello mushroom. The meal was outlined on a horizontal menu, which was finished off with a bow on the top (it matched the drink stirrers).
Pretty in Pink
Their three-tiered confection was covered in pink fondant and included carrot and red velvet cake. Sugar ribbons by Cake Alchemy, delivered by Martha Stewart Wedding's editor-at-large Darcy Miller, topped the whole thing off.
For their first spin as husband and wife, Colleen and Steve chose "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys. "We always knew this would be our song," Colleen says. "It just makes us feel good and it's so uplifting and happy. And we really don't know what we would do without each other."
Colleen also danced with her dad to "Take Good Care of My Baby" by Bobby Vee. Steve shared a song with his mother to "Summer Wind" by Frank Sinatra.
A Quick Change
Colleen changed into a Gucci minidress for the rest of the reception, which included cutting the cake to James Taylor's "How Sweet It Is."
A Floral Photo Booth
The photo booth, which was backed with the event's custom fabric, was manned by photographer Nelson Hancock after being set up in the after-party room. Martha even got in on the action—she photo bombed some of the bride's friends, making for one of the funniest moments of the night.
Each guest went home with a "bon bon" favor that was actually a clear ornament ball filled with candy and wrapped in food-safe wax paper. A red-and-white stripe ribbon and custom tag finished off the chic gifts. The gummy sweets inside echoed some of the couple's favorite things: hearts, lips, color, sharks, lobsters, and frogs (they have pet frogs).
The next day, the good times continued with a pool party at Gurney's Newport, where guests sipped cocktails via crazy straws from Ban.do after the standard day-after brunch inside the hotel. "The theme was just chill pool day vibes," says Colleen, who wore a bathing suit that her bridal party gave her during her bachelorette party underneath a Philosophy dress.
The koozies from Ban.do said it all.
Two Hearts as One
The pair rented the cabanas at the hotel so guests had a place to hang, drink, and eat all day. They even distributed temporary tattoos of their cat Shelby, illustrated by former MSW stylist Erin Furey. "Our favorite part was that we still had a full day of celebrating and this time on a much more relaxed timeline," Colleen says. "It was so nice to have the extra day and our guests had a blast."
But they headed home the next day to set off for their honeymoon in Mauritius and Reunion that night!
Photography, KT Merry
Location and Catering, Belle Mer
Welcome dinner location, The Landing
Getting ready and pool party brunch location, Gurney's Newport Resort & Marina
Event planning, Allie Levine Events
Videography, byDesign Films
Photo Stylist, Melissa Colgan
Photo Style Assistant, Kara Keigan
Art Directing, Laura Formisano
Fashion Stylist, Carrie Goldberg
Officiant, Rev. Scott Spencer
Cake bows, Cake Alchemy
Music, The Party Shop
Rentals, Uniquely Chic Vintage Rentals
Bride's gown, Dolce and Gabbana
Hair, Linh Nguyen
Makeup, Moani Lee
Mother-of-the-bride's dress, Zac Posen
Groom's and groomsmen's suits, Black Lapel
Groom's and groomsmen's shirts, J.Crew
Groom's and groomsmen's ties, Ties.com
Groom's wedding ring, Greenwich St. Jewelers
Groom's shoes, Crocket & Jones
Groomsmen's shoes, Florsheim
Ring bearers' attire, Appaman
Photo booth and photographer for the welcome party and brunch pool party, Nelson Hancock
Cocktail napkins and matches, ForYourParty
Custom fabric and wallpaper, Spoonflower
Guestbook, Artifact Uprising
Lawn furniture, Serena and Lily
Paper flowers on escort cards, D. Blümchen & Company
Ribbon, Ribbon Connections
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