A Joyful Backyard Wedding at the Bride's Family Home
Pilar Plater and Paul Nagao were introduced at an ice cream parlor during their freshman year at a boarding school in New Hampshire. "I thought she was way too cool to hang out with me," Paul recalls, but a friendship ultimately blossomed. The following semester, their friendship turned romantic. On their first day as an official couple, Paul gave Pilar several boxes of chocolate from a local chocolatier.
After 12 years in a largely long-distance relationship, Paul decided to propose to Pilar the same way her father proposed to her mother. On Christmas Eve, Paul convinced Pilar that everyone should open one gift. Pilar opened a beautiful gold box that contained over 20 bags of chocolate from the same chocolatier near their high school campus, along with another box full of white roses. Finally, Pilar noticed a small white box, and the bride-to-be's entire family watched as Paul popped the question on bended knee.
A little over a year after getting engaged, 200 guests joined the future Mr. and Mrs. in Hamilton, Virginia, for a Memorial Day wedding on May 27, 2018. Pilar, who is working on her PhD in Sociology, and Paul, who just shifted from a career in marketing to go pre-med, chose the bride's parents' home as the setting for their big day, and planned a celebration with an outdoor garden-inspired feel.
Pilar's family home sits on 10 acres and has cows, honey bees, and a small peach, pear, and apple orchard. "We wanted our wedding to feel as intimate as possible, even with 200 guests, and what better way than to invite them all to your home?" Pilar says. Knowing they'd always be able to return to the property for sentimental anniversaries, it seemed like an obvious venue choice for their wedding day. They enlisted help from Ashlee Virginia Events to pull off their garden party vision.
Pilar and Paul chose to limit the amount of paper going into their wedding day, so they skipped printing menus and programs and focused on the invitations. They teamed up with Rock Paper Scissors in Charlottesville to create a drawing of the house where the wedding day would take place, along with a honey bee motif that was carried throughout the day. An inky script and traditional serif typeface were printed in dark gray on soft white cardstock.
Paul sported a shawl-collar tuxedo made by a tailor in Thailand that he's used for the past decade. He accessorized with a simple black bow tie. After visiting countless bridal boutiques throughout Maryland and Virginia, Pilar finally found what she was looking for in this Maggie Sottero wedding dress. The simple strapless gown had a full skirt, buttons down the back, and a flower detail on the side.
The Finishing Touches
A Big Bridal Bouquet
A Unique First Look
Pilar and Paul decided not to have a first look, as they wanted to really feel the moment when they saw each other across the aisle. Instead, Pilar had a first look with her father. "My dad means the world to me, and the look on his face in that moment was pure joy. His hugs are magic and I knew that the day would be perfect from that moment on," Pilar says.
Pilar's bridesmaids were given a champagne color palette and asked to choose any silk or embellished dress they were drawn to. "It was certainly a gamble," Pilar says, "I didn't see them all together until the wedding weekend, but the combination of shades and textures was more than I could have hoped for." The dresses were each from a different shop, including BHLDN, Amsale, Rent the Runway, ASOS, and Lulu's.
Pilar and Paul's attendants stayed at a rental house in Middleburg, Virginia, that acted as another home base for the wedding and really helped bring the group together even more.
The Flower Girls
The flower girls were the bride's cousin's 10-year-old twin daughters. Pilar's mom designed and made their white dresses, and the maid of honor made their headpieces.
The Groomsmen and Groomsmaids
Paul chose six men and two women to serve as his groomsmen and groomsmaids. The guys wore black tuxedos and bow ties, while one of the ladies wore a tuxedo and the other wore a black gown. "We wanted to give the team a balance of direction and freedom to feel like they could find the right outfit that fit them and their personality," Paul says. The group dug up a bottle of whiskey that had been buried a month earlier as a Southern superstition thought to ward off bad weather. And while a flood was predicted, luck interfered—it ended up being a gorgeous day.
While all members of the wedding party were friends, family members were honored in special ways. Pilar's brother officiated, Paul's eldest sister gave the speech at the rehearsal brunch, and Paul's older sister read a passage during the ceremony.
The Ceremony Setup
Guests were seated in white chairs on the home's front lawn for the ceremony. Arrangements of white-and-green flowers dotted the stairs leading up to the front door.
The Groom's Entrance
Paul was blindfolded and taken to the ceremony location on a golf cart. "My most memorable moment of our wedding was when I rounded the corner to see family and friends seated at the ceremony, and a wave of emotion hit me square in the chest," Paul shares. "I've never felt so loved in my life."
Accompanied by her dad, Pilar made her way down the aisle to "Liz on Top of the World" from the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice. Pilar's brother, Michael, officiated the nonreligious ceremony and wrote the script for the service, which talked about fate, trust, and togetherness. He also incorporated the quote, "I didn't fall in love, I rose in it" by Toni Morrison and read a poem by Lang Leav. Paul's sister read from "The Amber Spyglass" by Phillip Pullman, and then the couple exchanged deeply heartfelt vows they penned for one another.
A Spontaneous Delight
The plan for the recessional was to play Natalie Cole's "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love), but when the power cut out during the ceremony, Pilar's mom started singing the song herself. Other guests chimed in as well, making it one of the most cherished memories of the day.
After officially being named husband and wife, Pilar and Paul headed to another area of the property where they planted an Akebono Cherry Blossom tree, a twist on a tradition Paul's parents have held for years. "My parents planted a cherry blossom tree for each child they had at our first house," Paul says. As Pilar's brother stated during the ceremony, "Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the blossoms have fallen from the branches, they find that they are one tree and not two."
The Cocktail Hour
Guests enjoyed the cocktail hour on the side patio and back deck, where they listened to a playlist that Pilar created with her mother and aunt full of classic love songs by artists like Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Aretha Franklin.
The couple served two signature cocktails: a Pimm's Cup in honor of Paul's time at St. Andrews in Scotland and a wine-based cocktail called "Tickled Pink," a phrase Pilar and her mom use often. The food was Japanese-inspired as a nod to Paul's background, complete with salmon sashimi, yakitori, avocado tartare, lobster maki, and sesame beef.
The Cocktail Napkins
As a last-minute detail, Pilar and Paul each chose a literary quote and asked Rock Paper Scissors to print them in gold on gray napkins. Pilar chose lines by Emily Brontë and Nayyirah Waheed, while Paul went with selections by Haruki Murakami and Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes fame.
Sweet Escort Cards
Escort cards and wedding favors were one in the same: small jars of honey from the family farm that were assembled by Pilar's mother's friends in the days leading up to the wedding. "Harvesting the honey is such a fun family tradition of ours and it was great to be able to share the fruits of that labor with all our guests," Pilar shares. Labels printed with a drawing of the house done by Pilar were paired with tags guiding guests to each seat.
A Tented Party
The reception took place under a sailcloth tent behind the house. Bistro lights were draped overhead and a floral arch and several potted arrangements welcomed guests at the entrance.
The Reception Décor
For the head table, the couple opted for a long farm table covered with tall taper candles, small stone pots with moss rounds, and the bridesmaids' bouquets in small vases.
The rest of the tables were round and covered with textured gray linens. The place settings included white chargers, gold silverware, and cream-colored napkins. "The gold detailing on the glassware reminded us of a honeycomb and the whole family fell for them immediately when we saw them," Pilar says. Petals and Hedges created unique centerpieces that differed from table to table. Blue and white chinoiserie pieces—borrowed from Pilar's aunt who collects them—held each floral arrangement.
The First Dance
Wanting something sleeker for the evening, Pilar changed into a beaded silk dress by an in-house designer at Le Reve Bridal for the reception. The newlyweds chose "Star Crossed Lovers" by the New York Trio for their first dance. They secretly took dance lessons from Pilar's cousin, and surprised guests with their choreographed moves when the song changed to "Dancing in the Moonlight" by King Harvest. Afterwards, the bride and groom shared a dance with her father and his mother all together to "Unforgettable" by Natalie Cole and Nat King Cole. "I'll never forget it," Pilar says.
With many friends present from their high school days, the couple couldn't help but pepper in some throwback jams—and tossed it back to Paul's parents' wedding day by playing their song: "September" by Earth Wind & Fire. And in the final hour, the music was dedicated to the electronic genre that Paul loves. "I was really touched to see so many people dancing and a little surprised to see some of my friends with mild cases of dance-phobia join us for the last hour."
Time for Toasts
The newlyweds stole a few kisses during the reception, which was full of fantastic toasts. The two best men traded off between jokes and praise towards the groom, the maid of honor also evoked laughs from the crowd, and Pilar's father gave an epic speech outlining the story of how Paul asked him and the bride's mother for their blessing to propose—it was a combination of humor, joy, sentiment, and love. "I was definitely crying," Pilar says.
Guests gave the newlyweds a sparkler send-off at the end of the evening. Pilar and Paul then took a mini-moon to the mountains in Paris, Virginia, shortly after the wedding. They've planned an extended getaway to Wyoming and Montana for their first anniversary.
Photography, Rachel May Photography
Event planning and design, Ashlee Virginia Events
Catering and Rentals, Design Cuisine
Flowers, Petals and Hedges
Videography, Daniel Briendel
Invitations and day-of paper, Rock Paper Scissors
Music, DJ Evan Reitmeyer
Hair, Top Knot Studio
Makeup, Gohar Makeup
Lighting, Tent, and Dance floor, Select Event Group
Transportation, Chariots for Hire