A Joyful Backyard Wedding at the Bride's Family Home

pillar paul wedding recessional toss
Photo: Rachel May Photography

The couple invited 200 guests to join them in Virginia for a Memorial Day weekend celebration.

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pillar paul wedding couple rolling hills with sunset
Rachel May Photography

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.

Watch Pilar and Paul's wedding film by Daniel Breindel.

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The Location

pillar paul wedding couple in front of house
Rachel May Photography

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.

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The Invitations

pillar paul wedding invitations
Rachel May Photography

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.

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Unfussy Attire

pillar paul wedding couple in front of trees
Rachel May Photography

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.

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The Finishing Touches

pillar paul wedding accessories shoes jewelry
Rachel May Photography

Because she chose to skip a veil or headpiece, Pilar paired her wedding dress with an ornate pair of gold floral earrings from Oscar de la Renta. Pale blue BCBG sandals were Pilar's "something blue," and she wore an antique diamond ring from Paul on her pinky finger as her "something old."

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A Big Bridal Bouquet

pillar paul wedding bouquet
Rachel May Photography

Petals and Hedges put together Pilar's cascading bouquet featuring locally-sourced spirea, white roses, white campanula, clematis, and a variety of greenery. Some of the leaves were dipped in gold for a metallic accent.

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A Unique First Look

pillar paul wedding dad first look
Rachel May Photography

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.

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Stylish Bridesmaids

pillar paul wedding bridesmaids neutral dresses
Rachel May Photography

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.

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The Flower Girls

pillar paul wedding bride and flower girls
Rachel May Photography

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.

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The Groomsmen and Groomsmaids

pillar paul wedding groomsmen groomsmaids
Rachel May Photography

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.

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The Ceremony Setup

pillar paul wedding house
Rachel May Photography

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.

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The Groom's Entrance

pillar paul wedding blinded groom in golf cart on way to first look
Rachel May Photography

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."

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The Ceremony

pillar paul wedding ceremony
Rachel May Photography

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.

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A Spontaneous Delight

pillar paul wedding recessional toss
Rachel May Photography

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.

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Planting Roots

pillar paul wedding couple with small tree
Rachel May Photography

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."

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The Cocktail Hour

pillar paul wedding cocktails on tray
Rachel May Photography

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.

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The Cocktail Napkins

pillar paul wedding napkins with love quotes
Rachel May Photography

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.

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Sweet Escort Cards

Rachel May Photography

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.

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A Tented Party

pillar paul wedding tent reception
Rachel May Photography

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.

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The Reception Décor

pillar paul wedding tables
Rachel May Photography

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.

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The Centerpieces

pillar paul wedding tent reception
Rachel May Photography

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.

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The First Dance

pillar paul wedding first dance
Rachel May Photography

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."

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Time for Toasts

pillar paul wedding reception couple kiss
Rachel May Photography

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.

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Sparkler Send-Off

pillar paul wedding sparklers couple kissing
Rachel May Photography

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.

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pillar paul wedding couple
Rachel May Photography

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

Bride's gown, Maggie Sottero from La Reve Bridal

Bride's Accessories, Oscar de la Renta earrings; BCBG shoes

Hair, Top Knot Studio

Makeup, Gohar Makeup

Bridesmaids dresses, BHLDN; Amsale; Rent The Runway; Asos; Lulu's

Lighting, Tent, and Dance floor, Select Event Group

Transportation, Chariots for Hire

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