A Subtly Bahamian-Influenced Micro-Wedding at the Bride's Childhood Home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Less than two years after they met in Chicago in October of 2017, James asked Madison to marry him "at home on our rooftop, just the two of us!" she says. After their April 2019 engagement, the couple began planning a destination wedding at the Lyford Cay Club in Nassau for April 26, 2020, with a "Bahamian Rhapsody" themed celebration the following weekend for their friends and family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In mid-March, Madison traveled to her parents' home in Pittsburgh for her bridal luncheon, but then found herself unable to get back to New York City as the coronavirus forced a travel shutdown. James joined her a week later, and as the shelter-in-place restrictions continued, the couple realized they would need to cancel or postpone both celebrations indefinitely. While they spent the next few weeks with Madison's parents, they began discussing the idea of an intimate wedding at home. "Madison and James just really wanted to be married," says Madison's mother, Nancy Byrnes, a professional event planner. The pieces began falling into place: A family friend who serves as a judge agreed to officiate; James' five immediate family members agreed to make a day trip to Pittsburgh for the ceremony; and the couple ordered a state marriage license that allowed them 60 days to tie the knot.
On May 23, 2020, Madison and James said "I do" at her parents' home in front of seven family members and their officiant, while a livestream of the ceremony went out to "several hundred" guests. After a catered lunch, the couple made their way outside where approximately 100 local friends and family drove by in a celebratory car parade—all organized by the bride's mother. Though it wasn't their original plan, Madison and James consider their at-home wedding a precious memory. "Every single moment of having a wedding at home—it's so comforting to be in the place that you know every corner of," she says. "It made the day more intimate and very special."
Home Sweet Home
The front door of Madison's parents' home became a "dreamy" entry with large fabric swags, an oversized wreath, floral arrangements on the light fixtures, elegant topiaries, and the couple's initials covered in greenery on the door. The look, executed by 4121 Main, was inspired by sketches from Nancy Byrnes, the bride's mother (who planned the entire event!) and artist Thommy Conroy; the final sketch reappeared on the livestream invitation and day-of paper goods. In a nod to their original wedding plans, the color scheme included coral pink, sandy tan, and a tropical green—the tones the couple had chosen for their Bahamian celebration.
When Madison first tried on her Monique Lhuillier wedding dress—an illusion V-neck sheath in embellished tulle—she knew immediately it was not the frock for her. "I said, 'Oh, there's tulle on the sleeves, it's not my gown,'" she says. "Lo and behold, I walked out of the dressing room, practically skipping, and my mom and sister both stopped in the waiting and area and confirmed very confidently that this was my gown." She didn't, however, purchase the ensemble during that preliminary appointment.
During a later solo appointment, she tried the dress on again. "The embellishments on the bodice of the gown hit the light so perfectly alongside my engagement ring during the second try of the dress, that I just fell in love," she says. On the big day, a "light and airy" bouquet of garden roses, scabiosa, and stock from Toadflax complemented the gown's ethereal quality.
Madison and James chose to save their first look for the ceremony, but the bride shared a "somewhat impromptu" video chat from her childhood bedroom with her sister and matron of honor, KC, who couldn't attend the wedding. "I was so glad that we have access to modern technology that has helped us remain so connected during this unprecedented time," says Madison.
As part of her wedding attire, Madison donned an Hermes bangle—a gift from KC on her own wedding day—that honored their relationship. "I felt so glad to see her, and she shared some very sweet things that I'll always remember," says Madison.
A Groom in Blue
Thommy extended the atmosphere of his original entryway sketch into the floral design for the ceremony, which took place on a sunporch-turned-chapel filled with abundant sunshine and fairy-tale views of the outdoor gardens.
Garden-inspired collections of coral charm peonies, panda bear anemones, foraged jasmine, and delicate grasses placed on the ground created a natural, unfussy backdrop for the ceremony.
Arm in Arm
Madison's father, Ed, escorted her through their family's home to the sunporch. Pianist Joseph Balogh performed Copland's "Appalachain Spring" as a prelude and Clarke's "Prince of Denmark's March" for the processional.
With This Ring
The Honorable Jennifer Staley McCrady, a friend of Madison's family, officiated the ceremony, which included traditional vows and personalized readings. "We asked a very close friend to craft a bespoke reading about love and his observations of us as a couple," says Madison. "Exchanging vows in front of loved ones [was] a beautiful moment that I know we'll both always cherish."
A professional livestream setup from CoopTown Media Services allowed hundreds of guests to join the ceremony remotely, and Madison and James adjusted their ceremony slightly to accommodate them: "We added a Testimony of Love reading, which explained how we felt when we met, fell in love, and [what we] truly love about each other," says Madison—the piece helped guests feel more connected to the couple's relationship.
Ready to Celebrate
After serving Champagne and wine in the entry hall, the couple and their guests moved into the dining room for a wedding luncheon.
Each family had its own tasting board—which included smoked salmon, lobster, and quiche—which they ate while celebrating over Zoom with family in California.
An Intimate Meal
Toadflax decorated the table with arrangements of lisianthus, dahlias, garden roses, snapdragons, ranunculus, and scabiosa in low silver and crystal bowls from Madison's family's collection. Though they used their own crystal, flatware, and tablecloth, Madison and James rented appetizer and luncheon plates in a colorful pink, blue, and yellow pattern. Custom-monogramed napkins were a wedding gift to the couple.
Let's Do Lunch
Custom-printed menus included the swag and wreath design from the front door, and the same coral-colored printing the couple used on their original invitations.
To the Happy Couple
The wedding luncheon from La Maison Private Dining included a poached prawn polenta cake, beef tenderloin, and Bibb lettuce salad. "Because of COVID, we did not want staff in the house serving the luncheon, so we commissioned three courses on one plate," says Nancy, "which were all delivered to the kitchen ready to go that morning. The meal was arranged on a large charger to simplify service and was designed to be enjoyed at room temperature."
After the meal, Madison and James cut into a two-tier gluten-free white vanilla cake with fresh raspberries and vanilla crème from Bella Christie and Lil' Z's Sweet Boutique.
So Happy Together
Pristine landscaping and majestic trees around Madison's childhood home created lush backdrops for the couple's portraits as they moved outside to greet a parade of guests.
Put a Ring on It
Madison's parents' organized a road closure on their drive that allowed friends and family to celebrate the couple without blocking traffic. As cars entered the parade, celebrants picked up favors that included monogrammed bells, mini wedding cakes, lavender packets, and half bottles of Champagne.
The joyous newlyweds walked down the driveway to greet their loved ones.
Friends and family members waved balloons, took photos, and rang bells to greet the newlyweds and share in their happy day—some even donned formalwear for the occasion!
Guests who chose to walk instead of drive were able to greet Madison and James from an approved distance to offer their congratulations and best wishes.
Photography, Joey Kennedy Photography
Event Planning, Nancy Byrnes
Catering, La Maison
Flowers, 4121 Main (house façade, doors, ceremony); Toadflax (interior florals and bouquet)
Videography, Three Rivers Entertainment and Production
Stationery, Thommy Conroy (original art), Katelyn Grover (graphic design); Nota Bene Fine Paper Boutique (stationery store)
Cake, Bella Christie and Lil' Z's Sweet Boutique
Rentals, All Occasions Party Rentals; Lendable Linens
Bride's Gown, Monique Lhlullier
Bride's Accessories, Jimmy Choo shoes; Henne Jewelers earrings; Hermes bracelet
Hair, Wendy Vario, Studio Booth
Makeup, Stephanie Storm, Studio Booth
Groom's Suit, Lee Baron
Groom's Accessories, Gucci shoes; Hermes tie
Live Stream, Cooptown Media Services
Wedding Rings, Leslie Berman, Inc.