A Relaxed, Backyard-Inspired Wedding in West Cape May, New Jersey
Samantha McAleese and Cody Lacey spent the first three years of their relationship "flirting and bickering" as friends until Cody finally talked Samantha into an official date. "It was the summer of 2009, right before I left for college, and in classic Long Island fashion, we were at a block party," says Samantha. "Ten years later, we've been flirting and bickering ever since."
Nearly a decade after their first date, Cody told Samantha he'd made New Year's Eve reservations at one of their favorite spots in Montauk. "I can't pretend that I didn't have an inkling of what was going to happen," she says. "We had a Scotch by the fire, danced at the disco, ate dinner at Scarpetta's, and woke up engaged. It was perfectly us."
They wanted the same comfortable atmosphere for their wedding day, and chose Beach Plum Farm in West Cape May, New Jersey, to host 125 guests on September 28, 2019. "It had the exact cozy, intimate feel we wanted for the day—a place that both of our families and all of our friends, who we very much consider family, could come together to spend the weekend, all in celebration of love," says Samantha. A color palette of bright white, gray, lavender, and green complemented the farm's colorful landscaping and gardens, while rosemary boutonnières and lavender and chamomile bouquets created an unfussy floral aesthetic. "I really wanted to play off of the idea of this intimate, relaxed, but elevated event where it felt like the food was being prepared by my aunt in the kitchen, the flowers were picked that morning, and everything was perfectly undone," says Samantha.
On the Farm
"Our hearts were originally set on getting married in Montauk, so much so that we actually began booking a venue a few weeks after getting engaged," says Samantha of her and Cody's search. "However, my Dad, whose family spent their summers in Avalon, insisted we visit one more venue that he and my mom had fallen in love with a few months prior to our engagement before finalizing anything. Our hearts still in Montauk, we reluctantly agreed."
But within five minutes of meeting the "lovely" Krystina Kennedy, who is now Beach Plum Farm's general manager, they were "almost immediately sold," says the bride. "It was a freezing January day when we toured the farm, but Krystina could not have created a warmer or more magical experience. It felt like we were in a fairy-tale land as we crossed the bubbling brook to tour the cottages."
Samantha's custom wedding dress from Shareen Bridal checked all the boxes on her wish list—starting with her dream fabric. "I just told her I had a cady stretch viscose dress that was the most comfortable dress I owned and I wanted the fabric to mimic that," she says. "I also knew I wanted buttons, a low back, and puff tulle sleeves. Shareen did the rest."
Her Heirloom Gems
Before deciding on a custom gown, Samantha spent a weekend browsing boutiques in New York with her mother, Cody's mother, her godmother, and her best friend. "It was so fun, which I was not expecting because I was dreading going without my grandmothers, who both passed very suddenly the year before."
In their honor, she chose to wear two heirloom jewels. "My diamond was passed down to me from my first best friend, my Grandma," she says of her engagement ring. "Really, we were inseparable. Since I carried her diamond, it was also important to me that my Nanna was with me that day. She had the absolute best taste in jewelry and I chose one of her diamond-encrusted cocktail rings to wear on my other hand."
Samantha also designed her own custom earrings, asking Gennaro Jewelers to fuse a pair of diamonds from Cody with a freshwater pearl set her mother gave her at her bridal shower.
Samantha's vision for a relaxed event extended to the floral arrangements and bouquets from Sally of Pink Dahlia Vintage. "I insisted on an all-chamomile bouquet," she says. "The girls carried loose bouquets of dried lavender sans any ribbon, but held together with twine."
Dove Gray Ladies
The bridesmaids' Amsale ensembles were a dove gray—the only directive they'd received from their bride, which resulted in a mix of styles and necklines.
Girls in the Garden
For her three flower girls, who tossed lavender from wooden baskets, Samantha ordered flowing gowns from Luv Evie; they also wore dainty berry crowns. "Our littlest flower girl, Oakley, who is two, walked down the aisle barefoot," she says, "something I truly cherished."
Cody chose a custom big-day outfit, too, ordering a bespoke three-piece suit in Italian wool from Institchu. "It was made in reference to Peaky Blinders," explains Samantha. "We both have crushes on Tommy Shelby."
He and the other groomsmen wore sprigs of rosemary as boutonnières.
Samantha and Cody chose the lawn of one of the property's cottages for their ceremony space—"the closest thing we could have to an elevated but relaxed 'backyard wedding,'' says Samantha. Pink Dahlia Vintage lined lining the aisles with bushels of white flowers that looked as if they were rooted in the ground.
Ready to Wed
Samantha and Cody opted for a traditional first look as she emerged out of a nearby cottage and walked towards the altar with her father. Musicians from Jarrell Entertainment played "Ladies & Gentlemen, We're Floating in Space" by Spiritualized for the processional.
Under the Willow
"When we first toured the farm, I immediately fell in love with a bare tree that I knew we needed to get married under. Luckily, it bloomed into the most beautiful willow that framed our ceremony," explains Sam.
The willow tree fulfilled a dream of Cody's, too: "I will never forget that Cody, who is not a big wedding person, confessed to me a few days later that he always pictured marrying me under a willow tree," she says. "Although, I'm sure his vision was more aligned with the scene in Braveheart when Mel Gibson sneaks away to marry his bride in secret in the middle of the night."
Cody's sister officiated the "not religious, but spiritual" ceremony, which hit an emotional nerve for the couple—and their guests. "Our oldest nephew [and ring bearer], Declan, visibly sobbed through the ceremony," says Samantha. "Cody and I couldn't stop laughing between our own tears. We love him so much. We love them all."
Shades of Gray
After recessing to "Trollywood" by Eisley, the couple headed to the farm's central garden to take portraits, while their loved ones moved on to the cocktail hour—where they were met with an array of light bites, including pumpkin hummus, herb and garlic sausage meatballs, pulled pork sliders, and vichyssoise smoked potato and chive cream soup shooters.
So Happy Together
After posing for a few group shots, Samantha and Cody spent most of the cocktail hour together—a part of the day they enjoyed more than they expected. "We hate getting our photos taken, so we made light of the situation as best we could, just goofing around with each other," says Samantha. "It was really the first time we were relaxed enough to truly take everything in as husband and wife. We didn't even miss not being at cocktail hour, which we were worried about."
A warm, smoky bonfire, circled with plenty of chairs, offered the celebrants a place to sit during the cocktail hour.
The Party, Rejoined
Samantha and Cody did, however, catch the last 20 minutes of the interlude—much to the delight of their guests, who greeted them with open arms. A pianist and cellist serenaded the crowd as they prepared to transition to the reception.
As guests entered the garden for the party, they found their seating assignments on a dramatic table made from an old tree trunk.
Weighing Me Down
Potted plants created a backdrop for simple cards weighed down by natural stones.
Samantha and Cody continued their "intimate, cozy, and relaxed" event under a white tent, set up on the Great Lawn.
Long tables were covered with white Irish linens, while small overhead lanterns on the tent poles adding soft lighting during dinner. After the meal, guests moved into the venue's barn for dancing.
Beach Plum Farm's free-range chickens and roosters paid the tent a visit ahead of the human attendees.
In keeping with the lavender and chamomile bouquets and the men's rosemary boutonnières, the couple asked their florist to line the center of every tablescape with herbs and plants potted in containers that varied in size, shape, and material.
Pillar candles and greenery vines added texture to each station.
Bleached rattan placemats, draped white napkins, and matte-finish off-white plates were topped with deckle-edged menus, a few natural stones, and olive branch sprigs.
Dinner Is Served
Chefs at Beach Plum Farm put together a menu that included arugula and watermelon salad, entrées of herb-roasted chicken and dijon pork tenderloin, and sides of root vegetables, heirloom carrots, and new potatoes—all in line with the couple's vision of "an intimate dinner party al fresco, followed by an epic dance set."
During dinner, the group listened to a few words from the newlyweds' families. "My dad's speech really had the room smiling. He rarely gets emotional, but when he does...it gets us all," says the bride.
Sweet and Simple
The couple wanted a cake that matched the low-key atmosphere of the day—nothing too elaborate or intricate. "I searched high and low to find us someone who would bake us something that felt homemade," says Samantha. Painted Pie created a naked, whipped vanilla layer cake topped with blueberries, blackberries, and chamomile. "It was simple and delicious," says Samantha.
The bride and groom chose "This Will Be Our Year" by Pablo for their first dance, while Samantha and her father opted for Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," and Cody and his mother swayed to Sam Cooke's "Nothing Can Change This Love." For the rest of the evening, says Samantha, "DJ Flo had us dancing all night long. Cody and his dad have the best taste in music—they took the lead here."
Photography, Minh Cao for Lauren Fair Photography
Venue and Catering, Beach Plum Farm
Event Planning, The Refined Host
Flowers, Pink Dahlia Vintage
Lavender, Soleado Lavender
Stationery, Paige by Design
Cake, The Painted Pie
Music, Jarrell Entertainment
Rentals, Party Rental LTD
Bride's Gown, Shareen Bridal
Bride's Accessories, BHLDN veil; Gennaro Jewelers earrings; Catbird ring; Cult Gaia shoes
Makeup, Victoria Roggio Beauty
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Amsale
Flower Girl Dresses, Luv Evie
Groom's Suit, Institchu
Menswear, The Black Tux
Lighting and Tent, Rental City
Transportation, Geiger's Limo
Guest Book, BHLDN
Bathrooms, A&C Septic Services