A Handmade—and All-Hands-on-Deck—Wedding in Upstate New York
Rosie Rainbow and Chris Rizzo's love story got by with a little help from their friends. In fact, the couple, who met as designers in the hospitality industry, considered themselves best friends for over a year before things got romantic in Coney Island. "Chris asked me to be his lady on the boardwalk, where years later he would ask me to marry him," Rosie says. And thanks to some clever coordination with friends and family, Chris made sure that proposal could be celebrated by their loved ones near and far almost immediately.
"He suggested we go for a walk on the beach where he had arranged for our friends to set up a picnic. As we approached the picnic, he pulled out a ring that he had designed and proposed," Rosie recalls. Right there on the beach, the couple called Chris's family in Pittsburg and Rosie's family in Australia, who were assembled for a celebratory breakfast. After their picnic, they headed to a restaurant where all of their local friends were waiting to throw them an instant engagement party.
Once it was time for the wedding on July 21, 2018, at Audrey's Farmhouse in Wallkill, New York—which, remarkably, the couple chose before the site had been renovated—Rosie and Chris decided to forego many of the usual professionals and instead trusted their own friends and family in roles like florist, decorator, and hairstylist. "Seeing our family and friends come together from all ends of the world and dive in to help create our perfect wedding was incredible," Chris says. "Every element felt personal and handmade. We are really lucky to be surrounded by an amazingly talented network of friends and family."
Ultimately, their flower-filled wedding was a celebration of not only their love for each other, but their family and friends' love for them.
With Chris being a graphic designer, it only made sense that the groom would craft the invitations and programs. Each one had pressed flowers attached to the card stock—a nod to how botanical the celebration would be.
Life Imitates Art
Although the majority of the flowers came from markets in New York City's Chelsea flower district, the bride's bouquet was created by Stems Brooklyn. Rosie sent the florist the wedding invitation as inspiration for her colorful arrangement. "I didn't have a color scheme and they perfectly replicated the bouquet," she says.
The ceremony took place in a courtyard next to Audrey's greenhouse. There, nearly 200 guests had a stunning view of a five-foot wisteria wreath that Chris' brother hoisted onto the wall—but not before the couple's friends wove in eucalyptus, hydrangeas, and other flowers brought in from the city. Eucalyptus was also tied to chairs lining the aisle with ribbons Rosie's mother and grandmother had used at their own weddings.
The Dress Search
"The dress was probably the hardest decision of the whole wedding for me," says Rosie, who felt like she'd tried on every wedding dress in New York before stumbling upon designer Kaviar Gauche in a magazine. But there was only one catch to her dream gown: The label only had shops in Germany. "I photoshopped the top of one dress and the bottom of another together and asked if they could custom make this combination for me. I had to buy it unseen," she says, recalling that she couldn't even see a photo of the back.
When the dress arrived, Rosie made an event of it with it a little help—and a lot of romance—from Chris. "I invited some girlfriends to help me try it on," she says. "Chris emptied our living room, filled it with flowers, borrowed a neighbor's full-length mirror, set up our dining table as a pedestal, and left us so I could try it on." To her relief and delight, it fit perfectly. All she needed to do was get it hemmed and practice walking in her Jimmy Choo heels.
Bringing Together the Bridesmaids
With the couple's respective sisters in Australia and the U.S., Rosie felt it would be easier—and prettier—to have her bridesmaids wear different dresses; she simply asked them to wear something long and in a dusty shade.
Rosie's friend Janelle Chaplin of O&M NYC did the bride and bridesmaids' hair; their styles all featured a lattice of little wax flowers. "They looked amazing, and it really tied their outfits together," Rosie says.
Chris had his heart set on a specific shade of green for his suit and figured he would have to get it custom-made. "It was almost impossible to find someone who could make it in that color," he recalls, but just like Rosie's dress, his attire came as a pleasant surprise. "I came across this Paul Smith suit in the exact color I wanted," he says. It paired handsomely with his Stantt shirt and Paul Evans shoes.
Take a Bow (Tie)
As long as Chris' attire stood out, he was happy to have his groomsman wear a variety of suits. The group's look was tied together with bow ties—floral-print, of course.
Among Rosie's family members who flew into New York was her father, who walked her down the aisle to Debussy's "Clair de Lune."
"I was in tears the entire time," Chris recalls of watching his bride approach.
In addition to friends reading poems, Chris's uncle, Monsignor David Rubino, officiated the ceremony. And much like so many other elements of their wedding, the couple crafted their own vows. "We come from different worlds," Rosie's read. "We have no idea where we'll live or what the tide will bring, but no matter what, I promise to help you see light if you are stuck in darkness, and I promise to hold your hand as we chase our dreams around the world."
Chris' promises echoed his bride's sentiments: "Even though we come from far different lives, thank you for wanting to carve out our own little chunk together. I am forever yours and will promise to love you for who you are now and who you want to be."
The reception took place in Audrey's greenhouse and barn, where Rosie and Chris' friends tied camellia branches and smoke bush to silver birch branches and suspended them from a trellis; those arrangements were then hung from the rafters along with lanterns.
Rosie says one of her favorite moments of the day was, "when we walked into the greenhouse for the first time and saw how perfectly our friends and family had made our ambitious and wild wedding dreams come true."
Fonts and Families
Like the invitations and programs—and the table numbers and menus—Chris designed the charming seating chart, which was displayed at the entrance to the greenhouse. Inside were three long rows of tables; the couple's families were seated right down the middle.
Rosie and Chris' first dance was to Louis Prima's "Banana Split for My Baby," which the couple calls a "funny, Italian classic that seemed to ring true to our Champagne taste and beer budget."
During the reception, a number of family members made speeches, which included a heartfelt toast from Chris' brother, a hilarious speech by Rosie's sister, and touching words from both the bride and groom's fathers.
"Rosie is a gem. You indeed struck a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow," Chris' father said, making a reference to Rosie's colorful maiden name. "My wish for you is that you and Rosie have the same good fortune and love that have gotten your mother and I through all of these years," he told his son, adding, "it never, never gets old being married to the person that you love."
One of the highlights of the reception—and another example of how the couple's friends and family were the backbone of the wedding—was the "Pittsburgh Cookie Table," a local tradition where Chris was raised. Pennsylvania-based guests "cooked and organized for months," the couple says, ultimately supplying 1,500 cookies in 38 varieties.
Cookies weren't the only dessert, of course. Guests also enjoyed a vanilla bean cake with berry buttercream from byPensa. Owner Nikki Pensabene drove to the venue from Manhattan to set up the confection, but before she did, she stopped by the flower market to pick up blooms that she would delicately apply to the cake with tweezers. "She fit right in with our crew," Rosie says of the baker.
Rosie and Chris chose the Silver Arrow Band to play at their reception, largely because Chris' musically-inclined family appreciates a good horn section. In fact, during the band's first set, Chris, his brother, and his father joined in with their sax, trumpet, and trombone to play a James Brown song, complete with choreography that they'd been practicing over FaceTime.
That wasn't the only time Chris took the stage, however. Later in the evening, his college ska band surprised him by playing one of their original songs and pulling the unprepared but happy-to-oblige groom onstage as lead singer.
"It was awesome jumping in with the band alongside my dad and brother," Chris says, "and when my mates pulled the old band back together for an impromptu performance, that just topped it off."
"All in all, our two families have few similarities," says the couple, who were raised over 10,000 miles apart. "Luckily, they share the single most unifying of interests: a love of booze and a secret family recipe for Italian liqueur."
Natually, their favors were born of this common passion. Rosie and Chris gave guests small bottles of "The Rainbow Family Limoncello" and "The Rizzo Family Ratafia"—and just in case, they also provided a recovery pack with water, Advil, Utz chips (from Pennsylvania), and Cadbury Cherry Ripe (from Australia).
Surrounded by Love
"Our wedding felt incredibly personal," Chris says of the celebration, a testament to trust, ingenuity, and optimism.
"We booked a venue that wasn't built, bought a dress I couldn't try, hadn't seen our parties' outfits, put a group of friends in a room with a pile of flowers, and wished for the best," Rosie says. "And the result was magnificent."
Photography, Guilherme Benite of Weddings by Nato
Location, Audrey's Farmhouse
Bouquet, Stems Brooklyn
Officiant, Monsignor David Rubino
Music, Silver Arrow Band
Bride's gown, Kaviar Gauche
Flower Girl dresses, BHLDN
Groom's suit, Paul Smith