An Intimate Backyard Wedding—Planned in Just 24 Hours—with Love at the Forefront
It was the hottest summer day St. Louis had seen all year—and Dr. Julia R. Wilkins, an elementary school teacher and professor, and Rob J. Kohrmann, who owns an insurance agency, were finally, finally tying the knot. "Rob and I both insisted that we did not want a summer wedding," says Julia, noting that there were plenty of other things about their small backyard wedding that surprised her—including the fact that it was a small backyard wedding on a sweltering day in June that came together in just 24 hours. But after being faced with rescheduling their bigger wedding for a second time, Julia and Rob didn't want to wait a second longer. "On Wednesday, June 17, while driving to a hike, I read the latest number of COVID cases to Rob in the car. He told me that he didn't think our new date of August 22 was going to happen—and he really just wanted to marry me," shares Julia.
Julia was hesitant to put those big-dream plans on hold—she'd spent a little over a year painstakingly planning their original celebration, which was set to be held at The Thaxton, a speakeasy in St. Louis that inspired their intended Art-Deco theme. And it wasn't just relinquishing those hopes—her father was recovering from a major surgery in a different city and her mother had had her knee replaced the week before. "But I agreed," explains Julia. "I got online and signed us up for an appointment to get the marriage license the next day at 11:40 a.m. I texted my mother's neighbor and our good family friend, Emily Fanara, and asked her if she was busy on June 19. She is a wedding photographer and I wanted her to take a few pictures. We called Rob's mom, my mom, and my sister. I texted two of my best friends, and everyone rallied."
It wasn't what she had pictured, but "it was actually really sweet and meaningful to get married in my childhood backyard," Julia shares, noting that the help and support she received from those closest to her made the intimate celebration that much more impactful. "My sister got ordained online the day before so she could perform the ceremony. Jojo, one of my mother's oldest friends, came to help us, and even zipped me up," she says. "My friend and event designer Courtney Scott insisted on being in charge of the cake and Prosecco." It was a hectic sprint, but when Julia took the pressure off, the rest settled into place. "The easiest part of the planning process was that there wasn't enough time to anguish over the little details," she says. "I needed a groom, an officiant, some flowers, and a dress. The rest was confetti."
Change of Plans
"The two-piece wedding dress I wore was actually supposed to be my bridal shower outfit," Julia explains of her Needle & Thread ensemble, complete with a white toile skirt and cropped top with tiny beaded flowers. All of her pre-wedding celebrations—from the shower to her bachelorette party—were canceled due to the pandemic, which meant she had a gown ready to go hanging in her closet. "It seemed the best choice, but also the easiest decision I had to make through 24 hours of planning. The dress was made for a backyard wedding," she adds, noting that she does still hope to wear her original wedding dress down the line.
Julia's shoes were another closet find—she dug them out of the back and realized they complemented her garden dress perfectly.
As for the rest of Julia's accessories? She wore her original hair comb and big-day earrings ("There is a woman on Etsy who makes earrings for me that I adore!" says the bride) and a bracelet her great-aunt gave her mother. "A dear friend and colleague, Ms. Deborah, and her daughter, Kaitlyn, gave me my 'something blue' when our original date was canceled," says Julia. "They gifted me a sapphire necklace surrounded by diamonds that matches my engagement ring."
Grocery Store Blooms
Julie pieced her bouquet together using a mix of hydrangeas, peonies, and ranunculus from her local Whole Foods, plus hasta leaves sourced from her mother's garden; a bit of greenery, blue sea holly, and a succulent rounded out the arrangement. "I have dried the sea holly and hope to plant it in our garden next spring," says Julia. "The succulent is still alive and has even sprouted five flowers—I think that's a good sign."
"The day before the wedding, I sent Lonesome Traveler a message on Instagram, asking her if she had a specific bow tie in stock in blue. I wanted Rob to wear a Fleur de Lis since it's the symbol of St. Louis, but also to match his cuff links," the bride explains of Rob's main accessory. "She wrote back that it was out of stock—but that she had it in pink and that was actually her favorite. Thank goodness, because the pink bow tie matched everything perfectly and pulled the whole wedding look together." The rest of Rob's outfit was comprised of Banana Republic pieces he already owned. "I pulled them out the morning of and laid them out for him to wear," she says.
Rob's cuff links were meaningful for more than just their engraved symbol—they were something the duo bought together on one of their adventures. "We had purchased them the spring before in New Orleans," shares the bride. "We saw them in a boutique, and Rob said then that he wanted to wear them for our wedding."
In addition to his custom ruby and diamond wedding band ("Fitting, since I chose a sapphire and diamonds ring for myself," says Julia), Rob also slipped on a bauble from his grandfather—a vintage piece with a starburst of diamonds—which he had restored the month prior. "It made it even more special that we were able to include a part of his grandfather in the day," she says.
The Best Escort
Julia's nephew, Alexander, took her by the arm and led her to the backyard. "He was born three months early at one pound, five ounces. They said he had a 10-percent chance of living. Then they said he would never talk. Then they said he would never walk," shares the bride, adding that the majority of her family (including her dad) watched the ceremony via Zoom. "To have him step in for my father meant everything to us."
Let's Get Married
A copper arch decorated in silk flowers—originally intended for the couple's big celebration—served as the backdrop for the couple's vow exchange; the structure was, says Julia, the ultimate labor of love. "We spent about two hours hand-wrapping the stems to the poles. It still wasn't enough time, so my sister stayed up until two in the morning finishing it by herself," explains the bride.
Julia's sister—who was instrumental to their nuptials in every way, says the bride—also got ordained the day before the impromptu nuptials and found a script that spoke to the couple and their values. A few of their loved ones even participated virtually. "My brother, Jonathan, was originally supposed to do a reading at our ceremony. He read the poem, 'Touched by an Angel' by Maya Angelou," shares the bride, "My niece, Eloise, made the official marriage announcement and congratulated us after we kissed. She even got dressed in her flower girl outfit—plus her fake Elsa braid and gloves."
As for the afternoon's entertainment? "The dog running around and losing his mind—does that count?" Julia laughs. "One of the dogs escaped the house, took off running towards the busy street, and was chased by my friend and event designer Courtney Scott in her giant sunglasses and mask. Rob swears the dog kept running because it was such a crazy sight."
When Julia and Rob were finally pronounced husband and wife, the bride knew that this—the marriage—is what she had truly wanted all along. "I really didn't have a vision. That was the best part of throwing it together in 24 hours," she says. "The most important thing was that I marry Rob."
Pop the Bubbly
"We are Prosecco people, not Champagne," laughs Julia, who spent five years living in the Italian section of Switzerland. "Prosecco is life!" Courtney insisted on bring along the bubbly (the cake, too!) to keep the celebration going. "Everyone played a role, and it was actually pretty lovely," says the bride.
Cutting the Cake
Julia found a table runner in her mother's house to decorate the dessert table; Courtney sourced a Chantilly cake from the grocery store and decorated it with lush flowers. "She even brought the cake cutter used at her wedding," she says. "We all had Prosecco and cake, and that was that."
Dressed Up in Denim
The bride popped on a customized jean jacket made by Daily Disco—the back read "Wife of the Party"—for the remainder of the afternoon, which she spent with her closet family, friends, and brand new husband. She was able to find real, unabashed joy in this intimate, meaningful celebration, something she says is possible for any couple making difficult wedding-related decisions during this time. "Try to let go of the details. It's okay to mourn the wedding you were supposed to have, but also embrace the fact that at the end of the day, it is about you marrying the love of your life," she shares. "There are so many ways to share your love for each other that don't rely on napkins with monograms. Think about the most important aspects of what you had previously planned—and try to find a way to incorporate that into your smaller celebration."
Photography and Videography, Emily Fanara
Event Design, Courtney Scott
Flower and Cake, Whole Foods
Officiant, Jennifer Willingham
Bride's Gown, Needle & Thread
Bride's Accessories, Petite Delights (earrings); David's Bridal (hair comb)
Makeup, Anna MacMillan
Jean Jackets, Daily Disco
Groom's Attire, Banana Republic; Lonesome Traveler (bow tie)
Engagement Ring, Becker Jewelers
Wedding Bands, Becker Jewelers (his); Brilliant Earth (hers)