This Couple's Garden Wedding Was Inspired by Their Favorite Places

bride and groom share a kiss by white gate
Mary Dougherty

Ali and Matt grew up less than a mile apart in Philadelphia and even spent their early years after college living a block away from each other in New York City. Still, they didn't meet until August of 2014, while pursuing their MBAs at Duke University. By the second year of business school, the pair found themselves living—wait for it—next door to each other and their friendship quickly turned romantic. The proximity finally caught up.

Four years later, Ali and Matt were getting ready to move into a sweet blue-painted home in Rochester, New York, that they affectionately referred to as "Baby Blue." In the weeks leading up to their move, the couple drove past the house a few times, excited to finally live there together. On one such drive-by, Matt made up an excuse to asked if he and Ali could check something out at the house. When they arrived, Ali discovered that the stairs were covered in flower petals; "Will You Marry Me" was written in chalk along the walkway. Naturally, it was a yes.

The couple began planning their big day, immediately envisioning an elegant wedding with a garden-inspired ceremony and outdoor reception with an Old-World vibe. They chose to tie the knot close to "Baby Blue," at the Genesee Valley Club in Rochester; they loved the timeless feel of the venue and its incredible food. They teamed up with Ellie Clapp of Celebrated Events to bring their August 3, 2019, nuptials to life for their 175 guests. With a color palette of light dusty blue, silver, gray, blush, and champagne—which inspired design decisions including custom artwork and a custom monogram—they pulled off the elegant, inspired event of their dreams, which also nodded to several of their favorite places.

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Watercolor Invites

pastel blue watercolor design wedding invites
Mary Dougherty

Hand-drawn watercolor motifs were digitally printed on the save-the-dates (which also featured drawings of spots meaningful to Ali and Matt's relationship, including Philadelphia, New York, and Atlanta) menus, place cards and other day-of paper; the couple's invitations and ceremony programs, created by Louelle Design Studio, also displayed the large oak tree that served as their ceremony's focal point.

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The Full Look

bride wearing theia cap sleeve wedding dress
Mary Dougherty

Ali wore an ivory Theia Couture wedding dress with a V-neckline, cap sleeves, and delicate hand-embroidered glass beads, sequins, and pearls arranged in a scalloped pattern. Although the Great Gatsby-inspired ensemble wasn't what she expected she'd choose, the bride felt that the gown was the perfect balance of unique and timeless. Her veil, which was hand-made by her seamstress, Angela Maw of Sew Classy Bridal Designs, was an extension of the dress; Angela used leftover fabric from the gown to make it.

As for her hand-tied bouquet, by Arena's? The arrangement featured roses, stephanotis, peonies, ranunculus, lily of the valley, and flowing greenery.

03 of 22

Meaningful Accessories

bride wearing bracelets and rings
Mary Dougherty

The bride donned her late maternal grandmother's bracelet as her "something old" and her late paternal grandmother's rosary as her "something blue."

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Classic Groom

groom sitting reading card before ceremony
Mary Dougherty

Matt wore a custom navy tuxedo from Suit Supply paired with black velvet slippers from Del Toro Shoes. The finishing touch? Monogrammed cuff links, a gift from his bride.

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Bridesmaids in Blue

bridesmaids wearing pale blue dresses
Mary Dougherty

Ali's bridesmaids wore light blue floor-length gowns from Dessy in a mix of styles. "I wanted a look that was flattering and comfortable for my bridesmaids and pulled through the color schemes," Ali explains. She gifted each bridesmaid a pair of pearl stud earrings to wear on the big day.

06 of 22


groom smiling on small hillside with groomsmen
Mary Dougherty

Groomsmen wore black tuxedos, in classic fashion. "We wanted to bring a sense of sophistication and formality to our wedding party," Ali says.

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Look at Those Beads!

bride smiling showing groom first look outside
Mary Dougherty

Ali and Matt shared a first look in front of Ali's parents' home. "I managed not to cry during the first look, which may have been one of the only moments during the day that tears were not shed!" Ali says. Leading up to the big day, one of Ali's family members let it slip that her dress was beaded, so Ali joked with Matt that she had all of the beads removed to maintain the surprise. "When he first saw me, we both just kept laughing and saying, 'Look at those beads!'" she says.

08 of 22

Under the Oak Tree

outdoor garden wedding ceremony under large tree
Mary Dougherty

The couple's vow exchange took place in front of a 100-year-old oak tree. Chairs were set up on either side of the aisle, which was flanked with oversized urns holding white flower arrangements.

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Flower-Lined Aisle

white floral arrangements lined wedding ceremony aisle
Mary Dougherty

The aisle was lined with whimsical all-white arrangements that reached the height of the chairs.

10 of 22

The String Quartet

man playing string instrument wedding music
Mary Dougherty

As guests waited for the service to begin, a string quartet played songs like Coldplay's "Fix You" and Bon Iver's "Skinny Love."

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Gentlemen on the Aisle

wedding party walking down aisle
Mary Dougherty

When the wedding party made their way down the aisle, the quartet played "Marry Me" by Train; the bridal processional began with the opening notes of "Canon in D."

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Here Comes the Bride

bride with mother and father before wedding ceremony
Mary Dougherty

Ali made her way down the aisle with both of her parents by her side. "My dad didn't want to see my dress ahead of time, so we were both crying as I walked down the stairs towards him," the bride says.

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Similar Vows

bride and groom smiling recessional walk
Mary Dougherty

The couple asked Ali's brother to officiate the wedding. They wrote their own vows, and although they didn't share them with each other before the ceremony, they were written similarly. "They each had the same story arch—how we were destined to meet and had so many parallels in our lives," Ali says. "Given that we were both athletes in college, there was a 'team' focus in both my brother's remarks as an officiant and in our vows."

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Special Faces and Places

watercolor drawing escort cards pinned to board
Mary Dougherty

An escort card display featuring the couple's custom monogram was set up inside. Each note included a watercolor drawing of a place that is significant to the couple, which indicated the table assignment.

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The Reception Setup

bride and groom under large white wedding reception tent
Mary Dougherty

Dinner took place outside, underneath a sailcloth tent, where a mix of round and elongated rectangular tables were set up on the lawn.

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On the Tabletop

long white linen covered reception tables with tapper candles
Mary Dougherty

Round tables were paired with the white seats from the ceremony, while the longer tables were surrounded by wooden oval cane-back chairs with cushions. Though some of the rectangular tables were kept bare, most were draped in ivory linen. Chandeliers, embellished with greenery, hung overhead to enhance the "garden-chic" look the couple envisioned. Place settings included white dishes, linen napkins, and illustrated menus tied in blue ribbon.

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Lovely Accents

white floral wedding reception table centerpieces
Mary Dougherty

The textured floral centerpieces were composed of roses, thistle, hydrangea, and greenery held in silver antique flower baskets. Gold candelabras and mercury glass votives held taper candles and tea-light candles.

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Toasts and Treats

wedding party sitting at reception table
Mary Dougherty

As the celebrants listened to heartfelt speeches, they enjoyed a three-course meal. Dinner began with a spring salad of mixed greens, snap peas, heirloom tomatoes, feta, and a white balsamic dressing. Guests chose between a filet entrée, mahi mahi with strawberry salsa, or asparagus risotto. For dessert, a sundae bar, cookies, and cake were on offer. And Ali and Matt also surprised guests with late-night snacks, including Rocherster-style "garbage plates."

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Cigar Bar

wedding party smoking cigars during reception
Mary Dougherty

Matt's father loves cigars, so Ali decided to surprise Matt, his dad, and their wedding party with some to sample. She went a step further—and had the cigars waiting at the firepit with a paired whiskey tasting.

20 of 22

The First Dance

bride and groom sharing first dance during reception
Mary Dougherty

Guests moved inside to dance the night away to a 12-piece band. Ali's father played the drums for a few of the opening songs. "It's somewhat of a family tradition—my maternal grandfather played the drums at my parents wedding, as well," Ali says. "We come from a musical family!" The couple shared their first spin to Adele's cover of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love," sung by Ali's sister and Matt's sister. "We loved having our sisters sing our first dance song, my dad play the drums, and have dancing go until 1 a.m.," the bride says.

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The Wedding Cake

three tiered white frosted wedding cake with white floral and greenery accents
Mary Dougherty

The couple's three-tiered lemon-blueberry wedding cake, designed to match Ali's wedding dress, featured embellishments that mimicked the beading and pearls on her gown, and was embellished with white flowers and greenery.

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bride and groom walking away with arms around each other
Mary Dougherty

Photography, Mary Dougherty
Venue, Catering, and Cake, Genesee Valley Club
Wedding Planning and Event Design, Ellie Clapp of Celebrated Events
Videography, Zach Cullen of Live Oak Film
Paper Products, Louelle Design Studio
Flowers, Arena's
Bride's Gown, Theia Couture
Bride's Veil, Angela Maw of Sew Classy Bridal Designs
Bride's Accessories, Badgley Mischka
Bride's Second Look, Amsale; Christian Louboutin
Bride's Makeup, Michelle Rauber, Rock Paper Scissors Salon
Groom's Attire, Suit Supply
Groom's Shoes, Del Toro Shoes
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Dessy
Music, Delmonico String Quartet; Harold Danko; Twilight Entertainment
Guestbook, Starboard Press via Etsy
Rentals, Nuage Designs; Petunia Rose; Hank Parker
Lighting, Hank Parker
Transportation, SS Limousine

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