This Couple Chose a Movie-Famous Venue for Their Late-Autumn Ceremony on the Chesapeake Bay
On a red-eye flight home from Nevada in 2017, Paralympic athlete Brad Snyder (and his guide dog, Gizzy) struck up a conversation with the woman in the next seat. She and Brad rekindled their friendship when they ran into each other at the gym eight months later—this time, with a matchmaking twist. The seatmate, Amy, connected Brad with one of her former coworkers, Sara Ayoub. "No stranger to bad first dates and heartbreak, we settled on coffee to mitigate risk," says the couple. "Coffee turned into scones, scones into lunch, and before long, we set off to Target and the grocery store, somehow knowing that we'd spend the rest of our lives together."
Less than a year after Amy introduced the pair, Brad surprised Sara with a Christmas Eve proposal during a private evening walk after dinner with both their families. "I began to cry while Brad fumbled through a sentiment he in hindsight wished he had rehearsed more thoroughly, but the moment was one we'd never forget," says Sara. "I burst back into the house and shouted, 'We're engaged!'"
Sara and Brad wanted to embrace the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay by hosting an outdoor, waterfront wedding, and quickly chose The Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels, Maryland—made famous when it served as the backdrop for the reception scene in Wedding Crashers. "Not only was the venue beautiful, but it was quiet and intimate, giving us the impression that our guests and our wedding would feel truly unique and special," says the couple. "As the Inn at Perry Cabin was previously utilized as a film location, Brad, who is blind, was able to accurately and vividly visualize the landscape and the venue," adds Sara.
The couple included 85 friends and family at their November 2, 2019, wedding, opting for a neutral color palette of taupe-and-white with deep red accents, and including an array of custom details chosen to enhance each guest's experience. "We feel very lucky and grateful to have met and to have fallen in love, and we realize that the people that we are and the couple we've become is largely a function of the people we're surrounded by," says the couple. "While we were of course excited to marry each other, we were more excited to share that experience and joy with our dearest friends and family." They set out cozy blankets and hot cider to ward off the chilly November air; ordered personalized mugs and Brad's favorite coffee to hand out as parting gifts; and invited matchmaker Amy to officiate the ceremony. "Throughout the entire day, and especially once all the guests started to gather, you could really feel that everyone was so happy and excited to be there," says Sara. "Everyone was laughing and crying and just having such a great time. That is a feeling I'll never forget."
As a couple, they had a shared focus for their big day: "Our dream was to host an event that felt special and for all of our guests to have an unforgettable and joyous experience," says Sara. But Brad had an even simpler dream, he says: "To marry Sara."
Sara and Brad chose a "simple and elegant" invitation from Minted that paired a swooping, lowercase script for their names with a traditional text for the copy. "The body copy font was similar to Times New Roman font, as Brad visually remembers what that particular font looks like," says Sara.
Sneaking a Peak
Two flower girls, dressed in sweet floral ensembles, and a ring bearer preceded Sara and her parents down the aisle. "The flower girls were heavy handed with the petals at the beginning of the aisle, and shouted, 'I ran out!' towards the end of their trip," says Brad. "They were super cute, and were a constant source of joy and laughs throughout the entire day!"
Lovely in Lace
Sara describes her Stella York wedding dress as a "dreamy combination of lace and crepe that felt buttery soft to the touch with a delicate, boho vibe." And though she doesn't always make decisions quickly, she says, she chose this gown without hesitation. "I tend to go for simple and classic designs, but the lace detail with nude mesh blended into my body and I just embraced the train," she says. "I felt really special in it and loved the lace detail and the way it fit." She added a crystal headband from Bridal Styles; borrowed Mikomoto pearls from her matron of honor after forgetting her own on the day of the wedding; and carried a beaded clutch. on loan from her mother, into which she tucked a fabric handkerchief passed down through Brad's mother's family.
Meant to Be
Brad and Sara reworked the traditional first look into a "first touch," which gave Brad—a former U.S. Navy Seal who lost his sight after stepping on an IED in Afghanistan—the opportunity to feel the textures and fabrics of Sara's gown. Their first big-day moments together, says the couple, "felt surreal before, during and after. You spend your whole life trying to be the best version of yourself and in that moment, we really felt like we were."
After their first touch, the couple spent time posing for portraits around the property—including with Brad's guide dog, Gizzy. "Earlier that year, we discovered Gizzy had a genetic condition similar to ALS, but for dogs. She was slowly losing the use of her back legs," says Brad. "The condition is eventually fatal, so when she was first diagnosed, we didn't know how long she would live. Thankfully, she was there for our wedding day adorned with a flower necklace. It meant a lot to both of us to have Gizzy there with us."
A Happy Bunch
For her bridesmaids, Sara chose a one-shoulder gown from David's Bridal in a rich red. "I loved the material of the dress I picked out," she says. "My bridesmaids were located all over the country, so it helped that they could go to the store on their own or order online. I am practical and wanted a dress that was affordable, elegant, and comfortable."
Brad opted to match his groomsmen: All of the men wore three-piece suits from Banana Republic and French-cuffed shirts with red, white, and blue striped ties from Brooks Brothers. "I wanted maximum formality for optimum budget. It wasn't important to me to be distinguished—I was so proud to have my best friends all there with me on the greatest day of my life and I enjoyed our uniformity," he says. "Knowing that Sara was going to look absolutely amazing in her wedding dress, I knew that the groomsmen and I needed to look top notch. I a subdued, but classic style on the groomsmen would accompany the ladies nicely, highlight them, and not take anything away."
Brad gave his groomsmen matching crab-shaped cuff links—a nod to both the wedding's Chesapeake Bay location and his military service. "The crab has a double meaning in that it's an iconic Maryland symbol, but my insignia from the military was nicknamed 'the crab,'" he says. "Myself and three of my groomsmen were all EOD Officers in the Navy, who would all wear a 'crab' insignia on their uniform." But he wore a custom pair Sara gave him as a wedding gift, which included an etching of her handwriting. "I was proud to sport those instead of crabs," he says.
Bold and Beautiful
Steelcut Flower Co. drew inspiration from the neutral color palette to create a high-impact bouquet with an delicate cascade shape. Blooms included deep red amaryllis, white peonies and roses, blackberry scabiosa, and burgundy dahlias, while sprigs of rosemary added scent to magnify the sensory experience for Brad.
On the Waterfront
Sara and Brad chose a picturesque spot along the The Inn at Perry Cabin's shore as the backdrop for their ceremony. White folding chairs faced the bay, while a horseshoe-shaped floral installation created an altar space—and coordinated with arrangements behind the chairs.
A greenery-adored wrought iron stand held a sign encouraging loved ones to unplug for the ceremony to come.
Something to Sip On
Brad's mother and sister designed a welcome area at the ceremony that included cozy blankets placed in baskets around a sign reading, "To have and to hold in case you get cold," and cinnamon-rimmed mugs for hot cider. "Even though it was beautiful, it was chilly, so we wanted people to enjoy the beauty of the setting without being uncomfortable," says the couple. "Everyone ended up being so excited—no one really went for the blankets, but the cider station was a huge hit!"
Rolled blankets tied with programs were placed on chairs for family members who were part of the processional. The programs included custom sketches of the venue from Cink Art.
Man's Best Friend
Brad and Gizzy waited at the altar—with Amy Donovan, the couple's matchmaker and officiant—for the ceremony to begin. "Like many in the crowd, Gizzy cried when Sara walked down the aisle," says Brad. "Amy reminded us in her opening remarks that Gizzy was the true matchmaker, because Amy only sat next to me on that cross-country flight because Gizzy was at my feet. We lost Gizzy a few months later, but we're both so glad that we'll forever have the memory of her by our side when we said our vows."
Sara's parents escorted her down the aisle to "Pachelbel's Canon." After carefully curating a selection of classic wedding songs and unexpected tunes for Shore Strings of Easton to perform during the ceremony, the couple realized the musicians might not be able to participate due to weather. "I was worried about how the strings would sound outside, and they had warned us that if it was too cold they weren't going to be able to play at all," says Brad. "We were just over the minimum temperature, so I was a little nervous, but when I heard them start up, it was so beautiful."
In Their Own Words
They wrote their own vows—with a twist. "I wrote what I wanted Sara to vow to me, and Sara wrote what she wanted me to vow to her," says Brad. "We then wrote in a vow that we would both do the things that we asked of the other. It was meant to be sincere, but also a little moment of humor." But though they practiced before the big day, Brad—an experienced public speaker—froze during the ceremony. "It's extra ironic because I do quite a bit of public speaking in my professional life, but I just got tied up in the moment," he says. "I forgot the line, and Sara had to remind me that it was my turn to go during the ceremony. It was slightly embarrassing, but really funny!"
During the cocktail hour, Sara and Brad took a moment alone in the reception room with their planner, Rebecca Thomas of Rebecca Thomas Events. "So much work had gone into setting it up just perfectly, and, being blind, much of that detail would be lost on me once all the guests were in the hall," says Brad. "Just Sara, Rebecca, and I got to look at the place settings, the cake, the dance floor and all of that while it was quiet and calm. I'm so glad we did that because once all the guests were in there, I could really visualize the whole scene in my mind."
The reception design incorporated full-length white table linens, taupe napkins with berry-colored ties, pale pink glassware, and varied floral centerpieces in white-and-green tones with burgundy accents.
A Sweet Moment
A friend of the couple provided a three-tiered confection—which included yellow cake soaked in rum simple syrup, French vanilla pastry cream, and dark chocolate ganache, layered and frosted with textured Italian meringue buttercream.
Life of the Party
Sara and Brad chose "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Kina Grannis for their first dance—a song Sara loved for its sentimental history. "I would listen to it all the time when Brad and I first met," she says. "We considered other songs, but we came back to this one." As friends and family joined the couple on the dance floor with DJ Steve Moody, the couple's wedding vision come to life. "The feeling of joy seemed to build and build throughout the entire day," says Brad. "When it finally came time to dance, the room seemed to erupt! Everyone seemed to have their moment and their song, and everyone just kept saying, 'We're having such a great time!'"
Photography, Manda Weaver Photograph
Venue and Catering, Inn at Perry Cabin
Event Planning, Rebecca Thomas Events
Flowers, Steelcut Flower Co.
Videography, Andover Media
Music, Shore Strings (ceremony); DJ Steve Moody (DJ); Extraordinary Events (reception)
Rentals, BBJ Linen; Eastern Shore Tent and Events; White Glove Rentals
Bride's Gown, Stella York
Bride's Accessories, Bridal Styles veil; Badgley Mischka shoes; Mikimoto pearls
Hair and Makeup, Vintage Veils
Bridesmaids' Dresses, David's Bridal
Flower Girl Dresses, Lord and Taylor
Groom's Suit and Menswear, Banana Republic
Groom's Shirt and Tie, Brooks Brothers
Favors, Ceremony Coffee Roasters (coffee); Custom Ink (mugs)
Guest Book, Starboard Press
Day-of Paper Goods, Cink Art
Rings, Zachary's Jewelers
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