A Black-Tie Micro Wedding in Front of a 15th-Century Chapel in Texas
When Natalie met Preston during their shared volunteer shift at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in March 2019, she knew immediately he was a catch—but since she was already in a relationship, she tried to set him up with her friends. "Thankfully, he never followed through with asking them out!" she says. When Natalie was single again a few months later, she joined an online dating app, and when Preston recognized a mutual friend in one of her photos, he reached out to that person to ask for Natalie's number. "Our first date was on Friday, November 15, 2019, and I knew on that date he was the one," says Natalie. "He checked all of my boxes and we ended up going out again that Saturday and then again on Sunday. We met each other's families a few weeks later."
By the next July, Preston and Natalie had looked at engagement rings and started building a house together—but he still managed to surprise her by proposing on a walk with their dog by the chapel at The Clubs at Houston Oaks. "He got down on one knee and I thought it was a joke and he was just teasing me!" says Natalie. "I didn't hear a word he said, I sort of blacked out. Then he stayed down there and pulled out the ring, and that is when I realized it was real life." They began planning a wedding for 2021, expecting to dodge COVID-19 restrictions by waiting more than a year from their engagement, but reworked their plans when Natalie's father—still recovering from a severe stroke in 2019—injured himself in a serious fall. "We scrambled and it was very emotional, but after everything we had been through, we moved up the wedding and decided to make it COVID-friendly to accommodate the times," says Natalie. "It was a difficult and very emotional decision to make, but it was also the most practical. How do we know if COVID will be in the past in a year? We don't."
On October 23, 2020, Natalie and Preston hosted 12 other adults and three children for a ceremony and dinner at the chapel where Preston had proposed, incorporating many of the elements they envisioned for their larger ceremony—dramatic florals, a duchess-inspired wedding gown, custom stationery, and a black-tie dress code—with a simple motto: "Go big or go home," says Natalie, "even if no one's watching!" And though at times during the planning process Natalie says she "felt like COVID had cheated me out of a normal experience," with Preston's support—"He would be there to comfort me, saying that he would have married me the day he proposed or at the courthouse just the two of us," she says—and their shared faith, the day turned out more perfectly than she envisioned. "Little did I know what was ahead: God had an even better experience waiting for us than I ever could have imagined," she says. "His plan is always better than ours."
The couple's custom crest combined their first initials with a petite butterfly detail—an icon that reappeared throughout the wedding—and complemented the gold script, traditional lettering, and blush-colored, deckled-edge paper. The suite from Anticipate Invitations also included a wide, off-white cotton paper band with a watercolor image of the ceremony location, a gold wax seal with a bee image, and olive green silk ribbon.
Before getting ready for the ceremony, Natalie and her family hosted a Zoom call for her 14 "virtual bridesmaids" and friends, followed by a quiet moment of prayer. "I asked one of my bridesmaids to say a prayer and bless the day and our marriage at the end of the call and it was so special and so sweet," says Natalie. "She even typed her prayer for me so I could save it forever. It was my favorite part of the getting ready day-of process and would highly recommend this to someone in a similar situation."
A Lucky Find
The bride had spent years picturing her perfect wedding dress, which she described as "Kate Middleton, lace, sleeves, etc.!" With less than three months before the wedding, she prepared herself to compromise—until her planner found the perfect Monique Lhuillier gown at a nearby boutique. "This particular dress belonged to another bride," says Natalie. "Unfortunately, her wedding did not work out, but the dress had never been worn out of the store. The owner of the store was doing the bride a favor by selling it or brokering a deal for her, if the right girl came along that was the right size and the right height—since the dress was made to fit the previous bride." The re-embroidered scalloped lace gown, with its long sleeves and pearl buttons, fit her vision exactly. "I tried on multiple other dresses, but I knew this seemed like it was meant to be. Even the veil was perfection!" she says. "It was just a feeling I had when I put it on. It was what I had imagined for many years. I knew immediately that was the one!"
Natalie's love for butterflies inspired her bouquet of ranunculus, peonies, roses, astilbe, and scabiosa from Phuong Nguyen at Mibellarosa, who wanted the arrangement to "look like an organic garden that butterflies would naturally flock to." The bride and groom added a special sentimental touch, too: "My bouquet had both of our mother's original gold wedding bands intertwined with extra lace from my dress alterations," says Natalie, "representing almost 80 years of marriage between the two, as my something borrowed."
In Fine Feather
A Sentimental Spot
Natalie and Preston chose to tie the knot in the same spot where Preston had proposed. "Obviously, it was a special location to both of us, and we really didn't consider any other options," says Natalie. "Houston Oaks imported a 15th Century French Chapel and situated it overlooking the lush golf course and lake—it's hard not to fall in love. When I first saw it, I knew immediately that was where I wanted to marry Preston."
An asymmetrical arch with an "overgrown garden" aesthetic included roses, delphiniums, larkspur, campanula, carnations, and baby's breath in shades of cream, ivory, white, beige, and blush, complementing the chapel's ancient doors and Natalie's regal gown. "Phuong wanted the arch's white flowers and vines to look as if they had naturally grown out and around the walls of the chapel," says the bride. "The team had finished the arch right before a torrential squall blew through the ceremony area for nearly half an hour and tore the half the arch down along with it. The arch was reconstructed just in time for the procession to begin."
At First Sight
Preston and Natalie chose not to see each other before her father escorted her to the altar. "I wanted to see Preston's face when I walked down the aisle for the first time. We are both very traditional so we both wanted to be surprised," says Natalie. "My dad walked me down the aisle like a champ! I was so proud of him. He has come so far in his physical therapy and even got a snazzy new cane that would fit the black-tie attire."
An Emotional Moment
Preston let his feelings show as Natalie and her father came toward the altar. "My most favorite memory of our wedding day will be walking down the aisle looking at Preston's face. He is not an emotional guy, but he sure was that day—I'll never forget it," says Natalie. "I was very emotional throughout the planning process but I kept it together walking down the aisle and during the ceremony. I also did not want to ruin my makeup! Preston had been my rock throughout the process and was very supportive, but he, on the other hand, was extremely emotional during most of the ceremony."
Saying "I Do"
The couple's friend, minister Beau Glenn, led them through a traditional religious ceremony. "Both our families are of strong Christian faith and Preston and I wanted to start our relationship with Christ at the very center," says Natalie. "[Beau] really took the lead on the ceremony after we met with him and described what we pictured and he was able to orchestrate exactly what we wanted."
After the ceremony, the newlyweds were all smiles as they posed with their beloved CavaMalt puppy, Rosie, at the altar.
In addition to joining the bridal party for the ceremony and processional, Rosie also inspired the couple's signature cocktail—a mix of Topo Chico, tequila, and lime they dubbed "Rosie's Ranch Water"—served in custom cups and with personalized mixing sticks.
Dinner Al Fresco
A single table for the couple's 12 guests sat behind the ceremony space, allowing the chapel, the floral arch, and the water to serve as an English garden-inspired backdrop. The aisle marker floral arrangements were moved to anchor the table, which the couple draped with delicate pale pink linens.
Florals arranged in footed urns and low bowls included peonies, garden roses, campanula, astilbe, ranunculus, Queen Anne's lace, larkspur, snapdragons, and orchids.
Natalie provided her own colorful butterfly plates, which were complemented by gold-rimmed chargers and flatware. Personalized menus detailed the evening's meal—fig salad with blackberry-basil vinaigrette, filet mignon and lobster, truffle macaroni and cheese and parmesan-roasted broccolini—while serving as place cards.
Becca Cakes provided a four-tiered cake decorated with lace and pearls that matched Natalie's gown, fondant hydrangea blossoms, and floating butterflies.
Natalie and Preston chose "Texas Sun" by Leon Bridges for their first dance for a very personal reason: "It mentions both of our hometowns in the lyrics, 'Fort Worth to Amarillo,'" says Natalie. "Both are smaller Texas towns where we grew up and our families still reside, and who doesn't love Leon Bridges at a wedding?" After their parent dances, the couple also made time to celebrate each of the couples at their wedding. "Since the wedding was small and intimate, I also played all of the other couples' wedding songs, and it was a very special touch and helped everyone to get out on the dance floor," says Natalie.
Love and Joy
As the couple and their guests savored the reception, Natalie made sure to pay attention to each memory. "Everyone tells you that the day goes by so fast and to take mental pictures," she says. "There was a moment during the reception dinner I paused and looked around to let everything sink in. I felt so much peace and joy. I saw my family who has been through so much over the past 14 months, filled with joy, lightness, and happiness. I got to walk down the aisle with my dad, and he gave an incredible speech at the wedding. It was an amazing thing to see. The wedding represented more than just our marriage. It represented a new, brighter, and joy-filled future for both of our families."
Photography, Josh and Dana Fernandez
Venue and Catering, The Clubs at Houston Oaks
Wedding Planning and Event Design, Two Be Wed
Videography, Reverent Wedding Films
Stationery, Anticipate Invitations (design and watercolor); Littleford Letterpress (printing)
Cake, Becca Cakes
Music, Divisi Strings (ceremony); DJ Senega (reception)
Rentals, House of Hough; Your Butler's Pantry
Bride's Gown, Monique Lhuillier
Bride's Accessories, Monique Lhuillier veil; Sophia Webster shoes; Cook Diamonds earrings
Hair, Kelsey Finney Crissman, The Upper Hand
Makeup, Kolours by Kris
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Alfred Sung; Joanna August
Groom's Suit, Knot Standard
Groom's Accessories, Brackish bow tie; Mariquita Masterson cuffl inks and studs
Lighting, Premier Sound and Lighting
Favors, The Essential Market
Ribbon, Tono and Co.
Wax Seal, Artisaire
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