This Pair's Lush, Whimsical Big Day Came Together in the Bride's Parents' Backyard
Betsy Frese, a Master's degree student, and Christian Brown, an athletic director and basketball trainer, have the groom's son to thank for their meet-cute, which took place in October of 2017. After watching and supporting Christian Jr. at his homecoming football game, the groom spotted Betsy (a teacher at the time) while he waited for his son to finish his post-game speech. "She was helping clean up and was trying to get rid of some donuts (some stale donuts at that!) from the event," Christian recalls. At first glance, he felt immediately drawn to her dimples, smile, and eye for footwear (she was wearing white-and-blue Air Jordan One sneakers). He knew he had to talk to her before leaving the game and checked with one of the students next to him to make sure she wasn't Christian Jr.'s teacher. "I said to myself, 'If she comes over here and offers me a donut, I'm going to respectfully decline, but I'm going to engage her in conversation,' and essentially, 'shoot my shot.'" It all came to pass—and after they exchanged email addresses, the rest was history.
This chance meeting led to their eventual engagement two years later. "We got engaged on July 20, 2019, in Santorini, Greece," Betsy says. The pair traveled to the island to celebrate Christian's birthday, but he had other plans in store for the trip: a sweet, scenic marriage proposal. "It was sunset at a beautiful restaurant in Oia called Ambrosia, and we were overlooking the caldera," the bride shares. "Christian got up to go to the bathroom (i.e., give the waiter his phone to take a video), and when he got back to the table, he pretended he was having a back spasm. I stood up to help him, and he got down on one knee." After an overwhelming yes from Betsy, the pair began preparing for their nuptials, planning to tie the knot in front of 200 guests on July 25, 2020, at Betsy's parents' house. While the pair did have to change their plans as COVID-19 took the country by storm (they ultimately limited their guest count), they were fortunate enough to safely host their wedding at their original venue. "It felt really good to us to decide on something and be able to get excited about that, versus being at the whims of the pandemic. We felt so grateful and blessed to be able to get married at all," the bride says.
"A sweet surprise in all of this is that we were able to have the ceremony in this whimsical allée, which just wouldn't have been feasible with our original guest list," the bride says. "It was my sister-in-law Emily Frese's [of Lily and Co.,] idea, who, I have to say, was the biggest blessing. She is so creative and worked so hard to find ways to make our smaller wedding feel dreamy." With a solid big-day vision and meaningful details intact, Stephanie Cook to help plan, and 25 of their loved ones in attendance, the couple's two families officially became one on October 24, 2020.
Relaxed and Ready
Adhering to a tradition recommended by Betsy's parents, the couple decided against a first look; the bride says this made getting ready alongside her cousins, mom, and godmother that much more special, since they had more time together.
Christian ended up growing out his hair when the COVID-19 pandemic forced barbershops to close, but he loved his new look and decided to keep it for the big day. He used Scotch Porter products to moisturize and style his hair. "It's also important to me to support and uplift Black-owned businesses, so it was a win-win," he adds.
The groom's son, Christian Jr., sported a classic black tuxedo from The Black Tux.
All Dressed in White
Each bridesmaid wore their own white dress for the occasion, along with cashmere wraps.
Betsy and her bridesmaids' bouquets featured an assortment of flowers, like campanula, andromeda, lisianthus, clematis, and garden roses.
Betsy always "told me that she envisioned herself getting married at her parent's house in Lake Forest and getting ready in her parents' room," Christian recalls. "And I wanted her to see her vision come to life."
The Perfect Day
While the couple had to make adjustments to bring their day to life, they encourage other couples planning their weddings to remember that a smaller guest count won't make the day any less monumental. "There's something special about having a smaller, more intimate wedding. It also prepares you for marriage because you can plan for something and it doesn't mean that it's going to go that way," Christian says. "Life can throw you a curveball and you have to roll with it—you've got to roll with the punches. As a couple, you'll figure it out together."
Warm for the Wedding
Guests had blankets and Hot Toddies readily available to keep them warm during the ceremony.
The couple's flower girl was fully prepared to make her way down the aisle.
Sally Stephenson Music played "XO" by Beyoncé on the violin and cello as Betsy and her father walked down the pathway arm-in-arm during the processional.
Words of Love
Betsy and Christian loved reading personalized vows to each other during their service. The groom promised his soon-to-be wife that he would live by the mantra "we before me."
They made their ceremony even more personal by having a close loved one officiate their nuptials. "We knew almost immediately when we were engaged that we wanted my cousin, Billy Powers, to marry us," Betsy shares. Christian adds that having someone who shared their values and who could speak about them as a couple meant the world. "Billy's officiant speech reflected values that Betsy and I care deeply about—social and racial justice," Christian says. "We wanted to shed light on our biracial marriage and the joining of our two families, especially with the current state of the country and the world in the aftermath of the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd."
Highlighting their love for Beyoncé once again during the ceremony, the couple walked out as husband and wife to "Crazy in Love."
Guests feasted on light appetizers from Limelight Catering during the cocktail hour.
Dusty pinks, ivory, and green tones accented the whimsical reception décor.
Garden roses, lisianthus, hellebores, tulips, clematis, dahlias, scabies, andromeda, ranunculus, and campanula filled each centerpiece.
Nod to New York City
Since they met in New York, and it is also where Christian is from, the couple subtly paid homage to the Big Apple with favors from Momofuku Milk Bar.
The day wouldn't have been complete without their 25 guests in attendance. To show their appreciation, the pair left handwritten notes at everyone's settings.
Their group sat family-style for dinner. Guests also gave toasts to the newlyweds—the favorite of the night was delivered by Christian Jr.
Dancing the Night Away
Gold Coast All Stars provided the live music for the night. For the couple's first dance, they chose "Stand By Me" by Prince Royce, which paid tribute to Christian's Dominican heritage. "It's an upbeat, fun song in both English and Spanish, which kind of represents us as a couple," he shares. "It's like a modern twist on a classic song—and relates to our relationship and the joining of two different cultures. The lyrics serve as a reminder to stand by one another for who we are now and who we will be in the future."
Photography, Carrie Patterson
Wedding Planning, Stephanie Cook
Event Design and Flowers, Emily Frese of Lily and Co.
Videography, Wholehearted Wedding Film Co.
Invitations, Place Cards, and Menus, Lydia Evans
Calligraphy, Joi Hunt of Bien Fait Calligraphy
Save-the-Dates, Annie McDonald Creative
Officiant, Billy Powers
Bride's Gown, Monique Lhuillier via Mark Ingram Atelier
Veil, Mark Ingram Atelier
Groom's Watch, Breitling
Shoes, Loeffler Randall
Hair and Makeup, Pin Me Up
Groom's Hair, Scotch Porter
Groom's Attire, Suit Supply
Groomsmen's Attire, The Black Tux
Engagement Rings, Wedding Bands, and Bride's Jewelry, Therese Crowe Design
Reception Music, Gold Coast All Stars
Ceremony Music, Sally Stephenson Music
Catering, Limelight Catering
Cake, The Bent Fork
Rentals, Blue Peak
Favors, Momofuku Milk Bar
Lighting, Elegant Event Lighting