This Couple's Blue-and-White Reception Was Inspired by Heirloom China

bride and groom at venue with greenery
Caitlin O'Reilly

Sara and Dave met on a dating app, not once, but twice. After exchanging numbers in June of 2017, they realized that they had matched on the same platform and shared a date a year earlier. "Dave was a gentleman about my 'lack of follow up' after our first date and agreed to wipe the slate clean, and we never looked back," Sara says. In November 2019, Dave set up a surprise proposal by filling their apartment with flowers and candles and recreating the first meal he cooked for her. "I should have known something was up because when I got home, I opened the door and he shut it in my face, leaving me on the porch," Sara says. "What I didn't realize was that I had given him the wrong ETA and he was still lighting all of the candles!" Dave even conspired with Sara's assistant to make sure he could whisk her away for a night in Napa to celebrate.

The couple originally dreamed up a wedding in that region for 100 guests, but when the shelter-in-place order started a month into their planning process, they began to consider postponing the celebration. With so much uncertainty in the coming days, however, the couple held off on changing their plans until 10 weeks before the original date. With help from their planner, Alexis Alexander of Alexis Raine Events, they were able to recreate their big wedding at a small bed and breakfast, but some of their vendors requested they cut the guest list even more.

Sara and Dave stood their ground and were determined to host a 2020 wedding for their 25 guests, so they cancelled the re-plan and started planning from scratch. "My stubbornness was both a blessing and a curse at this point," Sara says. "Alexis and I spent hours online looking for a new venue. Through her contacts, she found the gorgeous private estate where we ultimately got married." They spent six weeks planning their outdoor nuptials with a color palette of white, ivory, greenery, and shades of blue in Woodside, California. Everything fell into place on October 16, 2020.

01 of 21

On Location

outdoor wedding venue with lush greenery and growing vines
Caitlin O'Reilly

Sara worked with her planner, Alexis Alexander of Alexis Raine Events, to find a venue that could host their 25 guests. With little time to spare, they located a private estate in Woodside, California, that checked every box—and was organically beautiful to boot.

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Timeless Fashions

bride in wedding dress with veil under archway
Caitlin O'Reilly

The bride wore her original wedding dress, a strapless lace Ines Di Santo trumpet gown with an illusion back. Though she didn't expect this silhouette to work for her, she tried on a variety of styles, and when she put on this gown for the second time, she knew it was the correct one. Both her mother and mother-in-law agreed. "It was so timeless, that I knew it would work with a lot of different venues," the bride says. She paired the number with a cathedral-length veil with a cascading cut edge. Minimal accessories, including diamond interlocking hoop earrings from EF Collection and gold kitten heel slingback sandals from J. Crew, completed the look.

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Bouquet in White

bride in strapless dress holding bouquet
Caitlin O'Reilly

Sara held a loose bouquet of swan garden roses, white ranunculus, mini eucalyptus, and pennycress that was finished with a silk hand-dyed ribbon.

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Tonal Blues

groom in blue suit and light blue tie
Caitlin O'Reilly

Dave donned a blue wool Ted Baker suit paired with a white shirt and light blue tie from Eton. Salvatore Ferragamo loafers and a Tag Heuer watch with a brown alligator band—a wedding gift from Sara—were the finishing touches.

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Stress Melts Away

bride and groom first look
Caitlin O'Reilly

After getting ready separately, Sara and Dave shared a first look before the ceremony in a small courtyard at the front of the estate. "When the moment came and I turned around and saw her, all I can say is that she literally took my breath away," Dave says. "For me, that was the moment that the wedding went from an anxiety-inducing exercise to pure bliss and happiness."

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Draped to Perfection

wedding ceremony drapes
Caitlin O'Reilly

Sara and Dave's outdoor ceremony took place on the lawn, underneath a cascade of oak trees. They worked with their florist, Meredith Law of M Design, to install fabric along the branches; this served as the focal point.

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Family Photos

table of family wedding photos
Caitlin O'Reilly

As guests arrived for the service, they passed a display with framed photos of the couple's parents and grandparents on their respective wedding days.

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A Socially-Distanced Ceremony

wedding ceremony seating in grass with ferns
Caitlin O'Reilly

Chairs were intentionally separated to provide ample distance between guests; potted plants and ferns filled in the negative space, making the gaps look intentional.

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The Personal Notes

personalized notes for guests
Caitlin O'Reilly

Sara and Dave wrote letters to each couple in attendance; they read them during the ceremony. "It was our chance to tell every person at our wedding how important they are to us," Sara says.

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Solo Entrance

bride walking down the aisle
Caitlin O'Reilly

The bride walked herself down the aisle as a string trio played "La Vie En Rose." "I've thought about that moment a lot since my dad passed away, and it never made sense to me to have someone stand in his place," she says. "Even though I was alone, it still felt like that was my moment with my dad."

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Brotherly Love

Bride and groom exchanging vows
Caitlin O'Reilly

Sara's brother, Brian, officiated the duo's nuptials. "It was obvious how much time and thought he put into writing it, and it exceeded every expectation we had," Sara says. The couple read their own vows from personalized books.

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A Quick Kiss

bride and groom kiss
Caitlin O'Reilly

The newlyweds stole a kiss at the end of the aisle before moving on to their cocktail hour.

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Fall-Ready Cocktails

wedding cocktails on tray
Caitlin O'Reilly

Dave and Sara served a signature sip named after their dog, Remy, during the cocktail hour. They originally wanted to offer a spicy margarita, their favorite drink, but switched it up when the wedding was moved to October. "During all of our time at home in 2020, we experimented making different cocktails, and one of our favorite new discoveries was the boulevardier," Sara says. Their version featured rye, Campari, and sweet vermouth over one large ice cube with a lemon twist. Guests also enjoyed individually-packaged canapes (to limit interaction between the service team and guests!) including shrimp ceviche, chipotle chicken purses, smoked salmon potatoes, and burrata crostinis.

The newlyweds kicked off the celebration with a bottle of Champagne. "Being introduced as husband and wife as we walked into dinner was such a joyous and light moment," Dave says.

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Time for Dinner

outdoor reception tables with blue table clothes
Caitlin O'Reilly

The couple's reception took place on the lawn behind the estate; tables were positioned strategically with safety protocols in mind.

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Dreamy Tablescapes

table set for six with flowers and blue linens
Caitlin O'Reilly

Bistro lights hung over long wooden tables that were topped with custom, hand-dyed gauze table runners; they were a nice parallel to the single drape that billowed above the couple as they exchanged vows.

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Fine China

blue and white floral china tea set and flower vases
Caitlin O'Reilly

Inspired by the bride's grandmother's blue-and-white china, the party's décor incorporated a balance of antique and modern details; these accents served a utilitarian purpose, too. "To minimize staff-to-guest contact, we pre-set all china, flatware, and glassware for the entire meal—including coffee service items," says the couple's planner, Alexis. "The effect was stunning, with complementary vessels for the soft white, ivory, and touch-of-peach florals."

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Organic Settings

table set with blue and white china with white flower arrangements
Caitlin O'Reilly

China from Frances Lane was paired with muted gold flatware and hand-dyed napkins that were tied with silk ribbons and adorned with sprigs of greenery. Small and medium arrangements of cosmos, garden roses, lisianthus, astilbe, and clover were mixed with variegated greens and placed in vases along the center of each station. Candles and lanterns were placed throughout for a shimmering glow.

Sara and Dave served a three-course meal that began with a roasted gold beat, goat cheese, and arugula salad followed by a butternut squash ravioli. Guests had their choice of main entrée, including grilled king salmon with Meyer lemon mashed potatoes and an herb salad; slow cooked angus beef short ribs with carrots, caramelized onions, and mashed potatoes; or portobello mushroom and smoked squash napoleon with piquillo peppers, tomato vinaigrette, and sage oil. "Dave and I love to cook together, and every dish we chose included some of our favorite foods," Sara explains.

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bride and groom first dance
Caitlin O'Reilly

When Sara and Dave first started brainstorming songs for their first dance, there wasn't much agreement. But when each of them independently brought up the song "Beyond" by Leon Bridges, they knew it was the right choice. "It's a beautiful love song that really spoke to how we feel about each other and, as a bonus, was fun to dance to," Sara says. Instead of their original plan for a full band, the couple hired a DJ and created a playlist for the party.

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Warm Words

bride and groom at reception during speeches
Caitlin O'Reilly

Guests listened to toasts from the mother of the bride, the mother of the groom, and one of the bride's uncles. "It felt like there was an extra level of joy in the air, and we didn't take one minute for granted," Sara says.

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Tiny Cakes

single-tier wedding cake on wooden table
Caitlin O'Reilly

The couple cut into a small olive oil lemon confection with Meyer lemon curd and Swiss buttercream. Even though they originally wanted a cake with berries, the couple embraced making the change to use in-season ingredients. "We served guests individual cakes of pumpkin with cream cheese and chocolate chip espresso with buttercream," Dave says. "They had a single handmade white antique hydrangea, ruffled to mimic the peonettes on the cutting cake."

After dinner, Sara and Dave set up a bar that offered truffles, port, and single malt scotch. "My family's favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, and we have a tradition of drinking port after dinner," Sara says. "It only seemed right that we end our wedding by showing our family and friends the same hospitality." Sara and Dave have two pieces of wisdom to share with couple's currently planning their big days. The bride recommends choosing great vendors you can rely on. "They gave us confidence that we could pull off the wedding we dreamed about," she says. Dave, on the other hand, suggests avoiding dwelling on the compromises you will inevitably make, and instead focusing on your nonnegotiable must-haves. "For me and Sara, the most important thing, besides committing to spend a lifetime together, was celebrating with our closest friends and family," he says. "Having clarity on that made the hard decisions a lot easier."

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bridal veil up close
Caitlin O'Reilly

Photography, Caitlin O'Reilly
Videography, Henry Martens of The Brothers Martens
Wedding Planning and Event Design, Alexis Alexander, Alexis Raine Events
Flowers, Fabric, and Paper Products, Meredith Law, M Design
Bride's Gown, Ines Di Santo
Bride's Veil, Bridal Galleria
Bride's Earrings, EF Collection
Bride's Shoes, J. Crew
Hair & Makeup, Rebecca B of Artists by Sherrie Long
Groom's Attire, Ted Baker London
Groom's Shoes, Salvatore Ferragamo
Groom's Accessories, Eton; Tag Heuer
Music, Wine Country Entertainment
Catering, Melons Catering
Cake, Flour and Bloom Cakes
Rentals, Standard Party Rentals, Frances Lane
Lighting, Joe Squared Productions

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