This Backyard Wedding in Dallas, Texas, Proves the True Power of Color Contrast
When Conor proposed to Ellen in April 2019, the moment was nothing less than "euphoric," says the bride. "We got engaged at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival," she shares. "Conor surprised me by flying in early and proposing minutes before our favorite band performed." This idyllic start was followed by plans for a dazzling September 2020 event for 200 in Washington, D.C.. A church wedding would be followed by a traditional New Orleans second line parade to the reception at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
"Our vision was always all about designing for the guest experience," says Ellen. "Contrary to the adage of your wedding being 'the best day of your life,' we focused on creating a weekend that was an outward expression of the inner joy, creativity, laughter, and love we get to share with each other every day." When the pandemic led to a postponement, a location change, and a smaller guest list of 64 loved ones, the pair made sure to stay true to their original "guests first" priority.
"This was a particularly interesting time to design a wedding focused on the guest experience, something that has changed a lot between 2019 and 2021," Ellen points out. "In that spirit, we put in place a few measures to help us design a fun and safe event for all—including hosting all events outdoors." With the help of some very loyal D.C. wedding professionals who agreed to work with the couple at their new destination, the pair successfully transferred their event to the backyard of Ellen's childhood home, the property owned by her parents in Dallas, Texas. "There were very few things that fell within our scope of control," says the bride. "So, instead of trying to predict what might happen, we pivoted to a place and space that would maximize flexibility as we adjusted plans for safety."
While Ellen and Conor didn't have a "theme" in the traditional sense, they borrowed a lot of inspiration from the power of contrast, which led them to weave bright colors through a backdrop of black and white. "The single best decision we made in the planning process was hiring Laura Ritchie with Grit & Grace Inc.," the bride asserts. "She was a fearless advocate for us and our vision, even when it deviated from tradition or expectation. She put her entire heart and spirit into our original wedding at the NMWA, and yet, Laura was nothing less than fired-up to help us make Dallas a reality. Within one visit, she had struck up a remarkable vision, seeing opportunity in places we had never even imagined."
In the end, the couple's greatest joy was the number of family and friends who expressed that they felt touched by the level of thought, creativity, and personality that went into the celebration. "Our guests felt like they were top of mind as we designed each moment to be accessible, while also a fun and creative reflection of us," Ellen shares. "We are eternal optimists, but we believe that one silver-lining gain from the pandemic is that it has given couples permission to redefine what a 'wedding' means—to pick a venue, a size, and a slate of events that truly reflect the pair without any preconceived expectations or judgment of what a wedding should be. We leaned into that permission and built something authentic and delightful as a result."
Ellen and Conor worked closely with Underwood Letterpress to design a minimalist invitation suite with interesting shapes and unique materials that set the tone for their wedding to follow. Even the stamps were edgy and modern, featuring the abstract wire sculptures of artist Ruth Asawa.
The bride's choice of a crepe halter wedding dress with clean lines was inspired by advice from the garment's designer herself. "Lela Rose has a saying: 'On your wedding day you should be the most glamorous version of yourself.' I took this guidance to heart, focusing on finding an outfit (whether it be a dress or jumpsuit) that made me feel like me—modern and sporty with a little edge," she says. Statement earrings by Mignonne Gavigan added a pop of playfulness.
A striking mix of peonies, flexed tulips, roses, poppies, and more composed the dramatic bridal bouquet by Sophie Felts. "It stopped everyone in their tracks," enthuses Ellen. "The oblong, thrown-together shape was perfectly unfussy, but curated."
Evergreen and Cinnamon
Ellen encouraged her bridesmaids to choose dresses that would make them feel "individually fantastic" across a spectrum of navy, teal, emerald, and terra-cotta colorways—and the resulting combination was breathtaking.
The clean, simple wall of glass at the back of the home was accented with a colorful, contemporary floral arch for the vow exchange. "The arch could be seen from all points on the property, as well as enjoyed during cocktail hour and dancing, making the space come alive," asserts the bride.
Ellen walked unaccompanied into the ceremony space to Handel's "Fireworks (La Rejouissance)," with her gown's graceful train and dramatic open back on full display.
Tying the Knot
The ceremony included religious elements the couple felt most connected to, including a welcome prayer and a recitation of the Prayers of the People. Next, they exchanged self-written vows, which were prompted by Ellen's brother, their officiant. "His delivery was characteristically thoughtful, personal, charming, and funny," shares the bride. "As one of our best friends, we could think of no one better suited to lead us into the next chapter of our lives."
Cheers to Us
Ellen and Conor toasted their newly-married status in a precious moment alone before the cocktail hour began.
Guests located their table assignments via alphabetized cards displayed in flower-filled alcoves.
The backdrop's asymmetrical cut-outs gave the structure an organic, from-natural quality.
Blooms on the escort wall ranged from potted greenery to single poppy stems.
An Explosion of Color
Three white king tables were set up along the rolling lawn, framed by graceful trees on the property. "Walking across the bridge to dinner and seeing the setup for the first time was nothing short of stunning," says the bride. "Breathtaking."
Anchored in White
The tables, chairs, glassware, and architectural paper touches were consistent, while the china and coordinating floral arrangements ranged in a delightful range of cheerful hues.
Some place settings utilized vibrant yellow dishware with coordinating candles and flowers.
Pops of Pink
Other guests enjoyed beautiful, blush-colored place settings.
Green with Envy
All of the lighthearted tabletop hues looked particularly sophisticated alongside ebony flatware and modern menu cards.
Individual charcuterie boards delighted every attendee upon arrival at their spot.
Wine and Dine
As the light began to fade, the scene took on a dreamlike quality complete with candlelight. Serenata Strings continued to serenade the group during dinner.
On the Fringe
Keeping with the overarching theme of contrast, Ellen donned a bohemian denim jacket, replete with fringe, over her elegant gown to stave off the evening chill.
The newlyweds held hands and looked on with fondness during guests' speeches made in their honor.
Spin Me Around
"What Is Life" by George Harrison was the song Ellen and Conor chose for their first dance. The lyrics "Tell me, what is my life without your love? Tell me, who am I without you by my side?" spoke to them in particular. Later, all of the guests took to the dance floor. "Our band, After Party Experience, crushed it!" exclaims Ellen. "Favorite moments included a conga line to the tune of 'Love Train' and an incredible close-out rendition of 'Proud Mary.'"
Photographer, Abby Jiu Photography
Event Design and Planning, Grit & Grace Inc.
Flowers, Sophie Felts
Invitations and Stationery, Underwood Letterpress
Bridal Gown, Lela Rose
Earrings, Mignonne Gavigan
Shoes, Christian Louboutin
Hair and Makeup, Q Makeup and Hair Artistry
Groom's Attire, Suit Supply
Groomsmen's Attire, The Black Tux
Music, Serenata Strings (ceremony), The After Party Experience for Sam Hill Entertainment (reception)
Catering, Vestals Catering
Rentals, POSH Couture Rentals, Social Supply Design, Something Vintage
Transportation, Prime Limo & Car Service
Lighting and Dance Floor Production, In Depth Events Inc.
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