This Couple Brought Tuscany—and a Little Beyoncé—to Texas During Their Black-Tie Garden Wedding

bride and groom share a kiss while groom dips bride
Anastasia Strate Photography

"It was basically six degrees of separation," says Courtney Tezeno, a TV host, of meeting Leepole Hicks Jr., a beauty and fashion photographer. The pair first crossed paths in Houston two years after Leepole had seen a photo of Courtney shot by his photography mentor (who just so happened to be her cousin's ex-boyfriend). Leepole didn't ask for her information at the time, since he thought Courtney was a member of his mentor's family. After learning of his error years later, however, he reached out—he contacted his future wife for a test shoot, only to discover that she was no longer modeling. She recommended a friend, instead, but came along for the session. Finally, they were in a room together.

Still, it wasn't love at first sight for Courtney, who was just about to move to Los Angeles, but Leepole made his intentions clear that day and asked her out on a date that following week. They started with a foundation of friendship, which grew into an unexpected love, says Courtney, noting that they became engaged on her birthday, at a restaurant surrounded by their friends—and seven years and two wedding postponements later, they were husband and wife.

May 16, 2021, was their third wedding date, and one they kept by making a series of difficult choices: they relocated their California event to Texas, where their families are based, to minimize travel and slashed their guest count in half to 75 attendees total. "Downsizing was the hardest part," says Courtney. "Saving your date, booking your venue, and narrowing down your guest list are tough for most couples, but doing that multiple times made them costly and emotional decisions." And while they desperately wished they could have extended invitations to all of their loved ones, as planned, keeping everyone healthy (the pair required proof of a negative COVID-19 test ahead of entry) and abiding by local restrictions was their priority.

The resulting celebration was no less joyful or beautiful: Leepole and Courtney brought their vision of Italian romance to Texas Hill Country, using lemons as a signature motif and dressing up their reception space in sumptuous shades of ivory, gold, hunter green, and yellow. They also found ways to pay homage to their favorite power couple, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, in subtle, but unique ways, like naming reception tables after the artists' greatest hits and splashing "Drunk In Love" across napkins at the cocktail hour. Ultimately, they say, preparing for their wedding, pandemic aside, taught them that sure, you can make plans—but you should always be prepared to adapt, in life and in love. "Expecting the unexpected with leave you with less disappointment and more joy," they say.

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Thematic Invites

green and gold wedding invitation suite
Anastasia Strate Photography

Minted provided the pair's foil-pressed paper suite, which revolved around a hunter green invitation emblazoned with a gold floral detail. "We wanted something minimal that still fit our hope for a more al fresco black-tie affair," says the bride, adding that the stationery hinted at the big-day's color palette.

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Garden Views

wedding ceremony space estate
Anastasia Strate Photography

Courtney and Leepole wanted to bring Tuscany to Texas on their big day, and when they first saw The Gardens of Cranesbury View, located two hours outside of Houston, their hometown, they knew that it was as close to Italy as they could get. Complete with a European-inspired garden (featuring Italian sculptures!), dramatic walkways, crawling grass, a Juliet balcony, and a gazebo, it "set the mood for romance," they say.

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Getting Ready

bride getting ready with mom smiling
Anastasia Strate Photography

"I never grew up dreaming of my wedding or wedding dress, but after I saw Beyonce's vow renewal gown, I knew I wanted to wear a Galia Lahav number one day," says Courtney, who luckily scored a last-minute appointment to one of the brand's trunk shows. Her ultimate choice was the second garment she tried on: "It just gave me a feeling that it was made for me," she explains. Meeting the lauded designer, who had flown in from Israel for the event, sealed the deal; she even took her measurements. "She told me I was the first bride to ever try on that style from the new collection," says Courtney—and she quickly became the first bride to purchase the dress.

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Flowing Veil

bride wearing strapless off-the-shoulder long sleeve wedding dress
Anastasia Strate Photography

After adding detachable sleeves and an open front ball gown skirt with a sheer belt (which she put on later, for the ceremony), she knew she had found exactly what she had been looking for.

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Jewel-Encrusted Shoes

pearl detailed heels and jewelry
Anastasia Strate Photography

Pearl-embellished kitten heels and crystal drop earrings complemented her look, but Courtney's most meaningful accessories came from her grandmothers' collections. "My mom and aunts presented me with the heirlooms—we have a tradition in our family where we get to choose from a small pool of items left over from both my Bigmama and Granny," she explains. "I wore my late Granny's white rose and gold pendant on my bouquet, wrapped in my late Bigmama's pearls. It was important that I had long-stemmed roses and pearl elements throughout my bridal look in their honor."

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bride with bridesmaids wearing green velvet dresses
Anastasia Strate Photography

Courtney's attendants purchased their off-the-shoulder emerald-green Xscape Evenings gowns ahead of the original fall celebration's postponement, when the bride had envisioned using heavier fabrics, like velvet, throughout the big-day design scheme. And while she ultimately swapped out most of the velvet décor moments for the rescheduled spring affair, she decided to keep the bridesmaids' ensembles as-is. "Velvet screams black-tie," she says, "and my girls achieved that."

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First Look with Dad

father of the bride first look outside
Anastasia Strate Photography

The bride shared a "beautiful" first look with her father, David, during which she presented him with custom cuff links (one was inset with a childhood photo, while the other read, "I'll always be your Jellybean," nodding to the bride's nickname). "My dad isn't a very emotional guy, so you have to know him to understand his expressions," Courtney says of the moment. "He was beaming with pride when he walked onto the balcony to see me for the first time in my wedding dress. I later heard from my aunts that he broke down in tears right before. That is rare for him, and special for me." After the bride's debut, her father asked for the room so he could share some private words with his daughter before she walked down the aisle. "Of course, my mom, Diane, could not miss out on the moment—so she was in on the moment, as well. I will always cherish what he said."

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Sleek Suit

groom wearing classic black and white tux
Anastasia Strate Photography

Leepole's black bamboo double-breasted tuxedo jacket with peak lapels, which he sourced from SuitSupply, was lined with burgundy silk; his initials were embroidered inside the sleeve, while the wedding date was stitched on the fold of his collar. Matching black pants, with satin stripes down the sides, were the ultimate complement; a white twill dress shirt with satin buttons provided contrast. His bride gifted him a pair of cuff links, as well; they featured gold cameras, which spoke to the groom's vocation as a professional photographer.

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Gents in Black

groom with groomsmen in classic black suits outside
Anastasia Strate Photography

"We wanted to keep the guys clean and classic, like the groom," says Courtney of the groomsmen's black tuxedos, which they wore with white shirts and vests.

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Under the Arbor

outdoor wedding ceremony set up with white chairs and floral decor
Anastasia Strate Photography

The ceremony took place under the property's gazebo, which was styled with floral swags and lemon topiaries. A trail of white pillar and floating candles paved the way to the altar.

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Lining the Aisle

white floral ceremony aisle decor
Anastasia Strate Photography

Grounded arrangements of ivory roses, hydrangeas, and Italian ruscus greenery marked the aisle's entry point.

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The Ceremony Begins

bride walking with father during processional
Anastasia Strate Photography

The bride's father escorted her towards the altar while Karina Pasian's "When You're in Love" played in the background.

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Finally Married

bride and groom celebrate during wedding ceremony
Anastasia Strate Photography

Courtney's uncle, Daniel, officiated the Christian ceremony, which incorporated prayer and scripture; the bride's aunt read a poem by Perry Tanksley, called "Marriage Takes Three," while her uncle delivered a passage from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. "They both tie in the message that marriage takes God, husband, and wife," the bride explains. The couple's personalized vow exchange, however, was the service's highlight—the bride ended hers by with the Beyoncé lyric, "I will love you 'til the end of time," and the groom promised to do his best to remember to shut their cabinet doors.

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Posing in the Garden

groom kisses bride on the cheek while sitting on outdoor bench
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The new spouses skipped the following cocktail hour; they requested a private dinner from their caterer, which they shared privately ahead of their portrait session in the garden.

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Drunk in Love

red cocktail drink with gold rim
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Their signature drinks, made by Bartenders4You, referenced Houston—they offered a "Southside Bellini" with a gold-flake rim and the "'Mo City Main Squeeze," a whiskey lemonade. Paper napkins kept the pair's Beyoncé and Jay-Z theme front and center.

  • How to Choose a Name for Your Wedding's Signature Cocktail
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Mirror, Mirror

large gold antique mirror table escort display
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The calligraphed seating chart cards were placed onto the face of a vintage mirror that once belonged to Courtney's late grandmother.

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The Cocktail Hour, Rejoined

bride and groom smiling during cocktail hour
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Finished with portraits, the pair rejoined the tail-end of the interlude with flair.

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Into the Ballroom

white floral wedding reception table centerpieces with yellow accents
Anastasia Strate Photography

Their reception took place indoors; they increased the number of tables in the space to allow for proper distancing. Guests sat at a series of round stations, which were draped in white linens and topped with white compote centerpieces by DeVinnies Paradise; sliced lemons spoke to the Tuscan vibe of the evening.

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Gilded Place Settings

white and gold reception place settings
Anastasia Strate Photography

Attendees' names were calligraphed onto deckle-edged paper cards by Ink Crafts Shop and placed on top of knotted napkins folded over ornate gold chargers. A wax seal and dehydrated lemon slice were the finishing touches at each setting.

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Table for Two

bride and groom kiss at sweetheart table
Anastasia Strate Photography

Leepole and Courtney sat at a sweetheart table backed by an iron arch, which was filled with white vendella roses, hydrangeas, and an assortment of greenery.

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Florals and Lemons

four tiered white frosted wedding cake with white rose accents
Anastasia Strate Photography

After a three-course plated dinner from River City Catering, the pair cut into their four-tier off-white wedding cake, which Cakes & More Bakery topped with cascading white roses, greenery, and sliced lemons; the confection featured two flavors. The top layer was red velvet with cream cheese filling, with the rest consisted of vanilla cake with lemon filling and crème icing.

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The First Dance

bride and groom smiling during first dance
Anastasia Strate Photography

"We are both diehard '90s R&B lovers and old souls, so it was only right that our first dance reflected that," says Courtney. "We instantly knew that Kenny Lattimore's 'For You' would be one of our songs for many years to come."

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Dance with Dad

father of the bride shares a dance with bride
Anastasia Strate Photography

Courtney's dance with her father—which they took to a mix of "Butterfly Kisses" by Bob Carlisle and "Pappa Don't Take No Mess" by James Brown—was a reception standout. The latter tune "describes my dad's attitude to a T," says Courtney, but is also a staple in the Tezeno household during the holidays. "As a little girl, I would dance with my dad to James Brown records on Christmas," she says. "It was always the time when we let loose together at home, so it was only fitting to do the same at the wedding. He ended the father-daughter dance wearing a gold cape, like the one James Brown wears during his famous cape routine. It was a highlight of the evening."

Another memorable parent moment came during the toast portion of the evening, when Leepole's mother, Stephanie, surprised the crowd with a musical serenade. "She sang 'I'm So Proud of You' by Deniece Williams. It was an emotional moment that blew everyone away," reflects Courtney.

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bride and groom embrace during golden hour outside
Anastasia Strate Photography

Photography, Anastasia Strate Photography
Venue, The Gardens of Cranesbury View
Day-of Coordination, Mini Bites Events
Videography, JF Studioz Luxury Photo & Video
Flowers, DeVinnies Paradise
Invitations, Minted
Day-of Paper Goods, Lazy Creek Designs (seating chart calligraphy), Ink Crafts Shop (place card calligraphy)
Officiant, Daniel Tezeno
Bride's Gown and Veil, Galia Lahav
Bride's Accessories, Maria Elena (hair comb), GlamourBrideUSA (earrings), J Renee (shoes)
Hair, Kinetra Stewart
Makeup, Aliesha Bree
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Xscape Evenings
Groom's Attire, SuitSupply
Groomsmen's Attire, Jos A Bank
Engagement Ring and Wedding Bands, Zales
Music and Lighting, Maximum Groove Sounds
Catering, River City Catering
Bar Catering, Bartenders4You
Cake, Cakes & More Bakery
Rentals, 5050 Photo Booth

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