Her family house—built by her parents decades ago—was home base for this laid-back affair.
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bride and groom smiling standing under willow tree

After meeting during orientation as new students at Emory University School of Law in 2012, Elizabeth and Alex officially became a couple on Valentine's Day in 2013—and a little more than six years later, Alex proposed during a walk in Riverside Park with the couple's dog, Gunner. "That night, Alex had our friends on standby and we had an amazing impromptu engagement party on our building's rooftop overlooking the Hudson River," says Elizabeth.

They planned a 230-person wedding in the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park for July 2020, postponing it by a year when COVID-19 delayed their plans in April. "When we stopped at my sister's house in Indianapolis during what would have been our original wedding week in July 2020, my sister's three kids, then ages 4, 6 and 10, surprised us with an adorable DIY wedding in their garage," says Elizabeth. "They each wore their wedding attire, with tags still on, and set up an aisle and an altar and threw rose petals—the works!"

By the next year, with the boathouse still closed, Elizabeth and Alex took inspiration from their nieces and nephews, pivoting to a small wedding for 85 guests at her parents' house in Libertyville, Illinois. The house, custom-built by her father and decorated by her mother, was an ideal setting for a relaxed, outdoor ceremony and tented reception. "The house sits on five acres and is surrounded mostly by forest preserve in a northern suburb of Chicago. It feels totally secluded and it's a really peaceful place," says Elizabeth.

Though they struggled with trimming their guest list, they moved forward with their new date—July 24, 2021—and hoped the weather would allow them to celebrate outside. It almost didn't: "Until five minutes before the ceremony, it was pouring rain, and we could hear tornado sirens going off in neighboring towns!" says Elizabeth. But the skies cleared in time for the couple to exchange vows by the same backyard pool where Elizabeth spent her summers as a child.

"I spent my summers as a kid running around the yard with our dogs, swimming in the pool, and fishing and looking for frogs in the pond. It's so fun to watch my little nieces and nephews now having the same childhood experiences there and it's just the perfect family home!" she says. "We wanted our wedding to feel like a (really beautiful) party! We cared so much about the details, but at the end of the day we really just wanted everyone to feel comfortable and at home—and to have a lot of fun!"

bride smiling standing under willow tree

A Change of Heart

Elizabeth was drawn to the plunging neckline of her Rita Vinieris wedding dress, but first bought a version in structured silk. "A couple of months later, even before we switched venues, I started to feel like I made the wrong decision," she says. She sold her first gown online—to another New York-based lawyer bride—and bought a more ethereal style, with a frothy skirt and hand-sewn three-dimensional floral appliqués. "It had everything I loved about the first dress, including the unique, dramatic neckline, but it felt much more organic, romantic, and me," she says.

bride with low curled ponytail and strapless dress

Big-Day Ponytail

A ponytail, arranged by Livia Caporale, allowed the gown's neckline to really shine.

blue floral print wedding heels

A Perfect Pair

Blue floral Bella Belle shoes were a colorful complement to the appliqué detailing on the bride's gown—and the garden atmosphere of the wedding.

summer toned floral wedding bouquet

Floral Inspiration

Elizabeth's bouquet from Willrett Flower Company displayed the summery palette of light blue, mossy green, melon, peach, and cream, which was inspired by a vintage Gracie screen inside the house. Of the couple's first look before the ceremony, says Elizabeth, "I was just so excited to see Alex! He looked amazing, and everything from there on out felt like the party had started."

bride sitting with bridesmaids wearing various blue-gray toned dresses

Mixed and Matched

Elizabeth had every intention of having her bridesmaids in nontraditional gowns they chose themselves. "I asked my bridesmaids to each buy a dress in our color palette with various patterns and textures," she says. "This is harder than it seems! Our event designer and coordinator, Kat Willrett, quickly swooped in to save the day and assigned colors. As it turns out, sometimes more choice is not easier—but they all ended up looking great."

groom sitting with groomsmen wearing various shades of suits

Fit to be Tied

Alex chose traditional wedding day attire: a black peak lapel tuxedo, grosgrain bow tie, patent leather shoes from Paul Stuart, and a white shirt and pocket square from Proper Cloth. He added custom cuff links engraved with his and Elizabeth's first initials.

The groomsmen also donned a range of shades. Alex asked them to choose their own dark gray or navy suit, and then provided them with a variety of ties from Dazi. "We wanted the groomsmen to be comfortable in their own suits and didn't want the rigid uniformity of identical looks," says Elizabeth. "However, the matching ties and boutonnières created a common link that looked good for pictures."

white and blue floral greenery covered archway

Arch Expression

A thick floral arch created a garden-inspired backdrop for the pair's vows—and a fairy-tale entrance to the pool area where the guests mingled during cocktail hour.

blue-gray teardrop shaped wedding program fans

Keeping Cool

Tasseled programs, printed on rounded aqua cardstock, also served as fans to offer guests a cool breeze during the July ceremony.

bride and groom nieces and nephews wearing pastel pink and blue for wedding party

Kids, Incorporated

The couple invited their nieces and nephews to join their bridal party as junior bridesmaids and groomsmen, flower girls, and ring bearers. "All of the kids did great, and had been practicing for months!" says Elizabeth. Watching her "nine little nieces and nephews coming down the aisle" became one of her favorite moments of the day.

father of the bride walking bride down outdoor wedding aisle

The Dads Have It

Elizabeth's father escorted her down the aisle while a trio from Innocenti Strings performed "Here Comes the Bride." At the altar, they met Alex and his father, the Rev. Dr. Scott Owings, who officiated the couple's ceremony.

bride smiling at groom during wedding ceremony vows outside

Words of Love

During the ceremony, the couple's two junior bridesmaids read Christian texts along with an excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit.

large white seating chart display outside

Artistic Seating Chart

A seating chart framed by plaster botanical relief motifs was the focal point of the cocktail hour.

wedding seating chart white and green display cards

Bas Relief

Each escort "disc" was embossed with a raised botanical and calligraphed with guests' names; below, green scrolls trips spelled out each attendee's full name.

During the interlude, the duo served signature drinks—the bourbon-based "Berry in Love" and a festive grapefruit ginger margarita—with napkins featuring a sketch of the couple's beloved 12-year-old dog, Gunner. "Gunner was the best and also the feistiest little man I've ever known," says Elizabeth. "We came to the tough realization that a week at my parents' house with wedding contractors coming constantly in and out was not going to be something he would enjoy! We honored G with our hashtag, #GunnerBeOwings, and his outline embossed into our cocktail napkins. We were devastated to lose Gunner just a few months after our wedding, in November 2021."

large white tent wedding reception with greenery decor

A Family Affair

The couple lit their sailcloth tent with café bulbs to create the "laid-back dinner party" feel they wanted. "We wanted everything to be beautiful and elevated but really warm and welcoming," she says. "I think having my parents' sweet black lab Gracie hanging out in the tent with the guests and seeing my nieces and nephews running around the yard and playing on the fort during sunset definitely contributed to more a laid-back vibe!"

blue linen covered round reception tables under white tent
low orange floral wedding reception centerpieces
Left: Credit: Sophie Kaye Photography
Right: Credit: Sophie Kaye Photography

Citrus Punch

Slate blue linens set off the citrus tones of foxgloves, dahlias, and ranunculus arranged in low floral compotes, while taper candles in glass holders added a subtle twinkle. Table numbers featured the same bas relief details seen on the seating chart.

beige toned wedding reception place settings on blue table cloth

On the Menu

White chargers with a contrasting edge detail, silver flatware, and floral-adorned menus were accented by neutral napkins. "The food itself," including burrata salad and short ribs from Truffleberry Market, "was absolutely beautiful, so we wanted to give it the opportunity to shine," says Elizabeth.

groom feeding bride a bite of wedding cake

A Sweet Moment

The newlyweds displayed their vanilla and strawberry cake on a table draped in a pretty floral lace tablecloth.

bride and groom share face to face moment during first dance

Dog Days

After postponing their wedding celebration for a year, Elizabeth and Alex chose the oh-so-appropriate "Late to the Party" by Kacey Musgraves for their first dance, kicking off an unforgettable party with their guests. "Planning can be so much," says Elizabeth. "When the wedding weekend comes, have fun! It's the entire point!"

bride and groom sharing a kiss sitting on white outdoor bench

Sources

Photography, Sophie Kaye Photography
Event planning and flowers, Willret Flower Co.
Catering and cake, Truffleberry Market
Videography, Toast Wedding Films
Officiant, The Rev. Dr. Scott Owings, St. Augustine's Episcopal Chapel
Stationery, August & White
Music, Brooke and the Nice Things (ceremony and reception); Innocenti Strings (ceremony)
Rentals, Blue Peak Tents; Halls Rental Service
Bride's gown, Rita Vinieris
Bride's accessories, Rita Vinieris veil; Bella Belle shoes
Hair, Livia Caporale
Makeup, CD Artistry Chicago
Groom's attire, Paul Stuart; Proper Cloth (shirt)
Groomsmen's ties, Dazi
Transportation, Metropolitan Limousine
Bridal gown alterations, Delia Vargas, Dinna Bridal Alterations
Day-of paper goods and favors, Ashley Frye Studio
Guest book, Sunny Home Studio
Rings, Taylor and Hart

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