A Summer Wedding at California's Culinary Institute of America

Real Weddings

High school friends Cristina and Mark made each other a promise and put it in writing: If they weren't married "later in life," the document reads, they would marry each other. The agreement turned out to be a prophecy when years later the formally-platonic pair locked lips during their college years. "Best of all," Cristina says, "we both still had our copy of the 'contract,'" a piece of paper they proudly displayed at their July wedding.

The 1920s-inspired fete, held in the foothills of St. Helena, California, was a labor of love for the hands-on couple, who tackled more than few do-it-yourself projects for their big day. "I wanted to be very hands-on and customize all of our details," Cristina says.

When it came to time to search for a venue, the bride knew just where to start. The Culinary Institute of America's Napa Valley campus had hosted her sister's wedding years before, and "we loved it so much we decided to go back," Cristina says.

The bride's Sottero & Midgley gown was the last one she tried on because "I didn't think it was the one for me," she says. She was shocked when she turned to the mirror and realized, instantly, "it was the dress."

Both of Cristina's two married sisters donned the same veil on their wedding days—and she was no different. The scalloped-edge waist-length beauty complemented the lace overlay of the bride's wedding gown.

Tucked into Cristina's classic updo—parted deeply to one side and swept into a low bun—was a white gardenia.

Cristina's white rose and gardenia bouquet was wrapped in the same lace as her scalloped-edge veil. The bracelets Cristina wore on her right wrist were gifts from Mark, which he presented to her the night before their wedding.

Tied to her bouquet was a picture of her grandparents, "to represent my grandfather," the bride says.

Bridesmaids wore floor-length violet chiffon gowns. The gown's ruched waist and sweetheart neckline flattered all the women, including Cristina's seven-months-pregnant sister and maid-of-honor.

The couple's subtle color scheme of lavender and gray popped with plum and ivory accents.

A mix of cracked cream and spray roses, anemones, berries and dusty miller and dusted miller made up the bridesmaids' bouquets.

Mark wore a boutonniere made from a gardenia and greens, while groomsmen donned lisianthus and berries on their black lapels.

The Culinary Institute of America's courtyard terrace played host to the couple's ceremony, where its ivy-covered walls offered a lush, natural backdrop as Cristina and Mark exchanged vows. "The colors were beautiful that time of year," Cristina says, "and the vineyards in the background gave that true Napa Valley feel."

A florist strung Cristina's favorite flower—the ever-fragrant gardenia—from the canopy under which the couple wed. The blooms "blew in the breeze as we exchanged vows," Cristina says.

A black and white program sealed with a gold wax stamp, a custom creation by Unveiled Bridal, announced the order of the couple's ceremony.

Cones filled with violet-hued dahlias, foliage and berries hung from wooden chairs that hugged the ceremony aisle.

Pockets of white petals hung from alternating chairs, with instructions to throw the petals into the air as the newlyweds walked by.

Cristina and Mark wrote their vows. "It was so romantic to speak directly to each other with words from our hearts in front of those we love most," the bride says.

Guests showered the couple in white rose petals as they recessed down the ceremony aisle and toward the reception.

The Culinary Institute of America's wine barrel room exuded a romantic ambiance the couple craved for their reception. It was important to Cristina that her vintage decor—from chandeliers and sconces to mercury glass and lace—didn't clash with "the Napa Valley feel in the barrel room," she says.

"I absolutely loved the look of our centerpieces," the bride gushes. Trumpet vases were topped with white hydrangea, dahlias and roses. Then, the bride embellishes, "streaming out of the bouquets were branches of curly willow."

To "integrate a winery feel" into their decor, Cristina and Mark crafted table numbers from wine bottle corks.

The couple also used wine corks to hold guests' place cards.

For Cristina and Mark, the food couldn't just be good—it had to be "phenomenal," Cristina says. "Being in Napa Valley, we wanted our guests to experience the incredible tastes of the valley." With the Culinary Institute of America at the helm, the couple handpicked a "one-of-a-kind menu that showcased foods we both love."

Cristina and Mark compromised on their wedding cake, alternating layers of chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling to satiate the groom's sweet tooth and white chiffon cake filled with fresh strawberries for the bride. A trail of gardenias fell down the side of the cake, while each layer was embellished with pearls and lace.

The couple's cake table was adorned with apothecary jars that held floating flowers.

While Cristina and Mark hit the dance floor to Joshua Radin's You Got What I Need, there was another special song they added to their playlist. "Both of our parents were married in the same year and had the same first-dance song," Cristina explains. "Of course we played this song for all of us to dance to."

"One of the most magical parts of the night was the sparkler exit," the bride says. "It felt like a movie as we ran through the tunnel of sparklers with our friends and family."

At the end of the sparkler tunnel waited a classic white getaway car that whisked the couple to their hotel room. Across its trunk hung burlap bunting that read "Just Married".

"We drove off with the sparklers in the distance," Cristina says. "The drive back through Napa Valley as a married couple was perfect."

—Jillian Kramer

Ceremony Venue: Culinary Institute of America || Reception Venue: Culinary Institute of America || Bride's Wedding Dress: Sottero & Midgley || Bride's Veil: J'Aime Bridal || Bride's Shoes: Badgley Mischka || Bride's Wedding Ring: Barons || Groom's Tux: J'Aime Bridal || Groom's Wedding Ring: Barons || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Impression || Bridesmaids' Accessories: Frosted Willow || Groomsmen Attire: J'Aime Bridal || Mother of the Bride's Dress: J'Aime Bridal || Flower Girl Dress: Nordstrom || Florist: Anne Mendenhall Flowers || Caterer: Culinary Institute of America || Stationery: Unveiled Bridal || Cake Baker: Culinary Institute of America || Linen Rentals: La Tavola Fine Linen Rental || Rentals: Five Star Productions || Entertainment: Brad Kinney Productions || Photography: Janae Shields Photography

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