One Couple's Italian-Inspired Vineyard Wedding in Napa Valley

California, Real Weddings

Brittanie Budinger, 32, and Mark Howard, 37, met completely by chance. "A friend of mine, who was one of Mark's clients, invited us both to happy hour, expecting one of us to cancel," says Brittanie. "We both ended up showing up, and I'm so glad we did!" Their joint happy hour turned into plans to see each other again. "I was young and without cable TV, so I invited myself over to his place the next day to watch basketball and eat Indian food," Brittanie says. "The rest is history."

In 2012, Mark was split between his job in New York City and time with Brittanie in San Francisco, flying back and forth every weekend, and the pair finally made the decision to move to the Big Apple. Before they moved, he surprised Brittanie at the front door of their apartment and asked her to marry him. "Getting engaged in our home was incredibly meaningful to us," she says. "It's where we had our first date and spent countless nights watching movies and eating popcorn &emdash; it's our first home, which we were about to pack up to start a new journey in New York."

Though the couple planted new roots on the East Coast, their big day took place back home, in California's Napa Valley at The Terraces at Quarry Vineyard on July 20, 2013. After enlisting Janice Javier of Amy Nichols Special Events and Leah McCormick, Brittanie and Mark were able to turn their West Coast wedding into an Italian-inspired getaway.

Brittanie loved the hint of sexy her Monique Lhuillier gown exuded. "Crystals along each layer sparkled in the sunlight &emdash; it was perfect for me," she says. Sprawling loose wild greens and sprigs of lavender added texture and an organic feel to her white peony bouquet. She finished her look with metallic wedge Jimmy Choo heels.

Brittanie and Mark's goddaughters wore handmade olive branch and lavender headpieces, representing peace, strength, and victory. "They're traditional in Latvian culture," says Brittanie. "The hand-woven ribbons were sent over from Latvia."

Brittanie asked her bridesmaids to wear dresses of their choosing in a shade of gray. "They each have different personalities and I wanted them to be happy," she says. Her bridesmaids carried white-and-blush bouquets of lisianthus and roses.

Though both Mark and Brittanie originally wanted an exotic destination wedding, being surrounded by friends and family trumped a getaway. "We knew it would be tough for everyone to make it, so we opted for Napa instead," Brittanie says. "It still felt like a destination to us now that we're living in New York City." To the couple, the vineyard, with its rustic stone walls and rolling hills, felt as historic and vibrant as Italy.

Mark opted for a minimal Hugo Boss suit in light gray, which he paired with a sleek black tie to contrast the green sprigs and pale gold accents of his boutonniere.

Brittanie's mother and aunt crafted a cork heart that stood as a centerpiece during the ceremony. "We collected the corks throughout the year from various friends, family members and local wine shops," says the bride.

A birch chuppah, wrapped in olive branches and greens, served as the backdrop for the ceremony. The ceremony and vows were a mix of Mark's Jewish culture and Brittanie's spiritual beliefs. At the end of the ceremony, the couple drank from a Kiddish cup given to them by Mark's family.

To suit their rustic, Old Italian vision, Brittanie and Mark covered long tables with white tablecloths, gray napkins and clear glassware. "Other than hanging lanterns, bistro lighting and flowers, we didn't need to add much decoration," she says. "The space was so naturally beautiful and we didn't want to take away from that."

Arrangements of white, green, and purple flowers were interspersed with candles. The couple sat at a sweetheart table, where they indulged on summery Italian dishes. Main entrees, including seared halibut, flank steak and ricotta gnocchi, were served family style so each guest could try a bit of everything. Later that night, a taco truck drove up to the reception space to serve street-style snacks.

To shake up a traditional guest book, the couple asked guests to take instant Polaroid pictures and paste them in an album. "It was so fun to go back after the wedding and see all the snapshots," Brittanie says.

Instead of a signature cocktail, guests toasted with local vino. An open bar and wine-tasting station poured varieties directly from the vineyard. "It felt extra special, and almost a bit nostalgic, to be drink wine from the vines we had just been married in," Brittanie says.

Down the street from their former San Francisco apartment is a local bakery that the couple loves. "We knew our cake should be from SusieCakes," Brittanie says. The three layers each offered a different flavor including the couple's favorite, red velvet with cream cheese frosting, plus celebration cake with buttercream and chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting.

"My father's speech led to him picking up an acoustic guitar and singing a tune he had personally written, 'Save Me a Dance Tonight,'" Brittanie remembers. "There wasn't a dry eye in the audience." After that, the DJ picked things up with the couple's first dance to Etta James's "At Last," followed by party hits that kept the dance floor packed throughout the evening. "Our guests would have danced all night if we didn't shut it down," she says.

The couple cherished the entire evening, but their time alone was especially important. "We had permanent smiles on our faces all night," Brittanie says. "But we made sure to take a 15-minute break from the buzz and enjoy only one another's company. It was amazing to see everyone there to celebrate us. That rare moment alone was so important, and we highly recommend that all couples do the same."

Ceremony & Reception Venue: The Terraces at Quarry Vineyard || Wedding Coordinator: Amy Nichols Special Events || Bride's Wedding Dress: Monique Lhuillier || Bride's Veil: Wee Scotty || Shoes: Jimmy Choo || Hair: Salon Miel || Makeup: Erika Shelburne || Flower Girls' Dresses: Macy's || Groom's Suit: Hugo Boss || Florist: Spiral Hand Design || Invitations & Paper Goods: Amanda Day Rose || Music: Mix Different Entertainment || Catering: The Girl and the Fig Caters! || Cake: SusieCakes || Rentals: Wine Country Party Rentals || Transportation: California Wine Tours || Videography: The Sunday Saloon || Photography: Photography by Leah

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