Laurie's law school friend didn't let nearly 100 miles stop her from setting Laurie up with a college pal. "Blake lived in Norfolk and I lived in Richmond," says Laurie (a 90-mile drive!), "but my friend insisted we meet. I'm so glad she did!" Their first lunch date turned into seven hours wandering around Richmond, and the two were instantly smitten. A year of weekend visits followed, until Blake finally joined Laurie in Richmond in October of 2013. A few short months later, after a New Year's Eve dinner downtown, the pair returned home to find that their apartment was filled with candles and flowers, and when Laurie turned around to see what was up, Blake was down on one knee. "He'd conspired with my family to set everything up while we were at dinner. It was perfect!" she says.
The duo spent the next 16 months planning a spring wedding in Virginia, choosing Laurie's father's home as the perfect venue for their April 18, 2015, wedding with 125 guests. "We wanted the spot where we got married to be somewhere personal and meaningful, and a place we could visit again and again," the bride explains. They made the most of their longer planning schedule, settling on a playful garden party theme with just as many paper flowers as there were real ones (a DIY project Laurie tackled with her family and friends). See more of this vibrant backyard bash, photographed by Don Mears Photography, below!
The invitations hinted at the theme to come, with colorful flowers popping out of kraft paper envelopes.
Not one to shy away from some glitter, Laurie paired a strapless Wtoo ball gown with a sparkling overlay with a pair of glittering Kate Spade pumps (with matching Kate Spade Keds to wear once the dancing got started!). "It was a dress my mom and aunt had chosen for me, and it just felt right — but I second-guessed myself and didn't buy it!" Laurie says. Later that week, she and mom passed the bridal salon again, and the dress was on prominent display in the window. "We knew it was a sign and went back to try the dress on one more time. This time I knew!"
Her bridesmaids each chose their own navy cocktail dress, with a perfect mix of textures and silhouettes. "I was so surprised that they looked like the dresses were all part of the same collection," says Laurie.
Blake and his groomsmen all wore gray suits, with light pink ties that were perfect for the spring evening.
Laurie's bouquet combined both fresh and paper flowers, with a special touch: The faux blooms contained handwritten notes from family and friends that the bride could carry down the aisle with her. "I loved having a few moments before the ceremony to read what everyone had written," she says.
The bride's father's property had the perfect ceremony location: Two trees along the river, from which the couple's planner draped white fabric above an altar of flowers and sheer white fabric. A pair of ring bearers, in matching caps and suspenders, carried "Here Comes the Bride" flags down the aisle.
Her bridesmaids' bouquets also combined vibrantly-hued fresh and paper flowers, a mix of garden roses, lisianthus, and lilies.
A white tent was lit with chandeliers for the reception on the lawn. Tables were topped with a mix of fresh and paper flowers tucked into mismatched glass jars. Pink, blue, and purple napkins popped against the white tablecloths.
The party kicked off with a Texas-themed cocktail hour, complete with a nacho bar, mini burritos, and a signature margarita. For dinner, a Southern menu of DIY mac and cheese, shrimp and grits, and a carving station reflected Blake's family heritage. As a fun addition, they also included a nod to Laurie's job as an owner of a McDonalds franchise. "We had late-night cheeseburgers and milkshake shooters!" she says.
As favors, guests received pairs of vintage spoons customized with sayings like "You're the Peanut Butter to my Jelly" and "I Love You, A Bushel and a Peck." "It was a fun way to give our guests their table assignments, as well as something they'll find use for at home," says Laurie.
For dessert, the pair served a white cake with ombré fondant flowers covering layers of vanilla raspberry cake, alongside a dessert bar of cake pops, cookies, and macarons. "I loved seeing how the dessert bar became a part of our décor," says the bride.
"Before the ceremony, Blake and I were both hidden in my dad's house — I was upstairs, he was downstairs — but could both see what was unfolding outside. It was so fun to see our guests arrive and take in the gorgeous setting," she says.
They spent their honeymoon touring Europe, visiting everywhere from Positano and Capri to Paris. Advises Laurie, "Be yourselves and have fun! Pick the things that are most important to you, and focus on those details. The rest will fall into place!"
Ceremony & Reception Venue: The Bride's Father's Home || Wedding Planner: The Cordial Cricket || Bride's Wedding Dress: Wtoo, purchased from Bliss Bridal || Shoes: Kate Spade || Hair & Makeup: Jennifer Mantura & Brittany Coffey || Groom's Attire: Nathan's Custom Tailors || Groom & Groomsmen's Ties: Collard Greens || Engagement Ring: Solomon Brothers || Wedding Bands: Schwarzschild Jewelers || Florist: Flowers Make Scents || Invitations & Paper Goods: The Cordial Cricket; Minted || Music: Choice Entertainment || Catering: Culinary Connection || Cake: Candy Valley Cake Company || Rentals: Classic Party Rentals of Virginia; Paisley & Jade; Blue Steel Lighting || Favors: Bella Jackson Studios || Photography: Don Mears Photography
Searching for more backyard wedding inspiration? Then watch another couple's at-home wedding come to life in the video below.