Evelyn and Joel in Katonah, NY

Mother Nature is the inspiration behind a romantic and refined garden celebration

Evelyn Vera had one look in mind for her June 2008 wedding to Joel McKoan: romantic. Luckily, the couple’s search for a venue that would reflect this vision didn’t take them far from home. Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts in Katonah, NY, where Evelyn and Joel live, offered them acres of lush greenery with Italian Renaissance–inspired gardens and scenic walking trails, the ideal backdrop for an enchanting springtime fete. NYC-based planner Carrie Sartor, of Lyndsey Hamilton Events, and floral designer Matthew Robbins, of Artfool in NYC, worked with the pair to incorporate the natural beauty of the site—accented with romantic touches, like dramatically draped fabric, soft candlelight and the soothing sound of a harp—into their celebration.

The couple’s 180 guests were greeted at Caramoor’s Sunken Garden with refreshing glasses of punch and a harpist’s soft melodies. After walking down a grassy aisle, Evelyn met Joel, and the two exchanged vows on an elevated portion of the tiered garden, with the others watching from below. Joel’s sister and Evelyn’s best friend each gave a reading on love—one shared a Greek poem and the other, a Bible excerpt—to personalize the moment.

From the service, Evelyn and Joel’s guests followed a pathway to the cocktail hour at Tapestry Hedge, an open lawn with fragrant herbs and flowers. The harpist, joined by a string trio, played as guests mingled and the newlyweds—thought to be enjoying a quiet moment together—secretly practiced their first dance. “We surprised everyone by starting with a slow, romantic song and then doing a choreographed salsa routine,” says Evelyn. Dinner, catered by NYC-based Great Performances, also presented an unexpected change of pace: Following a plated fig salad, guests were encouraged to visit stations for the main course. Among the options were paella and sweet plantains, a nod to the bride’s native Honduras. The crowd dined and danced beneath a romantic tent adorned with sheer curtains, pink linens, silver chargers and lavish floral arrangements. As a breather between songs, guests explored the grounds of Caramoor, where, no doubt, love was in the air.

“I didn’t want my arrangements to clash with what was already at Caramoor,” says the bride, who chose flowers in muted pinks, peaches and greens. Robbins created bouquets of peonies, orchids, hydrangeas and roses for Evelyn and her bridesmaids.