A Backyard Party-Inspired Rehearsal Dinner and Welcome Event in New York

A Georgia Bulldog grooms cake made the night.

Kayli and John Austin at Troutbeck, New York rehearsal dinner

Photo by Katherine Marchand

Kayli Kemperle took a trip from Washington D.C. down to Atlanta for a music festival with her friends in September 2017. Little did she know that she would also meet her future husband, John Austin Vance, that weekend. "Our friend Tyler’s college buddies from University of Georgia had met up with us when we were down there–including John Austin, who was one of his best friends. John Austin and I ended up both third-wheeling Tyler and his then-girlfriend Emily, who is one of my best friends and bridesmaids. We didn’t start dating there, but kept in touch and eventually got together November 2017 when John Austin visited us in D.C."

Just over three years later in February 2021, the couple got engaged at Kayli's family home in Key Largo. "John Austin had gotten my brother and my dad involved," the bride shares of the proposal. "The three of those boys never usually plan anything–especially during the pandemic–so I knew something was up when they were asking me what to wear to the only dinner reservation that they had made in years! They arranged a ‘happy hour’ in our backyard on the water, and John Austin proposed while my dad and brother ‘went to get refills’ (aka while my dad got the camera and my brother got the champagne!)."

When Kayli and John Austin got to planning, they quickly decided on Troutbeck as their venue of choice. "We wanted a venue not too far from home in Long Island, but also far enough to make it a weekend getaway for us and our guests," they share. "It was an added bonus that we were able to have all of our immediate family and wedding party on the property with us in their incredible hotel–our friends called it adult summer camp."

The wedding weekend began with a rehearsal dinner and welcome party on the grounds. "Troutbeck has multiple gorgeous settings for all of the weekend-long wedding events and an incredible chef, event coordinators, and staff. It was a no-brainer choice and it made planning all of our wedding events very easy and enjoyable," the couple shares. They relied on the natural beauty of the property for much of the design. "For our rehearsal dinner and welcome drinks, we just wanted to add our own aesthetic with some nods to the very floral vibes that our guests would experience at our wedding the next day."

Ahead, see the lovely pre-wedding events, planned by the couple with day-of coordination by Wedding Planning Plus and photographed by Katherine Marchand.

wedding welcome bag with Troutbeck details

Photo by Katherine Marchand

When guests arrived in Troutbeck, they received custom welcome bags designed by Kayli herself, who created a few DIY pieces for the weekend. "I leaned into my amateur graphic design skills to add our last name to the list of historic people on Troutbeck’s New York Historical Sign," she explains. "The 'patch' tool on Photoshop is truly magic. We used this logo on the outside of our canvas tote bags, as well as some napkins."

bride and groom kiss near bridge

Photo by Katherine Marchand

Kayli and John rehearsal dinner portrait

Photo by Katherine Marchand

Kayli and John Austin chose elegant yet fun garments to fit their "garden cocktail" dress code. The bride donned an off-white dress by Cult Gaia and green and turquoise earrings by Lizzie Fortunato. She says, "I wanted to incorporate off-the-shoulder at some point in one of my wedding looks, so when I saw the Muna Dress (thanks to an Instagram ad), I immediately knew!" For her beauty look, she kept things more natural and added some volume with Old Hollywood waves. As for her fragrance, Kayli wore her mother's bottle of Donna Karan Cashmere Mist. "It’s a smell I remember throughout my childhood, and it was important to me to have that comfort with me all weekend," she shares. "I still haven’t given it back to her yet!"

John Austin wore a green seersucker suit from Georgia-based brand Sid Mashburn for the day. "He visited them at one of their seasonal pop-ups in the Lotte New York Palace hotel in the spring with no expectations outside of knowing he wanted something unique for late summer," explains Kayli. "Alex at the shop knew just the thing, pulling out the swatch book and pointing to the green seersucker. John Austin knew that was it–he loves seersucker but sometimes it can feel a bit cartoonish with the stripes. This solid had the great lightweight texture, but looked exceptionally sharp."

rehearsal dinner venue

Photo by Katherine Marchand

jenga game on wood barrel

Photo by Katherine Marchand

large chess set

Photo by Katherine Marchand

"We wanted our rehearsal dinner and welcome drinks to feel familiar and comfortable like a summer backyard party–conversational and hospitable," shares Kayli of her vision for the day. Not only was the venue ready with great décor and memorable menus, the couple also had set up spaces for games and conversation around the property. "John Austin and I worked really hard on the playlist for these events, but you could hardly even notice the music with all of the chatter and laughs. This reunion was one of our favorite moments of the whole weekend."

rehearsal dinner décor with blue and white tablecloth

Photo by Katherine Marchand

rehearsal dinner tablescape with blue and white tablecloth and yellow florals

Photo by Katherine Marchand

The rehearsal dinner took place in a large room with banquet tables arranged in a U-shaped arrangement. Blue toile tablecloths and navy napkins helped evoke the couple's dream of a blue and white backyard party aesthetic. Kayli adds, "I made the seat assignment place cards myself. They were acrylic three-inch clear discs with each guest’s name hand-painted."

blue and white tablescape with pillar candles and florals

Photo by Katherine Marchand

The couple worked with floral designer Hellabloom to curate the arrangements for the day. "Abby was very collaborative and easy to work with! She took me to the Flower District in NYC and I pointed out flowers that struck me," shares Kayli. "She ultimately made my dreams a reality better than I could’ve ever imagined."

rehearsal dinner menu with white plate and navy napkin

Photo by Katherine Marchand

chef cooking outdoors

Photo by Katherine Marchand


Photo by Katherine Marchand

The meal kicked off with a beet and burrata salad, followed by a special selection by the bride. "Our rehearsal dinner main course was a nod to my Austrian heritage—pork loin featuring my all-time favorite side spaetzle," shares Kayli. "It was a great opportunity for me to share a meal that’s special to me with friends and family who may have never had it before!"

The meal finished with olive oil cake, a meaningful choice for the couple. "This has been a favorite dessert of mine and John Austin’s ever since our very first dates in NYC," Kayli says. "Babbo in the West Village quickly became our go-to Italian for the special occasions, and this is one of their notable desserts."

bride and groom kiss at rehearsal dinner table

Photo by Katherine Marchand

There were lots of speeches with the kindest, funniest, happy-cry moments from our wedding party and family.

speech at rehearsal dinner

Photo by Katherine Marchand

bride and groom laughing at rehearsal dinner

Photo by Katherine Marchand

The couple decided to give all their rehearsal dinner guests the chance to say a word or two with an open mic placed across from the couple. "The speeches were so awesome, starting with John Austin’s father, Ken, welcoming everyone, my two matrons of honor, Courtney and Dana, and John Austin’s best man, Tim," reflects Kayli. "Then, there were lots of speeches with the kindest, funniest, happy-cry moments from our wedding party and family."

rehearsal dinner venue

Photo by Katherine Marchand

After the rehearsal dinner finished, 80 more guests joined in for the welcome party. The couple made sure to make an entirely new playlist to set the mood for the second part of the evening. "We wanted the vibe to not be overwhelming, but wanted to emulate that feeling when you’re at a bar and the background music is playing every one of your not-so-top-hits favorites song after song," they share.

pigs in a blanket

Photo by Katherine Marchand

Guests at the welcome party enjoyed bites like kohlabri, butternut squash tacos, cookies, brownies, and what the bride deems "the best pigs in a blanket ever."

Georgia Bulldog grooms cake

Photo by Katherine Marchand

bride, groom, and groomsmen in front of bulldog cake

Photo by Katherine Marchand

"My cousin and his partner own a bakery in Babylon, NY called Tortafina, and they surprised John Austin with a Georgia Bull Dog grooms cake which was beyond awesome! When he and his college friends were getting together for a group picture in front of the cake, I jumped in front and joined in," remembers Kayli. "The guys hyped me up to 'Call the Dawgs,' which is the classic cheer for Georgia where someone leads and everyone repeats after the leader. It was a lot of fun and there were a lot of laughs! Not sure if John Austin has ever been so proud of me!"

bride and groom give speech at rehearsal dinner

Photo by Katherine Marchand

wedding guests at rehearsal dinner speech

Photo by Katherine Marchand

Our wedding was definitely a celebration of more than just us.

bride and groom under string lights

Photo by Katherine Marchand

"This was the first time in a while where we saw friends and family from all over the country," reflects the bride. "The pandemic was tough and a lot has happened over the past few years, but our wedding was definitely a celebration of more than just us. The Friday night party was an incredible start to the weekend of celebrations."

Wedding Team

Venue Troutbeck

Coordinator Wedding Planning Plus

Bride Outfit Designer Cult Gaia

Jewelry Lizzie Fortunato

Shoes Inez

Hair Alexxa Antoniato

Makeup Jen Lupis

Groom Outfit Designer Sid Mashburn

Jewelry Rolex 

Groom’s Shoes Sid Mashburn

Engagement Ring J.C. Grant Company

Wedding Bands London Jeweler’s TWO

Floral Design Hellabloom

Invitations Allison Vaz Designs

Music LNJ Tech

Catering Troutbeck

Cake Tortafina 

Rentals Troutbeck

Welcome Bags Promo Kings

Videography Lola Vision Video for The Pros

Photography Katherine Marchand

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