When James Hewitt first met Cara Read, the odds were definitely in his favor. The pair was attending a happy hour sponsored by TheSkimm in December of 2014, where James and his friend were the only two men in attendance. "His friend's girlfriend got him to go with the promise there would be cute girls there," Cara explains. She and James chatted throughout the evening, and exchanged business cards at the end of the night. "I assumed he was just another D.C. guy trying to network," Cara recalls. Thankfully, her card included her cell phone number, and James texted her later that evening.
"He told me he wasn't sure if I was single, and thought asking for my card was more appropriate than just asking for my number."
The couple had both studied abroad in Europe, but hadn't been back since graduating from college, so in the spring of 2017, they planned to return together. They began their trip in Prague, kicking it off with a bike tour of the city. "We stopped at an ancient monastery with an incredible view, and decided to cancel our dinner reservation in favor of dining at the scenic brewery next door," Cara recalls. After ordering their beers, they asked the waitress to take a picture of them, which is when James got down on one knee.
"I think the waitress was just as shocked as I was!" Cara says with a laugh.
Another surprise came when the couple chose their wedding venue. The bride is from Canada but grew up in North Carolina, while James is from California, so finding the right place to say "I do" posed a challenge for the couple. "We thought we would never figure it out, but my dad reminded me that, as a young girl, I'd had my heart set on getting married in Maine," she says. She and James spent a day touring coastal wedding venues with little luck, then watched the sunset from the porch of James' aunt's home in Freeport.
"We suddenly realized her property was more beautiful than any place we'd seen that day, and that settled it," Cara says.
James and Cara turned to the past for inspiration, from Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart's Sabrina to the couple's grandparents' own weddings. The result was a classic coastal celebration with a garden party vibe and a chic blue and white palette, coordinated by florist Ruby McDermott Designs and photographed by Rodeo & Co. Photography.
To set the scene for their Labor Day Weekend wedding, James and Cara invited their 130 guests with a traditional invitation suite that featuring a watercolored illustration of the groom's aunt's home.
Cara, her bridesmaids, and her flower girl all wore matching pajamas to get ready for the big day. "Our flower girl loved her crown of white roses so much, she was spotted still wearing it at the airport the next day!" the bride laughs.
Cara's white Prada sling-backs featured a colorful lining that also served as her "something blue." Her favorite detail of the pointed-toe design was the bow on each side.
For Cara, finding her wedding dress was a family affair. The bride had known she'd wear Peter Langner ever since she discovered the designer's work during a costume design class in college, but hadn't even started shopping when she received an email from James' dad. "Rizik's, a luxury boutique in D.C., had recently reopened, and James' father mentioned that it was wear James' great-grandmother would purchase all her clothes—and that they have a bridal department," says Cara. "I popped in after work to take a look, and spotted my gown on that first visit!" She didn't buy the dress because her mom wasn't there, but after a phone call that evening, she made plans to head back first thing in the morning to purchase the sample before anyone else did.
Cara's Peter Langner gown featured a cowl back, a column silhouette, and a pleated neckline that she had altered to be a more off-the-shoulder design. "That was James' one request for my wedding gown—that he could see my shoulders!" says the bride. She carried a bouquet of lily of the valley that was special-ordered from Holland because it wasn't in season. "The truck carrying the flowers broke down two hours outside of Boston, but luckily our florist was able to find a colleague nearby who could pick them up for us.
Despite the drama, they arrived in one piece," Cara says.
Her bridesmaids carried nosegays of white garden and spray roses, tweedia, and green salal leaves.
The cover of the ceremony programs featured an illustration of South Freeport Congregational Church. "It's a classic New England chapel that was actually built by shipbuilders, so it resembles a ship's hull," says Cara.
After exchanging traditional vows, Cara and James headed to a boat for their getaway (a must for a coastal wedding!) as guests tossed petals and the church's bell tolled.
From the ceremony, James and Cara headed to the marina to board James' uncle's boat. "We cruised Casco Bay, sipping Champagne and letting the ceremony sink in," says Cara. They pulled into the dock at the house, waving to guests as they made their way to the celebration.
James' aunt is a retired L.L. Bean executive, so he and Cara used a book about the brand's iconic design as their guest book.
Cara knew she wanted a detailed veil to contrast with her minimal dress, but hadn't found quite the right pattern of lace. "I reached out to my friend Brittney White, a talented designer who used to work for Vera Wang, and she offered to make the veil for me!" says Cara. Brittney sourced intricate floral lace and incorporated pieces of an heirloom veil from Cara's mother's family into a one-of-a-kind piece.
Cocktail hour was full of personalized touches, from the signature drink (a blueberry bourbon smash featuring wild Maine blueberries, Canadian maple syrup, and Kentucky bourbon) to the monogrammed matchboxes and pillows.
Great food was a priority for Cara and James, beginning with a cocktail hour favorite: miniature Maine lobster rolls!
Navy blue escort cards were displayed on a vintage white table, decorated with an arrangement of white roses.
A large white tent was erected in the driveway to for dinner, while dancing took place on the back patio later in the night. The couple paired all-white linens with white and gold plates and glassware for a classic look, while the newlyweds' seats featured hemstitch napkins embroidered with Cara and James' monogram in light blue. Centerpieces combined white hydrangeas, garden roses, ranunculus, and clematis vine, kept low so guests could chat across the table. "We added blue wax seals to each menu for a subtle pop of color," says Cara.
The indulgent meal included chicken with wildflower honey, Maine blueberry-mango salsa, and wild rice pilaf and beef tenderloin with wild mushroom butter and fried leeks.
"We originally wanted to serve wild Maine blueberry pie for dessert, but instead decided to pass hand pies on the dance floor as a late-night snack," says the bride. "We also ordered a wedding cake from our caterer just a month before the wedding!" The two-tiered confection featured chocolate cake with a ganache filling and lemon berry cake with lemon custard filling, all frosted in white buttercream and adorned with clematis vine. "We had photos of our parents' weddings displayed on the table," the bride describes.
Looking back on planning their wedding at a non-traditional venue, James and Cara say they were so happy to have the help of a professional planner. "A full-time planner or design team will really ease the burden of starting to plan from scratch," says Cara. "We were so lucky to have our coordinator, as well James' aunt, to help us make it happen!"
Wedding Coordinator & Floral Design: Ruby McDermott Designs || Ceremony Venue: South Freeport Congregational Church || Reception Venue: Private Home || Bride's Dress: Peter Langner, purchased at Rizik's || Bride's Veil: Custom || Bride's Shoes: Prada || Hair: Meredith Dixon of Clementine Salon || Makeup: True Colors Salon || Bridesmaids' Dresses: eShakti || Groom's Attire: Lustre Formal Wear || Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands: Reeds || Paper Products: Paper on the Avenue, Emily Langston Design, Ella Letterpress, Dog Named Gouda || Catering & Cake: 111 Maine || Reception Music: Silver Arrow Band || Rentals: One Stop Event Rentals, La Tavola Fine Linen || Lighting: Griffin & Griffin Lighting || Transportation: NorthEast Charter & Tour Co.