Emily Anderson and Jake Ryan first met in 2008 as freshmen at at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. They met at a party at Jake’s fraternity house, becoming fast friends. “It wasn’t until a group spring break trip to the Bahamas during our senior year that we actually started dating,” Emily adds “But we stuck with it after graduation, spending countless hours on Amtrak between D.C. and New York before I moved to D.C. in 2014.” Three years later, in June of 2017, Emily headed home to California to visit her parents during a work trip. “I’d invited Jake to join me, but he couldn’t get away,” she recalls. As she got ready to head to dinner with her grandmother, Emily got a phone call from Jake and walked outside to answer. “As we said hello, I heard his voice echo. When I looked around, he was standing in my backyard!” she says. “I ran across the lawn to hug him, and he got down on one knee.”
A few weeks after getting engaged, Emily and Jake were back in California for a friend’s wedding and decided to look at Meadowood Napa Valley in St. Helena. “I knew Jake would love the preppy feeling of the property. Plus, he’s allergic to horses so a barn venue was out of the question!” Emily says with a laugh. The couple made the most of the property, kicking off their wedding weekend with a croquet party on Friday, followed by their wedding on June 16, 2018. Their big day was all about casual elegance, as the bride, her mom, and Cole Drake Events collaborated on a fabulous garden party with great food, incredible wine, and a serious dance sesh. Keep scrolling for all the pretty photos by Olivia Rae James.
The couple invited their wedding party and their plus-ones to a croquet party complete with all-white attire, Aperol spritzes, and lessons from Meadowood’s croquet pro. “Things got pretty competitive,” Emily says with a laugh. “My mom ended up winning, though Jake claims he let her!”
The next day, Emily traded her croquet whites for a different white dress—her wedding gown! The bride wore a spectacular Carolina Herrera gown with flowers embroidered on the organza skirt. “I thought I wanted a big skirt and a dramatic back, but after trying this dress on, I couldn’t stop thinking about it,” says the bride.
The bridesmaids all wore midi tulip dresses by Shona Joy, choosing between a few different necklines for a mix-and-match look. Emily carried a bouquet of peonies, ranunculus, garden roses, and olive leaves, all wrapped in a Carolina blue ribbon (a nod to the couple’s alma mater). A sprig of lavender, a symbol of devotion, was tucked in amongst the petals. The bridesmaids carried bouquets of greenery, combining olive leaves, hellebore, and white wild flowers.
Emily’s mother’s floral gown was a perfect fit for the garden theme, while her grandmother looked chic in dove-gray pants and a soft blue scarf.
My dad walked me down the aisle, and we were both so nervous!” says Emily. When she got to the elevated altar, she and Jake were both thrilled their close friend was serving as officiant. “Jake was so overcome with emotion that he had a hard time getting through his vows. It was so special that I could hold his hands and Will could put a hand on Jake’s back to support him as he read his vows,” the bride recalls.
Following the ceremony, guests moved over to a nearby lawn for cocktail hour. Instead of one or two signature cocktails, Emily and Jake had six, ranging from the groom’s signature Jack Daniels and Diet Coke to a Southern Spritzer (sauvignon blanc, lemon, mint, elderflower, and soda) and the EmRy (gin, lime, grapefruit, bitters, fennel, bay, and tonic).
The cocktail hour space was decorated with light wood lounge furniture and modern white balloons. Guests also had fun with the parasols.
Table assignments were printed on a piece of acrylic. The display was surrounded by white ranunculus and sweet peas in white and glass bud vases.
Dinner took place on the ceremony lawn, which had been reset with long banquet tables for a family-style dinner. Each was topped with slate blue runners, white dishes, and lots of wine glasses—it was Napa, after all! Striped napkins gave each place setting a preppy finish, while clusters of bud vases softened the design.
“Having a family-style meal kept our reception feeling like a cozy dinner party with everyone we love,” says Emily. The menu included heirloom tomato and burrata salad, crab and avocado salad, fried chicken (another North Carolina touch!), and spring pea gnocchi. “My dad and I had a blast putting together the wine list,” Emily adds.
Though the bride’s bustle broke as soon as the first dance started, carrying a train couldn’t stop her from spending the rest of the night on the dance floor–when she wasn’t on stage with the band!
But first: The newlyweds cut into a custom cake by Jasmine Rae. The creation featured a tiered design with dramatic white and light-blue sugar flowers. Inside, vanilla rose cake was layered with vanilla buttercream and lemon curd. “Jake and I are vanilla-vanilla fans, through and through!” Emily laughs.
Though she’d asked repeatedly, Emily knew when it was time to cut the cake that Jake was going to stuff a piece into her face, whether she liked it or not. “He was very delicate in putting cake on my face, but I retaliated with a huge piece!” says the bride. “In the end, I’m glad he didn’t listen!”
Looking back on their big day, Emily has this piece of advice for those of you planning: “There are a million decisions to make and a million things people will tell you must (or mustn’t!) do for your wedding, but you don’t have to listen to any of that,” she says. “Prioritize early on what is important to you, your fiancé, and your families, and let the rest of it go.”
Wedding Planner: Cole Drake Events
Bride's Dress: Carolina Herrera
Bride's Veil: Carolina Herrera
Bride's Shoes: Alexandre Birman
Bride's Jewelry: Jade Trau
Hair & Makeup: Sherrie Long
Bridesmaids' Dresses: Shona Joy
Mother of the Bride’s Dress: Biyan
Groom's Attire: Canali
Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands: Jade Trau
Floral Design: Brown Paper Design
Paper Products: Color Me Carla
Cake: Jasmine Rae Cakes
Ceremony Music: Synchronicity Strings
Reception Music: Hip Service
Photography: Olivia Rae James