Claudia McVeay has her mother to thank for pushing her towards a handsome stranger (who turned out to be Alexander Lovato!). “She kept telling me that I should pretend I was going for a run to meet him on the sidewalk, or to take a yoga class at the gym so I’d bump into him there,” Claudia laughs. Then, one night at a dinner party at a friend’s house, she was chatting with a man she’d never met before, but who seemed all too familiar. “I asked a few subtle questions, and realized it was the same guy my mom had been talking about for months," she says with a laugh. That night, Claudia and Alex shared a plate of food, and the rest is history.
After a romantic proposal beneath an oak tree lit with twinkling lights, the couple got to work planning their October 15, 2017, wedding in Atlanta, Georgia. “We drew inspiration from The Secret Garden and Great Expectations,” says Claudia of their overgrown, Old World vision. The historic, European feel of the Swan House made the 1920s property the perfect location—and from there, the couple built an all-star team starting with planner and designer Alise Taggart. Keep reading to see more of Alex and Claudia's enchanted celebration, as photographed by Erich McVey.
Swan House’s tiered fountains and dramatic stairways set the scene with an English garden vibe.
The couple treated their invitation suite as a preview to their big day, using layers of vellum and deckled-edge paper goods to create the feeling of age-old romance.
Claudia wanted a gown with classic details and found that in a Monique Lhuillier dress with an elegantly draped bodice and tulle skirt. “I probably tried on 100 dresses, and this one made me feel like myself,” the bride explains.
The bride carried a delicate posy of lily of the valley, gardenias, and garden roses. She paired her custom engagement ring with two bands–one platinum, one gold. “The mixed metal represents the uniqueness of each of us,” says Claudia. She completed her look with vintage-inspired Manolo Blahnik pumps.
“We had our first look on the stone steps, where Alex waited for me at the bottom,” Claudia recalls. “Halfway down, as Alex was looking at me lovingly, my veil got caught and jerked my head back. We both broke into laughter, and the moment couldn’t have been more us.”
To complement Claudia’s soft gown, Alex wore a Calvin Klein suit that he’d bought at the very last minute. “The day before the wedding, Alex tried on his first suit and realized it was far too big, so after the ceremony rehearsal, we went shopping!” Claudia laughs.
Instead of bridesmaids or groomsmen, the pair’s beloved Pomeranian, Lilly, walked down the aisle in a collar of lily of the valley.
The organic altar was designed to look as if it had grown naturally on the property's grounds. It was made with rambling moss and vines that lead to a half-moon accented with white blooms.
The couple’s friend officiated the ceremony, incorporating their personalized vows and a reading of “Hinterhof” by James Fenton.
During cocktail hour, two large farmhouse tables were styled with indulgent spreads of charcuterie so guests could grab bites as they mingled on the spacious lawn.
Claudia is an artist so she hand-painted the canvas for the escort card display herself. “It was a mixed medium piece, and I designed it so it would really blend in with the weathered stone of Swan House,” she explains. Guests' names were calligraphed on hand-torn escort cards to complete the soft, romantic display.
At the other end of the property, a long row of washed Tuscan farmhouse tables was set for the 60-person dinner. The "singular table" was draped with a silk runner, and finished with trailing greenery and small arrangements of cream and white English garden roses. Place settings layered white dinner plates with vintage silverware, crystal water goblets, and hand-dyed silk napkins. Calligraphed menus and place cards completed the overall look.
After dark, a wash of uplighting illuminated the Swan House’s dramatic columns and nearby trees.
Dessert was served on the patio next to the boxwood garden, where Claudia and Alex cut into an elegant vanilla-and-almond cake draped in more trailing greenery.
At the end of the evening, Claudia and Alex ran through a cloud of rose petals and made their getaway in a 1931 Chrysler. “Alex and I did our best to remain present, both through the process and on our wedding day,” says Claudia. “Don’t forget to take a moment to take everything in!”
Wedding Planning & Design: Alise Taggart
Venue: Swan House and Gardens
Officiant: Lauren Soleil-Downer
Bride's Dress: Monique Lhuillier
Bride's Veil: Emily Riggs Bridal
Bride's Shoes: Manolo Blahnik
Hair & Makeup: Claudia Mejerle
Floral Design: Forage Botanical
Paper Products: Written Word Calligraphy
Catering: Epting Events
Cake: Gingerspice Bakery
Music: DJ Greg Picciano
Lighting: PPI Events
Transportation: Atlanta Hotrod Limos
Videography: Story of Eve
Photography: Erich McVey