An Old-World New York City Wedding in Chelsea

These details were perfect for the couple's historic venue

bride and groom

Photo by Heather Waraksa

In May of 2013, Sara Vandermark and Thomas de Swardt were both living in New York City, but commuted to Philadelphia every weekend to attend the Executive MBA program at Wharton. “We actually lived around the corner from one another!” says Sara. All those hours in the classroom (and on the train!) paid off, and the pair both got their MBAs—and found one another.

Three years later, Sara and Tom took a trip to Paris over Memorial Day weekend. “We were taking a suspiciously circuitous walk from our hotel to dinner,” Sara says. Finally, though, Tom found what he was looking for: A small park called La Place des Etats-Unis, where he got down on one knee.

The couple lives in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, and are loyal patrons of Intelligentsia Coffee at The High Line Hotel. “We’ve always loved the hotel’s historic aesthetic, but it was a tour of the 1850 chapel at the General Theological Seminary next door that won us over,” says the bride. The hotel used to be a part of the seminary, meaning those architectural details and that moody, gothic vibe carried through perfectly. The wedding was on August 12, 2017, but the pair went dark with their palette, opting for deep burgundy and gray accented with pale pink and mixed metals. “We wanted to mix classic New York style with European tradition,” Sara explains. They worked with Danielle Elder of Classic Events NYC to truly embrace their setting, weaving the venue’s iconic details throughout the celebration.

Photographed by Heather Waraksa, this New York City wedding is a celebration of both the historic venue's gorgeous past and the couple's future together!

rehearsal dinner
Photo by Heather Waraksa

“The hardest part of planning our wedding was being so far from our families,” says Sara. The bride’s relatives are scattered between upstate New York, Boston, and Austin, while the groom’s family is in Zimbabwe. Which is why the couple made a point to spend as much of the wedding weekend as possible with our loved ones as possible—starting with their rooftop rehearsal dinner!

drink menu
Photo by Heather Waraksa

The couple kicked off their wedding weekend with a bit of personalization in the form of their first signature cocktail. “Tom and I weren’t sure what we wanted as our signature cocktail, so my bridal party decided to compete for the winning drink,” says Sara. “They each came up with an elevator pitch to sell their idea, and each one was spot-on.” The winning drink was an Aperol Spritz called “Very Van De Spritz”.

bridal shoes
Photo by Heather Waraksa
Photo by Heather Waraksa

In keeping with the moody color palette, Sara wore dark velvet Gianvito Rossi sandals with a satin ribbon beneath her gorgeous Vera Wang gown. “My mother wore lace for her wedding, so I knew I wanted lace as well,” the bride says. She tried on a number of styles before returning to Vera Wang after the fall presentation to try on a gown she’d spotted on the runway. “I knew it was the one right away. The fitted bodice, lace overlay, and contrast between the deep v-neck and high illusion neckline were perfect.” Sara and her mother both walked away from the appointment star struck—because Vera herself had been in the salon!

flower girls
Photo by Heather Waraksa
flower girls
Photo by Heather Waraksa

Six of Tom’s nieces and nephews, all from Zimbabwe, came to the wedding to serve as flower girls, ring bearer, and page boys. The girls wore lace dresses, topped with delicate flower crowns. “They took their roles very seriously, but still had fun. Some of our favorite photos are of their dirty knees, missing shoes, and mismatched bouquets!” Sara laughs.

Photo by Heather Waraksa

Scabiosa pods were paired with greenery for a fresh, almost rustic take on a boutonniere.

bride walking into church
Photo by Heather Waraksa
first kiss
Photo by Heather Waraksa

Tom and Sara loved the quatrefoils and white biblical statues that filled the chapel. They decorated the altar with a garland of white and green flowers.

ceremony exit
Photo by Heather Waraksa

The newlyweds made their exit surrounded by loved ones. “We loved that the inward-facing pews gave our ceremony a more intimate feel,” says Sara.

cocktail hour
Photo by Heather Waraksa

Guests followed an interior courtyard that led from the chapel to the hotel’s lawn for cocktail hour.

flower staircase
Photo by Heather Waraksa
Photo by Heather Waraksa

A dramatic garland of hops flowers and garden roses led inside to the Refectory, where dinner was served. Urns overflowed with dramatic greenery, filling the corners of the towering space.

Photo by Heather Waraksa
table setting
Photo by Heather Waraksa

Long tables were topped with candelabras and low arrangements of dahlias and roses in blush and burgundy. Gold chargers and flatware enhanced the ornate atmosphere, while wine and water goblets were a nod to a bygone era of entertaining. The seasonal menu included hibiscus roasted artichokes, daube of beef short rib, branzino en papillote, and a mixed berry pavlova. “And of course, we served Intelligentsia coffee!” says Sara.

wedding cake
Photo by Heather Waraksa

The beautiful five-tiered wedding cake was decorated with cascading sugar flowers and strokes of gold paint. The cake had alternating layers of vanilla cake with rosewater buttercream and almond cake with apricot-peach puree.

Photo by Heather Waraksa

“Try to make the planning process as fun as possible to really extend the celebration,” says Sara. She and Tom filled their engagement with weekly dance lessons, tastings, and date nights that served as rehearsal dinner venue scouting. “It was so fun and romantic, and really built up our excitement for our wedding day!”

Wedding Team

Wedding Planner: Classic Events NYC

Ceremony Venue: Chapel of the Good Shepherd at the General Theological Seminary

Reception Venue & Catering: The High Line Hotel

Bride's Dress: Vera Wang

Bride's Veil: Vera Wang

Bride's Shoes: Gianvito Rossi

Bride's Jewelry: Jennifer Behr

Bride’s Accessories: Yves Saint Laurent

Hair & Makeup: Facetime Beauty

Bridesmaids' Dresses: BHLDN, Amsale

Groom's Attire: Hugo Boss

Groom’s Shoes: Stubbs & Wootton

Groom’s Cufflinks: Patrick Mavros

Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands: Marisa Perry

Floral Design: Denise Fasanello

Paper Products: Fourteen Forty, Peg Donahue

Calligraphy: Paper Soul Co.

Cake: Nine Cakes

Ceremony Music: Chantal Musique, Walter Klauss

Reception Music: Carte Blanche, DJ Lisie

Rentals: Party Rental LTD, Broadway Party Rentals, Rent Patina, Levy Lighting

After Party Attire: Rime Arodaky, Manolo Blahnik

After Party Planner: Justin Ifill of Ifill Events

After Party Venue: Tao Downtown Ink Bar

Travel Agent: Maita Barrenechea of Mai10

Photography: Heather Waraksa

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