If every cloud has a silver lining, then Hurricane Sandy’s is Allison Groffman getting together with Jonathan Rich. After first meeting two years earlier, Allison and JR reconnected at the Carlyle Hotel during the superstorm back in October of 2012. Three years later, the pair was engaged and ready to plan a wedding for the ages. With 200 guests, the two wanted their day to be both gorgeous and unmistakably “them.” Since it doesn’t get more personal than a wedding at home, Allison’s family home in East Hampton, New York, was just the place for their party.
Originally a horse farm, the property boasts a sprawling green lawn and plenty of room to play. "We were able to create a lot of different areas," the bride says. "The ceremony, cocktail hour, and the reception were all held on different parts of the property so it was as if we created lots of different outdoor ‘rooms.’“ So on July 16, 2016, after much help from planner Claire Bean Events, the two made it official with a Tuscan-inspired open-air celebration, photographed by Brian Marcus of Fred Marcus Studio. Check out the photos below and see exactly how stunning a backyard bash can be.
Allison knew exactly what she wanted in a wedding dress: Lace and long sleeves. But when the bride-to-be first saw her knockout Naeem Khan gown, she was shocked at how utterly gorgeous the combination could be. “The second they took it out of the bag for me to try on I knew it was the one. My mom and I both started crying” she says. The floor-length design featured three-quarter length sleeves and impeccable floral applique all over. The ethereal piece was almost entirely sheer — a look Allison had loved on another gown she'd seen in the past — so she worked with a team at Bergdorf Goodman to add a light lining to make the dress, as she says, “appropriate, elegant, and still sexy.” The floral applique (and one seriously talented bridesmaid) made choosing accessories easy. “One of my best friends and bridesmaids, Alison Chemla has a jewelry line called Alison Lou. She lent me the most beautiful pair of Daisy earrings with white and yellow diamonds.”
And of course, a bundle of fresh flowers topped off this dreamy look. A bouquet of garden-picked flowers, including belladonna, delphinium, tweedia, and nigella, was the perfect pop of blue against the otherwise white wedding décor. As a plus, the hue was her soon-to-be husband’s favorite color.
In keeping with the neutral color palette she and JR chose, Allison wanted her bridesmaids to wear all white. “Plus, I thought it would be a great excuse for everyone to buy a beautiful white dress,” she says. “There aren’t so many occasions where it is acceptable to wear a long white dress!” With each attendant in a style of her own choosing, the bridesmaids looked effortlessly cool and diverse. From high-low skirts and one-shoulder gowns to high slits and trendy cutouts, this chic bridal party showed everyone there’s no wrong way to wear white. Similar to the bride’s, Allison's 'maids carried hand-tied bouquets of garden flowers with plenty of greenery.
While it’s typical for the bride’s fashion choices to get all the attention, JR and his fashionable friends earned themselves some serious street cred. For his look, the groom worked with creative director John Vizzone on a custom designed a tuxedo. The navy blue tux was perfect for a summer day and the unexpected color helped JR stand out. But what really caught the eye were his shoes — a gift from his bride to be. “He is a huge Grateful Dead fan,” explains Allison, “so for Christmas I created a custom pair of Stubbs and Wootton linen slippers with the dancing bear. They were a huge hit.” The super casual look of his slippers paired with the ultra-luxe tux for a glamourous-but-relaxed vibe.
Groomsmen were asked to wear their own tuxedos while the best man rocked a white dinner suit. You don’t often hear mix-and-match when it comes to the groom’s side of a wedding, but based on these photos, we hope it’s a decision more men will start making.
Allison and JR began their touching handwritten vows with a charming quote from When Harry Met Sally: “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” A family friend performed the ceremony, which included a reading of the lyrics from The Grateful Dead’s “Attics of My Life” — a fitting tribute for this pair of music aficionados. It all happened under a gorgeous chuppah designed with twisted branches and white flowers surrounded by greenery, a look that blended seamlessly in with the manicured backyard.
As Allison walked down the aisle with her father, a pianist at a baby grand played her favorite song, “Shine A Light” by the Rolling Stones. Interestingly enough, her trip down the aisle wasn’t the only one that put a smile of guests faces. “We didn’t have a flower girl or ring bearer but we did have our 7-pound dog, Charlie, escorted down the aisle by our friend,” says the bride. “It brought a lightness to the whole ceremony and everyone couldn’t help but laugh when they saw her.” Charlie, too, looked her best with a leash blanketed in greenery.
While East Hampton might be a destination for some, for Allison it was home, so she channeled a different locale for the reception décor and dinner. "I wanted our guests to feel like they were transported to Tuscany. Italy is a very special place to both JR and myself,” Allison says. Guests dined on a traditional Italian antipasto during cocktail hour, where an elegant station was overflowing with breads, cheeses, and fruits.
Hand-etched glass domes sat atop a mossy table of escort cards. Guests were directed to two long dinner tables beneath lush trees and, later, a starry night sky. The seemingly endless tables were outfitted with white linen runners and low flower arrangements, encouraging conversation among guests. The romantic, overgrown centerpieces were an eleventh-hour stroke of genius from the bride who knew only one way to describe the image in her head. "A couple of weeks before the wedding I emailed our planner late at night and said that I wanted the flowers to have a feel of Ms. Havisham’s garden from Great Expectations. The day of the wedding, I was in total awe.”
A combination of white peonies, delicate clematis, thistle, roses, hydrangeas, and of greenery were arranged in glass vases, bringing Allison's garden vision to life. But however beautiful the flowers and place settings, it was the crystal chandeliers overhead that truly stole the show. Surrounded by so much natural beauty, the opulent lighting was an unexpected twist that added an enchanted feel to the night.
Guests settled in for a multi-course meal of rustic Italian fare, made all the more special when served on patterned white dinnerware. "Our caterers were unbelievable to work with and we were blown away by their presentation," Allison says. "They completely understood our aesthetic."
Once dinner was complete, the reception transformed into a full-on dance party where a live band entertained guests with a killer playlist. The expansive dance floor was covered by glass roofing and glowed bright against the darkened sky.
When you love music as much as Allison and JR, choosing a first dance song takes on a whole new level of pressure. After much consideration they chose John Legend’s “Stay With Me,” but it wouldn’t be their only special dance of the evening. Little did the two know, Allison’s father, an entertainment lawyer who had worked closely with the Dave Matthews band, had something else in mind. “He had planned for Dave to record an acoustic version of one of his songs for us. We both burst into tears when Dave’s voice came on and just started dancing. It was so special.“
The cake was a three-tiered number from a local bakery with smooth white fondant and hydrangeas cascading down the front. While the buttercream frosting and chocolate and vanilla filling sounds delicious, we’re not sure guests stopped dancing long enough to eat! Though both bride and groom didn’t want the night to end (an impromptu after-party on the lawn meant it didn’t really have to!), the couple looks back on planning their day with fond memories and some good advice. “Don’t ask for a lot of other people’s advice and stay true to your vision, everything else will fall into place.”
Ceremony & Reception Venue: Private residence
Wedding Planner & Flowers: Claire Bean Events
Bride's Wedding Dress & Veil: Naeem Khan
Jewelry: Alison Lou
Shoes: Manolo Blahnik
Hair: Aaron Light
Makeup: Suz DeNeen
Groom's Attire: Cifonelli
Invitations & Paper Goods: Linda Pasca of Pen & Paper Design
Music: Nate Lucas All-Stars
Catering: Cloud Catering
Cake: Sag Harbor Baking Company
Rentals: Party Rental LTD; New England Country Rental
Photographer: Brian Marcus of Fred Marcus Studio