Over the course of 10 years in New York City, Lesley Jackson and Bradley Acker had almost always lived within 10 blocks of one another (and even worked on the same block for four of those years!), but never crossed paths. “We actually met while I was in Vienna on a trip with a friend,” Lesley reveals. “It was the early days of Tinder, when the GPS function wasn’t working so well. I was in Austria, he was in New York, and we still managed to match. We had our first date right after I returned, and we never looked back.” In March of 2015, Brad surprised Lesley with a weekend getaway to a luxury resort in Connecticut, complete with a day at the spa and cocktails by the fireplace in their cottage. Then, at a romantic dinner in a nearby farmhouse-turned-restaurant, Brad popped the question.
Lesley knew she wanted a fall or winter wedding, and couldn’t imagine waiting over a year and a half to get hitched, so the newly-engaged pair immediately began the hunt for venues. “We didn’t actually find our venue until May, which gave us about six months to plan our December 5, 2015, wedding,” the bride says. The perfect spot? The Union League Club in New York City. “Brad has been a member for over a decade, and he and his dad loved to meet there for father-son bonding nights. It’s really his home away from home, and the historic mansion feel and old New York charm were perfect for a festive celebration!” With an all-white color scheme (plus the Club’s gorgeous Christmas décor!) and an elegant but fun vibe in the works, this couple hosted a black tie bash for 150 guests that’s sure to get you in the holiday spirit — just wait until you see Sara Wight’s photos, below!
Lesley tried on more than 40 dresses before finally finding The One. “I knew I wanted a simple lace dress, and once we picked our date I decided some sparkle would be perfect for the festive season,” says the bride. “That turned out to be tough to find!” But when she slipped on this Chantilly lace sheath dress with a subtly beaded tulle overlay by Monique Lhuillier, Lesley finally had that cliché moment and felt tears in her eyes. “The dress originally had an illusion neckline and cap sleeves, but I customized it to be a strapless silhouette. It was perfect!”
In keeping with the festive theme, she wore vibrant red velvet pumps from Jimmy Choo. “The heels were high, but they were so comfortable and I wore them all night,” she says. Her all-white bouquet combined peonies, garden roses, hydrangea, and stephanotis, wrapped in a satin ribbon.
While neither Brad nor Lesley is originally from New York, they knew they wanted to get married in the city that feels like home to them. “All of the venues we chose were within 15 blocks of our apartment, from the hotel to the Club to Madison Square Park, where we had our first look,” Lesley explains.
Brad looked sharp in his custom Ralph Lauren tuxedo, which he paired with a black velvet Yves Saint Laurent bow tie and red velvet cufflinks to coordinate with Lesley’s shoes. “A few days before the wedding, Brad decided he wanted new tuxedo shoes, but he didn’t have any time to shop in those last few days,” says the bride. “So the morning of our wedding, he hopped in a cab and headed to Saks! Nothing like a last-minute errand.”
“We knew we were rolling the dice with the weather by planning a December wedding in NYC,” says Lesley, who’d purchased winter boots and a heavy jacket to keep her warm during photos outside. “But we got so lucky: It ended up being sunny and in the mid-50s all day!”
To keep the wedding party looking classic, Lesley selected black dresses for her bridesmaids and tuxedos for the groomsmen. “My maids of honor and junior bridesmaids wore black lace dresses by Amsale, while the remaining bridesmaids wore black chiffon dresses by Monique Lhuillier,” describes the bride. “My only bridezilla request was that they wear their hair down. I have to say, they all looked stunning!”
The groomsmen wore their own tuxedos, dressed up with satin Yves Saint Laurent bowties and red socks.
The Union League Club’s own holiday décor was the perfect way to welcome guests to the historic space. For the ceremony, two white arrangements of orchids led to an aisle dressed with greenery and white hydrangeas. The aisle was lit with pillar candles in silver lanterns.
The lush arch combined white roses, peonies, and hydrangeas tucked into lush greenery.
Lesley walked down the aisle with her father, who was a total pro. “I’m the youngest of three girls and the last to get married, so he knew the perfect pace. I’m a fast walker, so I needed him to keep me from racing down the aisle!” she laughs.
One of Lesley’s favorite parts of the ceremony was a suggestion from their officiant, which he called the “last kiss, first kiss.” “Before we said our vows, he invited our moms and step-mom up to the altar. He said that, as mothers, they gave us our very first kiss when we were born, and showered us with kisses when we were little, so it was only fitting that they give us our last kiss before we begin our lives as husband and wife,” Lesley explains. “We kept this part of the ceremony a surprise from our moms. It was such a special, emotional moment when he called them up, and they loved it!”
New York City apartments aren’t the best place for DIY projects, but Lesley and Brad did manage to pull one off: Their ornament escort cards. “We tied gift tags, with each guest’s name and table number, to gold mercury glass ornaments. They were displayed nestled into faux snow, surrounded by fairy lights. It was a beautiful and unexpected touch of whimsy,” Lesley says.
And it wouldn’t be a winter wedding without a cozy signature cocktail! As guests arrived, they were greeted with mulled wine finished with cinnamon sticks.
The all-white color scheme stood out beautifully against the ballroom’s dark wood paneling and navy carpet, lit by dramatic gold chandeliers. “Our florist recommended using all glass candelabras and vases instead of metal, which added a slightly modern touch I never would have thought of,” says the bride.
Tables were topped with a variety of centerpieces, from glass trumpet vases full of white orchids to low arrangements of hydrangeas, ranunculus, peonies, and amaryllis. Warm candlelight was scattered throughout the room for a cozy and festive feel.
For dinner, the couple served a menu of winter comfort food, starting with mini French onion soup boules and merlot-braised short ribs during cocktail hour, followed by filet mignon and filet of sole at dinner.
Matching Lesley’s shoes, the couple’s ruffled wedding cake was red velvet with vanilla bean buttercream.
Right after the ceremony Brad and Lesley went up to the Club’s bridal suite for a drink and some appetizers — and to practice their first dance! “I’ll never forget spinning around with Brad in the bridal suite before going down to see our guests,” says Lesley.
The bride’s family loves Christmas, so around 10 p.m. the band played “All I Want for Christmas” and the staff brought out a Santa bag full of holiday-themed hats and accessories. “While the attire and atmosphere was elegant, we wanted to make sure our guests felt comfortable kicking off their shoes and dancing all night. It was great seeing everyone in black tie attire and Santa hats!” Lesley says. So great that, when the band began to play their last song, Lesley asked the band leader to add another 30 minutes to their set. “Even the wait staff was dancing with us at the end!”
After dancing was over, guests headed to the Union League Club’s bar for drinks and pizza from a local delivery spot, then went out to a local pub for the after-after-party. “I wore my wedding dress and wedding shoes the whole time!” Lesley laughs.
“While we were planning, people kept reminding us that it was only one day of our lives so we wouldn’t stress too much about it. But it ended up being the best day we could have imagined! My advice would be to reassure brides and grooms that all the time, effort, money, and energy it takes to plan a wedding will be 100% worth it!"
Venue & Catering: The Union League Club || Wedding Planner & Invitations: The Wedding Library || Bride's Wedding Dress: Monique Lhuillier || Shoes: Jimmy Choo || Hair: Dawn Schenk || Makeup: SB Beauty || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Monique Lhuillier; Amsale || Groom's Attire: Ralph Lauren || Flowers: Fleurs NYC || Music: True Blue Band || Cake: Cheryl Kleinman Cakes || Videographer: Well Spun Weddings || Photographer: Sara Wight Photography