Preston Neupert and Greg O’Brien first met at the University of Virginia is 2005, but sparks didn’t fly until their senior year at college when the pair began dating. But from 2009 to 2013, the pair was inseparable, so it came as no surprise when Greg popped the question on the Highline in New York City on April 11, 2013. “I lived right next to the Highline and it was special place to us,” Preston says. “Greg had scoped out the perfect place earlier that week and had arranged for a photographer to be hiding in the trees to capture the moment.”
Although the couple was living in New York at the time of their engagement, Preston and Greg returned to the bride’s hometown, Portland, Oregon, for their big day. “We were looking for something uniquely different, both special and private that had not been used a wedding site previously,” Preston says of the couple’s search for a venue. Lewis & Clark College was the winner: Its chapel, a quintessential example of northwestern architecture, served as the backdrop for the ceremony, and then the party moved outside into the college’s manicured gardens for cocktail hour and the reception. With the help of planner extraordinaire, Lisa Vorce, Preston and Greg threw a classic party filled with lush white-and-green arrangements, timeless décor, and faithfulness to tradition. The pictures, captured by Aaron Delesie, speak for themselves.
The couple invited 325 guests to join them on July 26, 2014, the perfect date for a Pacific Northwest wedding. “July in Portland is known for its beautiful weather. No humidity, warm days, and pleasant nights. Our east coast guests didn’t believe us!” she says. Of their large guest list, over 200 people were “out-of-towners” and just a handful had been to the Portland area before, so Preston and Greg wanted to share their love of the area in as many ways as possible, beginning with their welcome box.
Wrapped with a vinyl bellyband made from a hiking map of Portland parks, the box was filled with everything the bride and groom love from Oregon: cowboy cookies from Elephants Deli, Stumptown coffee, Kettle chips, and two Pendleton mugs.
Preston and her bridesmaids got ready in adorable white robes and welly boots. But the bride-to-be didn’t keep hers on long. She quickly traded the practical footwear for something a little prettier: A pair of embellished Jimmy Choo sandals, which paired perfectly with her strapless Carolina Herrera wedding dress. “The gown was actually two parts, but gave the illusion of a traditional one-piece dress with the full skirt and train,” she says. “The bodice was a guipure lace trumpet gown while the skirt was made of silk faille.”
Her bridesmaids’ donned strapless Monique Lhuillier gowns in the palest shade of blush, adding just a hint of color to the party.
Preston’s bouquet felt natural and elegant, as if picked from a garden. The mix of roses, freesia, spray roses, maidenhair ferns, and lamb’s ear were offset with native Bracken ferns, which popped up throughout the wedding day. “We used a fern motif because they can symbolize new beginnings and so many are indigenous to the Pacific Northwest,” she says.
Greg wore a classic Ralph Lauren tuxedo, which he paired with custom silver and onyx cufflinks that formed an “O” for O’Brien.
The bride and groom had five of Preston’s cousin’s children in their wedding party. The three young boys wore mini tuxedos while the two girls donned ballet-length tulle dresses with layered skirts. The girls carried mossy basket of blooms and finished their looks with fern and flower crowns while the boys toted moss pillows.
At 5 p.m., everyone gathered at Agnes Flanagan Chapel for a traditional catholic ceremony. Preston entered on the arms of both her father and stepfather, and then swapped vows with Greg in proceedings officiated by the same priest that married the bride’s mother and stepfather years before. “That was very special,” she says. “He’s been in my life since I can remember, so it was meaningful.”
Cocktail hour took place in the college’s gardens overlooking the reflecting pool. “It my favorite area of the whole event,” the bride says. “It was so uniquely special. We kept it really simple because you were in a beautiful estate garden with a pool and flowers, so we just added simple bistro tables.”
Escort cards were nestled into a blanket of baby ferns, arranged on a table at the top of the garden staircase. “That allowed guest to take in the glorious view of Mt. Hood,” says Preston.
The couple’s reception tent was the stunning result of seven days worth of work. Because of a twelve-foot drop from the top of the lawn to the lower end, Lisa’s team needed to create multiple platforms for the tent in order to level out the grade. “The gardens were not accessible by crane so the entire tent had to be brought in by hand and assembled over the course of a week,” the bride says. “Instead of erecting one large tent for dinner and dancing, we had two tents to help with the leveling and the progression of the evening.”
A mix of long and round tables were set around a platform where the bride and groom sat with their wedding party. “This way, no one felt like they had the ‘bad’ seat in the house, as every table could see one another and feel part of the celebration,” Preston says. Round tables were topped with tall arrangements of larkspur, lisianthus, freesia, hydrangeas, roses, salal, boxwood, and ferns, while rectangular tables featured long, low arrangements made from the same mix. On the head table, the couple chose a long white floral garland, made entirely of hydrangeas, roses, and ferns that spilled onto the ground on each end.
Each clear charger was topped with a monogrammed linen napkin and a menu card that explained the evening’s local offerings, including a farmer’s market salad, northwestern halibut, smoked New York strip, and sweet pea risotto. “We loved that each dish a fresh, local ingredient,” the bride says. “Very farm-to-table feeling.”
The couple’s chocolate and vanilla wedding cake was displayed in the center of the room, but in order to ensure guests received slices immediately after it was cut, presliced and plated sheet cakes were waiting in the back. Their genius idea to ensure no cake went wasted? Extra pieces were boxed up for guests to take home as a late-night snack.
In the event that guests needed another sweet treat, the couple also gave out doughnuts from Portland favorite Voodoo Donuts. “We didn’t have a morning after brunch, so our thought was that people could enjoy those for breakfast,” the bride says.
“Try and enjoy the moments and the planning process,” Preston advises future couples. “It’s so easy to get caught up in it all that you lose sight of the real reason that you’re having a wedding, which is to begin a life full of memories with your partner.”
Ceremony Venue: Agnes Flanagan Chapel || Reception Venue: Lewis & Clark College || Wedding Planner: Lisa Vorce Co. || Bride's Wedding Dress: Carolina Herrera || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Monique Lhuillier || Groom's Attire: Ralph Lauren || Floral Design: A Fine Flower Company || Invitations & Stationery: Wiley Valentine || Catering: Art of Catering || Cake: Dream Cakes by Judy Reese || Videographer: Living Cinema || Photographer: Aaron Delesie