Chicago-dwellers Rachel Audrey, 27, and Charles (Mike) Portell, 32, dated for three years before he popped the question at their favorite spot in the city: The Kinzie Street Railroad Bridge. And though they love living in the Windy City, their wedding plans took them west, to California's Napa Valley. On September 1, 2013, the two tied the knot at a destination wedding in wine country surrounded by 90 of their closest friends and family. Captured by Jen Philips and coordinated by Sharon Burns, the Labor Day nuptials were effortless for both bride and groom. "We had limited knowledge of Napa but, with some help, our dreams became a beautiful reality," Rachel says.
Minimal and modern invitations in bold coral and soft grey welcomed guests to an intimate getaway at Brix Restaurant and Gardens in Napa Valley's Yountville, California
Rachel added an ornate touch to her wedding-day attire with embellished sandals. Mike carried a pocket square, embroidered by his mother, to wipe his brow on the 90-degree day.
While shopping for her gown, Rachel fell in love with two dresses from the same designer, Augusta Jones. "Fortunately, they were very accommodating and worked with me to custom-make a combination gown, with both the lace appliqué and sweetheart neckline I wanted," she says. "I knew I had picked a winner when it brought everyone to tears!" To honor her late grandmothers, Rachel wore a necklace crafted from three of their diamonds.
The groom's boutonniere was crafted from greens and a peach rose, and tied with raffia. His slate grey suit, crisp white shirt, and patterned tie created a classic but comfortable look.
Rachel's bouquet reflected her rustic and bright theme. Cream, coral, and peach roses were clustered organically alongside sprigs of greenery and finished with buttons to match her dress. "I prefer a natural look to perfectly manicured arrangements," she says of her bouquet.
The flower girl's long peach tulle dress was a fun Etsy find that paired well with tan wedges and coral hair bow. "As she walked down the aisle, she placed each peal 'just so', taking her job very seriously," Rachel says. She carried a natural basket full of rose petals that matched her dress.
Bridesmaids donned floor-length coral gowns with various detailed necklines. The groomsmen kept cool in grey suits sans jackets, in a shade slightly lighter than Mike's. "He wanted it to be clear who the groom was in photos!" Rachel says.
The ceremony was arranged under café lighting, with sweeping views of the vineyard. "The setting was so pretty, so we kept decorations really simple," Rachel says.
Burlap-wrapped mason jars filled with fresh greens and soft pink dahlias hung from aisle seats during the ceremony.
An old windowpane let guests know here to take their seat. Along side the table assignments were succulents, the couple's engagement photos—and their wedding hash tag.
The newlyweds wanted their head table to feel more connected with guests, so they chose to seat their wedding party at a long table in the middle of the reception space. Burlap table runners and jars with floating candles added warmth to the outdoor celebration. Rachel also placed empty mason jars down the table to hold her and her bridesmaids' bouquets, serving as dramatic centerpieces and keeping their flowers fresh.
Low wooden boxes and jars overflowed with hydrangeas, dahlias, and garden roses in a fresh, soft color palette. The couple framed nostalgic images of themselves with each guest, ranging from childhood to college and beyond, in lieu of traditional place cards. "That was my favorite DIY project," Rachel says. "I wanted to add a unique item that felt personal to each person."
"We don't like the spotlight and wanted a more welcoming, rustic feel," says Rachel, who loved being surrounded by guests as the evening went on.
A close friend gave Rachel and Mike a non-traditional guest book: an engraved wine bottle. Guests wrote well wishes on the keepsake with silver metallic markers.
Playing up the classic pairing, the couple ordered a custom "cake" made from four layers of cheese wheels, topped with coral and white roses.
"We had fun 'cutting the cheese,'" Rachel laughs. "Plus, it was a great addition to dessert and obviously complemented the wine."
The flower girl, Rachel's niece, kicked off the dancing with a choreographed number that she taught the bridesmaids. "It was dubbed the 'Bry-Pa,' after my brother Bryan and my father, because she imitated their quirky dance moves," Rachel says. After the dance-floor icebreaker, the party began—and continued well into the night.
Though the newlyweds have yet to take their honeymoon, they have been more than content with focusing on their new life together. "As much as I'd like to relive our wedding day, it's great to have the memory and move forward," Rachel says. "We're building our new life and family now." Her word to the wise for brides-to-be echoes the same sentiment: "Soak up the entire day, have no regrets, and just be present in every moment."
Ceremony & Reception Venue: Brix Restaurant and Gardens
Wedding Planner: Napa Valley Custom Events by Sharon Burns
Officiant: Kimberly Thompson of A Beautiful Ceremony Napa Valley
Bride's Wedding Dress: Augusta Jones
Mother of the Bride's Dress: Cameron Blake
Makeup: Makeup Artistry by Alan
Bridesmaids' Dresses: Allure Bridesmaids
Groom's Suit: Hugo Boss
Groomsmen's Suits: J.Crew
Florist: Julie Stevens Design
Music: Steven LeFlar
Catering & Cake: Brix Restaurant and Gardens
Rentals: Wine Country Party
Transportation: California Wine Tours
Accommodations: Silverado Resort
Photography: Jen Philips