In May 2014, a mutual friend introduced Josie Duffy and Zachary Cheney Rice, hoping they'd hit it off. She was right, and a year (to the day!) after their first date, Zak proposed on the same Williamsburg steps where they kissed for the first time. "It was exactly like our first date," she says.
For their wedding, the Brooklyn, New York–based pair headed to the bride's hometown of Atlanta. "We had our ceremony at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, which is right by where I grew up,” she says. “It’s also where my parents had their wedding reception almost exactly 30 years prior!”
As for the reception, Josie and Zak had their work cut out trying to find a venue to fit their 350-person guest list. Luckily, they discovered The Foundry at Puritan Mill and hired Jade Lee Events to create a colorful spring celebration. “Even with such a large guest list, we wanted it to feel intimate and communal, not like a benefit,” Josie explains.
Ross Oscar Knight was on hand to photograph the main event, and you’ll absolutely love what Josie and Zak did to make their guest list feel small. (Hint: It's all in the seating!)
Josie tried on more than 150 gowns before falling for her formfitting Martina Liana dress, complete with layers of lace and delicate covered buttons. “You have this idea that you'll just know when you find the one, but I didn't feel that way at all,” she says. Her advice? Narrow down what you want—silhouette and fabric—before you even enter the store.
The bride tapped college friend Selby Drummond, the accessories director at Vogue, to style her look. She pulled from the latest collections and let Josie pick her favorites—Manolo Blahnik shoes and an Edie Parker clutch—before the wedding.
Instead of a full wedding party, Josie opted to have only her sister as her maid of honor. Of course, the other ladies in the family were also on hand to help the bride get ready. The groom also skipped traditional groomsmen and tapped his sister to be his "groomsmaid."
Josie and Zak decided to skip a first look but exchanged letters (without seeing each other!) before heading down the aisle.
“We jumped the broom, of course, because it's an African American tradition left over from slavery, and some of the materials, like the cotton and ferns, were intentionally chosen to represent the history of the black South,” says Josie. “My sister, Rosa, made ours, and it is easily my favorite memento from the wedding day. It means more to me than even my dress!”
Josie and Zak made up for not having bridesmaids and groomsmen with nine (yes, nine!) flower girls and ring bearers. “Brynn, one of the older girls, caused quite a traffic jam: She only dropped one petal at a time,” says the bride.
Two officiants, the Rev. Dwight Andrews, from Josie's childhood, and Andrew Young, a former United Nations ambassador and civil rights activist, led the personalized ceremony that included pieces of poetry, excerpts from Toni Morrison’s writings, a song by John Legend, and a prayer by the bride’s grandmother.
After the ceremony, guests headed (by bus!) to the Foundry at Puritan Mill, where they were greeted by gorgeous spring-colored décor.
“We didn’t want our wedding to feel too stuffy, so our planner came up with the idea of seating everyone at huge tables that sat between 28 and 40 people each," says the bride. Each table featured a tall centerpiece of white hydrangeas, white tulips, orange garden roses, and eucalyptus.
Zak and Josie cut into a simple lemon-and-vanilla cake topped with strands of ivy. They also surprised guests with an ice cream bar. Yum!
After sharing their first dance to “Lovin’ You More” by Etta James, Josie and Zak joined their guests on the dance floor while a DJ played Atlanta rap, R&B, and Motown. Says the bride, “The second-to-last song was ‘Formation’ by Beyoncé, and the last was Outkast’s ‘SpottieOttieDopalicious.’ Everyone went crazy!”
So what's Josie's biggest been-there, done-that advice? Stick to your priorities! “Even with a huge guest list, your wedding can feel cozy and intimate if you make decisions to keep it that way,” she says.
Ceremony Venue: Atlanta Botanical Garden
Reception Venue: The Foundry at Puritan Mill
Planner: Jade Lee Pulliam of Jade Lee Events
Bride's Dress: Martina Liana
Bride's Shoes: Manolo Blahnik
Floral Design: Unique Floral Expressions
Invitations: Paper Daisies Stationery
Cake: For Goodness Cakes
Photography: Ross Oscar Knight