Alexandra McDonough and Max Bandier's journey to the altar was not exactly speedy. By the time Max proposed in November 2017, it had been a decade since the couple first met as students at the University of Pennsylvania, eight years from their first date, and six months after he had purchased an engagement ring. “And he actually told me when he bought it!” says Alexandra, who goes by Ali, with a laugh. “After months went by I was like, what is going on?”
Understandably, once Max popped the question (redeeming himself by filling their New York City apartment with rose petals and photos of their happiest moments), things moved quickly. Ali bought her wedding dress, a nude tulle and silk Valentino number with iridescent floral embellishments, that very week while vacationing in Milan, and on June 23, 2018, the duo was walking down the aisle at the groom's parents' house in Southampton, New York, where they had accumulated eight summers of blissful, sun-soaked memories together.
"We had so many happy times here with family, friends, and one another," Ali says.
Keep reading to see more of the couple's event-filled weekend in Southampton that kicked off with a rehearsal dinner at Topping Rose House and ended, naturally, with an epic house party. Jennifer Zabinski Events planned every detail; David Stark Design and Production created a magical setting; and Alex Bramall and Lucy Birkhead captured it all.
Ali and Max wanted their wedding to be “intimate, beachy, and warm,” an attitude that was first reflected in their custom Stephanie Fishwick paper suite.
The couple welcomed their guests with highly personalized gifts: a box of gummy candies featuring an illustration of their dog, Wallace, and custom playing cards by Lou Lou Baker. Each deck featured illustrations of significant moments in Ali and Max's relationship—the beach setting of their wedding, their home in New York City, a map of the countries they've visited together—and, of course, Wallace!
They hosted their official rehearsal dinner a month before the wedding, inviting just their wedding party for dinner at Upland and a night out in the city. "We just had really hilarious speeches from all of our friends," Ali says. "It was really fun! We didn’t want our friends to have to edit or limit their speeches—they were basically roasting us." That said, the couple had a second dinner the night before their wedding at Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, New York. "I wanted it to be really about family because I knew the next night I wouldn’t get so much time with them," Ali adds.
Sag Harbor Floral assisted with the decor for the intimate dinner, dressing the tables with bud vases of blush blooms.
As mentioned, it was love at first sight for Ali and her Valentino wedding dress. "I loved that it wasn’t a traditional wedding dress," she says. "It was perfect and appropriate for the type of wedding we were planning." With help from stylist Cynthia Cook Smith, the bride completed her look with Tabitha Simmons heels, a Jeffrey Levison clutch—and no veil! She also added early 20th-century Cartier earrings (her "something old") and a tennis bracelet (her "something new," from her parents).
Wallace made an appearance on the wedding day, serving as the couple's official ring bearer.
A ceremony on the beach was planned—but, at the last minute, high waves forced everything to be moved poolside, where Max's sisters, Jennifer and Allison, presided over the ceremony. "They were hilarious and had the whole audience cracking up," Ali says. Max also made an impression with his vows: “Max shocked everyone. His vows were like poetry,” she says. “One of our wedding guests is now having him officiate at their wedding!”
“We didn’t want the reception to feel overdesigned, since we had the ocean as a natural backdrop,” says Ali of the tented space. “It was airy with pink lanterns overhead.”
A mix of round and rectangular tables, each with a different floral treatment, filled the dinner tent. "We created small eclectic floral arrangements for the tables. Every table was different but complementary," Ali says. "Stephanie Fishwick designed the menu, which itself was like a piece of art."
Max, who works in the music industry, oversaw the evening's entertainment, showcasing a host of performers, including bongo players, a vintage-clad jazz ensemble, and Next Town Down. Ali, who is completing her dietetic residency, collaborated with caterer Olivier Cheng on a delicious menu of choices that were both healthy and indulgent, with pigs in a blanket and grilled cheese bites at cocktail hour and branzino al cartoccio, cut open tableside, at dinner.
Ali and Max cut into a hand-painted hexagonal confection by Madison Lee's Cakes. The design was inspired by the iridescent sequins on Ali's dress, as well as the architecture of Max's family home.
Any attempt at moderation went out the window at the after-party, which had a spring break in Acapulco theme. A tequila popper station, an assortment of alcohol-infused desserts, an a custom neon sign contributed to an overall club vibe.
A succession of DJs kept the festivities rolling until 4:45 a.m., when the cops shut it down. “They were like, ‘We've been here seven times!’” Ali says with a laugh. “We went inside the house to keep going!”
This story originally appeared in the June/July 2019 issue of Brides, on sale beginning April 30.
Wedding Planner: Jennifer Zabinski Events || Event & Floral Design: David Stark Design and Production || Bride's Wedding Dress: Valentino || Bride's Reception Dress: Bill Bull || Bridal Styling: Cynthia Cook Smith || Makeup: Paul Venoit || Hair: Tony Kelley of White Rose Collective || Stationery: Stephanie Fishwick || Custom Playing Cards: LouLou Baker of Peeps Paper Products || Catering: Olivier Cheng Catering and Events || Rentals: Taylor Creative Inc., Party Rental LTD. || Tent: Sperry Tent || Lighting: Frost Productions || Cake: Madison Lee's Cakes || Entertainment: Elan Artists || After-Party Entertainment: DJ Valida, Elan Artists || Photography: Alex Bramall, Lucy Birkhead || Videography: Films by Francesco