Four years ago, I met a California cowboy at the University of Virginia. Three months ago, we had the southern Virginia wedding I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl. We like to say that Thomas Jefferson (“TJ”) brought us together, because we probably never would have met had it not been for the university he founded. Colonial Williamsburg provided the perfect backdrop, charm, and hospitality for our special day. They even gave us TJ! I am thrilled to share a glimpse of our Williamsburg wedding with you.
The story of our wedding weekend begins at Providence Hall, one of Colonial Williamsburg’s properties. The pre-Revolution mansion that once housed President Reagan has four bedrooms, a full kitchen, dining room, parlor, finished basement, and carriage house. My in-laws rented the property for the wedding weekend and were able to house the entire groom’s party, their dates, and my groom’s uncle, aunt, and cousins. Perhaps best of all, the house doubled as the venue for the rehearsal dinner. Here is my beloved groom (left) and his best man in the parlor of the house, where we held cocktail hour before the rehearsal dinner.
The cocktail hour and rehearsal dinner were such a blast that it was lost on all of us that we should document the night with photos. The above was snapped on a bridesmaid’s phone before the rehearsal dinner and toasts began. While this is one of the only photos I have of that night, my memories of the rehearsal dinner are some of my favorite of the entire weekend.
Since the groomsmen had the Hall for the weekend, they had a gorgeous location to get ready and take photos on the wedding morning. Here is Mitchell with his west coast groomsmen, all looking very southern proper.
While the boys were getting ready down the road, my bridal party and I were getting our makeup done less than a mile away at the Colonial Williamsburg Spa. Since we opted for a morning wedding, room service brought a beautiful spread of fruits, pastries, and coffee to the Spa at 5 a.m. (yes, 5 a.m.!) for us to enjoy while we primped.
Once we were ready, my girls and I made the 30-second commute from the Spa to the historic Custis House, located across from Bruton Parish Church in the Historic Area.
As the sun rose, the colonial gardens surrounding the house were a tranquil place to mentally prepare for the day ahead.
The Custis House served as a cozy spot for the bridal party to hide away before the ceremony. Like the gardens, the interior was also an elegant location for pre-ceremony photos with a colonial backdrop.
Our photographer Paul Harrison was with us every step of the way to keep our nerves at bay and take artistic photos like these. I had the pleasure of working with Paul during my pre-wedding bridal session at the Inn, so we had already established a great rhythm working together.
Our ceremony was held at 10:30 in the morning at Bruton Parish Church. We opted for a traditional Anglican ceremony witnessed by our closest family and friends. The formal rituals of a colonial church service are stunning and timeless.
And just like that, we were wed in the very church our founding fathers attended. By the time the ceremony was over, our guests were ready for a high-end brunch in the East Lounge of the Williamsburg Inn.
One of my favorite moments of the day was walking out of the church and seeing friends, family, and well-wishers lined up to watch us get whisked away in a colonial carriage. This shot perfectly captures the emotion of that moment. Have you ever seen such beautiful bridesmaids?
And this one of my sweet Daddy outside the church after the ceremony makes my heart swell with pride.
Once in the carriage, we stopped by Palace Green for photos before we made our way to the Inn. As an employee of the Foundation, I had the opportunity to pose for this ad featured in Martha Stewart’s Real Weddings magazine—a true honor. As the ad says, this carriage was actually designed for a Queen—Queen Elizabeth II rode in this very carriage during her visit to Williamsburg! If you’re getting married here, Mitchell and I absolutely recommend booking a horse and carriage for the fairy-tale ride.
As we rode down Duke of Gloucester street, we felt like royalty as we received cheers and congratulations from passers-by along the way. A Virginia girl myself, even I was not prepared for the overwhelming southern hospitality.
Once we made it to the Inn, my bridesmaid, Carrie and maid of honor, Lauren helped me bustle my dress in the lobby. I love how elegant this scene is—the Inn can make any task seem glamorous.
We held our reception in the East Lounge. It is hard to overstate the refined, classical charm this room has. The Lounge features a terrace and lawn space, which we used for additional outside seating and the dance floor.
Our guests were greeted at the lounge with a beautiful spread of brunch offerings crafted by the award winning Williamsburg Inn chefs: mini southern ham biscuits, homemade Virginia peanut granola parfaits, fresh fruit and cheese platters. Most popular were the brunch themed cocktails: a mimosa bar and a bloody “married” bar with all the fixings.
I love this shot of my beautiful mother at the cocktail hour. She worked tirelessly to ensure no wedding detail was overlooked, and I could not have possibly planned the weekend without her.
Alas it was time for our big entrance as husband and wife, and who more fitting to introduce us than the man who brought us together? Yes, Thomas Jefferson gave our wedding toast. Colonial Williamsburg’s Kurt Smith, who interprets Young Thomas Jefferson, passed through the East Lawn and into the lounge to introduce us and propose a toast in character.
Kurt is not only extremely talented—he is an absolute pleasure to work with. Colonial Williamsburg is the only place in the world that can tee up actors of Kurt’s caliber to seamlessly interpret one of our nation’s founders. Kurt gave a perfect toast as TJ, recounting to an infatuated audience his own marriage and honeymoon. Our UVA friends in attendance were as star-struck as we were.
After the toast, it was time for brunch. The Inn chefs helped us create our menu at a tasting before the wedding, so we knew the food was going to be exactly how we wanted it. Our menu featured all of our favorite brunch classics: shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon, grilled sirloin, fresh fruits and greens, eggs benedict, sweet potato pancakes, and of lots of hash browns and bacon.
The pastry chefs at the Inn made our stunning wedding cake too, using fresh flowers from Williamsburg Floral. My mother’s almond cake is a nostalgic flavor I love, so the chef’s suggested taking her recipe and working with it. We were blown away by how delicious it came out.
The pastry chefs also catered our chocolate groom’s cake with the perfect UVA logo. For our favors, the chefs modernized a colonial recipe for a Savoy cookie—similar to an orange scented sugar cookie—Thomas Jefferson’s favorite.
After a wonderful meal, it was time for dancing! Here is my best friend, Chris, watching the first dance. We danced to “Cowboy Take Me Away,” a sweet reminder of my groom’s roots.
And another special moment: my maid of honor catching my bouquet on the East Lawn.
Our guests danced to a fun daytime playlist consisting of smooth jazz and Frank Sinatra. We included country songs for my cowboy, and some Chris Brown for the bride.
We even got to snag a dance with the cutest dancers on the floor, my sweet cousins Emme and Lily.
It wouldn’t have been a proper UVA gathering without singing the “Good Ol’ Song” before our grand exit. Having all of our closest friends arm-in-arm singing together was a moment I will never forget… “We come from Old Virginia, where all is bright and gay…”
At the close of the day, we exited the East Lawn through a pathway lined with our loved ones, blowing bubbles and laughing. Thinking back on this emotional moment, surrounded by friends and family, I can’t help but reflect on how amazing it is that a wedding can bring so many wonderful people together. Virginia is for lovers, but it is also a place of beginnings. Our nation, our university, our relationship and our marriage—they all started here.
Complete List of Vendors:
GUEST BLOGGER: ANNA CORDLE HARRY
Anna Cordle Harry is public relations coordinator for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Virginia and holds a B.A. in English and in Eastern Religious studies. Anna returned to Williamsburg after graduation to pursue a career in the non-profit sector and to remain in close proximity to her parents’ pocket beagle, Edward.