A Late Summer Wedding at a California Apple Farm
Ned David threw not one but two parties as an excuse to meet Maria Konovalenko. In August of 2015, Ned was visiting the Buck Institute for Research and Aging and crossed paths with Maria, a PhD student, while on campus. He did not think a simple "hi" would be enough to catch her attention so he planned a party and invited her. "I went and we met, but I had no idea of Ned's plan," she admits. So Ned threw another party two weeks later, this time inviting Maria to dinner with him after. "I had no idea it was a date until he explicitly told me he was interested in me!" she says with a laugh. But she finally caught on, and shortly thereafter their relationship became official.
In December of 2016, Ned and Maria bought a house together, and he took the opportunity to give her a Sex and the City moment. "He proposed in our closet, the same way Mr. Big did to Carrie," she says. "But Ned had a ring instead of a pair of Manolos!"
The coupleâ€”he's the the co-founder and president of UNITY Biotechnology, Inc. and she's a PhD student at the Buck Institute for Research and Agingâ€”has a large number of scientist friends and decided to use their wedding as a chance to introduce friends from other fields to what everyone was working on. "That's how we came up with the idea of a mini conference, which we called 'WED Talks,'" explains the bride. On August 11, 2018, guests gathered at the Brambles Hideaway in Philo, California for a series of presentations on topics such as the biology of the aging brain. After mimosas and a pizza lunch, everyone departed to freshen up before the evening's ceremony and reception at the Apple Farm, also in Philo. Maria and Ned hired Traci Steuteville of Danielle Gibson Events to put on the orchard-inspired summer wedding, and Anni Graham to photograph their intersection of science and love. Take a peek, below!
As mentioned, the wedding festivities began with the couple's conference-style celebration. "The grove of redwoods is so calming and made the perfect setting for our 'WED Talks,'" says Maria. Guests enjoyed coffee, mimosas, wine, and wood-fired pizza as eight speakers gave presentations. "They had to use hand-drawn slides and bring them to the wedding, which made it a little less high-tech," the bride adds with a laugh.
The wedding itself took place at the the Apple Farm. "Ned and I fell in love with the authenticity of the Apple Farm," Maria says of their organic wedding venue. "The family is so lovely, the setting is charming, and everything from the smells to the colors made it a no-brainer."
Maria and Ned got ready for their wedding ceremony together. Maria paired her gown's sculptural neckline with a Ralph Lauren pearl choker that Ned gave her shortly after they started dating.
Maria went dress-shopping with a friend, who encouraged her to try on a wild card dress. The bride ultimately said yes to her "unexpected" dress: an off-white silk mermaid gown from Vera Wang, finished with a full and frothy tulle train."We both immediately knew it was the one," she says. "I felt incredibly comfortable and loved how simple it wasâ€”aside from the statement train!" She accessorized with a textured bouquet made from wildflowers gathered from their wedding venue.
Before heading outside for the ceremony, Ned and Maria took a few moments to rehearse with their officiant, Ned's friend Garrett.
During the ceremony, guests sat on wooden benches in the apple orchard and shaded themselves with umbrellas and parasols. "We wrote our own vows and included a lot of inside jokes like references to James Bond," Maria says of the personalized proceedings. "We also made promises to one another that we are working hard to keep every day of our married lives."
The groom's son, Magellan, joined the couple for photos after the ceremony. "He also gave the sweetest toast during the reception," says Maria. "It made my heart melt!"
Cocktail hour took place in the apple orchard, where guests enjoyed the farm's own apples (obvi!) topped with fresh cheese and walnuts.
Parasols kept guests cool as they found their escort cards tucked into trays of fresh almonds.
The rustic reception was set beneath trees strung with cafĂ© lights, while tables were decorated with clay pots overflowing with fresh apples and apple leaves. Dinner included summer tomato and basil panzanella, duck leg with a cider glaze, orzo salad with roasted apples, and fresh chevre with herbs and pears. "We served Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, as well as a blackberry, thyme and vodka cocktail," says Maria.
Ned and Maria shared their first dance to "Such Great Heights" by The Postal Service. Later, Maria surprised Ned by singing "Rarest Numbers" by Charmparticles, accompanied by the band. Admits the bride, "I'd been practicing with my voice coach for nine months, and had to sneak away to the apple orchard to warm up my voice before I got on stage!"