A Rustic, Lakeside Wedding at Big Cedar Lodge in Missouri
Juliana Elkouri and Porter Braswell met where many young New Yorkers hope to find loveâ€”at an apartment party. Four years later, after a summer evening full of handmade lobster rolls and cocktails by the beach, Porter popped the question in Marthaâ€™s Vineyard. â€śLooking back, there were many clues that could have given it all away,â€ť the bride recalls with a laugh. Still, Juliana was caught off guard when an evening walk on the beach ended with Porter on one knee. The dateâ€”July 3â€”was also significant for the couple, as it was the same date that the groom left his job in finance to launch Jopwell, a diversity hiring start-up. (The groom recently released the book, Let Them See You: The Guide for Leveraging Your Diversity at Work.)
When it came time to say their vows, the couple invited 250 of their family and friends to Big Cedar Lodge, where they said "I do" by a small lake in the Ozarks. â€śI grew up going on family trips to the lake in the summer, and I took Porter to our lake house to meet my family for the first time,â€ť the bride says. â€śHe fell in love with the place, [and] we knew it was the perfect setting to gather all of our friends and family.â€ť
"I discovered very early on that I did not enjoy planning the wedding nearly as much as I thought I would,â€ť admits the bride. "Our wedding planner made the entire process a dream!" On the big day, Juliana got ready in the bridal suite with her bridesmaids and flower girls.
"I tried on a lot of dresses...but I couldn't take my mind off this dress!" remembers the bride, who paired her Marchesa dress with Jimmy Choo shoes. "My mother, sister, and Porter's sister came to the city for a dress-shopping weekend, [and] it was imperative that were were quick and efficient as we had a day and a half to find the perfect dress!" Juliana says. Thankfully, she found her dress at Mark Ingram Atelier, noting that the "experience was perfection!"
"The Orthodox Christian wedding ceremony is very traditional and does not have a moment when the bride and groom share their own written vows," explains the bride. "Porter, however, was very adamant that we exchange our personal vows to one another, so we chose to do so during our first look."
The groom's custom midnight-blue tuxedo "had a lot of personal touches" sewn into the lining, including his company name Jopwell, as well as his initials.
The bridesmaids wore eucalyptus-toned gowns by Wtoo by Waters in varying styles, each accessorized with a pearl necklace. The groomsmen also each wore a matching accessory: Batman socks! "They were pumped about the socks!" says the bride.
The flower girls wore little white dresses paired with pearls, while the couple's ring bearers rocked mini tuxedos.
The ceremony took place at the Chapel at Integrity Hills, one of the many ceremony locations at Big Cedar Lodge. "The ceremony decor was purposefully kept simple," notes the bride, so as to keep the lakeside view outside of the chapel as the main focal point. "We did add in some aisle foliage and touches of floral to keep the ceremony feeling cohesive to the rest of the event."
The bride walked down the aisle arm-in-arm with her father to meet Porter at the altar. As a special touch, the bride brought in a small ensemble from her home church in Kansas to sing traditional Antiochian Orthodox hymns throughout the ceremony.
After the ceremony, guests ventured outdoors to enjoy cocktail hour with views of the lake.
"We were able to infuse our personalities into the food and drink throughout the weekend," says the bride. The rehearsal dinner paid homage to the couple's engagement, thanks to the appearance of the father of the groom's special summer cocktail and lobster rolls, which he served the night they got engaged. The 'His' and 'Her' cocktails at the reception were named after the locations of the bride and groom's college alma maters: "the Lawrence" was vodka-based, and "the New Haven" was whiskey-based.
The reception took place at the Stable at Integrity Hills, where the decor "focused on texture and bringing the wilderness in through the grand tree structures," explains the bride. Greenery, floral installations, and tree-like centerpieces gave the two-level reception space a rustic feel, while strategic lighting helped to create the warmth and intimacy that Juliana and Porter both wanted. However, the couple entrusted their vendors to pull the overall look together. "The minute we saw their vision, we trusted them completely," Juliana shares. "At that point we could just sit back and relax and enjoy watching it all come together!"
"It was important not to lose that texture within the place setting," says the bride. "Adding a touch of greenery wrapped on each napkin created a color pop that tied the entire table together."
The newlyweds danced to "Just the Two of Us" by Bill Withers for their first dance before cutting into a five-tiered buttercream cake accented with muted blooms.
â€śMost of all, I wanted the entire weekend to be special for our guests,â€ť says the bride of their multiday destination wedding. â€śI wanted them to be wowed by the hospitality!â€ť