A Gorgeous Garden Party in Napa Valley

Lauren Merrigan and Emery Sanford have a true California love story. The pair met at a mutual friend’s birthday party in San Francisco in 2012, got engaged on Lauren’s birthday at her favorite hotel in Inverness in October 2016, and made it official in St. Helena on September 16, 2017. There, their family and friends gathered at Beaulieu Garden in Napa Valley wine country, an area that is close but “feels so far away” from their home in San Francisco. “We wanted this special part of the world to be the backdrop for our wedding weekend, and for our friends and family to experience the place we hold so dearly,” explains the groom.

The location had perfect spaces for each part of their special day—the ceremony by a garden, cocktail hour in another garden, dinner under a natural arbor, and dancing under the stars. Still, they didn’t book the lush, outdoor venue until seven months before the wedding. This, admittedly, left the couple in a bit of a time crunch as far as securing vendors. Thankfully, Ashley Brand of LVL Weddings and Events came on board to plan the perfect garden party–inspired day, and Sarah Falugo was there to capture every single detail. Keep reading to see more!

The couple was inspired by the South of France and introduced their garden party theme with a green-and-white invitation suite.

Lauren’s “something borrowed” was a pair of diamond and pearl drop earrings that one of her closest friends and her friend's mother wore at their weddings. She also donned a lace veil from Jin Wang and embossed silver stilettos by Altuzarra.

The bride considered the location of their wedding, which can be extremely hot in September, when shopping for her dress. She ultimately selected a light, airy, and ethereal Reem Acra gown that seemed perfect for a late summer garden wedding. She loved its timeless elegance, which was reminiscent of the dress Grace Kelly wears in “To Catch a Thief.”

The groom wanted a blue suit but struggled to find the perfect color. That is, until he saw a Tom Ford option in the ideal shade of royal blue. He finished it off with a pair of brown leather shoes, a white Tom Ford shirt, and a midnight blue tie. The day before the wedding, Lauren gave her husband-to-be a pair of cuff links—the Tiffany & Co. double knot style—as a nod to their shared passion for all things nautical.

The pair fell hard for their stunning venue, Beaulieu Garden. "A long tree-lined drive with vineyards on both sides welcomes you," says the bride. "The ceremony venue is a beautiful garden surrounded by tall trees, with a small pond in the middle.” There, guests were offered white parasols to shield the sun as a string trio greeted everyone with classical music.

The bride’s brother walked her down the aisle to “Ave Maria.”

Because the ceremony setting was already beautiful, the couple only added subtle decoration in the form of a romantic semicircle of greenery.

During the ceremony, two of Lauren’s best friends read poems—one by Mark Twain and another by Paul Laurence Dunbar.

After their first kiss and announcement as a couple, the newlyweds recessed to the recorded sounds of Saint Gabriel’s Celestial Brass Band playing “Second Line.” Guests walked from there to the cocktail hour in the Italian garden.

Emery describes the design of the wedding as a real labor of love—by the bride and groom! Lauren coordinated the flowers, linens, and other stylistic elements, while Emery handled the music, vendor communication, and transportation arrangements.

On tables, tall clear cylinder vases were filled with lush wild green branches and arranged to create a canopy-like feeling. Low centerpieces included an abundance of white blooms alongside the bride’s favorite flower, lily of the valley.

The seated dinner took place under a verdant natural arbor that was illuminated with strands of twinkling lights to create a magical feel.

During cocktail hour, “incredible” bartenders made everything guests thought up, even New Orleans iced coffee. Dinner by Paula LeDuc Fine Catering included heirloom tomatoes from the property’s vegetable garden and a choice of wild king salmon, beef filet, or grilled summer squash.

Lauren spent a year studying abroad in Paris and loved the European style of the venue’s gardens, which made her feel like she was back in France.

During the reception with a nine-piece band, JP Hunten Music, one of Lauren’s best friends, Olivia, joined to sing Adele’s “Make You Feel My Love.” “We both love music and a truly great party so we made live music a big part of our wedding," says the bride.

After the couple cut into their cake, servers passed slices around the dance floor. The cake featured two flavors: pound cake with raspberry, and cafe mocha. They also served a Bay Area favorite: Blue Bottle New Orleans iced coffee with paper straws!

After Lauren and Emery’s first dance (which they practiced for weeks!), everyone danced late into the night before partying after in the cask room of Merryvale Winery. Two days later, the newlyweds departed for their honeymoon—to Paris, Provence, and the French Riviera, of course!

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