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Emily + Jake's US Woodlands Mansion Wedding

Posted on 26 Feb, 2018
Emily + Jake's US Woodlands Mansion Wedding


How did you meet your partner? I first saw Jake when he popped into my class after he was stood up for a date nearby. My teacher for the class was his best friend, so he swung by after his date bailed on him (fun fact - that teacher ended up being Jake’s Best Man).

I thought Jake was just adorable, and I even remember messaging my friend in the class at the time about it. However, I didn’t really meet him until a year later, when I ran into him at a tech event in Philly. I went to the event with an awful date who ended up ditching me to professionally network, so I took the opportunity to introduce myself to Jake (I hadn’t forgotten him!) and we escaped to a bar nearby. The rest is history!

How long have you been together? 6 years

Do you have a proposal story? Jake proposed in our backyard. It was subtle and understated, and we got to enjoy the moment with our pup under the Brooklyn moonlight. It was just perfect.

The Wedding

What was your wedding date? September 23rd, 2017 Ceremony

Location? The Woodlands Mansion & Cemetery in Philadelphia

What made you choose there? We wanted a non-traditional venue that captured the intimate and historical feeling of the city. My love story with Philadelphia is long and heavy, and from the minute he proposed we both knew we had to get married there. It’s where we met, it’s where we’re both from, and has some of the richest histories in the country.

I grew up in 19th-century homes and have a love for neoclassical architecture. When I came across the Woodlands it felt like the perfect fit. William Hamilton (who inherited the estate from his father in 1824) was a dedicated botanist and introduced a number of new plant and flower species to the United States at the Woodlands. I was thrilled to be able to use some of those details, such as the Norway Maple, on our invitations and website.

The ceremony and cocktail hour took place in the Hamilton Mansion (in the center of the property) but the estate is primarily a cemetery now. We found out, after choosing the venue, that Jake’s ancestors actually have a large crypt on the grounds...and his aunt still had keys to the crypt! You can imagine how thrilled we were to find that out.

The wildest part of the “crypt” story was that the ring Jake had proposed to me with was a family heirloom. It was his mother’s great-aunt’s ring, and her name was Mary Suddards. Fast forward 6 months when we uncover this crypt-connection, and of course, the family in the crypt are The Suddards (not Mary herself but her descendants)! The creepiest coincidence!

How did you find it? A dear friend had told us about the place after searching for Philadelphia venues herself. The Woodlands hadn’t done many weddings in the past (only one or two), and when I went to go see the building it was covered in scaffolding. But the underlying beauty of the place was clear; the renovations are a work in progress, and you can’t help but feel the history when you walk through.


Location? The reception took place in the same area as the ceremony. For the ceremony, we were facing the back of the mansion, against the stone portico. The cocktail hour took place inside the mansion, and the reception outside, in front of the carriage house.

How was the weather on the day? The weather was beautiful! We had an Indian summer, it was warmer than normal for so late in September.

Was there a reason you decided to get married on this date? Not in particular! I love Autumn (who doesn’t) and we wanted that “not-too-hot, not-too-cold” weather that is hard to find in the northeast part of the United States. The venue is really magical; it’s an old cemetery covered with overgrown ivy, foliage, and big Ginko Biloba trees. Any season would be perfect, but with the crisp air and changing colors, this timing was just right.

What were your favourite parts of the day? My favorite part of the day was the ceremony. The day is a whirlwind of activity, you hardly get a minute to realize what it’s all about. For me reading our personal vows was that moment.

I loved hearing Ari (our pianist) start playing “Avril 14th” at the start of the processional. It’s such a beautiful piece, and really captured all of the emotions of the day. It was a close tie to walking out to our recessional to Phillip Glass’ “Mishima”. I only wish I had gotten a recording of it!

Another favorite part of the day (and really, the year) in general was seeing all my friends and family from different parts of my life meet and have a great time together. To be honest - I don’t know what my mom would have done without my bridesmaids on the morning of our wedding. My girlfriends are really good at calming me down - so naturally, they worked on her too!

The Wedding Details

Theme? I wanted to lean into the season and venue and opt for moody maroons and deep purples for the flowers, and neutral grays and slate blue for the decor.

Where did you draw your inspiration/ideas from? The venue itself was more inspiration than we could possibly imagine, so most of my ideas for the styling stemmed from that. We used the Norway Maple leaf as a staple for the invitations and the website. We also included old architectural drawings of the mansion (including blueprints) for other stationary needs.

Were any aspects of your wedding D.I.Y? If so What? We did the stationary and website ourselves. We had a vision in mind and wanted to add a personal touch to the wedding “formalities” such as R.S.V.P cards and Save the Dates.

I knew I wanted to use old apothecary bottles as vases for the bulk flowers and include antique details where I could, such as an old metal fruit basket as the cardholder and brass candlesticks for the head table.

We also rented vintage furniture from Maggpie Rentals for chairs and accent furniture throughout the property. I had a bridesmaid help me with table numbers; we painted the numbers over glass botanical frames and placed fern leaves inside the frames to top off the natural vibe.

Tell us about your wedding flowers. My vendor story is sort of a fairytale chain of events. Our venue’s point-of-contact put me in touch with a caterer, who connected me to my wedding planner, who then connected me to our photographer, and eventually back to Erica from Chicory Florals. I had been a huge fan of Erica’s work prior to this but was even more thrilled to learn she had previously worked with the other vendors we’d hired. We went for an overgrown, natural, and moody vibe. The best part of the whole flower experience was that I didn’t have to do much work. I knew Erica’s style and I loved it – I just wanted her to do her thing. It’s so much easier when you trust the people you’re working with to do what they do best. Yes - it’s your day - but they’re the expert! With Erica, this was 100% the case. She killed it.

She draped loose flowers over the stone wall to serve as a backdrop to our ceremony and balanced Dahlias with Eucalyptus for the perfect early Autumn vibe. My bouquet was exactly what I was imagining, and worked as a perfect contrast to the stark white classic dress.

Tell us about your wedding cake. Our cake was from Cakelife, a local Philly bakery (recommended to us by our wedding planner). It was a vanilla cake filled with strawberry compote and vanilla mascarpone whipped cream, encased in Vanilla buttercream. It was a semi-naked cake topped with candied Rosemary fresh greenery from Chicory Florals. Our guests couldn’t stop. 

Did you include any family heirlooms or special traditions? The engagement ring is a very special family heirloom and a key part of our story, as mentioned above. I also wore my great-grandmother’s engagement ring on my pinky finger.

My mom gave me her mother’s “Modern Bride” magazine from 1952 shortly after I got engaged, and I was fascinated by it. So much has changed since then, yet we still cherish so many of the same traditions. I brought it with me along with other personal items to have while I was getting ready (and a good read for my bridesmaids while they got their hair done!).

We self-united, which meant we didn’t need a registered officiant to lead the ceremony. Self-uniting is an old Quaker tradition (which both Jake and I share roots back to) and is only legally allowed in the state of Pennsylvania. I was thrilled we were able to do this; it was something we agreed to early on and meant that we were able to have my friend Anushi lead the ceremony without being considered a formal officiant.

Bridal Party

Bridesmaids – who/relationship?

Anielle Quat - close friend and college roommate
Anushi Patel - best friend from college, ceremony “officiant” Lee Scott - close friend from college
Minji Kwon - close friend from college
Leslie Zacharkow - best friend from college Sarah Hiller - sister of the groom

Groomsmen – who/relationship?

Pete Erickson - childhood friend
Johnny Benson - close friend, colleague, and Best Man Kyle Toomey - childhood friend
Dan Ordille - close friend and colleague
Ian Brick - brother of the bride

Flower girls/Page boys – who/relationship? Evan Brick - ringer bearer (and my nephew - Ian’s son!)

Wedding Gown (the most important part!)

Emily wore the Kitty/Nina gown and a Catherine Deane (for BHLDN) lace top called the “Itala Topper”

What made you decide to come into Karen Willis Holmes? I bought a gown 5 months before I walked into the KWH store. Unfortunately, moments after I put the deposit down on the first dress, I regretted it. It wasn’t right for me, and after months of trying to convince my- self otherwise, it had become a burden. I even tried to make myself believe the dress wasn’t that important to me. But in the end, you can’t choose the things you care about. With weddings, everyone is different. Some people care about the food, some people the venue, some the music. For me, it was really down to the venue and the dress, and the latter part just wasn’t right.

I confided in my coworker about my dress-regret she told me about Karen Willis Holmes, though initially, I wasn’t ready to admit that I was open to other dresses! It was until a few weeks later when I texted her on a whim that we decided to stop by the store “just to look”. I had seen a few dresses online that I had in mind - but I firmly told myself that if it wasn’t the perfect dress, I was sticking with the one I had (hey, sometimes you just have to live with your decisions).

Dominique from KWH in NYC graciously helped me find the dresses I’d spotted online, and when I told her what I was looking for (a simple A-Line with a structured bodice), she immediately pulled the Kitty Nina. I know this sounds cliché, but you know how some people say “when you know, you know”? Well, after trying on the Kitty Nina combo, I knew. The dress was perfect. It was everything I had been searching for in a dress. I felt confident, beautiful, and for the first time wasn’t looking for reassurance (I didn’t even need to snap a photo of myself in it). I know that sounds silly, right? You’re in a wedding gown, of course, you should feel beautiful! But I’d tried on so many dresses before this and was starting to think I’d never have that feeling. Little did I know I was just looking in the wrong places.

Where have you seen our gowns (if at all) before? Instagram, Facebook

How many gowns did you try? I must have tried on upwards of 25-30 gowns before finding the Kitty/Nina. It was a process!

Where did you purchase your gown from? KWH in New York City

What did you especially like about your gown? The structured bodice made me feel secure and put- together throughout the night without having to “readjust” anything. I think having the tie-up back was nice because I didn’t have to worry about last-minute alterations; it could be as tight or as loose as I wanted. I also didn’t have to worry about cups due to the structure of the top. The train of the dress fell beautifully when I walked and bustled quite nicely as well. As you can see, the silk material photographs quite well!


Who is your bridesmaid dress supplier? Jenny Yoo for BHLDN

Where did you get the groom and groomsmen’s suits? J.Crew

What accessories did you choose to finish your gown and also for those in your bridal party? BHLDN Itala Topper, Earrings from BHLDN, and fresh flowers.

I wanted my bridesmaids to choose shoes and accessories on their own to give the simple dresses some personality. It turned out beautiful; I loved how everyone's personal touches helped the dresses to feel less “matchy-matchy” and more organic.

Where did you get your shoes from? Clark’s! Comfort is key.

Did you wear a veil/headpiece? Where did you get this from? I went for fresh-cut flowers in lieu of a headpiece and weaved them into my braids.


What advice would you give brides organising their wedding? Enjoy every minute - even the stressful ones! Focus on the pieces that matter to you, and don’t try to do everything at 110%. I knew I wanted to splurge on the dress, so I dialed it back and went for more affordable options on shoes, accessories, and hair. Pick one or two things that really matter to you. Is it the food? The music? Maybe the venue? Try to spend your time (and expenses) on the things you care about the most, and be practical about the other areas.

What was the most important to the two of you while planning? Was there anything that you chose to splurge on or skip? The most important thing for us were venue and location.We chose to splurge on the hotel because we knew the “Getting Ready” experience mattered to us as well as post-wedding celebrations (our bridal/groom party stayed in the same hotel). We stayed at Lokal Hotel in Old City which turned out to be most special, curated experience we’d ever had at a hotel.

We skimped on wedding transportation and took Ubers everywhere! It didn’t really matter to us how we got to the venue, as long as we got there on time!

What advice would you give brides searching for their wedding gown? Don’t feel pressured! People love to tell you that you need to find a wedding dress by a certain date (prior to your wedding) or you’ll be without a dress for your big day. In my opinion, it’s simple: if you haven’t found the right dress, keep looking. That dress that you’re looking for is out there, and if not - that one you just tried on will probably still be around if you want to come back to it!

My other advice would just be to enjoy the whole process – every minute of it because it goes by fast! Yes, it can be stressful. But if the dress matters to you, cherish every moment of the experience. Also – don’t feel like you need to bring a whole gaggle of girlfriends. One or two close friends is all you need (I brought my mom!); it will be easier to tune into your own thoughts when you’re not surrounded by tons of people telling you what they think.

Anything extra that is special or you would like to share about your big day.

Something Old? great-grandmother’s wedding band, my grandmother’s “Modern Bride” magazine from 1952
Something New? Swarovski crystal “droplet” earrings
Something Borrowed? Great-grandmother’s engagement ring (worn on my pinky!)
Something Blue? A garter!


Photographer – Love Me Do Photography

Florist - Chicory Florals

Music - DJ Tanner at Scratch DJs, Ari Rubin as the ceremony pianist First Dance - “Hey Moon” by John Maus

MC - DJ Tanner

Menu - Birchtree Catering

Cake - Cakelife

Hair - Bri McClure at Etta Salon

Make up - Shimmer ’n Spice

Wedding Bands - all family heirlooms, except Jake’s band (was from Etsy)