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A Bright and Bold Wedding With a Ferris Wheel in Virginia

by Staff

Though they met in 2015 and ran in the same circle in New York City, Laura Fitzgerald and Niall Hines had never really gotten to know each other. That is, until a big group of their friends did a house share in Montauk in July 2017. “At the end of the [weekend] Niall—who is a big fan of provoking questions—asked me which guy and which girl in the house had gone up the most in my book [over the course of the trip]. I boldly answered in front of the entire house that he was the guy. The rest was history.” The girl Laura got to know best that weekend ended up being one of her bridesmaids. “It was a good weekend for me!”

At the start of the pandemic three years later, Laura and Niall escaped New York and moved in with her parents in Virginia for six months. “Unbeknownst to me, by the end of April, Niall had talked to everyone in my family and plans were in motion to propose.” In July, he did just that, with a heart-shaped diamond on a rainy day at Laura’s family’s home in Gloucester. 

The Gloucester home, dubbed Wilson Creek Farm and situated on the water, would also make the perfect wedding venue, the couple decided. “We’ve had this house since I was 9. It’s such a special place to my family, and quickly became a special place for Niall as well,” Laura says. “From a young age, I’ve imagined getting married there.”

Having planned Laura’s sister’s wedding a few years prior, the bride’s mom was ready to take on the task. “She knew exactly what needed to be done and when,” Laura says. “She also has an amazing eye and such creative ideas, and we had a lot of fun working together to bring the vision to life.” They brought on Taylor Batt of Alyson Taylor Events as a partial planner in the last few months to relieve the last-minute stresses, and ultimately said “I do” on October 9, 2021—Niall’s birthday! Read on to see all the fresh, bold details, photographed by Ashley Cox Photography.

Their wedding vision was “fun, happy, bright, and beautiful,” Laura says. “We wanted our guests to feel the joy of the day as soon as they arrived and saw the colorful scene.” Better yet, they spread the joy starting with an invitation suite by Sue Corral Ink. “We even hid little smiley faces and hearts in the invitations!”

Laura wanted to go bright on beauty, too. “[I wanted a look that was] natural, bright—lots of highlighter—but still myself,” she says. And, she included one of her signatures. “I always wear blue mascara and eyeliner, and was thrilled that my makeup artist found a blue eyeliner to use! It brought out my eyes and made me feel more like myself.”

I was the first bride to wear this dress, which really reaffirmed that I had made the right choice.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself [to find a dress] because I wanted to have a really special dress and couldn’t figure out how or where I’d find it,” Laura shares. “My mom was a bit worried that I was too focused on wearing something ‘weird.’ Niall’s mom thought I might walk down the aisle in overalls and my friends were convinced it wasn’t going to be white.” In the end, it was ivory: a high-to-low bubble hem gown by Vera Wang with a cutout bodice and the word “love” embroidered boldly on the skirt. “Later, when I was doing my fittings at Vera Wang, they told me I was the first bride to wear this dress, which really reaffirmed that I had made the right choice,” she says.

Laura’s “something borrowed” for the da was her sister Janie’s veil. 

Niall paired his blue check Havana suit with Del Toro loafers. “I had an embroidered heart sewn into his jacket with our initials and wedding date,” Laura shares.

“Our first look made it all feel real,” Laura says. “There was a lot of speculation around what I would wear, so I loved being able to see his reaction up close.”

Laura went bold and whimsical with her bouquet, despite the season. “My mom and I love bright, happy colors—think spring and summer—so it was a bit unexpected for an early fall color palette!” They opted for florals in pink, yellow, and orange with minimal greenery. Flowers included dahlias, cosmos, billy balls, snapdragons, and ranunculus. 

“A few days after the engagement, when I kept saying I just wanted the day to be ‘fun,’ my dad, half jokingly, suggested a Ferris wheel,” Laura remembers. “Pretty soon we’d booked Big Round Wheel, and that really set the tone for the day.” It set the tone for playful portraits, too, and informed everything from the color palette to decor details. “We kept it a secret from everyone, including the wedding party, and the surprise as guests arrived had a big impact. Even my grandfather went on a ride!”

“I asked my bridesmaids to wear a white dress of their choice. I wanted them to be able to choose a dress they were comfortable in and excited about, but still stand apart from the rest of the wedding guests,” Laura says. “The white made the flowers and the colors of the ceremony pop even more.” Groomsmen wore navy suits with open collars and floral pocket squares. “I was very anti-tie for both Niall and the groomsmen,” Laura adds. “It took some persistence to get Niall on board, but it ended up looking great.”

Chairs for their 350 guests were arranged under a clear-topped tent on the lawn, with colorful ribbons tied to the back row of seats. Kristen Wiley of Olivera Floral Design covered a Gothic arbor in greenery and pink, yellow, and orange blooms to serve as the altar’s focal point.

The bride’s younger brother, Fitz, officiated the ceremony. “He did an amazing job—almost stole the show!” she says. They exchanged traditional vows and kept the readings playful, including a verse from Winnie the Pooh. 

“Confetti cannons were scattered on chairs for the guests and placed behind the wedding party. Everyone shot them off after my brother said ‘you may kiss the bride’ and it was magical,” Laura recalls. “Niall had no idea we were doing that, and I had no idea it would be that grand. The pictures are my favorite; you can feel how happy and excited everyone was.” As the confetti drifted down around them, a string quartet played Justin Bieber’s “Anyone.” It felt so me, but still traditional.”

A second tent—this one sailcloth—served as the reception space, with swaths of draping in pink, apple green, and lemon yellow suspended from the ceiling. A custom bar featured art matching the invitation suite’s envelope liner. As for florals, the design was vibrant and whimsical. “Locally grown dahlias stole the show, alongside cosmos, zinnias, billy balls, ranunculus, snapdragons, lisianthus, tulips, and more,” Laura says. “The flowers played off of the punches of color and unique design elements throughout the event.”

Lit up in LED and emblazoned with the couple’s logo in the center, the Ferris wheel remained a focal point—and informed the menu. “We wanted our guests to spend time mingling, riding the Ferris wheel and dancing, so we opted to have stations rather than a plated dinner,” Laura says. “As a subtle nod to the elegant carnival feel, we passed mini corndogs, spicy hushpuppies, and mini grilled cheeses.” There was also a retro candy table filled with candy bracelets, candy button strips, Pixie sticks, Ring Pops, and more. 

They chose another Bieber track, “Holy,” for their first dance, and made sure the band had a few special requests queued up. “While ‘Love Train’ is a pretty classic wedding song, we made sure they played it to honor my late grandmother, who led the love train donning a conductor cap for years and years,” Laura says. “It was so fun to see all of our guests, young and old, snaking around the tent singing and dancing.”

Real flowers were arranged organically around the buttercream cake and wired to create a “growing” effect. The newlyweds cut into it to reveal alternating tiers of lemon cake with lavender honey buttercream, and almond cake with Biscoff buttercream.

The bride swapped her heels for “my go-to shoe: white cowboy boots” for dancing, and the newlyweds escaped outside for an impromptu photoshoot with Niall’s dad’s 1970 Oldsmobile convertible before their sparkler sendoff. But the party wasn’t over yet; there was one more celebration in order. “Niall was nervous about being the center of attention—while that was on my list of what I was most excited for—and he was adamant about not making a big deal about his birthday,” Laura says. “Of course we had the band sing to him and bring him up on the stage. He was living it up, dancing and directing the crowd. A few minutes later, he was gleefully rejoicing ‘I want to get back on the stage!’”

That moment underscores Laura’s best advice for other to-be-weds. “Planning is going to be stressful, but on the day of, have fun and take it all in. If you’re happy and having fun, your guests are happy and having fun!”

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