In a sea of more than 20,000 students, incoming Ball State University freshmen Rachel Biasi and Kyle Callahan just happened to have not one, but two classes together. They seemed destined to become friends, and in April 2014, they became more than that when Kyle asked Rachel out on a date via a game of hangman. She filled in the blanks, then said, “Of course.”
Four years and a move to New York City later, Kyle took Rachel on her dream vacation to Glacier National Park in Montana. Little did she know that the trip would include her dream proposal, too. At the top of a mountain, he handed her a flip book he had drawn filled with all the reasons he loved her. And on the last page? A hangman drawing with blanks popping the question. Her answer was the same.
Even before Covid, Rachel knew she wanted a micro wedding with “a dinner party atmosphere straight out of Pinterest,” says Rachel. “I imagined a lush garden setting with flowers as our main decor item to bring the outside in. I wanted it to have an organic and almost unplanned, natural feeling.”
Rachel searched for the perfect venue for four years, during which time the couple moved to Denver and started a small business together. Her dream spot turned out to be right in their new backyard: the Victorian solarium at the Denver Botanic Gardens. It was “unique, charming, not exposed to the weather but not fully inside, [with] pretty surroundings,” she says.
The couple held their dinner-party reception at the botanic gardens in June 2021, when the surrounding Woodland Mosaic garden was in bloom. The venue was the perfect spot for their party of 13. “The intimate setting reflected who we are as a couple,” says Rachel. “We love our families and wanted to be able to celebrate with them in a very low-key but still formal setting.”
Keep reading to get all the details of their garden-inspired ceremony and dinner party, as planned by the bride with coordinator Kaitlin Shea of Kaitlin Shea Weddings and photographed by Shelly Anderson Photography.
The day’s color palette—rust, soft pink, and neutrals—was reflected in the day’s florals and in their typography-driven, deckle-edged invitations, created by Jen Simpson Design.
Denver’s Good Shepherd Catholic Church was ideal for the ceremony “because of the simple yet beautiful architecture and proximity to the reception venue,” says Rachel.
At the end of the day, I chose the dress that I wanted, not the dress that everyone else wanted.
Rachel wanted her look to say “classic simplicity.” After going to 11 different dress appointments in New York City on her own—“I didn’t want to waste everyone’s time,” she says—the bride found the one at Sarah Seven. “I actually loved dress shopping alone,” adds Rachel. “At the end of the day, I chose the dress that I wanted, not the dress that everyone else wanted.” She had her seamstress add a high front slit “to give it more edge.” She complemented the dress with shoes from Aldo.
For his wedding day look, Kyle wore an Indochino tuxedo with a watch and cufflinks that Rachel gave him, and a boutonniere of ranunculus and olive sprigs.
Rachel’s father, Tony, walked her down the aisle to live traditional music. She intentionally kept her dress simple to make her cathedral-length veil, designed by Made with Love, the “statement piece” of her look. Her simple yet modern stud earrings are by Olive + Piper, and her “organic, free-flowing bouquet” echoed the simple pedestal-style ceremony markers at the altar, which were transported to the botanic garden afterward to frame the dinner table.
Having just their immediate family and best friends present personalized the service. Rachel’s sister was her only bridesmaid, and Kyle’s brother served as his best man.
We chose to have a traditional Catholic wedding because of the significant meaning it brings to our relationship.
“We chose to have a traditional Catholic wedding because of the significant meaning it brings to our relationship,” says Rachel. The traditional mass and ceremony were officiated by Father James Fox of Good Shepherd Catholic Church. The couple then took photos outside the church, including a few with their golden retriever, Penny. Neither the church nor their reception venue allowed dogs, so Rachel’s brother, Joe, picked Penny up after the ceremony so that the couple could get a few pictures with her outside. Then, the wedding party headed to the Denver Botanic Gardens just a few blocks away.
Fun fact: The Victorian-style solarium nestled amid the Denver Botanic Gardens’ Woodland Mosaic Garden was originally designed for Euro Disney in the 1990s, not in the 1900s. Built of powder-coated wrought iron with romantic tempered glass windows and scrollwork, it provided the perfect weather-proof indoor-outdoor setting for Rachel and Kyle’s post-ceremony dinner party.
The couple’s 13 guests sat together at one long farm table framed by the ceremony markers with blooms in the day’s palette of soft pinks, rusts, and neutrals. A large floral arrangement suspended overhead completed the decor and complemented the already-lush setting.
Rose-filled bud vases scattered down the center of the table tied in the day’s colors without blocking conversation. The place settings consisted of simple knotted linen napkins accented with olive sprigs, customized place cards and menus, and mini bottles of champagne that the bride personalized with tulle.
Seeing all of their planning come together was one of the most special things about their wedding day. Rachel adds, “It was a long road to get there!” After several changes of plan due to the pandemic, their “intimate, garden-like” dinner party turned out just as they envisioned.
For the reception, I wanted to remove the veil and add a topper that gave the dress a little more character.
To change up her Sarah Seven dress for photos at the gardens and for dinner, Rachel added a diaphanous topper by Eva Lendel. “My dress was minimalistic and simple, but it went beautifully with my long veil,” she says. “For the reception, I wanted to remove the veil and add a topper that gave the dress a little more character! I knew that the puffy sleeves and length would do just that.”
Some wise words from Rachel? “Don’t be afraid to delegate some easy tasks to your future spouse,” she shares. Fun fact: Kyle made hand-squeezed lemonade for their meal on the day of the ceremony.
The picnic-style meal came together during the week before the wedding, when the catering had to change course due to new Covid restrictions. Guests wandered down a garden path to grab a metal basket to fill with prepackaged gourmet sandwiches, individual servings of fresh fruit, and bottles of Kyle’s handmade lemonade finished with tags made by Rachel. Wrapped cannolis referenced Rachel’s family’s Italian heritage.
Rachel had a local baker re-create her Slovakian grandmother’s carrot cake, which was iced with buttercream and topped with peonies, for the meal’s finale. “Growing up, my dad would make her carrot cake on holidays, so it was always very special to us,” says Rachel. My dad was not aware that I was having the exact cake as my wedding cake, so when I told him he was almost in tears!” That special story, and being surrounded by the people who love them, are the memories Rachel and Kyle treasure the most.