When this uncommon bride got adamant about living up to her dream of a fairytale wedding, neither 2020 lockdown nor birth of her baby girl in 2021 would hinder that dream, achieved in 2022.
We’ve heard lots of COVID wedding stories by now. Some were canceled altogether, some dramatically scaled down to Zoom meetings in the backyards, and a few rescheduled. I worked with several risky couples who bet on the fall 2020. However, most were pushed back to 2021 or even 2022. One of those, for an adorable French couple whose surprise proposal I did on Times Square in 2019, is slated for the coming October ’22 in France.
Now comes this lovely interracial couple for their Chinese-Italian fusion wedding at a French chateau in Pennsylvania. The bride set her heart on an irresistibly romantic fairytale wedding. Alas, the pandemic turned into that proverbial stepmother, Lady Tremaine, trying to stop our Cinderella from marrying her Prince. The couple sealed their civil ceremony that year, but our Covidella kept dreaming.
Then a beautiful baby Princess was born the following year. To most of us, if not all, this would mean an end, albeit happy, to the wedding plans… Not to our dreamer.
Comes 2022 and a historic estate opens its magical gates to our new family for the ball of their lives. It wasn’t grand in numbers, but that wasn’t the point. An intimate circle of family and friends was a real part of their dream. And it no longer had to be a masked ball!
Created as an elegant sanctuary and private residence for 19th Century industrialist John Pitcairn and his family, Cairnwood Estate is an architectural masterpiece from the Gilded Age with meticulous decorative elements blending influences from classical Greek and Roman architecture with French Renaissance inspirations. The architects received their formal training at Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France. The exterior of Cairnwood shows a mixture of rustic elements and a high style. Its overall effect of a majestic French chateau is a spectacular setting for weddings.
The bride’s mom, who always wanted to have her own salon, did hair and makeup. And what is Cinderella without a crown? 🙂 The preparations took place in a charming bridal suite with vintage photos of other brides, setting up the mood for a good story to tell.
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For the first look, the groom met His Fair Princess in the estate’s Great Hall. With a ceiling soaring two stories high, a massive carved stone fireplace, and three French doors accessing the terrace, it features an elegant staircase—a perfect setup for the prince to meet his bride. The barrel-vaulted ceiling is reminiscent of the New York Public Library’s famous Astor Hall, which the architects also designed.
What do most couples choose for their religious ceremony? They either have it on site at the reception venue, or take a quick ride to a house of worship. Our romantic couple didn’t mind a 2-hr cross-state trip to have their ceremony at the regal Princeton University Chapel. It was designed by Ralph Adams Cram of Boston, a leading architect of the Gothic revival. Built between 1925 and 1928, the University chapel is one of the largest college chapels in the world.
The oak pews are made from wood originally intended for Civil War gun carriages. The magnificent pulpit, brought from France, dates back to the mid-16th century. The wood for the pews came from Sherwood Forest in England and took 100 people over a year to carve.
After the family portraits inside the chapel (omitted here), I took the couple around Princeton University for their portraits. They did not have a wedding party, so the shoot would have been a breeze if it weren’t hot that day. We limited our photography tour to the Alexander Hall, the stairs of the Buyers Hall, and the arch and courtyard of the East Pyne Hall.
We then returned to the Cairnwood Estate, where the newlyweds arranged for their fable arrival in a horse-drawn carriage. Not any carriage, but a Cinderella carriage! The last brush stroke was magically waved.
As mentioned, their fusion fairytale wedding was intimate, with just the closest circle of families and friends. Later, I pulled them out of the reception for more portraits around the chateau.
And what fusion fairytale wedding would be without a magical transformation? The Western wedding attire gave way to the traditional Chinese Qun Kwa and Tang suit, embroidered with flowers and dragons. It was an awesome surprise for many guests. I couldn’t resist and pulled them out again for a mini-session.
The transformations weren’t even over yet! A third set of glamorous outfits concluded the magical day for dancing, cake cutting, and farewells. Let even more days turn into magic for you guys! With the dreamer’s mindset and determination of yours, nothing is impossible!
Venue: Cairnwood Estate (@cairnwood)
Ceremony: Princeton University Chapel (@orlprinceton)
Bride’s shoes: Jewel by Badgley Mischka (@badgleymischka) and Jimmy Choo (@jimmychoo)
Groom’s tuxedo: Brooks Brothers (@brooksbrothers)
Grooms suit: Ralph Lauren (@ralphlauren)
Groom’s shoes: Cole Haan (@colehaan)
Rings: Cartier (@cartier)
Carriage: New Freedom Carriage
Wedding cake: Ciao Bella Cakes (@ciaobellacakes1)
DJ: Tom Langmaack
Catering: Karen Spire (@karenscatering)