Tenaya has a deep love for old houses — so much so that the design director moved to Austin, Texas, to get her master’s in historic preservation at the UT School of Architecture! So when she and Matthew started to plan their Austin wedding for May 23, 2015, the bride knew she wanted a grand venue full of personality. The home in question? The Commodore Perry Estate, a 1920s estate with a walled garden that hasn’t been lived in since WWII, leaving it perfectly preserved in time. But Tenaya and Matthew’s wasn’t all formal. “To offset the fanciness of the home, we wanted a casual, outdoor wedding on the lawn. Wine in crystal glasses, people dancing in bare feet, and family-style roasted pork and fried chicken.” Sounds perfect!
The bride had a grand idea for how the day would flow: Cocktail hour on the veranda as guests arrived, a ceremony on the grounds, and a fancy picnic at farm tables, lit by the moon. “But it rained!” she says. “Thankfully we had amazing wedding planners, The Whitt Experience, so we quickly put Plan B into action.” While people may have gotten a little wet, and there wasn’t much moonlight with rain falling sideways all night, nothing could stop this couple from having the best wedding they could imagine. “I was going to marry the man I love and we were surrounded by all of our favorite people. Yes, it was rained out, but it was still the coolest thing,” says Tenaya. Grab an umbrella and take a look at how they pulled off a wonderful celebration, weather be damned, photographed by Alysse Gafkjen.
When Matthew and Tenaya sent out their watercolor invitations, they were actually still crossing their fingers that the venue would work out. “It’s not an official wedding venue, so we had to get a lot of permits,” says the bride. Inspired by both the venue and the bride’s antique 18th-century engagement ring, the celebration spanned decades in its design.
With a 1790s mine-cut engagement ring, Tenaya also went vintage with her other accessories: consigned Prada shoes (“They were surprisingly comfortable!” she says) and turquoise earrings from the Marburger Farm Antique Show.
Tenaya visited a few dress shops, and ended up at LOHO Bride in San Francisco. “I’m from California, and my sister’s friend owns the boutique,” she says. “It was the best experience: She had the motherload of perfect dresses, has amazing taste, and is such a sweet, positive person.” The winning dress was a drapey silk gown by A La Robe, with lace trim and a ribbon across the back.
“My dress was classic and simple, but a little sexy, too,” says Tenaya. “Dress shopping was so surreal. I never thought much about my wedding day, so it hadn’t sunk in that I was getting married!”
Her bouquet popped against the simple gown, a combination of red roses, peonies, ranunculus, and scabiosa pods.
Matthew matched the late spring vibe in a seersucker suit.
Tenaya’s nieces served as flower girls in white eyelet dresses, topped with crowns of greenery.
“Because rain meant we couldn’t have cocktail hour on the lawn, we moved it inside the chapel on-site,” says the bride.
While her dream of guests stumbling upon a 17-piece rock orchestra playing on the grounds was dashed by the rain, instead Mother Falcon set up on the altar of the estate’s church.
Tenaya has five sisters, so she skipped bridesmaids and instead asked them to each pick a blue dress they loved and to find a seat in the front row of the ceremony. “We did, however, have an incredible bachelorette party in Healdsburg, shucking oysters in Tomales Bay, tasting wine in Napa and, most importantly, coming up with synchronized dance routines!”
The bride’s father walked her down the aisle as a soft drizzle fell. The couple wrote their own vows, cobbling them together from readings and vows they’d read, as well as writing a few lines of their own. “The most grounding moment of the day was standing up in front of all our guests, looking into Matthew’s pretty blue eyes and just being there with him,” says Tenaya.
Dinner was moved inside the mansion, with the head table set up on the veranda. “It still looked stunning, even though we may have chosen to use more florals if we’d planned all along to have it inside,” says the bride. She struggled to find the rentals she really wanted, so as she planned her wedding, Tenaya and a friend founded their own event rental company so other Austin brides can access what she couldn’t — starting with the dark wood farm tables.
Garlands of eucalyptus leaves were interspersed with votive candles and the floral designer’s collection of vintage brass figurines.
Instead of traditional menus, Tenaya and Matthew purchased a door from Home Depot and painted it with chalkboard paint. The bride’s sisters hand-wrote the menu onto the door, which was then decorated with eucalyptus. They also hand-wrote each guest’s name and table assignment on a Magnolia leaf, a nod to Matthew’s home state of Mississippi.
The family-style dinner was planned with two friends, who are also local chefs. Cocktail hour featured charcuterie from butchers across Austin, like Dai Due and Henri’s Cheese & Wine, and cocktails made with fresh juice from Juiceland (we can only imagine how tasty the rum punch was!). Dinner included slow roasted whole pig, fried chicken, and polenta with roasted vegetables.
Choosing a cake was the couple’s favorite project, with Matthew picking up cupcakes from bakeries all over Austin until they found the winner: Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting from Sugar Mama’s.
During the best man’s speech, an incredible curtain of rain came down and the tornado warnings on everyone’s phones started to go off. “It blew the terrace doors wide open, so we finally had to move everyone inside,” says Tenaya. But that wasn’t all: Before the dancing could really start, the power went out and the fire marshals had to ask everyone to leave. “We settled on heading to the nearest bar with a great DJ, and ended up having the best after-party ever!” the bride remembers. “It’s easy to put pressure on your wedding day, but at some point you need to let go and savor the moment. Things may not go as planned, but make sure you enjoy what is still happening!”
Ceremony & Reception Venue: Commodore Perry Estate || Wedding Planner: The Whitt Experience || Event Staff: DNA Events || Bride’s Wedding Dress: A La Robe, from LOHO Bride || Shoes: Prada, from Moss Designer Consignment || Jewelry: Marburger Farm Antique Show || Hair: Lip Service || Makeup: Erin Lee Smith || Groom’s Attire: J.Crew || Wedding Bands: Bell and Bird || Floral Design: Transplants || Music: Mother Falcon || Catering: Chef Michael Brantley || Cake: Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop || Rentals: Party at the Moontower; Loot Vintage Rentals || Photographer: Alysse Gafkjen
Want more inspiration just like this? Then check out another couple’s laid-back Austin wedding in the video below.