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An English Garden-Inspired Wedding at a Centuries-Old Estate in Philadelphia

By Alexandra Macon | Photography by 

Pat Furey Photography

Ameena Schelling, editorial director of The Dodo, describes her romance with venture capitalist James Hao as a “slow burn love story.” They first met freshman year at Princeton, where they ended up as members of the same eating club. But it wasn’t until senior year, when Ameena ended up living with one of Jim’s good friends, that the two of them grew close. “We credit her with pushing us together,” Ameena says of her former roommate.

Four years of a mostly long distance relationship followed. “He was in New York and I was in Philadelphia—lots of Amtrak rides every weekend!” Ameena says. Then, one night during a casual dinner at their favorite vegertarian Chinese restaurant, Jim insisted on walking by Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. “It was dark and completely empty and in the middle of it he knelt down and proposed,” she adds.

After their engagement, the two history buffs were set on finding the perfect venue; a place that would look and feel timeless. Andalusia, a historic estate built over 200 years ago as the country home of Nicholas Biddle, was the first venue they saw and within ten seconds of stepping out of the car, the couple was absolutely sold. And after they signed on the dotted line, they called upon Jaclyn Fisher of Two Little Birds Planning for help with the aesthetics and logistics.

With the wedding date set for July 15th, Ameena set out to find her dress. “The one thing I absolutely knew I wanted in a dress was sleeves, which turned out to be a lot harder to find than expected!” she says. “I also wanted something that matched the historic venue and was fairly timeless in an ‘antique’ way—romantic and ethereal and a tiny bit gothic. After going to several bridal stores and “running into a ton of brick walls,” Ameena finally found the one during an Inbal Dror trunk show at Mark Ingram’s Atelier in New York. She accessorized her look with a headpiece by an artist on Etsy called Anna Marguerite, earrings by Eddera, and white satin tie-up heels by J.Crew. “I wish I’d listened to everyone who said test drive your shoes! Turns out satin bows do not stay tied for longer than 30 seconds, so my hairstylist came to the rescue and knot them up with hair ties.”

Meanwhile Jim chose classic black tuxedo pants and a navy blue tuxedo jacket from J. Crew’s Ludlow shop, and Ameena’s bridesmaids wore Jenny Yoo for BHLDN dresses.

The day of the wedding, a family friend officiated the short and sweet ceremony in one of the gardens at Andalusia. “I was the good kind of nervous where you’re shaking in anticipation of something exciting, like the start of a race,” says Jim. “Watching the bridesmaids and groomsmen walk up and then Ameena and her dad was like the final countdown to the rest of my life.”

Then came time for the reception, which took place in a glowing sailcloth tent with breathtaking river views. There were personal and unexpected touches everywhere, including a popsicle station, photo booth, and silhouette artists, which created a playful and fun environment for their guests. When it was time for dinner, friends and family found their escort cards, designed by Chick Invitations, on a bed of baby’s breath. Vintage farm tables featured floral designs of hydrangeas, lisianthks, spray roses, polo roses, delphiniums, and Italian cuscus garlands all created by Sebesta Design.

After the meal, which consisted of an all vegan menu by Miss Rachel’s Pantry, and a three-tier naked cake of fresh berries by Vegan Treats, it was time for dancing. Ameena’s bridesmaid, Jess Turner, the same friend who is credited for bringing the couple together, is a lovely singer and so they decided to show her voice off for their first dance. “Neither of us are big dancers, but we wanted to give her a chance to sing,” the bride says. They chose “Love Is All Around Us” by The Troggs, and the rest of the night’s music was later provided by The Greg Smith Band.

At the end of the evening, the newlywed’s were so exhausted they made their exit and retreated to a nearby hotel in Philadelphia. There, they reminisced about everything that had happened earlier and turned in, waking up only a few hours later to jet off to Bermuda for their honeymoon.