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The Groom and His Grandfather Created Beautiful Watercolors for His Intimate Backyard Wedding in New England

By Shayna Seid | Photography by 


Christie Kuehner, who runs digital strategy and content creation for William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty, and Bobby Tonnessen first met when she was 12 years old and he was 18. Their families were friendly, living in the same town of Ridgefield, Connecticut. However, it wasn’t until a decade later that they decided to go on a date.

A few months before their three-year anniversary, he proposed while they were in Newport Beach, California. Bobby had lived in the Southern California city for a few years and had made a photo of a particular cliffside his iPhone wallpaper. When Christie asked about it, he promised he’d take her to that exact spot one day. And, of course, when he fulfilled his promise, he got down on one knee at Crescent Bay Point Park with an elongated, cushion-cut diamond ring flanked by half-moon sapphires that he custom designed with Tri-Gem Pearls.

The engaged couple first planned a spring 2021 wedding in Bermuda, where the bride had grown up visiting and the location of many romantic holidays together. Unfortunately, in July 2020, they cancelled their nuptials at the Coral Beach Club. And to take their minds off of mid-pandemic, wedding-planning stress, they took an August road trip to Watch Hill, Rhode Island.

Once back from a relaxing holiday, the two decided they didn’t want to wait to get married any further and quickly fell in love with the idea of an intimate wedding in October. Since there’s nothing quite like autumn in New England, they perfectly chose a newly-restored, historic inn to host their event. But four weeks before their date—and right after invitations were mailed out—the venue had to cancel. This didn’t deter the couple, and they went ahead with a backyard, garden reception at Christie’s parents’ home in New Canaan.

Thankfully, their families’ dear friend, Raffaele Gallo, came to the rescue and agreed to provide catering and rentals at a moment’s notice. The bride adds, “He knew us so well that we didn’t even need to do a tasting—plus there was no time.” And Bobby’s friend, Drew Cole from The Voice, put together a band and was able to perform live. “Seemingly taking after his famous artist grandfather, Bobby developed a skill for water coloring during quarantine, so he quickly went to work creating all of the custom watercolor artwork for our day-of stationary,” Christie adds. “We ended up framing the original watercolor of my parents’ home for my parents as a post-wedding gift.”

As the bride only had 12 weeks to plan her wedding, she quickly realized that she needed to get her dress within a week of her first appointment to ensure it would be ready in time. At her first appointment at Monique Lhuillier with her mother, Christie was able to custom-design a dress with a pre-existing embroidered tulle on her ideal silhouette. 10 days before saying, “I do,” she finally got to try on her dress and veil, and thankfully, it all fit like a dream.

To pair with her dress, Christie chose Sergio Rossi heels for the ceremony and reception and then changed into more comfortable Bella Belle block heels for the last hour of dancing. And on the morning of the wedding, she got ready with Nicole Santangelo and Cindy Valloni and Bobby surprised her with pearl, sapphire, and diamond earrings, and her parents’ gifted her a Mikimoto pearl bracelet. “For my 18th birthday they gave me a pearl necklace that they had made when they were in China in 2001 bringing my baby sister home, and on the morning of the wedding, they surprised me with the bracelet to complete the sentimental set,” Christie explains.

To complement the bride, bridesmaids got ready in Poplin pajama sets with their initials or name embroidered on the collars and later changed into Shona Joy silk champagne dresses. Christie’s mother looked beautiful in a Monique Lhuillier custom gown. The bride says, “I fell in love with fashion with her, and it only felt right that we both wore the same house’s designs on such a special day.”

The groom chose a Ralph Lauren Purple Label black shawl lapel tuxedo with white suspenders and a black cummerbund. Bobby’s Ralph Lauren Purple Label black Alonzo velvet slippers were his favorite part of the look. “He got just as many complements on his shoes as I did on my dress!” Christie exclaims.

On October 17, 2020, everyone gathered at St. Thomas Moore parish in Darien, Connecticut. Father Paul Murphy, who has known the couple since they were kids and also married Bobby’s sister and her husband, led the intimate ceremony. “When Christie walked through the doors and I saw her for the first time, reality set in, and I couldn’t control my emotions,” Bobby remembers. “It was a feeling that I hadn’t experienced before.”

Once announced as husband and wife, the newlyweds hopped into her parents’ ’90s white BMW convertible to take photos at Waveny House and then finally made their way to the reception at Christie’s family’s home. When the couple walked into the back garden, guests gleefully threw petals to welcome the new Mr. and Mrs.

From the cocktail hour, the evening transitioned under the tent for dinner, speeches, and dancing. People found their seats via champagne-colored leaf ornaments with their names and table assignments. “We are so thrilled to hear that so many of our guests kept the ornaments for their Christmas trees,” Christie shares. And tables were beautifully decorated with florals and rentals from KD&J Botanica, Borrowed, and All Season Party Rentals.

After cutting the cake by The Cake Box, the dance floor then lit up with the band and Drew. The two had their first dance to “Your are the Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne, and Bobby spontaneously threw his bride up in the air. “We later found out that our neighbors loved the music so much that they cancelled their dinner plans to stay in and enjoy the music from their home,” Christie reveals.

Looking back at everything, the couple wouldn’t have changed anything about their fall, New England, backyard garden wedding. “We’re so glad we didn’t wait to get married and that we were able to start our married lives together in our new home in Connecticut with our puppy, Tuckers,” the bride says. “Plus now, we’ll have unbelievable stories to tell our future kids one day!”