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A Fairytale Wedding in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom

By Alexandra Macon | Photography by 

Paul Reynolds

“Matthew and I had a total meet cute,” says Emma Pegues. “We ran into each other at the elevators on move-in day our freshman year at Tulane University. I remember being so embarrassed after the fact because I actually stuck out my hand to shake his. You know, you go through the college interview process and all you hear is how important a firm handshake is. I could have died, but I guess he was into it! Even though we were only 18, something shifted for us both in that moment, I think.”

The two didn’t begin dating until after graduation though—and then they were together on and off for six years. “I was a real wild child,” admits Emma. “I was never ready, but Matthew was so patient and persistent. Our best man really said it best during his beautiful toast at our rehearsal dinner: ‘With Matthew and Emma, it’s never been a question of if, but when.’”

In true Louisiana fashion, Matthew proposed at a crawfish boil at Emma’s parents’ home in Uptown New Orleans. “I was so sure he was going to do it Easter weekend,” says Emma. “But when that came and went, I was totally in the dark. One minute I’m elbow deep in crawfish, and the next he’s down on one knee in front of everyone! I screamed and dropped my drink. At the time, the only think I could think to do was also get down on my knees—so all of the photos are of us both kneeling amidst the corn and potatoes, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

Soon after becoming engaged, the two decided to get married at Emma’s parents’ vacation home in Vermont. “For me, escaping to the Northeast Kingdom for our wedding was a natural fit,” she says. “We love New Orleans, but Vermont is our happy place. My parents were married there, and our guests actually stayed at the same little inn where they had their reception 38 years ago. There’s a peace you feel when you are up there, a knowing that takes over and calms you—my parents felt it then, and we feel it now. The green of the fields, the quiet of the mountains, the still water on the lake—we wanted to start our journey as husband and wife in a place that spoke to us. Down in New Orleans, the personalities are big and the parties are bigger. Having the wedding at my parents’ house in Vermont, in the same tiny town where I spent so many happy summers growing up, was the perfect way to keep things intimate. As for the aesthetic, we let nature take the lead. When you look around and realize how beautiful the countryside is, all you need is a few hand-picked wildflowers and a tent to feel completely transported.”

Once the location had been decided upon, Emma dove headfirst into the planning process. “I’m the first of three girls in our family, and we grew up with a very ‘if you want something, you have to make it happen’ attitude—so I honestly didn’t even consider a wedding planner,” she says. “My mother was a godsend though. There’s no way I would have been able to stay sane during the whole process without her. It was stressful at times, but it was special for us to be able to handle every detail of our big day.”

The weekend kicked off with an outdoor dinner on Emma’s parents’ property. “We set out lawn games like croquet and badminton and made custom cocktails for the guests,” she says. “We wanted it to be just one of those wonderful, long summer nights. Our friends make this incredible Alabama peach barbecue sauce, and they brought it with them all the way up, which made for the perfect touch of the South.” The father of the bride gave his toast during dinner. “I don’t think there was one dry eye in sight—no one could speak when he was finished,” says Emma. “It was dead silent until my cousin blew her nose so loudly, which was hilarious and got things going again.”

Initially, Emma thought she wanted a more traditional, princess-style gown for the ceremony the next day. “Everything I pinned was along those lines—full skirt, strapless—and they were all gorgeous, but none of them spoke to the simple elegance of our venue,” she says. She went to so many bridal shop appointments she could barely keep them straight, even flying out to L.A. at one point. “Then one Saturday, my mom and I walked into a store in New Orleans without an appointment, and we both knew the minute I tried it on. I never thought I would end up in a simple, long sleeve gown—but it was perfect for the day and a nice reflection of my mother’s dress.” Emma had custom alterations made to the Hayley Paige dress that made it unique to her. She also wore a little gold and pearl pin on the very front of the dress. “It’s my mothers, and she wore it on her wedding day,” says Emma. “She originally gave it to me to wear on my slip, but it was the missing piece on the dress that made it perfect and brought it all together.”

The bride wanted her hair to be low maintenance. After her initial stylist backed out a week before the wedding, her makeup artist Elizabeth England stepped in and called a friend, Jessica Murphy. “I braided it the night before,” says Emma. “And then, Jessica added a few more curls and baby’s breath. I felt very natural and like myself—less of a transformation and more of a ‘letting your inner light shine’ moment.’” In order to stay comfortable on the dance floor, Emma decided to wear Jack Rogers sandals. “Obviously!” she jokes.

The chairs were set up facing the lake for the ceremony in the middle of a field down a ways from Emma’s parents’ house. A path was cut in the grass from the barn that acted as an aisle. A local musician’s trio played a version of “Storybook Love” from The Princess Bride as Emma and her father walked down the aisle. The bride’s cousin performed the ceremony. “He’s really the brother I never had,” says Emma. “He did a wonderful job. He was sentimental and reverent, with just the right amount of humor I remember once attending a wedding where the rabbi got some details of the couple wrong, and I was heartbroken for them. It was important for me to have someone join us in matrimony who knew our story and loved us as individuals and as a couple.” Emma’s little cousin served as the flower girl—“instead of dropping them down the aisle, she saved all the petals for Matt and stole the show!”

The reception was held in between the barn and the house. Everything was local sourced, farm to table, and catered by SugarSnap. “If you’re making a bunch of New Orleanians trek up to Northern Vermont for a wedding, you know the food has to be good,” laughs Emma. “New Orleans weddings aren’t traditionally big sit down dinner affairs, so we held true to that and went heavy on the passed appetizers and then had a few stations.” The couple wanted the food to be a little fun, so in addition to the usual fare (seafood station, cured meats, and Vermont cheeses), they had a malt shop station with build-your-own sliders, fries, and mini milkshakes. They also had the caterers do maple flavored cotton candy as a late night snack. “I think by far the fan favorite of the night were the mini lobster rolls though,” says Emma. “If my mother hadn’t had the thought to hide a few for us inside the house, we would have lost our chance to try them for sure.”

For dessert, the couple had several different cakes. “Our baker, Lisa Curtis of Sweet Simone’s, was so patient and wonderful,” says Emma. “I’ve always loved Alice and Wonderland, and there were small nods woven into the weekend here and there, and the cakes were kind of the finishing touch. I wanted to incorporate the imagination and wonder of the story without being campy—and Lisa executed perfectly. Each of the four main cakes were a different flavor and decorated as minimalist nods to my favorite characters. We had the White Queen, the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, and the Looking Glass. Running through the display, we had two dozen ombre rose cupcakes to signify ‘Painting the roses red.’ Who doesn’t love cakes—especially when they’re so sweet and playful?”

The couple’s first dance song was really important to Matthew, so Emma let him take the lead. “He curated three different playlists, and we listed to them walking around the lake the morning of our rehearsal dinner—literally we each put one headphone in and just walked, describing how each one made us feel,” says Emma. “We settled on Miguel’s ‘Face the Sun’ featuring Lenny Kravitz. Definitely not traditional, but it really spoke to us. The music creates this surge of emotion in your soul when you hear it, and the refrain has this line, ‘Cause when it’s time to face the sun, I know that you’re the only one’ that rang so true for us.”

The couple contemplated having an after-party but ultimately passed. “We figured our friends could get into enough trouble on the lake without goading them on,” says Emma. “We escaped in an old town car and spent the first two nights as a married couple in Stowe, Vermont, perusing art galleries and enjoying vintage coffee shops and diners. I think I told everyone we passed on the street that we were just married!”