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This Couple’s Family Handpicked China From Our Shop for an Intimate Reception in Charlottesville

By Shayna Seid | Photography by 

Abby Jiu Photography

Now that it’s crystal clear that hosting a big wedding at this time is just not possible due to the spread of COVID-19, we’re sharing the experiences of real couples navigating the re-scheduling, cancellation, and civil and commemorative wedding processes in an attempt to help others make informed decisions and to spread our support to all during this time.

Natalie Serrano Pace and David Andrew Levine kicked off January 2020 in love and engaged. The couple dreamed of a big June 2021 wedding. Being responsible for West Elm’s design collaborations and having an eye for all things artistic, Natalie’s immediately thought of the Parrish Art Museum for their wedding.

But the weekend after they visited the museum in March, the country went into lockdown. “It was impossible to think about anything but what was happening to our city and country—let alone our wedding,” Natalie says. “We decided to wait on the planning for a few months.”

In June, the couple began planning an entirely different wedding than they originally envisioned. Instead of a grand wedding with all of their friends and family, they decided upon an intimate ceremony in Charlottesville, Virginia with their immediate family in October. And next year, they’ll throw a party for their loved ones at the museum. “For me, the decision was simple,” Natalie insists. “I was concerned that even come summer, my grandparents and great-uncle wouldn’t be able to attend our wedding. A big wedding just seemed like a huge risk I didn’t want to take.”

Natalie and her parents appointed themselves as the wedding planners for the micro-wedding. “It was a lot of fun!” Natalie confides. “It was great for us to have a distraction and to have something to look forward to.” But the detail-oriented bride admits that her parents saw the decisive West Elm marketing leader in action. “I was a bit bossy at times…Sorry, mom and dad!” Even though she’s planned West Elm events in the past, wedding planning is “a whole different ball game.” Natalie looks forward to working with planners Sarah and Taylor from Duke + Van Dusen for the 2021 celebration.

Natalie wore a Johanna Ortiz dress that she found on Moda Operandi. She not only loved the silhouette and simplicity of the gown, but she bought the dress on sale! Her navy Manolo’s were the perfect “something blue,” while her jewelry served as her “something borrowed.” The gold ankle bracelet was actually her grandmother’s, complete with her grandmother’s initials. And she also wore her grandmother’s pearl earrings, which were gifted to her by her great uncle on the morning-of. Natalie bought her wedding band from Tuel Jewelers, the same family-run shop her parents’ bands came from. Topping off the outfit, she borrowed her friend’s cathedral veil. For her make-up and hair, Natalie wanted a natural look. “I know everybody says this, but I wanted to look like myself.” Emily Tucker of Emily Artistry captured that blushing easiness with understated makeup and breezy loose waves. David wore a Ralph Lauren suit and shoes. His mother gifted him an Hermès tie.

The wedding was held on the front lawn of Clifton Inn, overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountain. The mountain vista view is one of Natalie’s favorite things about Charlottesville. “I couldn’t have imagined a more picture-perfect setting or gorgeous fall day,” she confesses. The couple asked Sheriff William Marshall to officiate the wedding. “He was wonderful and absolutely hilarious!” Natalie says. Even though she was nervous and her heels kept sinking, the ceremony was buoyant and filled with constant laughter.

The intimate party continued at the Great Lawn where everyone drank and mingled. Since the party was limited to the couple’s nearest and dearest, everybody had the chance to chat with each other. Cocktail hour turned into a seated dinner on the Croquet Lawn. The Clifton Inn catered the meal, while Albemarle Baking Company made the traditional Swedish cake.

The small round tables were set with different china patterns gifted to the couple by their guests. “Early in the wedding planning process, I had the idea to ask for china from our guests to use at our wedding dinner. I loved the idea of being able to keep our wedding china as a way of remembering the day,” Natalie says. The china patterns are from Land of Belle and Over The Moon. Natalie’s brother’s girlfriend designed the menus that topped each plate. The back of the menu featured Natalie’s grandmother’s illustration of the Clifton Inn gardens.

After dinner, everyone hit the dance floor, a.k.a. the grassy area just beyond the tables, and swayed to Natalie’s older brother’s Spotify playlist. Natalie reminisces about the micro-wedding, saying “it really was wonderful to have this joyous moment to celebrate and just have fun in the midst of a challenging year.”