Start Slideshow View Grid Start Slideshow 44

A Secret Garden Ceremony at This Backyard Wedding in North Carolina

By Shayna Seid | Photography by 

Josh Deaton

Virginia Goode and Robert Benjamin Ourisman met when she was representing her sorority at Rollins College in a charity date auction—that was their first date! Eight years of dating later, and Robert proposed while on a trip back to their university. “We stayed at the The Alfond Inn, and Robert proposed on the rooftop pool overlooking the campus. Re-visiting Rollins brought back fun memories, and it was very special to come full circle with our relationship,” says Virginia.

To host their ceremony and reception, they chose the bride’s lake-front home on Lake Norman in North Carolina, where she grew up. “My parents built the house 26 years ago, and my mom has had all those years to build enchanting gardens,” the bride explains. Her mother’s circular stone garden features David Austin roses, heirloom tomatoes, peonies, herbs, and perennials, and to honor Robert’s preference for blue, she planed lots of blue salvia and Russian sage that added spectacular color.

To help plan their spring wedding, they hired Elizabeth Webb from Hall & Webb Event Design. And she was definitely put to the test when heavy rain and lightening pelted the dinner tent, as the caterers from Porcupine Provisions were setting up. Like a hero from above, Elizabeth and the caterer, Leslie Schlernitzauer, brought in a vacuum truck to dry out the tent and forged ahead, as it stopped raining. 

Thankfully, the bride wasn’t as challenged when shopping for her dress. After browsing in Paris, New York, and North Carolina, she landed on a Mira Zwillinger gown at Saks Fifth Avenue. “The original dress was strapless, and I worked with the designer to add small organza straps to match the belt. I chose the leaf appliqués to adorn the bodice, as they gave the dress a different look than the usual flower appliqués,” Virginia explains. To finish her look, she wore satin Prada block heels and borrowed her mother’s simple drop earrings. 

The groom wore a midnight blue custom tuxedo with black lapels from Michael Thomas Clothiers in D.C. And Virginia’s bridesmaids chose varying styles of a cornflower blue Fame and Partners dress. Their star attendant, their puppy, Vesper, wore a braided white collar.

Under a tented space in the circular hidden garden, bordered by oak trees, oak leaf hydrangeas, boxwood, ferns, and hellebores, the ceremony began and was officiated by a long-time family friend and minister, Dr. Jody Seymour, while Carolina Strings provided lively chamber music. 

Once the two had their first kiss, guests fanned out from the ceremony tent to enjoy cocktails—thankful that the rain had subsided. Guests were then invited into the lake-side white sailcloth dinner tent in the back lawn. The long elegant tables adorned with white tablecloths and family silver pieces filled the space, as did the masses of white hydrangeas, roses, hellebores, and perennials accented with lamb’s ear, blue thistle, and succulents. Everyone dined on a delicious, locally sourced meal that closed with a simple vanilla cake with buttery icing by Maxie B’s, that everyone said was the best they’ve ever eaten.

After dinner, Life of the Party Band kicked things off and didn’t let up for the rest of the evening. For their first dance, their two-year-old niece jumped in to join the couple to “You Are the Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne. At 11 p.m., a spectacular display of fireworks took to the night sky over the lake, announcing to neighbors that something special was going down at the Goode home.

The reception ended with late night bites of fried chicken sandwiches and pigs in a blanket, and the newlyweds made their getaway. Guests headed back to Charlotte and continued to party on the roof of the Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel. Their super energetic friends greeted the couple back at their honeymoon suite at The Ritz-Carlton and stayed until the very early hours.