Field of Dreams: A Garden Wedding In Napa
Planning their wedding together, Natalie and Michael knew instinctively that the peaceful setting at Beaulieu Garden in Napa Valley would be ideal for a family gathering. The bride, who admits to a fondness for things that are “simple, yet elegant” recounts the personal significance of Wine Country saying, “Michael had taken me to Napa on a trip for the first time after my first year of law school. We fell in love with it right away. We knew at that very point that it would likely be the venue for our future wedding.” They were just as decisive when it came to making a final selection for the reception. Friend and wedding consultant, Jocelyn Arelt, took them to Beaulieu Garden, which perfectly suited the outdoors-loving couple. Natalie laughs, “We walked the property and canceled all of our other appointments. The venue was beyond perfect and an exact representation of us as a couple."
"On September 13, 2008, I married my best friend, my life and my love,” says the exuberant groom. As sun streamed in through the tall windows of St. Helena Catholic Church, Natalie and Michael pledged their eternal love in the warm presence of family and friends. Having known Michael since the age of six, Father Rodney McNamara presided over the Christian ceremony, making it even more personal for both families who attend his parish in West Hills, California. Natalie's effortless beauty was even more radiant in a stunning gown by Vera Wang, with her bridesmaids in pale champagne silk dresses by Coren Moore. Michael and his groomsmen were in good company wearing tailored Prada suits and Tom Ford ties. Amid a shower of rose petals and laughter, the elated newlyweds were whisked away from the church in vintage style and spent their first private moments together as a husband and wife before heading to the reception.
Celebrants gathered for a grand dinner party in the Beaulieu arbor, surrounded by rustic vineyards and manicured gardens. Natalie still gets misty-eyed when thinking about the celebration, saying, "Our wedding felt like a dream. I felt like I was awake and present in a real dream." Tables were dressed in the laidback luxe of a beautiful French garden party with loosely arranged rose centerpieces in shades of pink, orange and peach with pale green linens. The bride's preference for unpretentious elegance dictated that the flowers "feel like they had been picked out of the gardens of Beaulieu." Placed in beautiful distressed urns, the roses did, indeed, look like they had just been plucked nearby. Natalie's bridal bouquet was just as lush and beautiful, a dome of creamy garden roses in full bloom.
Dinner was served on impressive family-style platters prepared by Paula le Duc, and guests dined on delicate Chilean sea bass accompanied by the couple's favorite local wine, Peju. Encouraged to linger after dinner, guests sipped the newlywed's signature cocktail, Limoncello, and enjoyed the beautiful fondant-covered cake designed by Perfect Endings in keeping with the French garden motif. Close-knit family members took opportunities to toast the bride and groom with humorous anecdotes and treasured memories. Dancing, laughing and sharing in the joy, the entire wedding party was totally abandoned to the long-awaited moment.
With immense pride and the slightest catch in his voice, the groom's father, Jim Hale, raised his glass to announce, “Natalie and Michael just may be the perfect couple!” Loving smiles and teary eyes all round, family and friends toasted the newlyweds in heartfelt agreement. Emotions swept through the joyful evening for the two families, who had been connected for nearly a decade by young love. Mr. Hale and his wife recall fond memories (that didn’t seem so long ago) in which they were carpooling with the Alonsos to various high school dances and events. Natalie Alonso and Michael Hale had grown up together, rare and consummate high school sweethearts who both felt certain they were destined to be together. Michael says adoringly, “I knew the day I met her that she would be the one I would marry. We both knew that every day of our relationship was building up to the day we’d eventually get married.” Their wedding day was truly the culmination of an extraordinary, perhaps nearly perfect, relationship.
Photos by Meg Smith
Venue: Beaulieu Garden
Cake by Perfect Endings