The saying goes go big or go home. But when Raul Smith proposed to Dara Rice, he went big and went home, popping the question — along with some champagne — in the couple's shared apartment. To make the evening even more memorable, the groom-to-be filled the space with pink rose petals and treated Dara to a delicious home-cooked dinner before asking her to be his wife.
So it was only fitting that this couple went big for their day, too! Idyllic Savannah, Georgia, where they couple once escaped for a romantic getaway, was their number one pick for their wedding, with the Southern town's moss-covered trees, cobblestone streets, and stunning old homes as the main draws. They decided on vows in Forsyth Park followed by a reception at the Mansion at Forsyth Park, meaning they could treat their friends and family to breathtaking scenery and plenty of Southern hospitality. With the help of Posh Petals & Pearls, the couple created a destination wedding that melded Savannah style with both Dara and Raul's family backgrounds, and Hopkins Studios was there to document the day.
Dara admits that she tried on hundreds of wedding dresses before she slipped on the Kelly Faetanini style she wore on the big day. "For me, it was one of the more stressful parts of wedding planning," she says. "Everything was nice, but I didn't really have that a ha moment that everyone talks about. Even when I found my dress, I wasn't totally convinced until my last fitting when it was finished and altered to fit my body."
Then, it was clear to Dara she'd made the right choice in selecting the beautiful silk organza fit-to-flare wedding dress, complete with with a raw-edged layered bodice. "I could tell instantly that there was not another dress I was going to buy that would look better on me," she says.
The couple's bridesmaids wore a variety of different floor-length chiffon gowns in a gray-purple hue. "My bridesmaids all had very different body types so I wanted them to be able to pick out the dresses that suit them best, while still complementing the color palette," Dara says. "And I chose that color because I wanted something neutral that would not wash out their skin like a nude or a taupe."
The bride carried a hand-tied bouquet of peonies, garden roses, ranunculus, and lisianthus in shades of champagne, cream, and peach and finished with with touches of succulents, sprigs of jasmine vines, and maiden hair fern.
Raul and the groomsmen all wore matching tuxedos, but personalized their looks with different cufflinks — gifts from the couple that were engraved with a unique design.
Once the couple decided to host their wedding in Savannah, Dara and Raul knew they wanted to exchange vows outdoors. Forsyth Park offered gorgeous grounds that would be perfect for the ceremony and the property's towering fountain ended up being their favorite spot. Although the backdrop was already as pretty as could be, the couple added a chuppah that was anchored with ferns and covered in ivory and peach blooms. "I grew up in a reform Jewish family so it was important to me to have a traditional Jewish wedding, including a chuppah and hora dance," Dara says.
Before the bride walked the petal-strewn aisle, the couple's flower girl toddled down the pavement. "She was 15-months-old at the wedding and we were really nervous she wouldn't make it down the aisle," Dara says "Her father brought a monkey to hold at the chuppah to entice her to walk. She was so excited to see her dad and the monkey that she marched right down the aisle."
After the bride and groom exchanged traditional vows, they recessed to "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles.
The couple hosted a cocktail hour beneath a white tent in the park's courtyard. Guests could order the bride and groom's two signature cocktails (a peach Bellini Mrs. Smitty or a Southern bourbon Mr. Smitty) at an ivy-covered double bar, complete with D and R marquee letters. Cocktail tables were covered in petal-like linens and a lounge area was created using vintage-inspired furniture, a perfect space for guests to relax before they hit the dance floor. "We placed moss-covered books on every coffee table and bar in the courtyard, along with topiary balls and Georgia peaches," Dara says.
The couple's reception was held inside Forsyth Mansion, which is located conveniently across the park. "I loved the ballroom because it was so beautiful, glamorous, and unique," Dara says. "It was different from every other ballroom I've seen." Even so, the bride wanted to make the space feel even more unique to her and Raul, so each table was decorated to have it's own look and feel. The pair also added a mix of different tables, décor, and even chose three kinds of chairs.
Farm tables were topped with moss runners and low floral arrangements, while round tables were decorated with stone contour linens and towering floral arrangements and curly willow branches. Dara and Raul sat at a sweetheart table marked with "his" and "hers" chair signs.
The couple's four-tier wedding cake was frosted in vanilla buttercream and included layers of yellow cake with dark chocolate ganache and pecan praline caje with a salted caramel icing.
Music was also important to Dara and Raul, who wanted to give a nod to their respective Jewish and Cuban cultures on the dance floor. "After dinner and some more old fashioned music, we curated the playlist to reflect our heritages and interests," Dara says. "We kicked off the party with the hora for my family, 30 minutes of Latin music for Raul's, an hour of hip hop, an electronic dance party, and a finale with Frank Sinatra's 'New York, New York.'"
Looking back on their fantastic day, Dara says she's glad they didn't take too much on. "Don't be a hero," she tells future couples. "DIY is great, but at a certain point, you need to delegate. There's just too much on your plate to give 100 percent to every single detail."
Ceremony & Reception Venue: Forsyth Park || Wedding Planner: Posh Petals & Pearls || Bride's Wedding Dress: Kelly Faetanini || Veil & Jewelry: J. Del Olmo || Shoes: Toms || Hair: Salon Aqua || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Jenny Yoo || Groom's, Groomsmen's & Ring Bearer Attire: Men's Wearhouse || Flower Girl Attire: US Angels || Florist: Harvey Designs || Invitations: Dani & Olive || Music: New Arts Ensembles; All About You Entertainment || Cake: Lowcountry Confections || Rentals: Beachview Event Rentals || Videographer: Caleb Suttles || Photographer: Hopkins Studios
Can't get enough of this couple's pretty backdrop? Then check out another Georgia celebration in the video below.