For Los Angeles couple Ashley Aitken and Bobby Rice, the decision to have a destination wedding was sealed the moment they considered the stunning 228 year-old Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. Ashley and Bobby could have easily had a wedding with over 500 people in Los Angeles. But, as Ashley explains, “We wanted something really special and intimate for our guests. The Greenbrier’s history and timeless design by Dorothy Draper drew us there. Bobby’s family also has a lot of history of spending time there.”
The couple met when a mutual friend brought Bobby to Ashley’s birthday party. While it wasn’t the typical birthday present, the introduction proved to be the best gift Ashley had ever received. Their romance blossomed and Bobby proposed during a romantic weekend getaway to Santa Barbara.
Ashley and Bobby knew they would enjoy being engaged so they purposely set the wedding date for a little over a year from the time of the proposal. The timeframe also provided them with ample opportunity to create the wedding of their dreams.
The celebration began with a casual rehearsal dinner held in a creek-side log cabin on the grounds of The Greenbrier resort. Guests dined on traditional southern fare including pulled pork, fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, and spoon bread. The evening ended with gourmet s’mores by the huge outdoor fireplace.
The next day’s proceedings took place in the courtyard of the resort, which provided enough drama to replicate a scene straight out of “Gone With The Wind.” During the cocktail hour immediately following the ceremony, a four-piece jazz band entertained the guests while they enjoyed caviar, canapés, and champagne.
The hotel’s grand Cameo ballroom served as the venue for the reception. With its tall ceilings and walls painted a striking red, the ballroom created a fitting level of drama and elegance for the affair. Taking advantage of the great space in the room, the centerpieces were comprised of antique gold candelabra resting on a base surrounded by roses, peonies, tulips, and hydrangea in various shades of pink, white, and champagne. Rose petals and tea lights also dotted the tables.
The couple took a different approach in creating their guest book. Sitting on a table with framed childhood photos of the bride and groom were two large vases with brown ribbons tied to the base. Guests wrote messages to the bride and groom on pink cards stamped with brown flowers and placed them in one of the two vases. The cards were later transferred to a fabric book that now sits on a shelf in the newlyweds’ home.
Shortly before Ashley and Bobby were introduced as they entered the grand ballroom, the couple shared a quiet moment together in the North Parlor. “It was so nice to have a minute or two with him alone,” recalls Ashley. “We had some champagne, I stressed about how to dance in such a huge dress, and we waited to be called into the ballroom. It was great.”
To encourage guests to mingle and enjoy their surroundings, food stations were set up in various locations in the ballroom. Throughout the night, the 135 guests moved from station to station enjoying such delectables as caviar, whole roast tenderloin of beef, rack of lamb, risotto, oysters, mussels, and king crab legs. The interactive arrangement helped create the perfect balance of feasting and dancing to the twelve-piece big band, which kept guests moving all evening long.
After spotting the perfect cake design in a magazine, Ashley knew she had to have it. After several trial runs and some serious taste testing, The Greenbrier’s pastry chef perfected the five-layer white fondant cake. Resting on an ornate, silver base, the impressive confection, which was finished with intricate sugar bows, was almost too lovely to eat.
At the end of the night, guests were asked to move outside and stand beneath a nearby terrace. After tossing her bouquet down to the crowd, Ashley joined Bobby and the two walked down the arched staircase for the first time as husband and wife. They passed through an aisle of family and friends, who tossed fresh lavender and rang small silver bells tied with pink and brown ribbon. Then the happy couple hopped into an awaiting car to begin their married life together in style.