Laurann Claridge Zeitz. Photography David Bates and Jenny Antill.
- June 19, 2012
I found my own princely sort, née William Andrew Zeitz of New England, in the most unlikely of places — at a lingerie trade show in New York. We were there on business with Claridge + King when my sister, Lizbeth King, couldn’t help but notice “that handsome guy who’s walked by our booth about 10 times.” I, too, had spotted the stylish, shy man, there to lend a hand to friends launching a line.
As fate would have it, we met, became fast friends and soon were having our first date. (I was very impressed that he’d drive six hours from Yarmouth, Maine, just to take me to dinner on my next trip to NYC two weeks later!) Needless to say, that was the start of a fast fall that felt destined to be. By the third date, we knew it was love and began what would be nearly a year-long courtship, winging back and forth from Portland, Maine, to Houston every two weeks or meeting somewhere exciting in between until William popped the question late last May at his favorite Houston spot: The Menil Collection’s former Byzantine Chapel.
When talk turned to wedding plans, we aimed for an early spring affair in Houston — on Saturday, March 24, 2012, to be exact — and desired something intimate with our family, closest of friends and exquisite food, flowers and a setting beyond compare. Given our affection for the Menil, we chose to tie the knot at the Rothko Chapel, with William’s uncle — Father Craig Gavin, an Episcopal minister — marrying us. And with a mutual obsession for every shade of gray, we incorporated the sophisticated hue wherever apropos, from our attendants’ dove-colored dresses and charcoal suiting to the steely-gray ink atop our engraved invitations and envelopes.
We nixed any thought of a band, DJ and dancing at the reception, all of which might compete with lively dinner conversation. Instead, we treated our nearly 60 guests (two-thirds of whom traveled to the event from out-of-town) to a splendid early-evening alfresco cocktail party, followed by a scrumptious seated four-course dinner in the private room of RDG + Bar Annie. Each eight-top table was dressed in
Swift + Company’s white Italian hemstitched linens. The room positively burst with towering cherry blossom branches and small white spring flowers arranged in mint julep cups beneath, all artfully articulated by the incomparable David Brown.
Read on for more details about how it all evolved and the talented souls who made this beautiful day come together seamlessly.
I’ve long been obsessed by the work of floral designer David Brown and the team at his chic, eponymous Uptown Park boutique. The moment he glimpsed my wedding dress and suggested I carry nothing but elegant miniature white calla lilies, I knew that this man got it! With an unerring eye, he helped me gauge the season, scouring flower markets across the globe to find what would bloom precisely the fourth weekend in March. William wore a boutonnière to match my bouquet, while the girls carried demure posies of intoxicatingly fragrant ice-pink hyacinth mixed with ruffle-edge tulips. David also coordinated a scaled-down lapel version in shades of white for the best men, ring bearer and my father. He painstakingly realized my vision of walking into an indoor garden setting with white cherry blossoms arranged in slim, clear glass cylinders above white linen clothed tables. Seven to ten days before the event, he coaxed the branches to bloom by taking them outside each afternoon to drink in the sunlight, then cooling them back down in the walk-in refrigerator for a long night’s rest. Drawing the focus upwards to the flowering branches looming overhead made the view to dinner companions across the table unencumbered, but David wisely suggested we arrange a trio of small white bouquets of tulips, ranunculus and hyacinths — three of my favorite flowers — in mint julep cups to captivate diners at eye level as well. Best yet, as a sweet surprise, we encouraged our guests to take those small bouquets home to enjoy. Gorgeous!
Robert and Mimi Del Grande, the co-owners of RDG + Bar Annie, and I go way back. I’ve always been in awe of how Robert’s science-oriented mind works to craft sophisticated, yet utterly thoughtful dishes that are lauded in circles near and far. Recalling Robert’s detailed approach to composing a menu, as well as the warm feeling that comes over us every time we dine chez RDG + Bar Annie, our first call was to Denisse, their events manager, to reserve the private room. Aiming to treat our guests not only to a swoon-worthy meal but to a relaxed, fun celebration, Robert suggested we host a cocktail hour on the patio, passing lobster rolls and Casco Bay Fizz drinks (both a wink to Maine, the latter a vodka, cranberry and basil concoction named for a bay there) and barbecue Texas crab and margaritas in homage to Houston. As the dinner hour descended, our guests started with a “wow” first course: seared ahi tuna sashimi dotted with fresh mango and pink grapefruit atop a Napa cabbage slaw tossed in a bright ginger vinaigrette. What a way to start! Fond of butter lettuce, I asked Robert to create a salad around that delicate, flavorful leaf. The result was studded with avocado, teardrop tomatoes, jicama, radish and crumbled queso fresco with a creamy buttermilk-herb dressing. The main course was inspired by William’s favorite dish: lamb. As I love mint and jalapeño jellies, Robert melded both flavors in a light sauce atop wood-grilled lamb chops, cooked to utter perfection and accompanied with a potato cake flecked with asparagus. Wines — red, white and sparkling — hailed from France and Italy, and complemented the four-course feast (cake would complete it) flawlessly. The fabulous meal had our guests chattering for weeks.
We entrusted paper couturier PH Design Shop to fashion everything from our save-the-date cards to the engraved wedding invitations. Co-owner Amanda Valentine, my frequent collaborator, was inspired from the start. For the save-the-date cards, I was channeling a light, Rothko-like art moment (apropos for the venue) when she coaxed me to paint a watercolor, taking note of the abstract colorist’s brighter canvases. She scanned it and, with the restraint of the artist himself, laid out our brief copy atop it to create a postcard, printed on sheets of cold-press watercolor paper. The fonts on our invite were similarly rendered in shades of charcoal-gray ink (I prefer it to the coldness of black). Referencing oversized correspondence cards, Amanda suggested we engrave our wedding-paper suite with a mixture of Neutra and shaded steel-plate gothic lettering, then double-back each invitation to create a stiff, thick card literally double its former weight. Choosing a complementary charcoal hue, she had each of the four sides bevel-cut; the wide beveled border was then carefully hand-painted. For the finishing touch, we tissue-lined each white envelope with a pewter-gray shade. The stamps were a Maine-inspired Edward Hopper seascape, care of the U.S. Postal Service. Finally, I asked PH’s Chris Charles to design the menus placed at every plate with the same font style and colors as the invitation. The result: exquisite papers we’ll covet for a lifetime.
THE WEDDING CAKE
I’d like to think I know a thing or two about cake; after all, in my former life, I went to culinary school in Paris and devoted a good deal of time to crafting pastry. But I was positively gobsmacked the moment I tasted the array of cakes baked by the talented Susie Edwards, owner of Susie’s Cakes & Confections. Moist, yet rich with a dense, luscious crumb, coated with a creamy buttercream that was perfectly sweetened … William and I collectively swooned at the very first bite. The hardest decision was choosing the flavors for our three-tiered cake. The subtle nuances of vanilla, almond and cocoa were intoxicating, but in the end we chose the classic combo of almond and chocolate cakes with fillings of vanilla-bean buttercream and bittersweet chocolate ganache beneath a matte smooth covering of rolled fondant. Decorating with exquisitely detailed sugar-paste dogwood blossoms, each painstakingly made by hand, Susie carried out our spring theme flawlessly, with edible branches cascading down each beautiful graduated tier. Nearly every single guest asked for seconds (even thirds — good thing we planned for that), and we’re still hearing raves about “that amazing cake.”
WHAT WE WORE
Laurann: I chose a deceptively simple Romona Keveza strapless silk-satin gown in a pearl hue with a cathedral-length veil and blusher by Vera Wang, both from Joan Pillow Bridal Salon. There was not a single pearl, piece of lace, tulle, crystal or extraneous stitch anywhere on this slim sheath or its small train. Keveza, like an architect, constructs her pieces so they drape elegantly about your frame, so I didn’t wear many jewels — save for Elsa Peretti’s pearl drop earrings and my engagement and wedding rings.
William: A friend of Thom Browne (and loyal customer since Browne started the line from his Park Avenue apartment), William wore a custom charcoal wool Thom Browne suit with a Black Fleece double-breasted waistcoat (also by TB for Brooks Brothers), Charvet white shirt, Ralph Lauren charcoal tie and Cartier cuff links.
Wedding Party: Forgoing the ritual of obligating my best girlfriends to purchase dresses they’ll never wear again … we obligated our family instead! We asked William’s boys, Peter (18) and Gavin Zeitz (21) to stand up as his best men in charcoal J.Crew suits. My sister (and matron of honor) Lizbeth’s two daughters, Avery (13) and Taylor (11), served as flower girls and her son, William (8), as the ring bearer; all three wore dove-gray, rendered in dresses and a suit by Crewcuts.
The engagement ring we chose — a custom diamond eternity band set with emerald-cut stones — was stunning, yet admittedly a wonderfully untraditional choice. Searching long and hard for a complement to it, we selected Cartier’s iconic Trinity Ring, which is created with the latter adorned with a pavé of diamonds. William’s choice: Tiffany’s elegant Lucida platinum 6-mm-wide band. Each ring was hand-engraved, too, with a message from our intended.
Photos: Bates Photographic Studio. I appreciate that David Bates captured so many wonderful moments before and during the celebration — never unnaturally staging them, but snapping shots quickly and discreetly. Ceremony: The Rothko Chapel at The Menil Collection. Favors: Iced sugar cookies shaped as three-tiered white wedding cakes, handmade by Michael’s Cookie Jar. Bridal makeup: Corinne Williams, owner of Façade. Airbrush tan: St. Tropez by Darcie Teasley at Trellis, The Spa at The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa. Hair: Color and cut by Dan Donnelly, Kharisma Hair Salon; Styling Trey Gillen, Tre Spa. Headquarters for out-of-towners and the Sunday breakfast: Hotel Derek and Valentino Vin Bar. Transportation: Karr Limousine. (We also hired a small bus to shuttle our guests between Hotel Derek, the Rothko Chapel and RDG + Bar Annie. Best idea ever.) Chapel Music: Classical string duo from Divisi Strings. Linen Rental: Swift + Company. We splurged on snow-white Italian linen tablecloths and hemstitched dinner and cocktail linen napkins from Elizabeth Swift Copeland’s trove of 100 percent pure linen cloths. They looked smashing beneath David Brown’s glorious spring flowers. Calligraphy: Invites and place cards by Calligraphy by Patricia. (In charcoal gray, natch.) Honeymoon: A photo safari in Botswana, Africa, arranged by &Beyond.
Laurann readied for the big day at home. Photo by David Bates.
The bride’s calla lily bouquet by David Brown. Photo by Jenny Antill.
The groom, William Zeitz, dressed at the Hotel Derek. Photo by David Bates.
Father of the bride, Michael G. Licopantis with sister/matron of honor, Lizbeth King, en route to the Rothko Chapel. Photo by David Bates.
The wedding cake, created by Susie Edwards of Susie’s Cakes & Confections. Photo by Jenny Antill. Photo by David Bates.
The bride’s pristine wedding ensemble. Photo by David Bates.
Cartier’s Trinity ring with pavé diamonds. Photo by David Bates.
Amanda Valentine created the modern charcoal-and-white engraved double-back invitations. Photo by Jenny Antill.
Nephew William King served as the ring bearer. Photo by Jenny Antill.
Seating cards arranged outside RDG’s private dining room. Photo by David Bates.
The happy couple exiting the Rothko Chapel. Photo by David Bates.
The bride’s nieces and flower girls, Taylor and Avery King, in Crewcuts. Photo by David Bates.
RDG’s dinner menu design by PH Design Shop. Photo by David Bates.
Gleaming mint julep cups filled with white spring flowers stand beneath flowering cherry blossoms, all by David Brown. Photo by David Bates.
A peek inside the tables dressed for dinner at RDG. Photo by David Bates.
Father Craig Gavin, William’s uncle, inspects the marriage certificate. Photo by Jenny Antill.
Laurann and William head to the reception at RDG/Bar Annie. Photo by David Bates.