From the Middle Ages to the Stars

Sunday Riley + Bruce Eames • July 20, 2013 • Ellington Field, Houston

Catherine D. Anspon. Photographer Philip Thomas Photography.  |  Photos by The bride descending the staircase at the Texas Flying Legends Hangar, The bride’s daughters, Thousands of handmade silk wisteria, Antique Victrolas played vintage vinyl., A princess castle, The groom’s P-51 Mustang rendered in cake, The Victory Belles, in from New Orleans, crooned Andrews Sisters tunes., A NASA jumbo jet stands by.
February 11, 2014

She’s a skincare entrepreneur with an eponymous beauty firm, and a working mom who’s enamored of the Middle Ages; he’s a renaissance gent/bachelor business titan who owns the 4411 Montrose Gallery Building — a man who’s passionate about air and space travel, with a collection of World War II planes and a ticket to the cosmos to prove it. Small wonder Sunday Riley and Bruce Eames’ wedding was not earthbound — nor limited to the 21st century.

The Ceremony: Ellington Field, in a lavish tented space that recreated a sylvan bower adjoining the groom’s private airplane hangar.

Reception: Texas Flying Legends Hangar, owned by the groom and home to his collection of planes that won World War II (removed for the evening to make room for 400 revelers).

Catering: Jackson and Company.

What they wore: Bride’s gown, Romona Keveza; the groom, Ermenegildo Zegna.

Divine Details

Friends and family: The bride recalls: “The production was entirely my team at Sunday Riley Modern Skincare and friends and family who helped volunteer. My assistant, Sierra Slaughter, lost 10 pounds from the anxiety of being lead wedding coordinator. I work with the best people: They literally dropped everything for weeks to put this wedding together with me. We had moms helping us, volunteers from the Art Institute. The sounds, starlight curtains and lighting were from Southern Sound and Lighting. The outdoor tent was by Houston Party Tent and Event. We had the rentals coming in from all over the country.”

Drama: Improbably, no florist was enlisted for the decor. The bride’s team selected live moss, tree branches, medieval-style lanterns and gossamer leaves to bedeck the reception tables, creating a rustic, enchanted feel. For the ceremony’s venue, thousands of blossoms of handcrafted silk wisteria were brought in from China. The mom of Riley’s assistant had a bouquet for the bride designed at the 11th hour, on the day of the wedding.

High notes: For the bridal march, Ingrid Michaelson’s version of “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” a reprise of the Elvis classic that Riley has loved since she was a little girl. After the vows, DJ Amelia Foxtrot spun vintage vinyl on Victrolas while the Victory Belles, an Andrews Sisters-type act, crooned during dinner. Both were odes to the WWII era of Eames’ restored fighter planes, which perform in air shows nationwide. Post-dinner, Molly & the Ringwalds moved the dial on the decades up to the 1980s.

Unexpected attire: The flower girls wore medieval costumes, tailored and embellished by the mother of the bride. But they weren’t the only ones who went Middle Ages. The evites requested guests don medieval dress, if so inspired.

About time: The bride reveals: “I really was enchanted with the idea of a love that lasts through many lifetimes, so we had a time-travel aspect to our theme. We started off in medieval fantasy: The wedding ceremony was supposed to have a magical, almost Game of Thrones / Lord of the Rings feel to it. We built stone archways and gates; the officiator was dressed in costume and read from a scroll … Honestly, it felt like we were creating a movie set.”

Twilight setting: Long rustic tables framed by cherry blossom trees from Green Set in California — a staple for the movie industry — set the stage for a sylvan feast. Riley even rang up the production manager from the Twilight movie wedding for ideas.

At the altar: Dr. David Eagleman, neuroscientist and writer at Baylor College of Medicine (and personal friend of the couple), officiated.

Four’s company: There were no dry eyes when the groom called the bride’s daughters, India and Phaedra, up to the altar during the ceremony to present them with their own rings, symbolizing this long-time bachelor’s newfound family.

If the crown fits: In lieu of a veil, the bride sported a custom-made ivy-pattered coronet inset with garnets, a stone associated with the heart.

NASA notes: Talk about a party prop. The big jet parked outside was owned by NASA and once transported the space shuttle Endeavor. 

Honeymoon: Well, that’s set in the future. The bride says, “We haven’t gone on one yet. That’s for my husband to plan.”

The big reveal: Riley’s secret: “My husband didn’t know anything about the wedding until the moment he showed up! His favorite book growing up was The Hobbit and I wanted to capture some of that fantasy in our wedding. And I’m a big sci-fi lover.”

Memorable menu: The seated repast’s high points were herb-crusted tenderloin of prime-aged beef, accompanied by risotto with morels and truffles. Besides the charming thematic cakes from Who Made the Cake!, root beer floats (the groom’s fave) were fashioned from St. Arnold’s root beer and Cloud 10 Creamery ice cream.

“We brought the wisteria in from China — but it got stuck in customs. We literally had only 24 hours to hang 9,000 pieces of wisteria from the ceiling … I went to bed at 3:30 am [at the hangar]. My wedding was literally that day, and there were construction people everywhere.”Sunday Riley