Byline: Aileen Mehle
The rains came. It poured. It downpoured. It monsooned. It fell in sheets and torrents. It ran in rivulets, soaking everything in sight, the famous boxwood gardens, the exquisite perennial gardens, the lovingly tended 400 foot allee of pear trees that took 20 years to reach their present perfection. It tried to flood the antique statue of the goddess Diana at the foot of gloriously laid-out patterns of flowers and shrubs. It hammered on lovely pavilions and rustic wooden benches and the two magnificent tents set up for the occasion. It curled around corners, and beat on the 500 white umbrellas supplied to protect 500 smartly dressed and expensively shod guests from raindrops as big as quarters and newly formed, unintended wading pools. It rained cats and dogs on the dogs that were specially invited. No cats. They were all undercover, probably terrified by the thunder and flashes of lightning that served as an obligato while the skies opened. But the truth of the matter is it was a heavenly day, a dream day, a fairy tale day and the perfect setting for a romantic noon wedding and luncheon reception that will be remembered for years to come for its beautiful simplicity and elegance and because of, oh yes, the charming weather.
The scene was Brook Hill Farm atop Skiff Mountain in Kent, Connecticut, the wonderful country house of Annette and Oscar de la Renta, where Eliza Reed — the stunning daughter of Annette de la Renta and Samuel Pryor Reed, and Oscar de la Renta’s stepdaughter — married handsome investment banker Alexander Lytton Bolen in a “woodland church,” in other words a beautiful tent, a bower of ferns and greenery set up just for the ceremony.
It takes remarkable organization to run this kind of extraordinary day. Hundreds of people were hired to help it all flow smoothly. Because of the heavy fog and mist, those guests who had chartered helicopters to fly from New York awakened to learn their flights had been canceled. Those who drove in from everywhere were met by valets who parked their cars in a field in the de la Renta’s upper 40, laid with freshly cut hay to absorb the rain and the mud. From there the crowd was driven in numerous small buses to the front door of the entry tent, a lovely garden room with a federal blue sisal carpet on the floor and a periwinkle blue ceiling overhead. There, drinks were served and guests picked up their place cards from a table covered with pristine white linen topped with a navy cloth and centered with a huge mossy urn brimming with blue summer hydrangeas and lilac thistles from the de la Rentas’ fields. Masses of English ivy trimmed the borders and climbed around the tent poles.
Unfurling those white umbrellas, the crowd tiptoed its way through the amazing gardens (Oscar’s is the boxwood; Annette’s is the perennial) through the picturesque lane of arching pear trees (Oscar had this idea 20 years ago) to the wedding pavilion. Those brave enough to stick their heads out from under their brolly were able to glimpse the gorgeous view, even though it was obscured by misting clouds passing through the mountains.
Annette had wanted this to be a true country wedding — no frou-frou — and in this, the decorating genius Robert Isabell concurred. The pavilion was overgrown with greenery, woodland ferns, ivy, honeysuckle and rambling roses. The floor was covered in pale aqua sisal and a celadon green pleated ceiling. Guests sat on unadorned wooden Shaker benches painted pale blue. Simple. Beautiful. Simply beautiful.
The inspiring ceremony was conducted by The Most Reverend Theodore E. McCarrick, Archbishop of Newark — a great friend of the family — assisted by Father Thomas E. Berberich, the pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Kent. The altar, covered in a linen cloth Oscar brought from the de la Renta’s chapel at their house in the Dominican Republic, bore only a simple cross and two candles. There were no flowers, just ferns from the surrounding woods arranged in urns and four jasmine topiaries from the de la Renta’s greenhouse. Casual. Elegant. Casually elegant. The heavenly sounds of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra playing Beethoven and Bach floated over the hills. Archbishop McCarrick said that “this beautiful couple” was blessed by the showers falling from heaven (the remark drew laughs) and after the lovely service said to the groom, “Now, put the ring on her.” God bless the Archbishop. The bride’s sister, Beatrice Morrison and her brother, Charles Reed, spoke briefly. Along with more beautiful music, the audience sang Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”
Seldom, if ever, has there been a more beautiful bride than Eliza Reed. And has there ever been an entrance like hers? At the last minute — rain, you know — she rode from the house proper to the “woodland church” in the family golf cart that was instantly transformed into a bridemobile. Oscar rode in the front holding her hand, as she stood in the back, her train held high above the wet grass by three gentlemen, including Robert Isabell, to avoid anything so disastrous as a wrinkle. And the wedding dress! A Balmain creation designed by her stepfather, it was of white cotton re-embroidered organza with a sleeveless tight bodice, a full skirt and a long veil floating from a tiara of diamond ivy leaves. She looked like some glorious creature wafting in from the woodland carrying a simple hand-tied cluster of lily-of-the-valley, jasmine and white rambling roses from the family gardens. Her little flower girls wore tiny halos of miniature roses and carried baskets of pink sweet peas. They were like little angels in their green and white checked taffeta dresses.
But more of the little angels and everyone and everything else on Friday, when the saga continues. Meanwhile, the newlyweds are off honeymooning in Europe and the de la Rentas are in Italy, recovering on Gianni Agnelli’s yacht.