A River Wedding For The Ages

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STORY BY: Nicole Caldwell & PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Ryan Grant Photography
Growing up along the St. Lawrence forges a connection to the river that lasts a lifetime.

And although 28-year-old Terra Towne hasn’t lived in Chaumont for many years, it was along the banks of the St. Lawrence where she and her Liam Higginson, a 29-year-old from Thunder Bay, Ontario, would return for their marriage celebration this year.

The couple’s wedding, held in Clayton at the Antique Boat Museum, was a river-lover’s paradise: sweeping water views and sunset, boat rides for guests and wedding party, and details that continually turned attentions back toward that timeless, enduring river flowing just a few feet away.

The Love Story

                Terra and Liam were both completing their graduate programs in North Dakota when they randomly met at a bar in Grand Forks one night.

                “The irony is that Liam doesn’t drink, and a bar is one of the last places you would typically find either one of us,” Terra said.

                “A friend of mine recognized a friend of Terra’s,” Liam explained. “His first words to Terra’s friend were, ‘I know you!’ and he asked Terra if she knew me. Terra then used that as an opportunity to lay that same ‘I know you!’ line on me.”

                Terra and Liam chatted for a while and exchanged numbers. “He asked me out the next day,” Terra said. “We have been together ever since.”

                Today, Terra is a postdoctoral fellow (soon to be a psychologist) at the University of California San Diego Eating Disorders Center for Treatment & Research. Liam is an athletic trainer at the University of California San Diego.

                The two fell in love—and hard. “I could always tell Terra meant what she said and that she didn’t play games,” Liam said, remarking on her authenticity. Terra said she was drawn to Liam’s empathy— “He genuinely cares about people, which makes him not only a great athlete trainer and friend but also a fantastic partner.”

                Liam proposed to Terra at her family’s cottage in the north country in the summer of 2014. “We came home on different flights, so Liam told my mom his plans and showed her the ring while waiting for me to arrive,” Terra said. “When we got home from the airport, my mom distracted me by asking if I wanted to go for a walk while Liam asked my dad for his permission. Later that night, Liam and I left my parents’ house and headed over to the cottage. Liam suggested we go outside to look at the stars and proposed down by the water. It was the first night of our vacation, and we got to spend the rest of the week surprising our local friends with the news.”

Planning and Preparation

                Terra and Liam had plenty of time to pull details together for their wedding—their engagement lasted more than four years!

                “I did not want to plan a wedding while working toward my PhD,” Terra said. “We started looking at venues two years before our wedding, and I think we booked Silver Arrow Band by March of 2017. The majority of the planning was done over the past year.”

                The couple forged their own path when it came to planning. Terra has two half-brothers who are both much older than her (one eloped and the other had a small, private wedding ceremony), and she’s the first of her closest friends to get married. “In the midst of all the planning, I remember thinking that it would have been helpful to have seen some more examples!” she said.

                Two years before their wedding, Terra started planning. But the dress hunt started much sooner. “I swooned over beautiful wedding dresses for the entirety of our engagement,” she said. “It didn’t take me long to develop an affinity for low backs and long trains. When I discovered the Atelier Pronovias collection, I fell in love with the Vicenta. It was my favorite dress by a longshot, but I wasn’t sure how it would look on me. I stayed open to other options.”

                Terra’s mother flew to San Diego last November when Terra was ready to start dress-shopping. Two of Terra’s friends joined the mother and daughter and all four of them headed to the first bridal salon. There, Terra discovered the shop carried the Atelier Pronovias line, and had the Vicenta gown in stock.

                 “There was such a rush of nerves and excitement trying on the dress I had thought about for so long,” she said. “I just wanted it to look the way I had always imagined! I tried on many other gorgeous dresses that day, and even waited another week to see a different dress at a trunk show, but none of them compared to the Vicenta. It was definitely my dress.”

                From there, the other details fell into place. “Liam and I love the Thousand Islands, and knew we wanted to get married there,” Terra said. “I was set on a waterfront venue and not having the reception be held in a stuffy ballroom. After looking at a couple of venues, we found ourselves at the Antique Boat Museum. It was the perfect fit.” Terra and Liam were drawn to the water frontage, of course. But there were other features that made the venue a no-brainer. “The opportunity for our guests to take boat rides and have the cocktail hour in the boathouse seemed really cool,” Liam said. “Plus, the fact that Canada was just on the other side of the river was cool. Everything else was all Terra. I knew she had great taste and she had a vision for the day that I knew everyone would enjoy.”

                The couple didn’t have a set theme, so anytime people asked what the cohesive aesthetic was, Terra just answered “Boats!,” her straightforward nature once again shining through.

                Terra enlisted The Events Company for help with the details. “I am very detail-oriented, and found the process to be somewhat stressful due to the sheer amount of planning required to ensure everything would look and go as I envisioned,” Terra said. “There were many long-winded email chains and 6 a.m. phone calls with vendors to navigate the three-hour time difference. Of course, it was all worth it in the end. I was thrilled with the way it turned out.”

                Dressing up the reception area was Terra’s pet project. “I wanted it to look chic and elegant, without feeling overdone,” she said. “I settled on a soft, romantic color scheme of pale pink and gold. The first order of business was the ceiling. The Events Company draped fabric over the bars and installed chandeliers. We had a combination of round and farm tables, which our vendors decorated beautifully with flowers, candles, and plenty of gold accents. In lieu of tables, we rented vintage dressers from Pretty Little Vintage Company to display our cake, favors, and gifts. We loved the final look and are so grateful to our vendors for making the vision come to life.”

                Overall, Terra and Liam wanted their fun-loving nature to shine through. “At one point our wedding plans started to seem overly formal, so we decided to create a lighthearted program that felt more like us and hopefully entertained our guests,” she said. That included the “shoe game,” in which the bride and groom sit back-to-back and answer “best and most”-like questions about each other that had been written by Terra’s bridal party. Terra and Liam had to hold up the shoe of the person best represented by the clue. “That was a lot of fun,” Terra said.

                “I wasn’t super stressed, but that is just cause Terra did most of the work. I am sure her answer to that question will be much different.

                “My big contribution was remembering to bring the wedding bands from San Diego to Clayton. That, and keeping Terra calm and sane whenever something happened that threw a wrench in the planning.

The Big Day

                “My mom, bridal party, and I got ready at the Harbor Hotel and were transported to the Antique Boat Museum by boat,” Terra said. “I rode over in the Gadfly with my mom and maid of honor, while the rest of the bridal party came over in the Zipper. My videographer Skyler Bocciolatt (he is a native of Chaumont but is currently living in Los Angeles working as a cinematographer) rode over on the Chris-Craft to get some footage of us on the boats. We were so lucky that the rain stopped just before our ceremony and held off for the rest of the night.”

                The ceremony was held outside on the lawn, where Terra walked down the aisle to the classic “Here Comes the Bride,” played by a string trio. “We opted against the first look, as I liked the tradition of not seeing the groom on your wedding day until you were walking down the aisle,” Terra said. The wedding party precessed to Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” and everyone recessed to “Best Day of My Life” by the American Authors.

                Next up was a cocktail hour, held in the yacht house “Guests enjoyed boat rides on the Teal (for those who wanted to go fast!) and Chris-Craft,” Terra said of the enhanced cocktail party. Then came the reception, held in the Antique Boat Museum’s tent that Terra had worked her magic on.

                “Our first dance song was ‘Heaven’ by Kane Brown,” Liam said. “We both like the modern country genre, and when I heard that song I immediately screen-shotted the album cover from my Pandora and texted it to Terra. She listened to it and that was it.”

                The couple also set aside time for just the two of them during the wedding. “We took a private boat ride after the ceremony,” Liam said. “It was all about us.”

                “We came together again at the end of the night by saving the last dance for just the two of us,” Terra said. “Our guests were busy lighting their sparklers, and the band sang a beautiful, slowed down version of ‘You Are The Best Thing,’ which was one of my favorite moments of the night.“