Just a Really Pretty Garden Wedding at Highlands Mansion

The bride’s favorite detail was her mom’s dress.

Highland Mansion wedding

Gabrielle Santangelo and Michael Catanzaro’s Highlands Mansion wedding had a garden-chic theme. Photography by Philip Gabriel Photography

Garden weddings have long been popular choices for couples, and there’s no sign that these outdoor soirees will go anywhere anytime soon. But why should they? They are enchanting and pretty, no matter how your garden (well) grows. Adding another dose of sweetness is this Highlands Mansion wedding, which was filled with charming and touching elements — from the bride’s favorite detail (her mother’s dress) to the couple’s choice in cake to the joyfully tearful first look. The photos by Philip Gabriel Photography capture all of it.

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Gabrielle Santangelo and Michael Catanzaro knew pretty quickly they were meant to be. They met as incoming medical students during orientation at University of Rochester, and it only took a study sesh, a “zoo brew” (drinks at the zoo, natch) and a karaoke night for them to become inseparable. Gabrielle, who hails from Philly, thought Michael, a Rochester, New York, native, was “effortlessly hilarious.” He thought she had an infectious personality. “I just couldn’t get enough time with her.”

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Their first date was at a sushi bar, but it seemed like much more than that. “It felt like a 10th date because we were so comfortable in each other’s company,” says Gabrielle. Despite their quickly budding love, they took it slow and dated for four years before getting engaged — and it was worth the wait. They had just left for a vacation in Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia after couple’s matching into residency. (Couples apply to residency together; both programs need to offer each candidate spots and rank them high enough for them to get positions.) Michael, a plastic surgery resident physician, popped the question in front of a waterfall in a snowstorm. “We were completely alone in the park,” recalls Gabrielle, a neurosurgery resident physician. “Pictures we took show our footsteps leading up to the overlook and of Michael’s knee print in the fresh snow.”


The couple said “I do” a year and a half later, on September 21st, 2019, at Highlands Mansion in Montgomery County. It was an 87-degree day with not a cloud in sight. It was perfect for their romantic garden chic-themed soiree. The ceremony was held alfresco; two antique urns were filled with flowers in ivory and green with pops of peach that were similar to those in the table settings (a combination of ranunculus, eucalyptus, garden roses, hydrangea, snapdragons and jasmine vine).

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The pair agrees that their first look was “incredibly emotional.” (They both shed a few tears.) Gabrielle’s favorite details included the dress her mom wore. “It was understated but a very vibrant color that made her eyes stand out,” says the bride. “I know she felt comfortable all night, which was really important to me.” Gabrielle wore a Rosa Clará gown from Elizabeth Johns, which she teamed with a pair of pearl earrings that she and her parents purchased at an antique shop on their first trip to Rochester before medical school started. She also adored the note Michael wrote her — he, in turn, says his favorite detail was watching Gabrielle walk under the willow tree as she made her way down the aisle to him. An original piece by James Santangelo and his band (the local jazz pianist is also the bride’s brother) accompanied her every step.


The celebration continued indoors: The dance floor was in a room with wall-to-wall windows that looked out on the garden, so the couple added wild smilax foliage to the walls to create a cohesive feeling, bringing the outdoors in. (Their first dance was to “The Way I Am” by Ingrid Michaelson.) Guests snacked on charcuterie and cheeseboards, and passed appetizers (chili-rubbed shrimp, wild mushroom tarts and braised shortrib, among them). Dinner was filet with brie mac and cheese, butternut-squash ravioli, crabcakes and polenta. There were toasts — Scotch negroni and Aperol spritz — and soft pretzels and cheesesteak for a late-night snack. For sweets, they served lemon tiramisu and a combination of Italian cookies from Philly and Brooklyn, as well as Smith Island cake with chocolate, almond coconut and peanut butter in 10 separate layered cakes. Mary Ada Marshall, the bride’s grandmother’s cousin, is one of the original bakers of Maryland’s signature dessert. She’d been making the cakes and shipping them to the family for years, so the couple wanted to carry on the tradition at their Big Day. By the way: Gabrielle and Michael had a two-night mini-moon at the Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels, and went to Cabo San Lucas this past January.

To send them off on their journey: handwritten “prescriptions for a happy marriage” from their guests, collected in a vintage French first-aid box.

Photographer: Philip Gabriel Photography | Venue: Highlands Mansion and Gardens | Planning/Design: Jen Supper of Kaleidoscope Weddings | Florals: Nancy Saam Flowers | Catering: Sage Catering | Bride’s Gown & Veil: Rosa Clará (gown);  Romona Keveza (veil) from Elizabeth Johns | Bridesmaids’ Attire: BHLDN | Hair & Makeup: Victoria Roggio Beauty | Groom’s Attire: Custom tux from private tailor in Rochester | Father of the Bride Suit: Balani Custom Clothiers | Entertainment: James Santangelo | Cake: Mary Ada Marshall | Invitations: Minted | Transportation: Wertz Motor Coaches | Videography: Josiah & Steph Photo + Films

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