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A Real Page-Turner

Two bookworms unite in a winter wedding at a cultural treasure. 

The backdrop for the ceremony was a flower wall made from 875 roses, 500 peonies and 900 stems of hydrangea. To add to the romance, snowflakes floated softly around the couple for the recessional.

The flower girl on the aisle that Derrick Taylor lined with 17-foot tall cherry trees to convey the inspiration of a grove glistening in a gentle frost then scattered red petals on the pathway covered in ‘snow’


Marissa’s bouquet was mix of lush white blooms.

Candles and mirrored accents reflected the glow of snowflakes falling through the branches as Marissa made her way to Hunter—“there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” says Taylor.

The happy couple cut into their impressive towering cake.

The groom’s cake was composed of a stack of books detailing his literary journey, with his own title as the top layer.

When Marissa Ernst and Hunter Sharpless met as English majors at the University of Iowa, things didn’t get off to the smoothest start. “For a while, it looked like we were one of those couples with a very elaborate and complicated missed-connection story,” says writer and Texas native Hunter, who this fall is moving his new bride to Austin, where he’ll take up a teaching post at a classical high school.

First there was the expected Southern versus Midwestern culture clash, then a first kiss so awkward the story is permanently under lock and key. A few months of strange pseudo-dating and a stint of not speaking later, a mutual friend finally convinced them they were meant to be and should reconnect. Graduation and a long-distance relationship commenced, and then came the proposal in Chicago: Hunter chartered a sailboat in Wilmette (Marissa is from Lake Forest and now works in digital marketing for a trade book publisher) and presented his college sweetheart with his grandmother’s heirloom ring. Then he swept her along Lake Michigan to Millennium Park, where the couple’s families were waiting to celebrate at The Gage restaurant.

For their wedding at the Newberry—a beautiful private research library in Chicago’s Gold Coast—the couple shifted into winter-wonderland mode. Planner Derrick Taylor packed the space with white (and a few red) flowers, including a dramatic wall of white roses that served as a backdrop to the vows. Snow fell softly outside as Marissa floated down the aisle in her custom Oscar de la Renta dress. An excerpt from the great American poet Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself was read, and guests found their dinner tables with the help of a custom-made card catalog. The groom’s cake was a red-velvet confection in the shape of a stack of classic books. “Never let someone tell you a winter wedding isn’t possible,” says Marissa. “We are probably biased, but we think ours was the most beautiful one we’ve ever attended.”

Planner Derrick Taylor, Taylor & Co.
Photographer Paul Christopher Greene, Red Weddings
Venue Newberry Library
Bride’s Gown Oscar de la Renta (custom), at Ultimate Bride
Bride’s Shoes Jimmy Choo
Flowers & Decor Derrick Taylor, Taylor & Co.
Catering Entertaining Company
Cakes Elysia Root Cakes
Invitations William Arthur, 
Groom’s Tuxedo Hugo Boss, Nordstrom Oakbrook
Music Matt Lewis and The Union