A Romantic, Traditional Wedding at Searles Castle in Windham, New Hampshire

Justina Alicudo (29 and a teacher) and Christopher Gaeta (28 and a city accessor) knew they wanted a distinctive venue to host their early-summer wedd

Justina Alicudo (29 and a teacher) and Christopher Gaeta (28 and a city accessor) knew they wanted a distinctive venue to host their early-summer wedding, and a castle in the heart of New Hampshire was certainly that. After one visit to Searles Castle in Windham, New Hampshire, Justina and Christopher were instantly smitten. The venue's beautiful grounds was a major selling point for the couple, and having been to several weddings there, they knew they would be in good hands. The historic spot served as a source of inspiration for the decor, with the couple looking to soft shades of blush and champagne, gilded accents and arrangements of full, romantic blooms to play up the castle’s elegant, refined feel. The Searles Castle Grotto played host to the ceremony, which Justin and Christopher wrote entirely themselves with the help of their officiant, Anna Bacall. Customized vows and a stone ceremony, a symbol of the couple’s families and friends helping to lay the foundation for their new life together, helped give the ceremony a highly personalized dimension. A tented reception followed in the courtyard, surrounded by the castle’s impressive stone walls, where Searles Castle wined and dined the couple's guests, before the band Groovin’ You Entertainment got everyone moving and shaking on the dance floor. A tip from Justina: “Have fun with it. We have seen so many people get lost in all the wrong details during planning and lose sight of what's important and what you're actually planning for—a celebration of your life and love together with those who matter most to you. We enjoyed the planning process and can honestly say we never felt stress or anxiety about it. Have fun!”

Christopher surprised Justina with a proposal at their home on Christmas Eve.  The year before the couple had started the tradition of opening one gift from each other on Christmas Eve, and this time Christopher insisted that Justina be the first to open hers. “It was a giant box, which I assumed to be a winter coat. The boxes got smaller and smaller as they opened,” Justina says, “and once the last box was reached, Chris changed the holiday music that had been playing to our favorite song, ‘Life Is Better With You’ by Michael Franti, and got down on one knee.”
The castle inspired many elements of the couple’s decor, from the elegant, romantic palette of soft pink, blush and champagne hues to the arrangements of roses, peonies and hydrangeas displayed in gold mercury glass vases. The escort cards were another detail that captured the old-world charm of the space, the antiqued, hand-letter tags boasting small golden skeleton keys.
Whiskey and Coke Favors
Searles Castle Ceremony Processional
The ceremony took place outdoors in the castle’s courtyard. With the help of their officiant, Justina and Christopher wrote the ceremony themselves, ensuring that it served as a true reflection of their relationship, story and feelings for each other. “Our celebrant did an amazing job telling our story, to the point where several guests commented that it was as if she had known us our entire lives,” Justina says.
Justina and Christopher incorporated a stone ceremony into the day, a gesture that symbolized the couple’s families and friends helping to lay the foundation of their new lives together. During this portion of the ceremony, guests lined up to place a stone, which had been placed at their seats, in a glass vase. “This was a beautiful way to include the guests, create a tangible memento from the ceremony and have a receiving line for the bride and groom,” Justina says.
Wanting her bridesmaids to wear something they loved and felt comfortable in, Justina let them choose their own gowns. Her only requests were that the dresses be floor length and fit into the champagne and blush color scheme. They settled on a variety of A-line and empire-waist styles from Alfred Angelo, Bill Levkoff and Sorella Vita.
Searles Castle Wedding Venue
Peony and Rose Bridal Bouquet
On her first trip to Bella Sera Bridal, Justina wasn’t quite sure what she was looking for in a gown. She tried on every style, from fit-and-flare to mermaid-style and even ball gown silhouettes. “The dress I chose was actually one of the first dresses I tried on,” Justina says. “I loved the drama and elegance that the dress had and I felt it complemented the venue, which was also dramatic and elegant.” The Essence of Australia design had a mermaid-style silhouette, open back, subtle beaded embellishments and delicate lace straps.
Justina and Christopher kept things simple when it came to the decor, not wanting to take away from their beautiful venue, Searles Castle in Windham, New Hampshire. The couple decorated the space in a spectrum of soft hues, like champagne, blush, ivory and pink, keeping the floral arrangements understated yet romantic, with classic roses displayed in mercury glass vases.
Searles Castle tempted guests’ taste buds throughout cocktail hour with a decadent menu, featuring everything from stuffed mushrooms to Boursin-stuffed cucumber cups and prosciutto-wrapped asparagus. Dinner was a sit-down affair with Justina and Christopher offering guests beer, wine and champagne to enjoy with dishes like chicken piccata and grilled beef tenderloin tips.
Hand-Rolled Cigar Bar
The reception took place outdoors in the courtyard at Searles Castle in Windham, New Hampshire, where the couple and their guests enjoyed a night of dinner and dancing under an open-air tent. While guests mixed, mingled and nibbled on an inspired selection of bite-size eats, they were able to take in the venue’s architecture, complete with impressive stone walls, turrets and lush gardens.
Pink Rose Aisle Markers