An Elegant, Industrial Wedding at Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation in Waltham, Massachusetts

Desta Lissanu (24 and a medical student) and Benjamin Likis (25 and a graduate student) planned a rustic-chic fete for their midwinter wedding at Char

Desta Lissanu (24 and a medical student) and Benjamin Likis (25 and a graduate student) planned a rustic-chic fete for their midwinter wedding at Charles River Museum in Waltham, Massachusetts. With its warm exposed brick and lofty ceilings, the historic space set a cozy, inviting tone for the affair, which was only heightened by a palette of olive, champagne and merlot. The day unfolded with a ceremony officiated by the couple’s college choir director, in which Desta and Benjamin exchanged vows under a rustic wooden arbor draped in eucalyptus, white flowers and cascading vines. “He is so laid-back and fun and just really gets us,” Desta says. “He helped us incorporate our Christian faith into the wedding in a way that felt authentic to us and respectful to those in attendance who don’t share our faith.” Since met through choir during college, music featured prominently throughout the day. During the ceremony, Benjamin surprised Desta by serenading her with Leon Bridges’s “Coming Home,” accompanied by close friends who sang backup and played the guitar and saxophone. The couple’s officiant also led guests in one of Desta and Benjamin’s favorite choir songs. After the “I dos,” the festivities kicked into high gear with a cocktail hour followed by a sit-down dinner featuring a menu of mouthwatering seasonal eats. Before digging in, the choir performed a benediction to bless the dinner. “I wish we could have sung even more,” Desta says. A full-on dance party followed, thanks to the couple's carefully curated playlist. “Our friends are incredible dancers, so it didn’t take much to get them on the dance floor,” Desta says. A tip from Desta and Benjamin: “We did our best to honor our families when possible, but there were times we needed to trust our instincts and do what was most comfortable for us. Also, cut 10 percent and breathe. We decided not to do favors a few days before the wedding--it was so liberating, and no one even noticed. Doing this at different stages during the planning process will help keep you sane and balanced.” —Libby MacCarthy

To give guests a taste of the event to come, Desta and Benjamin selected modern cream and pale green invitations from bearing a watercolor olive-leaf theme that spoke to the lush garland centerpieces that would adorn the farm-style dinner tables during the reception.
Not typically one to wear makeup, Desta knew she wouldn’t feel like herself if she donned a full face of makeup on her wedding day. To add a bit extra oomph to her down-the-aisle style, she teamed her scalloped lace sheath with a bright berry lip and gilded lids.
To complete his dapper “I do” look, Benjamin jazzed up the lapel of his navy J.Crew suit with a fresh white ranunculus boutonniere trimmed with baby ferns, brunia and juniper berries.
Desta’s three bridesmaids and Benjamin’s attendants channeled their inner glam goddesses, donning floor-length gold sequin gowns by Badgley Mischka that exuded old-Hollywood glamour. “One of my bridesmaids loved her dress so much that she wore it for New Year’s Eve a few days later,” Desta says. “I also gave them complete control over their hair and makeup, which worked out really well.”
Mirroring the rustic feel of the venue, Desta and Benjamin filled the ceremony space with homey, organic touches. The pair exchanged vows under a handcrafted wooden arbor draped in lush green garlands and white blooms, with a Persian rug that belonged to Desta’s grandmother under their feet. “The aisle was lined on both sides by candles," Desta says. "It looked really beautiful and cozy.”
Having met during choir during college, both Desta and Benjamin knew music would feature prominently throughout their wedding day at Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation in Waltham, Massachusetts. During the ceremony, Benjamin surprised Desta by serenading her with “Coming Home” by Leon Bridges, with the help of a few of their choir friends.
For his walk down the aisle, Benjamin sported a tailored J.Crew suit in a chic shade of navy, which he paired with a sharp bow tie in the same hue. “I’ve always wondered why people don’t make as big a deal about the groom’s wedding getup, so my sister and I went with Ben to choose a suit, oohed and ahed over him and really made a day of it,” Desta says. “He looked so dapper! I’ve never seen him in suspenders, and they were amazing. We also had his suit tailored, which made a big difference.”
After saying “I do,” the newlyweds invited their guests to whet their whistle and explore the museum before dinner. “We had wine and beer and made sure we chose options that we knew our friends love, such as Blue Moon and Sam Adams,” Desta says.
“We actually booked the venue sight unseen, since we live in Chicago,” Desta says, “but I had this really good feeling about it. I’d always wanted a barn wedding—probably because I grew up in Kentucky—but I loved the vibe of the museum so much. The exposed brick and pipes, as well as the exhibits, gave the space so much character.”
In lieu of traditional centerpieces, Desta and Benjamin had the florists at True Vin create lush garlands of eucalyptus and vines to run the lengths of the farm-style dinner tables to set a low-key, yet elegant tone. White flowers and warm candlelight added a note of softness to the textured tablescapes, while olive-leaf-accented menus served as a nod to the couple’s wedding invitations.
After dinner, Desta and Benjamin treated guests to a slice of carrot, chocolate or vanilla cake with decadent cream cheese frosting. The three-tier confection featured combed buttercream, greenery and juniper berries for a sophisticated look. “It took a long time to find an interracial cake topper, but we finally found one that looked super-cute," Desta says. "It’s now sitting on our bookshelf.”