An evening wedding at the Atlanta Botanical Garden blooms with love

By Kirsten Ott Palladino | Photos by Kira-Marie Photography


Thomas and Chris Ryan-Lawrence’s love story began in May 2009, when they met through a mutual friend. “We love our story because we actually got to know each other as friends before we dated,” says Thomas. “We didn’t officially start dating until October of 2009.” Chris proposed to Thomas in March 2011, surprising him by getting down on one knee 14,000 feet in the air: on top of Vail Mountain in Colorado. They were engaged for 14 months, “barely enough time for Thomas to plan the big wedding he’s dreamed about since he was a 14-year-old boy reading Vogue under the covers at night,” says Chris.



The lush greenery at Atlanta Botanical Garden provided a verdant backdrop for Chris and Thomas when they wed at the lauded property on May 20, 2012. In an early evening outdoor ceremony, the couple entered from opposite sides of the Rose Garden, escorted by their mothers, then met in the middle and walked down together to symbolize the two families joining. The entire wedding party, parents and grooms included, were outfitted in chocolate and blue, a combination of Chris’ eclectic taste and Thomas’ traditional leanings.


The grooms wore chocolate tuxedos with blue vests. “We didn’t wear ties because Chris originally wanted to get married barefoot on a beach,” says Thomas. “When we decided to get married in Atlanta instead, Thomas had to concede the tie in order to get Chris to wear shoes.”




Chris and Thomas were married in front of 130 guests by Rabbi Michele Coffsky, though neither of them is Jewish. “While we do not consider ourselves to be religious,” says Thomas, “we have both always been extremely spiritual people. We wanted our ceremony to be unique, so we incorporated various aspects from Judaism, Christianity and Native American cultures. We signed a ketubah at the beginning of our ceremony, exchanged palladium bands and did a sand ceremony in place of unity candles.”


Chocolate and cornflower blue carried into the reception, where Chris and Thomas enjoyed their first dance as husband and husband to Pink’s “Perfect,” which was performed live by Owen Stevenson, a vocalist based out of Chicago. For the rest of the evening, DJ Vicki Powell was spinning. There also was a flag performance by a dear friend, Ricardo Robinson.

“We decided that the majority of our friends would not want to sit through a four- or five-course seated dinner … they would want to partayyyyyyy!,” says Thomas. Instead, the couple opted for a buffet dinner with three different stations provided by A Divine Event. The first station let guests have fun by decorating their plates graffiti-style with a variety of sauces and oils in squeeze bottles; sauces were also in paint cans with paint brushes. After the guest decorated the plate, the on-site chef would plate the seared tuna filet with and Asian coleslaw salad. At the second chef-attended station, guests were served a maple-mustard-drizzled pork tenderloin accompanied by au gratin potatoes and fresh sautéed spinach. The final chef-attended station served a Caribbean-jerked chicken with a boysenberry glaze accompanied by succotash.


“Our cake was very simple,” says Chris of the 8-inch red velvet cake with cream cheese icing made by Southern Sweets. Chris’ mother found their cake topper, which featured their initials. “For the guests, we did red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing that had been colored chocolate and blue to match our colors. The caterers took care of arranging the cupcakes and cake, and did an amazing job.”


The grooms both danced with their mothers, at the same time, to Laura Alani’s “Like My Mother Does.” “One of the day’s highlights was our dear friend, Marlysa Brooks-Alt, signing ‘Nella Fantasia’ as the wedding party entered,” says Thomas. “She is a a stellar opera singer and the song has been one of Chris’ favorites for years, with wonderful lyrics, even though they were in Italian. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day! A celebration of our love filled with the love of everyone around us … it was truly amazing!”

Thomas and Chris honeymooned at the Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, in Maui.

A version of this article was published in Atlanta Gay Weddings.

Photographer Kira-Marie Photography
Photo Booth Clik Simple
Venue Atlanta Botanical Garden
Caterer A Divine Event
Cake Southern Sweets Bakery
Planner Euphoria Affairs
DJ Vicki Powell
Vocalists Marlysa Brooks-Alt, Owen Stevenson
Attire Savvi Formalwear
Hair and Makeup Laura Palmer, Mint Salon
Officiant Rabbi Michele Coffsky
Jeweler Barron’s Fine Jewelers
Flowers Florist Atlanta