Their wedding guests had been wined, dined, celebrated and serenaded, but Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds had one last luminescent surprise in store for their closest friends and family: 35 airborne “wish lanterns,” released on the Cotton Dock outside the historic Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens in Mount Pleasant, S.C. With chirping crickets and croaking frogs providing the background music, the bride and groom and their 60 guests watched as the biodegradable orbs lit up the night sky-an especially fitting touch for a couple who can thank a very different sort of lantern (green, superhero) for helping to bring them together. “The entire dock was bathed in flickering lights. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life,” says an onlooker. “When they rose into the air, everyone cheered. It was a happy moment.”
It was just one in a wedding brimming with joyful touches. Nearly one year after the former Green Lantern costars quietly emerged as a couple, Lively, 25, and Reynolds, 35, said “I do” in a romantic, rustic affair just outside of Charleston, S.C. A blend of antebellum charm, whimsy and Hollywood glamour, the nuptials showcased the bride and groom’s family-centric brand of warmth and fun. Which meant that chart-topper Florence Welch (of Florence + the Machine) and couture shoe designer Christian Louboutin-both close Lively pals-rubbed elbows with the sippy-cup set at the kid-friendly festivities. “Ryan and Blake wanted the event to look and feel like home,” says wedding planner Tara Guerard. “We created the charm, elegance and magic of times past. It was a truly beautiful celebration.”
And a truly memorable one. Carefully overseen by the hands-on bride, who worked with Guerard and the wedding staff of her friend and self-described “idol” Martha Stewart to plan the event, the festivities kicked off with a retro carnival-themed cocktail hour accented with parasols, balloons and lights. Guests nibbled on white cheddar popcorn served in paper bags emblazoned with a “B [heart] R” symbol. “They’re a fun couple who wanted to inject that into their wedding,” says a source. Then as the sun went down over the nearby Wando River, a children’s choir from the local First Baptist Church-singing Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”-serenaded the bride as she walked down the aisle at the mansion at Boone Hall. Stunning in a couture Marchesa ball gown with a hand-draped silk tulle bodice with crystal and rose gold embroidery and carrying a bouquet of white and peach roses, peonies and hellebores (groomsmen had matching boutonnieres), the Gossip Girl star “was radiant,” says the source. “Her dress was very simple yet beautiful. She had small earrings, a delicate necklace and very natural makeup.” Her hair mostly down, she went without a veil and was accompanied by bridesmaids in blush silk chiffon Marchesa gowns with crystal embroidery. “When Ryan first saw her, his face broke into a huge smile that crinkled his eyes. They just stared at each other with absolute love. Their faces were lit up with the candlelight, and it looked like something out of a romance movie.” (It wouldn’t be the first: Boone Hall was the backdrop for portions of 2004’s smash The Notebook.)
During the 20-minute ceremony, the couple exchanged self-penned vows in which “they promised to support and love each other and to make each other laugh,” says the source. The groom, in a Burberry suit with custom leather suspenders (his groomsmen also wore Burberry), “said he would treasure Blake; she said she would adore him. The whole time they were beaming.” They swapped rings designed by Lively’s pal, jeweler Lorraine Schwartz. (The next day, Lively was spotted sporting her ring: a whopping oval-shaped diamond.)
After a round of applause following the newlyweds’ introduction as husband and wife, the party moved to a reception area at the Cotton Dock’s boathouse. There a deejay spun oldies (“The Way You Look Tonight,” “At Last”) as the bride and groom greeted every guest. While an “exuberant” Reynolds “was all smiles,” Lively got emotional when Welch took the mic to sing “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” “Her eyes started to well up,” says the source. “A lot of people started to well up, actually. Ryan looked at her like he was digging that she was touched. He treated her like she was the most important person in the world.” At one point PEOPLE’s 2010 Sexiest Man Alive surprised his new wife from behind with a kiss on the neck “and she just looked at him with these wide eyes, and then they both laughed, and she put her arms around his neck and planted a huge kiss on his lips. It was playful, romantic and sexy all at the same time.”
Which neatly sums up the newlyweds themselves. “They have such an ease when it comes to their relationship,” says someone who knows them both. “He looks after her, dotes on her, protects her, and she honestly just complements him perfectly.” Although both stars had been in high-profile relationships before they fell for each other-Reynolds’s nearly three-year marriage to actress Scarlett Johansson ended in mid-2011; Lively had recently ended a globe-trotting fling with actor Leonardo DiCaprio-“they knew early on this was it,” says the source. In L.A. the low-key pair holed up in Reynolds’s Hollywood Hills house, sharing Disneyland dates and picnics in the park. And they promptly settled down: In the spring they dropped $2 million-plus on a country home in ritzy Bedford, N.Y., where their neighbors include Stewart and Ralph Lauren. On July 4 they hosted a party for friends and family complete with a cotton-candy machine. “You could see how relaxed and comfortable they were with each other,” says an observer. Both from large broods-Lively is the youngest of five reared outside of L.A.; Vancouver native Reynolds has three older brothers-“family is the most important thing in their lives,” says the source.
So will the newlyweds-who dote on his rescue mutt Baxter and her maltipoo Penny-be adding to their clan anytime soon? Lively told Allure‘s October issue that she “has always wanted a big family. Oh, I’d love 30 [children] if I could.” For now, though, the couple are focused on enjoying their life together. As she told Allure, the new Mrs. Reynolds is doing just that. “Right now, I’m so peaceful,” she said. “I’ve never been happier in my life.”