When you have a family property featuring its own magical woods, and it’s the very same property where your parents got married thirty-five years before, I think the venue hunt is over before it begins, don’t you? Rather than go down the rustic route, Megan and Chris decided to go for an elegant, pared-back feel, to let all that natural beauty shine through. My favorite details? Megan’s tulle Monique Lhiullier gown in the palest possible blush, bright florals just right for summer, and the tent (complete with furniture lovingly made by the father of the bride!) set up for dinner and dancing right in the middle of the prairie!
Everyone says it, but do everything you can do be present on the day of your wedding. I think that has to be an intentional process. For example, we hosted welcome drinks and a morning after brunch so that we wouldn’t feel so rushed to spend quality time with every single guest on the actual wedding day. I also carved out some special time with my family over breakfast, for alone time while getting ready, and with Chris after our ceremony and during our last dance. I also promised myself that once I put my dress on I would let go of any last worries about details and just let the rest of the day unfold. Those intentional elements, along with some awesome vendors, really allowed us to be present!
Megan told us that she and Chris decided not to do a first look, as “we wanted to experience all of the intensity of the emotions of seeing each other for the first time during the processional. (If you do this too, definitely invest in some waterproof mascara! I cried both up and down the aisle!) But I did do a first look with my father, and it was so special to have that time with him and my immediate family before the ceremony.”
What was the best advice you received as a bride? You won’t remember what your wedding looked like; you’ll remember what it felt like. Don’t stress too much about things being cohesive or matching a theme or color scheme. If you like it, it will all be cohesive in the end because it will be a reflection of you!
We got married on Two Horse Farm, which has been in our family for decades. It’s no longer a working farm, as the land has been restored to its native Iowa prairie and woodland habitats. My grandparents lived there when I was growing up, and I spent my summers exploring nature there. The place has so much meaning for my family and I; my parents got married there almost thirty-five years ago! There are many beautiful settings on the farm for a ceremony, but the woods have always been my favorite place to feel a little bit of magic, which seemed perfect for our wedding day. The ceremony site was about a ten minute walk from the house and reception site, so our journey to and from the site also felt like an important transitional time for us, individually and as a couple. In addition to all of the meaningful elements of the farm, it also worked well in terms of aesthetics and practicality, as we were able to change scenery for our guests for different parts of the day. Our ceremony was in the woods, our cocktail hour was in the garden by the house, and the reception was in a tent amidst the prairie.
My aunt Jodeane officiated the ceremony. She has been an important influence on me throughout my life and has also served as a guardian of the farm in many ways. One day during our planning, I asked Chris if he thought we might know anyone who could officiate our wedding. (I already had Jodeane in mind but wanted to see what Chris was thinking.) When he suggested Jodeane without my even mentioning her, I knew she was the person for the job!
We had a string quartet and an acoustic guitarist; since music is so important to us both we wanted it to be live.
Processional: Always With Me from Spirited Away
Bridal Processional: Us by Regina Spektor
Surprise (for the Groom) song during Ceremony: Green Eyes by Coldplay
Recessional: If You Want to Sing Out by Cat Stevens
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? When I walked down the aisle, my dad whispered in my ear, “wlow down.” We were running a half hour late due to a late guest shuttle arrival and I was so ready to get to the altar. When I got up to Chris, he grabbed my hand so tightly that I couldn’t even give my mom a quick kiss, and he didn’t let go until our first kiss! I’ll never forget the depth of the emotional connection I felt with him, with myself, and with our guests throughout the ceremony, especially during our personalized vows.
We wrote our ceremony and vows ourselves. We spent a lot of time reviewing ceremony outlines online and ultimately crafted our own to reflect our values for our relationship. After we got engaged we selected twelve values for our marriage and we used those to inform our ceremony. Writing our ceremony was an incredible opportunity to really consider the commitment we were planning to make to each other on our wedding day and to find some language that reflected what we wanted our marriage to look like. It was a lot of work, but I highly recommend it to other couples as a way of clarifying your shared values for your marriage!
We included some traditional wording, and also wrote our own vows. We loved the ritual aspect of making the traditional vows, but also wanted to take an opportunity to share something we each wrote from the heart. Since we wrote the rest of our ceremony together, we decided we wanted our vows to be the only part that the other didn’t know about beforehand. It felt important to us to include something that we would be experiencing for the first time that day.
I would have made sure to have a guest serve as point person for directions for our shuttle driver, as they ended up being over a half an hour late! I was already so anxious about the ceremony that the extra time waiting was excruciating. Fortunately our other vendors really came through for us and didn’t have any other issues as a result of our delayed start.
We kept track of every single expense in a giant spreadsheet – it all adds up! But this helped me to keep things in perspective throughout the process. It can be hard to create a budget when you don’t really know what things cost. My best advice is to choose your priorities and spend there first. Our priorities were food, music, photography, and videography, so we selected those vendors first and then worked out everything else with what funds remained. It also helped to shop around. We were able to save money by doing some things ourselves and by keeping things simple.
Megan wanted to share with other brides that she recommended to “take some time to explore the emotional aspects of getting married. It’s a huge change in your life, and it’s easy to get distracted from the significance of getting married by wedding planning details. To help prepare ourselves beforehand, we did pre-marriage counseling and I read The Conscious Bride, both of which I highly recommend.”
We had two signature cocktails inspired by our two cats, as well as our Italian honeymoon. They were the Avey Spritz (an Aperol spritz) and the Shio Mule (a Tuscan mule – ginger beer, lime, and Tuaca). The other biggest hit was definitely the French rosé we served, in honor of our Parisian engagement!
Our reception was also on Two Horse Farm, which was awesome because it allowed our guests to get the party started right away. We wanted our guests to feel both at home, and as if they were on an adventure, so we provided watercolor maps when they arrived at the property and had a wine and beer station on the way back from the ceremony so our guests could explore the property as they made their way back to the garden for cocktail hour. The prairie seemed like a perfect spot for our reception because we were able to surround the tent with prairie grasses for an intimate and special vibe, which also allowed us not to have to do too much in the way of decorating the tent.
Design wise, our biggest inspiration was the landscape of the farm. Even though we got married on a farm, we didn’t want our wedding to feel too rustic. Between my ethereal dress and the magical woods, I felt inspired loosely by A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Our color scheme was inspired by the many beautiful sunsets we witnessed on our drives to and from the farm throughout our wedding planning process (a necessity, since we live in Chicago!) In general, our biggest inspiration was all of the people who showed up for us in different ways throughout our planning process. We viewed our wedding day as being as much about our families and loved ones as about us, so it was really important to us to create an experience for our guests to enjoy.
I have never felt so much joy as when we finally sat down to our sweetheart table to eat after the ceremony – the official papers were signed, our photos were taken, we had nothing left to do but be present and enjoy ourselves. Our vendors were awesome in taking care of our night for us to make sure we could all relax and have fun. We really took a moment to soak in all the love and joy around us, and I cherish that feeling even now.
We had two first dance songs. We slow danced to a minute or two of ‘our song’, Fade Into You by Mazzy Star, and then we did a playful choreographed dance to Do You Love Me? by The Contours, from Dirty Dancing. Dance lessons with Chris were one of my favorite parts of wedding planning! Afterwards, I danced with my dad to Landslide by Stevie Nicks and Chris danced with his mom to Crazy by Patsy Kline.
Our whole reception was so lovely. One memorable moment was when the local sheriff showed up! Apparently they had received a noise complaint. As soon as he realized it was a wedding, he basically shook my dad’s hand and turned around to leave. Since it was the fourth of July weekend, I had hoped to make fireworks happen, but they just weren’t in the budget. But right after sunset, fireworks started going off in a neighbor’s yard, perfectly in view of our tent. Meant to be!
There’s not much better than a good love story. Maura, a trapeze artist, and Nikki, a librarian who plays guitar in a band, met in a small whiskey bar on bluegrass night. It was love at first sight. Their celebration was sweetly and uniquely their own without losing sight of what the day is truly about. We hope you love this celebration between two brides as much as we do!
We booked a solo violinist, Reina Inui, to play before and after the ceremony. Our only specific request was to walk down the aisle to Pachelbel’s “Canon in D”.
We wrote our own vows. We kept them secret from one another until the ceremony, but there were a lot of parallels. We both emphasized how important independence is to us; independence for ourselves as much as for the other person, and how maintaining our creative, distinct personalities will only continue to make us stronger as a couple. We also both referenced our first couple of dates in our anecdotes; Nik used it to point out that we’ve been inseparable since then, and Maura used it to highlight how much we are cut from the same cloth (both arriving at second-date picnic with an extremely excessive amount of highly curated and aesthetically pleasing food and drink).
It was important to us as secular humanists that we didn’t revert to any religious terminology out of a sense of tradition. Words like “blessed”, “miracle”, and “sacred” were carefully omitted and replaced with equally evocative words and phrases (such as “marvel of love” instead of “miracle of love”). After the wedding, we received a couple of comments from friends and family who specifically expressed appreciation for this language and who felt that it added a lot of depth and personality to the ceremony.
We couldn’t have done it without our Wedding Action Committee. Instead of a traditional wedding party, we asked a small group of friends to help us with implementing the final logistics of the day. They arrived early, set up the tables and chairs, assembled the bud vase table decorations, checked in with our bartenders and food vendors, helped with clean-up, etc. If we didn’t have such wonderful people in our lives, we don’t think we could have pulled it off.
Choose a venue with all the tables and chairs we needed. And maybe a better rain contingency plan. We were lucky we could book a tent at the last minute (and split the cost with another wedding the next day), and even luckier the forecast for rain was wrong.
We’re so grateful for our sweet brides & grooms who shared their stories with us. Our BEST OF 2016 .
We surprised our guests with a reading that turned into a song—the band popped out of the trees! Our very talented and wild friend Jamie, our official MC, lead the crowd in “When I’m 64” by the Beatles. Such great lyrics. It was priceless.
Very sadly, Ben’s stepfather Charles could not be there, as he was very ill back in England. To include him in the ceremony, we had a friend holding her cell phone with Charles on FaceTime. We even sent him a cowboy hat to don during the ceremony. He passed away a few months after the ceremony. We were happy he was able to see us marry, and now he will always be with us in spirit.
Music and food is most important. Keep both simple and quality. The songs people want to sing to, the food people want to eat. Nothing fancy. Always buy more booze than you think! Also, if you want to save a few bucks, e-mailed Save The Dates are just fine and the welcome bag is overrated in my eyes. An itinerary of the weekend at the hotel for each guest is fine enough—make sure to have all info online too.
Our gorgeous weddings this week have something amazing in common: they are all about the love story, not the details. Our lovely bride Sara says “the whole day felt very intimate – due in no small part to the fact that some of our very talented friends helped put it all together. A childhood friend of mine was the DJ, another our officiant, and my officemate turned dear friend Dorothée Brand of Belathée was our photographer. Our friends Matt and Emily of The Corson Building curated a wonderful assortment of food and beverages, and the save the dates, invitations and menus were created by another friend, Danielle Bellert of BDR-studio. We are so lucky to be surrounded by such gifted and generous people.” It is seriously inspiring that this couple didn’t get caught up in ‘all things wedding’, but kept it totally authentic to them, and it really shows in every aspect of their day. Which reminds me – be sure to read on for what Sara says she would do differently if she had to do it all again – it is so honest and one of my all time favorites answers!
We didn’t want anything overtly religious, and we knew we wanted to write our own vows. We wanted it to feel sentimental but also a little light hearted. And nothing too long! We took cues from a lot of friends’ and siblings’ weddings, but pretty much wrote the script on our own. We tried to combine many of our favorite features from past weddings into our day.
I am simply in love with this couple, and you’re about to be. I’m not even going to tell you about them myself, because I could never convey to you the love these two share better than the groom can. So settle in, because it’s not every day we have the groom to introduce his wedding with a love story. (And, I just have to add, while some brides choose to change up their look for the reception, it’s not every day it is the groom who does it – marrying his beautiful bride Virginia in his dashing Australian Army dress uniform, and then celebrating in a still-pretty-dapper tux).
I left breakfast and returned to Observation Post 72 in Syria that Monday via New York and Tel Aviv. My home was a tennis court-sized United Nations post near Quneitra in Syria where, with two other soldiers, I bore witness to the failure of humanity that is the Syrian conflict. In that place I had immediate occasion to reflect on the pretty blonde girl with pink lips and blue eyes that I had met – and how valuable a moment that was. Wanting to pass on only a compliment, I sent her a dozen pink roses and a Cormac McCarthy novel. At best she would have cause to feel good, at worst reject the ostensibly sentimental impulse of a stranger.
We started to write to each other, my weeks punctuated by her letters. We met again months later when I had some more leave, this time in Vietnam. Our first date was on a humid night in a dark bar in Hanoi. She wore a long flowing blue print dress. She laughed a lot. After that, it was an easy decision to send her flowers each week, easier still to start flying to New York every month or so to become part of her life. Harder when I finished secondment with the United Nations and moved back to Australia in December 2014 to continue my career as an infantry officer.
I have a very large family (18 immediate family members!) and they all live in Brooklyn. James’ immediate family is smaller (his parents, one sister who lives in Canada, plus a close aunt and uncle and two cousins) and they would pretty easily be able to come to Brooklyn. His parents were going to be visiting his sister in Canada for a week in May, which lined up with his pre-deployment leave from the Army, before he left for seven months in Iraq. So we decided to get married in Brooklyn with my family, his parents and sister down from Canada, and his aunt, uncle, and cousins from Australia.
I walked down the aisle to From Little Things Big Things Grow by Paul Kelly, an Australian Folk singer. We exchanged rings to The Stable Song by Gregory Alan Isakov. We walked back up the aisle together to Sweet Virginia by The Rolling Stones.
People underestimate the importance of the ceremony. There’s a tendency to rush through it because it’s perceived as boring or trite. But don’t rush through it and spend time thinking about and planning for the kind of ceremony you want. Because it’s likely going to be the only time the two of you get together – close enough to touch and hear one another at a whisper – and that’s what the day is all about. Really, the whole ceremony was my favorite part of the day, because it was the only part of the day where James and I were standing next to each other, holding hands, looking at one another and speaking to one another. The rest of the day was hectic – getting ready, partying with everyone, etc. Weddings are supposed to be ways to share and celebrate with all of your loved ones, which is great. But the ceremony really felt like it was just for James and me.
Army cake! I’m not particularly creative, but I guess my contribution was the cute camo cake with the green Army men crawling up it, like they were storming the beaches of Normandy!
We love Virginia’s honesty about what she would do differently if she had their wedding again. Even though she looks so lovely, she tells us “I would’ve kept my hair straight, as it is naturally. I made a last-minute, impulsive decision to do the Hollywood glam 1920s curls (because I hadn’t given any thought to how I was going to do it until the day-of and my hair stylist said it looked good!) and – even though he did a great job and the hair was beautiful – I wish I looked more like myself.”
The speeches. They were all short and sweet (as we instructed everyone – James and I had recently gone to a wedding where speeches went for almost 2 hours!) and hilarious! Everyone made the whole party laugh, which was awesome. But specifically my brother Ben’s speech was perfect.
Ray La Montagne’s You Are The Best Thing. James and I danced to this for a minute, then I grabbed my dad and he grabbed his mom. Then everyone started dancing. It was really fun. The DJ was great, so almost everyone was on the dance floor throughout the night.
Settle in, because we have a seriously special story for you today. Jeanette battled cancer from just eighteen months into her relationship with Michael, and their wedding day was an absolutely joy-filled (and yes, totally tear-filled!) celebration of what Jeanette calls their “shared triumph”. This is a couple who know all too well how very lucky they are, and they were so excited to throw a huge party celebrating just that – with 250 loved ones! Though the day started with their heartbreakingly beautiful vows, ultimately there were plenty more laughs than tears – especially with an unexpected half hour rainstorm right in the middle of their (completely uncovered) outdoor reception! And be sure to read on to the end for their seriously beautiful advice we can all take to heart.
We had a relatively short and tradition-free ceremony, as we were more concerned with getting to the party! The most important part to us were our vows, which we wrote on our own but worked through together before the big day. We felt that would be the most appropriate way to demonstrate our love to our guests.
There was a lot of genuine and heartfelt emotion that came out in our vows. A lot of people know our story from afar, but we were able to share a very close glimpse into what makes us so madly in love.
We looked at a lot of different inspiration when planning our wedding, but it wasn’t until we hung out at Outside Lands that we realized we wanted to capture the feeling of a majestic forest for our special day. Thankfully, we had Ashley Smith to help us execute on our ideas. She looked through all of our mood boards and was able to create a vision for us. It is a very big relief to hand over the aesthetic to a planner who has a history of doing great work. We felt it was silly to think we could know everything about creating a wedding as first-timers. Trusting someone who can take your thoughts and run with them further than you could is really nice.
Last September, my sister’s wedding was cancelled due to the catastrophic flooding in Colorado. Instead of postponing their nuptials, she and her fiance ran off to the wine country to get hitched that very weekend. This is the story of their elopement, with beautiful photos from Select vendor, Christina McNeill. And if you missed it earlier, you can see Part One of Lora and Grant’s wedding story right here, where my sister talks about planning a wedding that didn’t happen.
The newlyweds celebrated with a post-wedding lunch from Bouchon Bakery, including a raspberry eclair (especially fitting since the bride is a pastry chef!).
What better place for a fall wedding than on the groom’s family’s 150-year old pumpkin farm!
From the red barn ceremony backdrop, to the dahlias grown by a friend, Jessica and Wallis’s Colorado wedding is rustic and sweet and we know you’re going to love it!
Processional music was performed by like acoustic guitars and local characters. We had them dress as they felt comfortable, blue jeans and flannel. We chose “If Not For You” by Bob Dylan for the Processional (which Wallis’s parents played at their own wedding), and “Everybody’s Talkin’” by Harry Nilsson for the Recessional (because Jess grew up listening to it with her parents).
In addition to the invitations and signs that Wallis designed, and the flowers that a friend grew, we also created a beer garden and we pulled hops from the farm to decorate the tables.
It’s the imperfections that will make the day perfect. Jess’s uncle who performed the ceremony told us that. It couldn’t have been more true. Our families bonded together setting up the tables and tent decorations and while we were getting dressed, they put their own special touch on the table settings and decorations.
We have such a sweet wedding to share with you today! After a heartfelt ceremony held in the ‘fairy ring’ of ancient redwoods, these two treated guests to a fun summer camp vibe, but with an elegant, grown up twist (Archery? Live band? Champagne bar? Yes, please!) My favorite detail has to be the heart-and-arrow escort card displays, which not only look oh so cute, but were a sweet recognition of the couple’s new shared surname… Pierce!
Jen told us she and Skyler first met when she was just 15! “We apparently circled in and out of each other’s lives at several different points before it stuck. We met each other at a high school dance, and I used to go to the coffee shop he worked at. We dated in our twenties before going our separate ways after about six months, before finally getting together nine years later!”
I did have something old and borrowed – I wore my mom’s veil, which we had altered to be more modern. We replaced the puffy headpiece so popular back then (!) with a comb, and used only one of the longest pieces. It happened to be edged in the exact same kind of lace as my wedding gown that I had already purchased without knowing they were the same lace! I also had something new (white sapphire earrings), and something blue (garter.)
We both thought of marrying in the redwoods right after Skyler proposed, because of the spiritual energy that’s palpable there. Earlier that year we had driven through bigger redwoods on a roadtrip from a friend’s wedding, and loved them. We realized the redwoods north of the Bay area (Eureka/Humboldt) were too far from an airport for guests, and other areas of redwoods we liked, like those in Big Sur, were in parks where we’d have to do everything from scratch (bringing generators/chairs etc.). So that narrowed it down to a handful of venues that are already set up for weddings south of the Bay area, and closer to airports.
The laughter and the tears, and the amazing flowers! The flower circle at the alter was even more spectacular than anything I had seen, and even better than what I had given our florist, Nancy Liu Chin, reference to. Several of our guests posed for their own pictures there after the ceremony, because it was so gorgeous!
For some reason, perhaps stemming from the rehearsal, I thought our officiant was going to ask Skyler to say his vows first. So on the day when she turned first to me and said, “Jen, do you take Skyler to be your lawfully wedded husband?” I just stared blankly at her. She gently prompted me with “you’re supposed to say yes” – and then everyone (including me) cracked up. Of course I said yes, and the ceremony continued! Our whole ceremony was quite emotional; we were both a little teary at times, and then in moments like this there were was all-around laughter, too.
My mom was amazing and took care of getting all the candles that were a big part of the ceremony and reception, (some LED of course because of the woods but they looked so real and added the extra twinkle to the fairy-like venue!) Skyler and my sister Amanda made two incredible escort signs to look like archery targets, with each name on wooden dowels with fletching like an arrow. It took her weeks and she never wants to do anything remotely DIY ever again, haha!
Nobody Does It Better by Carly Simon was our first dance, and Beyond the Sea by Robbie Williams was our joint parent dance. Skyler and I only took two lessons the week before the wedding (my parents too) and we were trying to get the steps just right with the dip at the right time in the music that I wasn’t soaking it in as much as I would have liked. So that I’d advise against. Either take dance lessons long before so you really know it, or just go with the flow and do what comes naturally to you as a couple.