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.