outdoor reception

Advice From a Bride About Having a Nontraditional Wedding

So excited to share this one! As more and more couples opt to have less traditional weddings by including only the traditions that are meaningful to them or changing existing ones to reflect who they are, I’m find it so helpful to ask the couples directly about their experience.

Mattie and Jared share their experience with planning a nontraditional wedding at El Rio, a bar in the Mission in San Francisco.

I met up with them at Proper Hotel for a some family portraits and quick couples portraits.

While we waited for our ride to El Rio, Mattie and Jared transferred their vows from phone / head to paper.

We didn’t want to be limited by a guest count and we wanted a great party. We were discouraged that most traditional options didn’t deliver this in what we believed was a ‘reasonable’ cost and get the personal experience we wanted. We assumed our ‘non traditional’ approach meant simple and inexpensive but that’s not true, designing an experience that feels like you is in fact custom. It takes just as much if not more thought and vision than a more traditional, generic wedding. What worked for us was to focus on moments and then deliberately build structure from there. What did we want to feel like at each interaction and how did we want others to feel?
— Mattie and Jared
We designed the ceremony in a way that would make us (and our guests comfortable) so we could really lean into the seriousness and personal nature of this moment. We saw everyone before the ceremony (no aisle walking) in hopes to combat any nerves (especially for our vows) and it was true, being greeted by our loved ones gave us so much energy and love that any anxiety slipped away. We had our parents gather everyone (setting the tone) and each shared their wishes for us. We had our friends officiate (a couple who’s marriage we admire and friendship adore) and they wrote an incredibly touching ceremony for us. We stripped out formal call and responses and built the ceremony script using our language so it felt natural and truthful and ultimately so that we and our guests felt connected in this deeply vulnerable moment. And because El Rio has such an amazing back patio, everyone stood, huddling around us creating closeness and we loved the ability to see everyone’s face.
— Mattie and Jared

What was the most memorable part of the day?

M&J: “Our ceremony. We don’t often stop and lock eyes with our partners and tell them how deeply we love them. This is a moment not to miss and the vulnerability it requires is worth it. Sharing our vows was intimate, sweet and irreplaceable.”

MJ’s Brass Boppers played immediately following their ceremony for a loud New Orleans party that eventually ended up with a parade down Mission Street, stopping traffic (for just a few seconds).

There is no other experience where ALL of your friends and family are in the same place. You hear this time and again from other people when you tell tell them you’re planning a wedding but can’t decide how big it will be. We understood this in concept - and opted for a large wedding - but you can’t quite grasp just how special and meaningful it will be to see everyone from all stages of your life there, showing up specifically for you, until you’re in the midst of it. The significance of that feeling, the truly once-in-a-lifetime experience, it’s an incredible surprise.
— Mattie and Jared

Mattie and Jared also included the cutting of the cake with the family sword!

M&J: “We created the environment and our friends and family brought the love, the words, and the energy that made our wedding so special.

People have remarked that the wedding felt like "us." This means the world to us and proves that you can do what you want for a wedding, it just takes some intentional decisions.”

Stephanie and Tim | Monte Rio Wedding

Documenting Stephanie and Tim’s wedding was such a treat. I began my day with photographing them getting ready together in a tucked away AirBnB surrounded by trees and greenery. They made tea together, wrote out the vows they would say to each other just a few moments later, and then Tim helped Stephanie get into her wedding dress.

Also, holy cow, can we take a moment to appreciate how much work went into the handmade paper bouquet and floral wall pieces?

Venue: Monte Rio Community Center
Wedding Planner: Weddings on the Vine
Caterer and Desserts: Sally Tomatoes

Natalie & Nick | White Arbor Wedding in Elk Grove

Wow, Natalie and Nick’s wedding. I’m always a fan of everything-in-one-location wedding days, and at this beautiful yet unassuming venue, having that little extra peace of mind and extra time was welcomed. Natalie was able to have a small “first look” with her grandmother (whose expression I’ll never forget!) before sharing a first look with Nick.

A few of my favorite moments:

  • After the ceremony, the wedding party snuck back upstairs to sign the marriage license and have a little joyous “Now it’s REALLY official and we’re the only ones to see!” celebration.

  • Looking back at Natalie and Nick’s wedding guests in their own romantic cuddle watching their first dance.

  • Witnessing and capturing the tiny moments of love between family - such as Natalie’s mom wrapping the grandparents together with a blanket.

Though their guest count was around 150, somehow it still felt so intimate!

Venue: White Arbor Weddings
DJ: DJ Eli Freshmode
Caterer: American River College
Flowers: American River College
Bridal Gown: BHLDN

Alex and Taylor | A Spanish Themed Villa Montalvo Wedding in Saratoga, CA

(Words from Taylor herself)

What was the most memorable part of the day?
Seeing each other for the first time during our “first look,” and getting a few minutes to be alone together before the crazy rush of the day. We’ve known each other for almost nine years, but it felt like we were seeing each other—really seeing each other—for the very first time. We were both so overcome with emotion.

Those few minutes together were the most intimate and meaningful of our entire lives.

We also decided to write personal vows, and I'm so happy we did. I will treasure the vows Alex made to me for the rest of my life—perhaps more so because they were his words, from his heart.

What unique detail was the most important for you to include and why?
It's impossible to narrow down to just one. We have three! 

- It was very important to us to display the photos of our family and loved ones who could not be there. They were there in spirit with us throughout the day.
- My grandmother found her parents’ wedding invitation and engagement photo from 1916, as well as the wedding topper from their cake, which we had displayed over my great-grandmother's
 gorgeous lace tablecloth. We loved incorporating these small but special pieces of family history. 
- We tried to incorporate small pieces of our personalities into the details of the day. I'm a big book nerd, and we decided to name our tables after favorite authors. Alex is a huge fan of darts (and somehow even got me into the game on our very first date!), and so our party favors were custom dart sets. Finally, we both love Spain and have visited the country several times as a couple, so we served Jamón Ibérico and other Spanish tapas, and even found an incredible flamenco guitar trio to play during the cocktail reception. It was fabulous. 

What came most as a surprise to you about the day?
I was most surprised by how incredibly fast the day went by! After a year of planning, the day was over before we knew it! I wish we could live it all over again, a hundred times over!

Venue: Villa Montalvo
Wedding Planner: Events by Satra
Caterer: La Bocca Fina
Music: Daniel Fries Music
Band: Lucky Devils Band
Florist: Blossoms
Cake: Studio Cake
Hair & Makeup: Bay Area Beautiful

Brittany & Lucas | Los Altos History Museum Wedding

This was definitely one of my favorite weddings of 2017. Not often do I come across a speech from the bride that left everyone, including me and the videographers, in awe at how powerful and passionate her words were. And not often (ever) do I come across a petting zoo for an adults only wedding! 

Mariana & Aaron | Casa de la Guerra and El Paseo, a Downtown Santa Barbara Wedding

I'm blogging this nearly 10 months later but I still vividly remember Mariana and Aaron's amazing downtown Santa Barbara wedding.

They had their ceremony at the Casa de la Guerra courtyard and then mariachi'ed their way into the gorgeous El Paseo Restaurant. I still can't get over the space and how gorgeous the colors and atmosphere was. 

I still have their dried lavender favors living on my balcony. 

Lexi & Joe | An Intimate Backyard Wedding in Piedmont

"Do I look stupid? No? Awesome!" -Lexi, upon her friends seeing her in her wedding dress for the first time, and also upon me arriving and seeing her putting on her makeup.

Lexi and Joe had a beautifully intimate wedding at her parents' house in Piedmont. What a wedding. All about family, friends, and the things Lexi and Joe cared most about - the food and drink! 

Almost all of the decor was made by hand, and even their rings were made by a friend at the wedding. Lexi and her students made the cool paper diamonds that decorated the tables and the space, and which also made up the backdrop of their photobooth. 

The food and drink were catered by people who were also passionate about what they do, and you could really feel the care and artistry they put into it all (which is why there's such a good amount of food photos in this blog post!). 

A gorgeous little space made even more special by the people, the relationships, and the moments. Congratulations, Lexi and Joe!

Wedding Planner: Bowties and Bubbly Events