The Wedding(s) that started it all...

On May 3, 2015 I married my best friend, my middle school sweetheart. Doesn't that just sound barfy? We officially got hitched in one of our favorite places on the planet, the Central Coast of California, in the mountains outside a little magical town called Cambria just south of Big Sur. 

The absolute most amazing part was the feeling of pure joy I kept feeling throughout the weekend by having all of our friends and family gather in one place over a four day period of time. The best highlights included our wedding hike through the forest to a little Treehouse in the woods, our musician friends serenading us both during the ceremony and then again by candlelight at night, and all the love and care and good energy contributed by our friends and family(including baking us cupcakes! Go #TeamJen!).

So many times you just see the pretty photos on a wedding blog, and not the reasons behind them. I'm going to start letting y'all in and take some behind the scenes sneak peaks, sound good?!?

Photos below by the super talented Michael Stephens.

We had an amazing team of vendors who worked with us to bring our dream wedding to life! Here's a little bit of info on these great folks ,not only WHO they were (including links to their websites) but why we chose them!

Vendors

Planning/Design/Florals/Styling: Burlap & Rose Weddings! Yup, I hatched this baby myself! But see below, I did have the foresight to hire a Coordinator for the day. Like many of you, I did tons of reading and planning online, and wanted to DIY and plan out many of the aspects of my day. The planning and design for me included making chalkboard signs instead of having paper goods, picking wildflowers (a perk of a spring wedding) and incorporating them into my bouquet, and creating many of the little details that made the day what it was. 

Photography: Michael Stephens Photography. I met Mike at the one and only Bridal Expo I attended as a bride, at the majestic Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. When I met Mike at this expo, we instantly clicked. Compared to many of the other folks there, he just felt like the right down to earth vibe. He was offering a special of 15% off if we signed on the spot, and while that can feel like a risky move for some things, it felt right to sign with him then. It ended up being a great choice because we got a great deal, and love our photos. If you find yourself at a Bridal Expo or are otherwise offered a similar discount, my advice to you is to ask to see as much of a vendor's work as possible and see if it is a good fit. Most importantly, you have to decide what your budget priorities are and where you are willing to make trade-offs or take a potential risk. While we really wanted (and got!!) great photos, we knew we only had a certain amount of $ we could spend on this, so our trade-off was only booking 5 hours of wedding coverage. That meant we didn't get those getting ready shots(which weren't important to us, but are to many people!) or any night time dancing shots, which could have been cool, but again #priorities. 

Venue: Red Mountain Retreat VRBO. Ah, our venue!!! It took us forever to find it but once we did... it was a match made in heaven. This is what we spend the most time trying to figure out! Unlike with our photographer(which was literally a 15 min convo and decision made on the spot!) depending on how ya look at it,  it took us either five months... or two years, trying to find the right venue! For the first few years of our engagement we were considering getting hitched in our home state of Florida, including some rad places like the Keys. We did end up having our Wedding Part 1 in my family's back yard(more on that later) but after we relocated to California in the summer of 2014,  we wanted to get married here too!

After checking out many cool places up there, including a kick ass summer camp right on the ocean, and a sweet, tiny family run winery,  my mama stumbled upon this listing on VRBO. They had only done one small family wedding there before, but with 160 acres, including lemon groves, a hiking trail and secret hidden treehouse, we knew it would be amazing.

But, let me get real with you, while it was PERFECT, it wasn't perfect, if ya catch my drift? There are tons of amazing ways to make a non-traditional wedding space work for you, but it can be more work than you anticipate, and the costs really can add up if you have to bring everything in. Plus, there were a few surprises when we got there, so you have to be willing to roll with that, and we also literally had to roll up our sleeves and do some last min yard maintenance that hadn't been finished! But all things considered, I am so glad we took the time to find the right place. And honestly traveling around to gorgeous places was my favorite part of wedding planning... and ultimately a big part of why I wanted to become a wedding planner myself!

Catering/Bartending: Haute Skillet Doing Catering Tastings is another of the truly best parts of wedding planning, because, Food! Every catering company handles tastings differently. Some don't charge a fee at all, some will but apply it to your total bill, etc. We tried a few really yummy places, but Anna with Haute Skillet won us over with her locally sourced, delish comfort food. We had really wanted a food truck wedding, but the steep mountain roads leading up to our venue didn't quite work for the truck, so instead we got an even better meal with "drop-off catering" and hired some of the folks who work with Anna to set up a buffet and bus. This is one of the best budget ways to cater your wedding, but do note: you must have at least some service staff! Even if you don't want a full fledged catered meal, you do have to have some extra hands on board to manage/serve/prep/clear. I've been (mostly) vegetarian for most of my life, but my hubby isn't so we found a great compromise with delish veggie and meat options.

Dessert: Linn's Pies (Local Berry Pies)/The French Corner Bakery(Cake)/ Friends(#TeamJen Cupcakes!)

Y'all! I'll be honest. I know its a big trend now, but. I. Just. Do. Not. understand the fake wedding cake trend! To be honest, I was never a big fan of wedding cakes in general(and to all my fabulous baker friends, I am not disparaging you-- I LOVE sweets!) I just never saw the appeal of the over the top tiered cake, and TBH I'm kinda glad that trend is no longer everywhere. I love me a good dessert bar with lots of options, so that's what we had! We had a delightful small cutting cake from the local French Bakery, then we also got local berry pies from the local pie baker, then we also had home made cupcakes prepared by friends. And then, because obviously that is NOT enough sweets for one wedding, we also had a DONUT TRUCK for our morning after brunch because donuts!!!.

Morning After Doughnut Truck: Sugar Lips Mini Donuts Did I mention donuts? Doughnuts? Should I mention these again? Yes, donuts!

Hair & Makeup: Danielle Roberts. I found Dani online, and absolutely loved her sweet energy and kind aura. She helped whipped me and my gals into purdy shape. There was a time when I considered DIYing my hair and make up and I am SO glad I went profesh for this instead.

Coordination: Eventful Wedding Planning. Here's where I confess, again, that at first I thought I wouldn't need a Wedding Coordinator. Yep, this is now what I do (?!?!) but for a while I was very committed to sticking to a really tight DIY budget and I couldn't fathom how a Coordinator could fit that. I asked a family member if they would coordinate, and she politely turned me down, because: your friends and family want to have FUN at your wedding! For the most part, they do NOT want to work! There are exceptions to every wedding rule, and many friends won't mind contributing something your wedding, especially if it is a short time commitment(Ex: we asked our musician friends to play 1-3 songs each, not play an entire music set).  Coordinating a wedding is an ALL DAY affair, and ain't nobody got time for that when they are also trying to boogie with you on the dance floor! I found Colleen from Eventful Wedding Planning online, and we clicked in the planning process. I asked her for a discount, like many of you ask me-- and here is the deal: I knew that in order to get a discount, I would have to offer up some things in return. For example, I offered to lead my own rehearsal the day before, and create my own timeline with minimal input, AND handle all vendor communications, in exchange for a mild $200 off her rate. That was reasonable for both of us. I'll write more about asking vendors for discounts in another blog, but it's always a good rule of thumb in life, you have to be willing to let something go in exchange for something else, right?

Transportation: Ride On Shuttle. I really truly believe that you should give an open bar, and you should encourage people to have a great time, and you should really really make it easy for people to get home safe. Drinking and driving straight up stinks y'all. Offering shuttles can seem expensive, and depending on the venue and where folks are staying it isn't always an option. Thankfully for us it was, and I HIGHLY encourage all my clients to think about safety, and put money towards this as a top priority.

Rentals: Taylor Rentals This is a great rental company for Central Cali. Affordable and reliable!

Friendors

While we love and appreciate all the pros who worked with us on our wedding, it was incredible to have the love and support and time and talents of our friends as well.

Musicians

Processional: Kate + Jenna serenaded us on the violin and flute. These gals, friends from DC, were effin amazing. They played The Swan, and yep-- The Bridal March! I wanted so many non-traditional elements, but I also thought throwing in some hella traditional aspects could also be fun, and they nailed it.

Recessional: Aimee + Michael played a friend edited version of Home by Edward Sharpe as our Recessional. It was pretty friggin perfect. We walked down the aisle as a married couple with our best friends singing their hearts out while we were surrounded by bubbles. Yasssssss.

"First Dance=Last Dance": Instead of having a traditional First Dance, we had something more like a Last Dance towards the end of our reception.

Vasu is another dear soul from the DC area who I got to collaborate with on a Flash Mob for Voting Rights on the Steps of the Supreme Court to call attention to Voting Rights. (Yup, that was my work before I got into weddings). Vasu's voice is just down right amazing and instead of having a "first dance" which just did not fit us, we instead had tons of dancing with everyone to kick off the reception, and once it got dark, we handed out candles, and had our friends surround us with light and love while Vasu played Stay With Me by Sam Smith, and then led into an acoustic medley. It was truly magical. So this is what the end of our wedding looked like!

Art: Our dear friend Alex created this graffiti piece for our wedding, along with the design of our Save the Dates for our CA and FL Wedding Celebrations. Pretty amazing, no?

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The Whole Wedding Weekend Baby!!

While our actual wedding day was magic, it was having the whole weekend together that made the experience a true ritual/journey/community celebration.