Nancy Neil is one of my favorite photographers to feature – not only does she take lovely photos, but her clients always have the loveliest weddings! In a fun twist, Laurel and Scott were wed at the Santa Barbara Zoo…
Before the ceremony, guests were offered water and lemonade in miniature jam jars.
I asked Laurel and Scott why they chose this location for their wedding: Scott is from Santa Barbara and we knew we wanted to get married somewhere outdoors in his hometown. Because he grew up there he was initially skeptical about the zoo (he hadn’t been since he was a kid), but when we saw it we knew it was just right for us. It’s very pretty and has beautiful views of the ocean and mountains. We also have lots of family and friends with kids, and we wanted to be able to include everyone in our celebration, including their children. We both love animals too – who else can say they got to feed a giraffe right after their ceremony? And it’s a little different and not too formal. We really wanted everything to be relaxed, casual, fun and still beautiful.
How darling are these animal alphabet cards?! Says Laurel: The amazing custom wedding day stationary was made by my best friend, who was also one of our officiants. She did 17 original watercolor paintings of different animals at the Santa Barbara Zoo that start with a different letter, and then each table at the reception had a custom-printed version of her paintings as the place card for that table (instead of table numbers). She made printed sticker versions of the animals and we hand-stamped guests’ names on the escort cards. She also drew the program and custom zoo map, which included activity information for our guests.
Did you include any traditions in your wedding? My father passed away three years before our wedding, and he was remembered in many ways during our wedding, from the flower my mother carried in his memory when she walked me down the aisle, to the ceremony and toasts at the reception. We included some other traditions, but including the memory of my dad in the day was the most important.
What advice do you have for other brides? Don’t sweat the small stuff. Things that don’t go according to plan are either so memorable that they’ll make for great stories, or are so forgettable that even you won’t remember a year from now. All the little details can be fun if you want them to be, but truthfully, most of your guests won’t notice or care. Everyone’s there to celebrate, and at the end of the day, if you get married and have the people you love with you, that’s really all that matters.
Is there anything else that helps tell the story of the day? Scott and I have known each other a very long time – we first met in college almost 16 years before our wedding, so that means we’ve also known each other’s families and friends a long time too. Because the large majority of our guests were traveling from other places (and even other countries) to attend, we wanted to have as much time with everyone as possible and tried to extend the celebration all weekend. Everyone was invited to a party on Friday night, and we had a big brunch on Sunday that lasted into the afternoon. To have almost everyone you love together in one place – there’s truly nothing better.
Photography: Nancy Neil / Event planner: Tonya Szele for Soigné Productions / Venue: Santa Barbara Zoo / Bride’s dress: Junko Yoshioka from Mark Ingram Atelier / Beaded belt: Oscar de la Renta / Hair stylist: Lucy at Salon U / Groom’s suit: John Varvatos / Flowers: Holly Flora / Ceremony music: Chris Fossek / Reception DJ: Jon Harris / Photo booth: The Traveling Photo Booth Company / Catering, rentals, lighting: Zoo Catering Services by Rincon / Cakes: Jeannine’s