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
25 comments posted +add a comment SEE MORE: Real Weddings
  1. Tonya Szele

    We were thrilled to help plan your wedding Laurel & Scott. You were a dream to work with as were your amazing team of vendors!! Nancy, the photos are stunning! So excited to see your beautiful wedding featured on Snippet & Ink!! Congratulations Laurel & Scott!

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  2. Megan

    I love the sheep! Would love to see video from this wedding.

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  3. Josh Gruetzmacher

    I love the colorful tabe decor! Nancy Neil photos always have such a great feeling too.

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  4. Nora

    Absolutely love! The flowers are brilliant! And there are a couple of photos where the bride looks just like Jennifer Garner!

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  5. Colleen

    Stunning! What a fun wedding to go to! Man I would love to go to a wedding at the zoo!

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  6. Plum Pretty Sugar Loungerie

    Everything looks just lovely!! Beautiful photos!


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  7. Elaine

    What a stunning wedding! her dress is so so beautiful..oohhh and those animal alphabet cards are gorgeous!!!!

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  8. littlewinterbride

    stunning location! California has the most perfect climate. sigh.

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  9. Lisa

    What a great idea to get married at the zoo!

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  10. Ciara

    Gorgeous gorgeous berry tones, good enough to eat!

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  11. Kate (Bayside Bride)

    Beautiful! I love all the animals !

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  12. Christening Invitations

    Wow! What a great setting.

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  13. Tim Duncan

    That photo with them in a photobooth is WAY adorable!

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  14. DIY Wedding Invitations

    Some great pictures here. We want more.

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  15. Elegant Wedding Invitations

    ooh! The black and white pics look awesome.

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  16. Calie Rose

    Love the giraffe and sheep, fun twist to be married at a zoo! The animal alphabet cards are a perfect touch, the wedding centerpieces and bouquets are masterfully designed (I can’t get over the beautiful color palette and varieties of flowers that are used!). This is a sure inspiration for many!

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  17. Chloe

    Love love loooove! Nancy Neil is my favourite. She makes everything so effortless & beautiful and lovely.

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  18. Hens Night Invitations

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  19. Party Invitation Templates

    Brilliant set of photographs!

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    Some epic photography!

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  21. Unique Wedding Invitations

    This is an awesome post.

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  22. wedding dj santa barbara

    This is truly a great read for me.nice Idea

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  23. June

    The use of colors in this wedding is marvelous! Great shots and the couple looks beyond thrilled! Why wouldn’t they be? Their wedding looks like it was just a beautiful experience. The bride looks stunning and that dress is so flattering. Santa Barbara would be such a dream to get married at, I could only imagine! I’ve vacationed there once or twice for a few days and have walked by a few weddings going on at the beach and they were so nice! We love going there though, we always stay at the Sandman Inn ( Budget savvy and in the perfect location, can’t top it!

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  24. Michelle

    What a lovely wedding and couple. Santa Barbara is a great choice to have a wedding. Thank you for sharing.

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  25. Photo Booth Rental Florida

    Wow I really like your photos. Especially the sparkler photos they are very nice and it looked like it was a lot of fun to shoot.

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