There are a few wedding photos that I return to time and again, to remind myself of what a wedding day is all about, namely love and joy. Isn’t it wonderful when you can see that in the photos?! Cate and Michael’s wedding is one of those, and Cate kindly took the time to share the story of the day. I hope her smile and sense of humor inspire you as much as they inspire me.

We were married in April in Charlottesville, Virginia at Ash Lawn-Highland, the home of President James Monroe – it’s an historic site owned by the College of William and Mary, so the site fee was partly tax-deductible, a huge bonus. We were married in one of the gardens and had our cocktail hour and reception in the pavilion, which has a gorgeous view of the Shenandoah Valley and beyond. The fact that it poured during our reception made it that much more, um, interesting.

As you can tell, this was a very DIY wedding, and my mother was a hero. Aside from making my dress, the cakes, the table runners and her own dress, she was constantly dropping into local thrift stores to assemble the incredible amount of stuff we bought for the wedding. I wish I had inherited one ounce of her craftiness and commitment. My parents were just amazing.

My bridesmaids were left up to their own devices for dresses, and I only asked that they stay within the brown, pink, green and ivory scheme that we had sort of established. I dislike matching bridesmaid dresses, and I wanted to keep their costs down. The color scheme, by the way, pretty much fell apart by the end of our planning, as you can see by the pictures; my bridesmaids were in the brown-pink range, but my bridesmen wore gray and pink, and the groomsmen wore pink and blue…good thing pink is in this year. The tallest bridesmaid wore her dress to her own rehearsal dinner a couple of years ago. We’re all about recycling!

For my dress, my mom made over a J.Crew wedding dress (that I got on clearance that winter for $68) with lace and ribbon from Mokuba. At $60 a yard, the silk ribbon was by far the most expensive part of the dress. The vintage rhinestone brooch that pinned my sash together was found at a consignment shop the morning of my wedding: I woke up with an insanely last-minute desire for vintage jewelry for my sash, and one of my bridesmaids made it happen.

My mother and aunt baked our eight cakes in late March, froze them, and stored them in freezers across town. The morning of the wedding, two of my aunts iced the cakes and hustled them over to Ash Lawn. I can truly say without reservations that our “wedding” cake – a dark celestial chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting and white chocolate ganache – was the best I’ve ever had. People still rave about all the cakes and beg for the recipes. (In addition to the celestial chocolate cake, there was red velvet cake, caramel cake, carrot cake, chocolate Doberge cake, pound cake with fresh fruit and apricot glaze, rose cream cake, and coconut cake with lemon curd filling.) We cut our cake with a piece of our wedding silver given to us by my grandmother, which was so special to me.

One of Cate’s biggest pieces of advice? “Watch the forecast, and order some bulk umbrellas (we got ours from Friedman Umbrellas – they were very fast and so calming to a crazed bride). This will do one of two things: ensure that it doesn’t actually rain because you spent more money, or, if it does, that your guests can get to the restrooms without getting soaked.”

Photography / videography: Jason Arthurs | “Our photographer is a former classmate from college, and he is just amazing. Not only did he shoot the most beautiful photos, he and his second shooter (a college student!) concocted a gorgeous video for us. I am proud of our wedding, and I am incredibly proud of the work that Jason did. Also, he’s very, very affordable, and he travels.”

Venue: Ash Lawn-Highland in Charlottesville, Virginia¬† |¬† “We chose Ash Lawn because we wanted to be married in the Valley, and it was the most affordable option that met our requirements: a beautiful outdoor scene, a sense of history (my husband is a big presidential history person), and a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere.”

Bride’s dress: J.Crew |¬† customized and altered by the bride’s mother

Bridesmaid dresses: J.Crew / Anthropologie / Cutie Clothes

Groom’s suit: My Suit | “A very affordable way to purchase a bespoke suit.”

Groom’s socks: “His socks were from Paul Stuart, and that was the dumbest shopping battle of my life – pink, blue and gray Argyles are difficult to find.”

Bridesmen shirts / ties: T.M. Lewin / Macy’s

Personal flowers: Sugar Magnolias

Irish music: students from Blue Ridge Irish Music School

Sending happiest wishes to you Cate and Michael! Thank you so much for sharing your delightful wedding with us! You can find Cate over at her blog, I Cook Like a Girl.

9 comments posted +add a comment SEE MORE: Real Weddings
  1. Tricia @ {every}nothing wonderful

    Oh my gosh I love her! I love them! I love that they embraced their day for everything it is supposed to be and should be. The best!

    The video is amazing too!

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  2. camilla

    those vows!!! i’m a wreck after watching that video! beautiful…

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  3. Kate

    The was one of the best wedding videos I have ever seen. I loved everything about it – that it wasn’t all music and you could hear the girls laughing, the shots of the reception and those vows. I am with Camilla. I was in tears they were so lovely. Thank you for sharing!

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  4. Maggie [The Freckled Citizen]

    I’m so happy to see Cate’s wedding featured here – it is as wonderful and heartfelt as she is! The video gets me every single time.

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  5. cate

    thanks, everyone (and big hugs, maggie!) if you’re planning, i hope you have an amazing day, and remember: you might not taste the fizzy lemonade you so specifically requested, but you’ll never forget every single wonderful conversation that you had. your wedding is going to be just awesome, and don’t let some naysayer or a niggling voice in your head convince you otherwise.

    and if you’re in the market for a photographer, jason is awesome and available….

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  6. Elaine

    Wow. The vows were amazing. Beautiful wedding!

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  7. Kendra

    I have been reading wedding blogs for over two years in anticipation of my wedding coming up next June. Through all of the thousands of weddings/shoots/videos I’ve seen on the wedding blog world, this little wedding is absolutely the best. What an amazing couple. The video is unbelievably the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen. This is the way I want my wedding to feel. Congrats, Cate!

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  8. Faye

    Oh my goodness, those VOWS!!! Were they based on traditional Irish vows? I gotta know, ’cause they gotta go in my hope chest!

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  9. laura

    I just about died reading the list of cakes!

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