Today it’s such a treat for me to share the wedding of one of my oldest and best friends! Mariam and Pete celebrated their wedding last September at Sonoma’s Garden Pavilion, and from start to finish it was an incredibly special and fun weekend – not to mention beautiful with its garden party vibe. Also, Mariam, you looked like the most beautiful prima ballerina and Pete is one lucky guy!
Did you include any traditions in your wedding? I borrowed my veil from a close friend who wore it at her wedding a couple years ago and was unable to make it to our wedding because she had just had a baby girl (who we hope will also wear the veil one day!). Another close friend who was a bridesmaid wore the same veil in her wedding last year and pinned it on me the morning of the wedding. By the time it got to me it had a tiny hole in it but I didn’t care – it was such a special something borrowed.
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? Prioritize clearly at the beginning and try to keep staying focused on those priorities and not get caught up in details you don’t actually care that much about. Take the time to find vendors you really trust, then trust them and let them do their thing. Find your people to rely on for different aspects of wedding planning – friends who love to talk through the details, friends who will help you keep a sense of humor about how ridiculous obsessing over the details can be, etc.
If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently?
Kathryn, being my wedding-fairy-godmother and bridesmaid extraordinaire, amazingly got us parasols the evening before the wedding when it became clear how hot it was going to be during the ceremony. These turned out to be a lifesaver and something I wished I’d thought of before! [Editor’s note: huge thank you to Kelly at A Savvy Event for pulling through with last-minute parasols! And thanks to the magic of Twitter for connecting us.]
“We knew we wanted to get married outdoors in the sun, somewhere beautiful and relaxed. We looked at a number of locations in wine country and felt like this one was the best fit for us. It felt like a welcoming home and garden, with four different spaces to use for different parts of the day and evening. It also had a great big house that we stayed in with friends the days before the wedding, which we loved.”
Your ceremony in three words. Warm, fun, wine-country!
How did you go about planning your ceremony? We used Snippet & Ink’s ceremony materials as a reference, and talked to friends and looked online for readings. We wrote our own vows. We knew we wanted it to be personal and meaningful to us, and not too long (especially since we knew it might be hot).
Who officiated your ceremony? We had a close friend marry us. We picked him because we knows us and our relationship well, and we knew he would strike the balance we wanted between significance and humor. He was even better than we could have hoped – he blew us away.
Did you include any traditions in your ceremony? We modified certain traditions to work for us – I had both my parents walk me down the aisle; Pete’s sister was his “best man” (and she was the best best man ever).
What were your ceremony readings? The Master Speed by Robert Frost and an excerpt from “Shelter from the Storm” by Bob Dylan.
What were your vows like? We wrote our own vows together, but they ended with traditional vows – we wanted to incorporate that tradition but also incorporate other elements that were important to us. At the ceremony we each repeated the vows after our officiant. For us this was a way to do vows that were personal to us, but not be nervous at the ceremony about having to remember something or read from a paper – it allowed us to be in the moment and focus on each other.
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? It’s the part of the day I remember most clearly. The rest of the day and evening is a very happy blur, but I felt like I was able to stand still during the ceremony and really appreciate the significance of what was happening and how incredibly grateful and happy I was in that moment.
“Our processional and recessional music came from a live bagpiper to honor my Grandma (our only living grandparent) and her Scottish heritage,” shares Mariam. “The music was meaningful to us, moving and ceremonial in a fun way. Our bagpiper, Jay, was wonderful to work with. As a side note, a bagpiper is also an economical option for live music as it’s only one musician (who brings a lot of sound!).”
Do you have any budget tips for other brides? I found it so difficult to find specific numbers and price ranges for different elements of the wedding and that was the guidance I really needed. I would say if you can find friends or other resources who can share honestly with you about price ranges, that is incredibly helpful. The cost of various aspects of a wedding can be not only horrifying but intimidating. Don’t work with vendors who try to intimidate you or make you feel clueless and naive about your budget. With each element of the wedding I found a wonderful, incredibly professional vendor who was not only willing to work within our budget but was thoughtful in discussing our budget – which goes such a long way.
Is there anything else that helps tell the story of your wedding? The parts of wedding planning I enjoyed most were the ones I was able to share with family and friends. I loved wedding dress shopping with my mom, also helping her pick out her mother-of-the-bride dress. My girlfriends were amazing at keeping me laughing through the whole process. My now sister-in-law and mother-in-law helped with a lot of the final details, and that ended up being a really fun bonding experience for us. What other “best man” (the groom’s sister) would happily talk with the bride about chalkboards and burlap runners for hours?! I was very lucky.
“I felt like our reception was a relaxed, fun outdoor wine country party. We had a buffet style dinner out on the grass, with round tables, and toasts. Then lots of drinks and lots of dancing. I paid a lot of attention to timing at weddings we attended before ours. We tried to structure the reception to keep the flow of the evening going without feeling stalled out during toasts or cake cutting, etc. We knew that we wanted at least three hours of dancing/party-time so we structured the reception in a way to make that happen.”
Why did you choose this location for your reception? Same location as the ceremony, which we loved. We had our ceremony in the garden, then the cocktail hour out in the corral by the vineyard, then dinner on the open lawn, and dancing in an open-air pavilion.
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? We both wanted our wedding to be a dressed up version of our favorite kind of Saturday – hanging out outside in the sun with family and friends and good food and drinks. We loved sharing Sonoma with our out of town guests. With a beautiful venue and awesome people, it’s going to be a great time – we tried to make that the focus.
Did you have a signature cocktail? Is Kim Crawford Sauv Blanc a signature cocktail?? We had an open cocktail bar, and a collection of some favorite wines and beers.
What was your wedding menu? I absolutely can’t say enough good things about Tom and his team at Alex’s. He really took the time to work with us to create a delicious, fresh menu in the style we wanted and within a budget we were comfortable with. Several people told us it was the best food they’d ever had at a wedding.
Passed Appetizers: Asparagus Straws, Carolina-Style Pulled Pork Biscuit Sliders, Lamb Sliders, Risotto Truffles // Buffet: Heirloom Tomato and Cucumber Salad / Market Grilled Vegetables / Red Pepper Ravioli / Sea Scallops and Tiger Prawns / Angus Flank Steak
What type of cake or dessert did you serve? We served cake from SusieCakes, a local California bakery that I fell in love with when I lived in Los Angeles, and that has a location down the street from where we live now in San Francisco. We get all our birthday cakes and random cupcakes and other treats from there and we adore them. We loved getting to share SusieCakes with our out of town guests. And they’re much more reasonably priced than bakeries that specialize in wedding cakes specifically.
What was your favorite moment or part of the reception? Being surrounded by family and friends from all different parts of our lives, all dancing together to a great live band. So fun!
Are there any DIY details you’d like to tell us about? I am not at all the DIY type, but I had fun with a few elements. We used postcards from favorite places we visited together (some of them obscure and difficult to pronounce, which made it more fun) as our table cards. We used my mother-in-law’s beautiful handwriting for the invitation envelopes, place cards, chalkboard menu and anything else we could.
What was your first dance song? “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley. Yes, we “rickrolled” our own wedding. We wanted a light first dance that would be fun to do and hopefully fun to watch, and set the tone for the rest of the night. We had a very short choreographed dance that was a secret from everyone. We kept not having time to practice and so we almost scrapped the whole thing, but at the last minute decided to go through with it and I’m so glad we did. One of my favorite memories of our wedding day is practicing with Pete out in the vineyards where nobody could see us the morning of the wedding. I just love a choreographed dance and Pete was so great about indulging me.
What was the best advice you received as a bride? You already made the most important wedding planning choice – you found the best groom.