Sarah & Colin focused on making every part of their wedding day deeply personal, from the stationery suite’s hand drawn botanical details designed by one of the bride’s best friends, to the palette of white, green and gold – and wow, greenery has never looked so glamorous as at their reception! What a great fit against the backdrop of their beautiful venue, Cheekwood – and even that choice was quietly personal (its red brick is a nod to the red brick university campus were they met). Despite their careful planning, they could still roll with the punches – when it started pouring rain and their dream outdoor reception fast became an indoor one, they say it “made the night even better than we planned!”
Why did you choose this location for your wedding? Before we got engaged, we loved going to Cheekwood each season (they always have something fun going on!) so we had a lot of personal memories there. It honestly had the perfect mix of everything we wanted – formal without being stuffy, beautiful without trying too hard, unique but not too off the wall.
Did you include any other traditions in your wedding? Sarah’s grandfather passed away a few months before our wedding so she had a piece from one of his blue handkerchiefs sewn into her dress. Colin wore his father’s gold cufflinks and had his grandfather’s gold bracelet in his pocket.
Don’t Sarah’s bridesmaids look pretty in dreamy, flowing pastels? Keeping their dresses within a similar palette and having them all wear simple crowns of greenery keeps it cohesive, and suits the garden venue beautifully.
What was the best advice you received as a bride? Schedule your day to squeeze in a massage! The first thing I did in the morning was go with my Maid of Honor to get a full body massage — it set the day off on the right foot and helped me keep my zen.
Your ceremony in three words. Intimate, botanical, authentic.
How did you go about planning your ceremony? We knew we wanted a circular ceremony to create a really intimate experience – my brother did that at his wedding and we both loved it. And, we knew right away that we wanted a friend to marry us. Everything else fell into place as we did research and talked to our wedding planner. No one other than us and our officiant stood during the ceremony – that way all guests could easily see, hear and not be distracted by a fidgeting bridal party. We served popsicles and made our programs thick so people could discreetly use them as a fan since it was so hot out. We kept the ceremony short and made every element of it super personal – especially our vows.
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? Surprising Colin by walking down the aisle to his favorite song (I had arranged with the acoustic guitarist to walk in to Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road) is really high up there, but less specific than that would be the moment I entered into the ceremony circle, after walking down the aisle. The energy in that moment was overwhelming with love and happiness – both from my groom and our guests. I could feel everyone’s smiles and tears, waiting for Colin and I’s big moment to start, and when I took hold of his hands there was a wash of calm. How happy and present and full I felt in that precise moment is something I will keep with me forever.
Who officiated your ceremony? How did you choose him/her/them? Ryan Smith, one of our best friends. We met him separately while in college and he has remained one of our closest friends. He wrote an incredibly touching, yet hilarious, ceremony that made standing in the middle of a circle – with tons of eyes on us – a breeze. Knowing someone we love and trust was there with us, guiding us through the moment, allowed us to enjoy it and helped make it feel familiar.
What were your ceremony readings? Just one, “Union” by Robert Fulghum.
What were your vows like? We took a pre-wedding trip to the Rocky Mountains for a long weekend. We hiked and ate and laughed and by the end of the weekend, we had crafted very personal vows. We started by separately writing what we wanted to promise each other, then talked through each one together – discussing what the promises meant to us and why we thought they were important. Finally, we combined them into what we consider the foundation of the entire day; our promises to each other.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share about your wedding ceremony? Our ceremony was the springboard for the entire day. Other elements – like the greenery of the gardens or bricks of the reception – were definitely key but we consistently brought ourselves back to the heart of the day and the importance of what we were doing. It was crucial for us to strip down certain parts of the wedding experience and start it all off with an intimate moment focused on the promise we were making. We knew if we had our commitment front and center, the rest would feel authentic, look beautiful and be fun!
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding?
Talk with your partner about how you envision it all happening – not just the colors, food and music you each like. What are your expectations for each event, how do you think you will feel, etc. For example, we both feared not getting to spend the festivities together – something we had been warned about by many couples. As soon as the ceremony finished, we were hand in hand the entire rest of the day. It was a priority for us to experience the day together and we walked away with that being one of our favorite parts of the wedding.
How would you describe your reception? Simple but complete.
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? Our vision was to keep it simple and focused on what mattered the most – celebrating our love with the people we love. We knew we wanted to achieve that simplicity through the color palette and by letting the botanical garden shine through. It was important to us to create a space and flow that made all guests feel like participants – not bystanders.
Ultimately, we wanted the day to feel intimate and commemorate our commitment – not look like a hyped up Pinterest board. It was really important to us not to get caught up in the social pressure to make our wedding overly flashy or focused too much on small (and stress inducing!) details. To us, that meant long family-style dinner tables, really great food, a 90s tribute band and an understated, though still classic, style that tied it all together.
Are there any DIY details you’d like to tell us about? Elements that looked or felt DIY weren’t really part of the look we were after, but we used one of my best friend’s calligraphy for our invitations, ceremony programs and dinner menus – she created an original of each and then we had them printed. As the benefactor of many beautifully handwritten letters and pieces of art by her, it meant so much to have the personal element of her calligraphy as part of our day.
Do you have any budget tips for other brides? My best budget advice is invest in the things that matter to you and your partner and ditch everything else. We didn’t do late night snacks because when we go to weddings, we are usually too full to enjoy them. We didn’t do favors because (again) when we go to weddings, we always avoid taking them home at the end of the night so we don’t have guilt from throwing them away. We didn’t go all-out decorating our ceremony or cocktail hour spaces because people spend almost no time there and the venue was beautiful enough without it.
What type of cake or dessert did you serve? Elvis Cake (banana cake with peanut butter frosting) // Oreo Blackout Cake (chocolate cake with Oreo bits between each layer // Lemon Vanilla Cake // Carrot Cake // Old fashioned bourbon chocolate cake with cherry jam and orange whipped cream // Butter cake with raspberry coulis, raspberry butter cream and red sorrel garnish.
What was your first dance song? Jesus, Etc. by Wilco. Wilco is one of Colin’s favorite artists but when we were first getting to know each other, I had no idea who they were. I downloaded every single Wilco song I could find and of all of them (hundreds)… I liked just ONE! I then slyly used it in a conversation to seem cool, a point Colin loves to tease me about. Nine years later, it’s still a favorite of ours and has accompanied many tender moments through the years — one being our proposal, and now this!
If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently? We had a wonderful kick off party on the Friday but I would have had a brunch on the Sunday, the day after our wedding. We didn’t do one because we thought people would be sick of celebrating but in hindsight, the weekend felt like it drifted to an end instead of properly ‘finishing’. We would have loved the chance to hear stories from our wedding while they were still fresh in everyone’s minds, and spend more time with our incredible guests. They were such troopers, even when it rained and plans had to change all of a sudden. They met new people, drank and let their inhibitions go, and really celebrated how unexpected life can be!