Photography by Liz Banfield.
If you’re starting to plan your own wedding and feeling overwhelmed, you need to read this now! With past marriages behind them and a blended family to celebrate, Ashley and her groom Mike knew to focus on what really mattered for their spring Minnesota wedding. They chose an elegant yet relaxed morning wedding for just twenty-five guests, and the most insanely gorgeous airbnb as their base for the whole weekend. Our favorite details? Their simple (yet very moving) sand ceremony to symbolize their new family, a seriously stunning brunch table, and of course the most gorgeous lush florals everywhere you look… oh-so-appropriate when a Floral Designer gets married on May Day!
Why did you choose this location for your wedding? The historic Georgian mansion 300 Clifton was the perfect location for my family and Mike’s out of town family to stay during our three day wedding weekend. It combined the perfect amount of elegance and relaxation one would hope for a small wedding celebration. This venue is unlike any other in the Twin Cities. The venue feels like a beautiful home – we walked around in our PJs whenever felt like it during the weekend. The hosts and owners, John and Norman, are singularly the best there ever were at creating a space that feels so elegant yet warm and inviting. Having coffee by the fire or walking out into the garden were some of my favourite rituals. We held the ceremony and brunch buffet reception in the Grand Drawing Room. Coffee and cocktails in the morning and evening by the fireplace in the library might be one of my favorite things to do there. They took care of us and provided one of the most spectacular memories of our lives. And Madonna, their Great Dane, couldn’t have been sweeter.
Are there any special details of your day you’d like to tell us about? I had my seamstress sew a purple heart into the hem of my dress for Prince. He passed away just a couple weeks before the wedding. I grew up near his home studio in Minnesota and have always been a huge fan of his. We even chose one of his songs for the opening line of our ceremony!
Did you include any traditions in your wedding? I definitely had a something new – my dress! It was called ‘Eden’ and was a Jenny Packham gown from a favorite shop in Minneapolis, L’Atelier Couture. They made my dress experience so special and I will never forget it. Finding my dress and having fittings was one of the most exciting times of the planning process. I never wanted to take it off!
Did you have a first look? Why or why not? Mike actually zipped up my dress for me because my other helpers were busy with my kids and other vendors. For us that worked perfectly and was emblematic of exactly the type of day we wanted – refined but relaxed, special, but still felt like us.
What was the best advice you received as a bride? Go with your gut instinct on details and decisions. If you can’t afford what you think you want, maybe consider a smaller wedding so you can have the photographer or venue you really want. And hire a planner, they have the best insights and know who to contact to ensure you have the best day possible.
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? Do what you like! Invite who you want. Focus your funds on what means most to you. Breathe. Sit back and enjoy the day, the faces of your friends and family. Don’t take anything too seriously and make sure your only regret is that the day couldn’t have been longer.
Your ceremony in three words. Timeless, relaxed, delicious!
How did you go about planning your ceremony? We wanted something short and meaningful. We knew we wanted to say traditional ‘I do’s’, but wanted to make it feel like us, so incorporated some of our favorite song lyrics to help it all flow.
Our ceremony took place in the most beautiful room in the house, the Grand Drawing Room. The colors of amber and aqua were so lovely, I could have spent all day in there. The chandeliers, the traditional furniture and paintings really set the mood. I didn’t want to take away from that look so I rented ghost chairs from Linen Effects so they would disappear into the room and not take away from the space.
Who officiated your ceremony? How did you choose him/her? We chose Jill England of Minnesota Officiants. She came highly recommended and we just loved her relaxed nature and sense of professionalism at the same time. She was game for saying whatever we wanted, even the Jimmy Buffet and Prince lyrics we threw in there!
Did you include any traditions in your ceremony? We had a sand pouring ceremony incorporating each member of our blended family. Each of the kids and Mike and I poured some colored sand into a beautiful jar, symbolizing the layered and sometimes gritty reality of life, and also the combining of the two families into one.
What were your vows like? It was important that our vows sound like us, not just a cut and paste out of a book. We started with a guide our officiant gave us and used that as a tool to sculpt our vows to sound like us. It can be pretty overwhelming crafting words for a ceremony!
What were your ceremony readings? We took cues from lyrics from Prince and Jimmy Buffet. That’s pretty much Mike and I in a nutshell.
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? It was a gathering of twenty-five of our nearest and dearest and I couldn’t be happier we made that choice. We wanted the ceremony to be relaxed, and we really could relax with those people. Our officiant had asked us to share some stories about each other and our courtship a few months earlier and she really brought it together beautifully, and had us all laughing! I didn’t know she was going to do that. Overall, it was traditional but with a light hearted feel that put everyone at ease.
Do you have any budget tips for other brides? Spend your budget on your top three most important items. We chose to prioritize the photographer, venue, and dress. Other items that were important to me that come in close behind the top three were custom invitations with a watercolor image of the venue, food from a favorite restaurant, a seasoned planner and an expert violinist.
How would you describe your reception? Sophisticated yet relaxed, with delicious food. In terms of the decor , the amber and light blue details were my favorite, and worked so well with our beautiful venue.
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? The amber and pale blue of the Grand Drawing Room, and the overall 1920s feel of 300 Clifton.
Are there any DIY details you’d like to tell us about? I’m not a huge fan of DIY details, as I like to have professionals who know what they are doing take the utmost care in creating things for us. However, I had my uncle, who is quite skilled with a tile saw, cut our twenty-five marble place cards. Then our calligrapher Rosann Konieczny used beautiful gold ink on the pieces of marble.
Please tell us about any other special details or moments from your reception. The brunch was served buffet style so people could chose what they liked. In the middle of the table was a very large, low basket of my favorite spring flowers: frittilaria, apple blossoms, foxglove, ranunculus. This flowering basket served as the centerpiece on the table as a nod to our May Day wedding. It was our photographer Liz Banfield‘s idea to have a May Day wedding – with my being a floral designer she said it only made sense! Asking Liz to be a part of our day is one of the best decisions we made along with hiring our other Liz, Lizzie Hunt, to be our planner. (And I don’t care how small your wedding is. Hire a planner. Everyone will be happier and more relaxed on the day!)
What was your favorite moment or part of the reception? When I sat down at the table to eat our brunch, I never wanted to get up and leave, it was so beautiful. Sitting with our closest friends and family… I just didn’t want it to end.
What was your wedding menu? Eggs Benedict, quiche, french toast, bacon, pastries, fruit and hash browns. All our favorites!
Is there anything else that helps tell the story of your wedding? Being a bride who is also in the wedding industry is a unique experience! It gave me insight into who I wanted to work with from the start, and I want to thank the vendors who were a part of this day with us. I’ve been in the industry for 10 years now and when I started I didn’t realize not only the joy the flower designing would give me but how many friends I would make in the process. I can honestly say I knew each of our vendors personally and could not have done it without them. To have an extended family of sorts present at the wedding in this way added so much to the day and memories. To Liz Hunt, Liz Banfield, Abby Hyslop, Jules Annen, John and Norman of 300 Clifton, Emily Erickson, the ladies at L’Atelier Couture, Rosann Konieczny, Eli at Coalition Excelsior , Nancy of Ella Rose Farm, Shellie at Silk and Willow, Robin and Don at Linen Effects, and Kate at The ARK Rentals, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Even though I am in the wedding industry and have been to and set up so many weddings, I was surprised that I felt as nervous as any bride can right before I walked down the aisle. I’m not usually at the center of attention at these events and the feeling of all eyes on me was a little nerve wracking! Although, once I walked down the aisle and got to the front with Mike, I was calm, happy and so excited to get married.
If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently? I wish it could have gone on for longer! However, going out for happy hour that evening in St. Paul was truly so much fun. It was a special time for Mike and I to spend together just the two of us, relive the morning ceremony and end the day early so we never felt exhausted.