LeAnne and Matt

Fairfax, California

 

 

Photography | Amber Koelling Photography | @amberkoellingphotography

Venue | Deer Park Villa

Floral Designer | San Francisco Flower Mart

Gown Designer | Alexandra Grecco | @alexandragrecco

Men’s Attire | The Black Tux @theblacktux

Jewelry | BHLDN | @bhldn

Ice Cream | San Francisco Hometown Creamery

From the Photographer

The day had lots of personal touches from things like the Edison bulb centerpieces having been handmade by the bride’s father, the bride’s custom orange sapphire ring and the graphics and goods being designed by the couple. Their wedding ceremony featured a unique complete circle seating arrangement allowing all the guests and loved ones to completely surround the couple.

 

They kicked off the evening with a sparkler entrance that led to a choreographed first dance with the sparklers still lighting them. The bride and her best friends and former color guard group, wow’d everyone with a surprise choreographed dance. There was meaningful touches throughout the night with notes and sayings from passed loved ones. They ended the night with an ice cream truck serving the guests!

Tell us about your wedding! What was the inspiration behind your day? Did you have a specific theme, style or color palette?

Our wedding took place in late November, tucked into a Redwood Grove in Northern California. We really wanted to be surrounded by evergreen for our wedding and I’ve always had an affinity for the redwoods from growing up camping as a little girl. The fall is my favorite season and while we knew it would be cold, it made the idea of the night seem that much more cozy and romantic. Deer Park Villa felt classy and quaint and with it having both the outdoor grove and indoor property to come into later in the evening, it made it the perfect venue for us.

 

I stayed away from having a theme and rather wanted to create a mood and feeling. The space already provided so much ambiance itself so I worked to elevate it and was careful not to detract with it by going overboard with a theme or color combos. To me, the redwoods are so regal so I leaned towards elegance, with a little bit of modern glam. Sophisticated saturated colors felt right for the season. Deep teal and emerald greens in luxe textures complimented the evergreen without matching them. Rich reds were a vibrant contrast amongst all the green. Gold and amber tones glowed with the warm uplighting on trees. And classic black and white added a clean, modern touch. Our event was formal, mostly for the fun of dressing up with somewhere really special to go, but the outdoors kept it all in balance. Everyone was glamorous while relaxed into the setting. Matt and my personalities don’t fit into one box. We’re not necessarily traditional, nor religious, or sappy romantics. We wanted to feel like ourselves on our wedding day and be ourselves with our friends and family.

 

Our good friend who works in theatre was a truly engaging officiant for our ceremony and Matt and I did our own vows which were sentimental, but didn’t miss the opportunity to poke fun at each other, we got some laughs and some tears. Music is a cornerstone for us and I used different genres and moods to bring life to and transition us through all parts of the wedding. Some specially choreographed dance numbers were marked highlights of the evening. The setting was intimate and romantic, the feelings were warm and cozy, added touches were endearing and entertaining, and spirits were high the entire night! Our wedding was everything we wanted!

 

Let’s talk wedding decor. How did you decorate your space for the ceremony and the reception?

Yes! Wow, where do I begin. Pretty much everything was DIY. Most of the focus was decor for the reception. I’m big on ambiance and a main reason we chose this venue was so that I could make an outdoor reception, so I wanted it to feel really special. The decor was mainly stuff to go on the tables since the trees decorated the rest of the space themselves. To create a warm tonal theme, I chose almond colored table linens, brown glass bottle vases paired with amber candle votives that created a beautiful, warm glow and complimented the uplighting against the redwood trees. We did our own all red flower arrangements in the brown bottles that added a rich pop of color in the grove.

 

How I collected those brown bottles, however, was quite the task. They were actually bottles of cold brew we would drink on a weekly basis that I started saving prior to wedding planning because I liked the vintage look of them.  When we started wedding planning I decided to use them as vases. I wanted the flower arrangements to feel full so I planned to arrange the bottles in groups of 3 which determined I would need 120 in total.

 

I definitely underestimated our ability to consume enough coffee to decorate a wedding reception under the 8 month timeline in which we planned the wedding. Luckily the brewer, Seaworth Coffee, was local and when we were still short a month out, they let us buy empty bottles to complete our count. (Before getting in touch with them, I had resorted to soliciting friends and family members to help us drink through more bottles of coffee) Whew! I did gold chargers and flatware, white plates and black linens, as well as black with gold embossed table numbers, name cards and signage to add a classic and modern touch. I found some really great templates from Unmeasured Events on Etsy for all paper goods that were a modern, minimalist style I liked. I customized the templates to what worked for me and then hand embossed the typography with a metallic gold myself so that it would really stand out off the black.

 

The real show stoppers of the reception though were the Edison light centerpieces custom made by my dad. I really love vintage light bulbs and the effect they have in a space so I wanted to find a cool and unique way to incorporate them in the decor. I found a design idea I liked, from there we had the difficult task of figuring out how to source the light bulbs without being able to plug them in. Solar powered bulbs did not look very authentic so we searched and searched until my mom found a battery powered, wire framed lantern that we cleaned out of every home and garden store within a 50 mile radius and then cut the bulb units out of the wire frame so we could use them alone. My dad engineered the bases out of real redwood and hollowed out 3 pockets for the battery base of the bulb to perfectly sit in.

 

Everything together created a cozy and intimate atmosphere with a little touch of modern glam and a little touch of vintage industrial. Even though I used my own vision to decorate the reception, I couldn’t have imagined it would turn out as spectacularly as it did. It really took my breath away when I walked in and saw it in real life, and it was so nice to be able to sit back at the reception and watch all our guests enjoy it. We carried the remaining bottles of flowers and amber votives into the rest of the indoor and outdoor spaces, along with other lanterns of gold and mirrored glass that I had collected so that no space felt untouched. The venue had a deck attached to the indoor space that was strung with lights and had venue provided patio furniture.

 

I collected an assortment of accent pillows in dark teal, gold and black velvets, along with faux fur blankets to dress the patio furniture with a bit of glam. We hung a few additional Edison lights along the side of the deck to serve as a backdrop for our cake and to incorporate the lights elsewhere in the wedding decor.For the ceremony, we liked the idea and it just felt right to do 360 seating in the redwood grove, so we were surrounded by our guests and everyone together were surrounded by the trees. We didn’t want to block any guests view so we did without an arch or altar. All I added were some modern, black metal candle lanterns along the aisle. With the trees and the lights strung above us, we really didn’t need much else.

 

What were the florals like in your wedding? Did you use flowers in any of your design elements like the bridal bouquets, centerpieces or ceremony backdrop? Did they play an important part in the overall style of your wedding?

For florals I chose to do everything in shades of red with added greenery. I didn’t hire a florist so I could only use my imagination for what I wanted for flowers. Picturing all the green in the space, the right thing to do seemed to go bold, with something really rich and saturated to capture the time of year. I got some questionable feedback when I said I planned to do one solid color of flowers, but when we saw how they turned out I’m so glad I went with it! I got the flowers myself wholesale at the San Francisco Flower Market 2 days before the wedding. I went in with a rough number of stems needed based off the glassware count and sent the party that was with me on the hunt for anything red! My priority was getting the color and while I didn’t have a specific arrangement in mind, it was still a little nerve wracking because I wasn’t really sure what would be in season, or what the market would have since we couldn’t shop until after the licensed card holders had taken their pick. I was really kind of winging it and hoping for the best. It is safe to say we cleaned out the vendors of anything red! And we were so lucky to find a stash of beautiful red peonies (my favorite flower), enough to use for all the bouquets. We took everything back to our penthouse turned greenhouse where my husband’s family and my parents cut, trimmed and arranged 140 bottles of flowers and greens. My sisters put together the bouquets for both me and the bridesmaids, as well as the groomsmen’s boutonnières. When I look at my photos, it’s the flowers that bring everything together for me and I continue to fall in love with them. I love how the bold color pops against the solid white of my dress and contrasts with the deep jewel tone of the bridesmaid’s dresses. I love how vibrant they are amongst the trees. But also it’s looking at them and knowing that they came together by taking some chance, feeling good luck on my side, and with the labor of love from the people who helped bring my vision to life.

 

Did you personalize the day in any way (food trucks, guest entertainment etc.)? What were some of your favorite parts of your wedding?

Yes! Personalization was laced throughout the wedding in a lot of different ways. We wanted everything through the night to feel “of us” and from us to our guests. There was thought put into small things like our “programs”. They were part of the place settings at the reception because I felt they could have more purpose that way rather than having them during the ceremony. We chose 4 different charities that reflected what we care about for our guests to choose from, and our gift to them was a donation to that charity on their behalf. We also had printed on them a custom “Note to the Newlyweds” MadLib. There were pencils set out on the tables so our guests could have fun with the MadLib or talk about the charities while waiting to or after they finished eating. They also became somewhat of a secondary gift to us after the wedding to read through and keep for memories. All my friends and family know that I love ice cream, so of course, we hired an ice cream truck to come serve after the cake cutting so we could really maximize the most important meal of the day, dessert! We used San Francisco Hometown Creamery, who serve farm to cone ice cream out of a retrofit VW Bus. It brought a bit of nostalgia because my parents had on old VW Bus when I was growing up, and it was also important to us to support a local and sustainable business. But I also used the desserts as a way to pay tribute to my late grandmother, who passed right after Matt and I got engaged. We were close and I felt bonded to her over our love of ice cream and desserts, so I quoted her and put up her photograph on our snack/cookie bar, and my mom also had the ice cream truck put a dedication to our grandma’s in their window for our guests to see when they were getting their ice cream.

 

The most personalization was in the use of music and dancing throughout the night. We come from a tight knit performing arts community so it was definitely true to us to personalize the wedding in this way. Two of our good friends gave us the great gift of performing during our cocktail hour. I worked on creating a song list with them of some of my favorite classics and oldies, and they did an awesome acoustic set with just a guitar, cajon drum and singing. We even set out an assortment of children’s instruments so people could pick up a toy tambourine or shaker and play along! I have a dance background, but Matt struggles with having two left feet, so I didn’t want to over do choreographing our first dance but the song and the sparkler moment we were going to have during the first dance definitely called for a little something. I taught Matt a bit of a waltz that we did during the chorus. I’m so glad he committed to dancing with me and our friends loved seeing his dance moves! But the main event was a dance number I put together with 4 of my friends to “Marry You” by Bruno Mars. It was a surprise to our guests and it was my way of kicking off the rest of night on the dance floor. I also wanted to use music and dancing in ways to include our guests in special moments, since that’s what so many of them who are dancers and musicians love! My maid of honor helped me send out an easy 16 count dance step to “Shut Up and Dance” for our wedding guests to learn prior to the wedding. Later on in the evening, I called everyone to the dance floor and chose a slow version of “Edge of Glory” to dedicate to our grandparents and those who couldn’t be with us as a way of honoring the moment for them. Everyone shared a slow dance with their partner, then the DJ went right into “Shut Up and Dance” and everyone broke into dance right on cue, it was a “flash mob” moment! I was so proud at how many people were well rehearsed and on point! It was such a great way to bring everyone back together before the wedding was over to share in a special moment and feel everyone’s energy through music and dance!

Let’s talk fashion. How did you both choose your wedding day look? Describe the looks in detail.

I always told myself regardless of trends, I would pick a dress that I knew I would have picked out 10 years before or 10 years later. I had seen Alexandra Grecco’s “Colette” dress long before we got engaged and then saved it to serve as inspiration, not sure if it was something I would be able to get in reality. But when I made an appointment at Lovely Bridal in Pasadena, the Colette happened to be there and after trying on a total of 5 dresses, I knew it was the perfect dress for me! It felt timeless to me like I really wanted. The silhouette and material were clean and classic. The open neckline and back, which were must haves for me, made it also feel youthful and modern.

 

As far as styling, I tend to keep things more simple and then add a subtle statement or two. For the wedding I wanted to be glamorous but not overdone because I still wanted to feel natural and like myself! I envisioned wearing emerald gemstone earrings for something a little different (luckily found the perfect pair from BHLDN) and then went from there, adding another pop of color with deep red lips and then kept my hair easy in a low chignon bun, as I’m always more comfortable throughout the day with it back. Knowing it was going to be cold, I decided to have fun with a faux fur coat. (My bridal party picked out their own and brought them with to our first look, just for the purpose of staying warm, but we all ended up putting them on and it made for the most amazing impromptu bridal party photos, straight out of vanity fair I like to say!) I had my look figured out pretty early and was feeling good going more modern and less traditional, but one thing that kept tugging at me was not having a veil, but I just couldn’t picture myself wearing the veils I was coming across without feeling like it would clutter my look. Two weeks before the wedding, BHLDN had a new single layer, floor length veil with a simple gold embroidered trim. Without thinking twice I clicked added it to my cart, threw in a pair of delicate diamond and pearl long drop earrings and expedited the shipping. I wore the original look for the first look and reception, and changed into the veil with the earrings and a nude lip for the ceremony and I’m SO glad I did! The pieces seemed made for each other, especially considering it was a last minute look. It felt so good to have that bridal moment!

 

Putting together Matt’s look was easy! We went classic and sharp with the black and white tux. Gold rimmed black opal cuff links and a satin lined lapel added some subtle details. I ordered a bunch of different hair products for him to trial, once we got the right texture and shine I made him practice it over and over because he was going to have to do it on his own the day of! Matt found a local barbershop that opened early for them the wedding day so the groomsmen all got straight blade shaves with a hot towel treatment, they were looking sharp! I really loved both of our looks and even more so how everything came together as whole. The bridesmaids dresses in their deep shades of teal and luxe materials, next to the clean stark white and black, with the bold red flowers that contrasted both so beautifully, all made for the perfect balance of color and texture. The combination of modern and glam with nature as a through-line helped to keep things from feeling over or done, but just right! I’m so happy with it all!

 

How did you meet? Tell us about the proposal.

Matt and I are from opposite coasts, he Virginia and I California. Our background is in the performing arts and in 2010 we were hired on to the same instructional staff for production doing a summer tour across the United States. Our relationship started then, but we did not get engaged until 2018! The 8 years in between consisted of a few cross country movies, school, career changes, ups and downs. As a less traditional couple we didn’t feel that we needed to prioritize getting married over other things going on or under any certain time constraint. Time WAS dragging on quite a bit though, haha! It was the thought of our grandmothers no longer being around to see us get married that made us think about taking time for granted. We still left those conversations open ended though, because I had never wanted to feel like an engagement was going to be planned.

 

In December of 2018, we took a bucket list trip to Prague, a place I always wanted to go because of my Czech lineage. It was there where Matt proposed to me in the bridge tower over looking the Charles River at sunset, and it came as quite the surprise! I was looking out a tower window when Matt walked over with a guy he said he had asked to take our photo (since he wanted to document what was about to happen). But, I had grown so accustomed after so many years to NOT expect him proposing, that even after he got down on one knee, I was telling him he should take his hat off for the photo! I was absolutely stunned when he started asking me to marry him! It couldn’t have been a more beautiful setting or a better surprise, something Matt has always been great at is planning surprises. And not to mention the ring. I mentioned not wanting to plan an engagement, so we never looked at rings together. I only ever so often reminded him that the stone I wanted was pinned on Pinterest, which was a peach colored stone that I saved probably 10 years prior. While I was completely unaware at the time, Matt had gone to great lengths to research and locate this uncommon “orange” sapphire and then had my ring entirely custom made. It’s so beautiful, classic and unique. He truly couldn’t have done any better! We started planning the wedding right away and got married just under a year the following November!

 

What was the most anticipated or special moment of your wedding day?

Definitely both of the dances. I wasn’t planning our wedding prior to engagement, but when I hear or see something that gives me an idea, I mentally file it away for the future. Which was the case with both of these. I like oldies, and I long dreamt of dancing to “This Magic Moment” by The Drifters at a wedding. Then some years ago, I heard a really beautiful cover of “I Will Follow You” by Toulouse (originally “I Will Follow Him” sung in the 60’s by Little Peggy March) in a commercial. I Shazamed it, saved it, and when the time came, the sentiment of the song made it perfect for Matt and I’s first dance. To incorporate both songs I had my heart set on, I decided for the grand entrance into the reception, we would walk in to “This Magic Moment” and then go right into our first dance.

 

And I had to have sparklers, who doesn’t? Since we weren’t doing a send off at the end of the night, I thought they would have more impact during the first dance. Where this complicates things is that the longest burn time I could find was 4 minutes and the sparklers just HAD to be lit while we were walking out to “This Magic Moment”, because it’s magical!!! That meant timing and pacing was really crucial because they would have to last that stretch of time without burning out before our dance was over. We formulated a plan to have our guests gathered around the reception space with sparklers unlit, and when our bridesmaids and groomsmen were called in, they would light their own sparklers and then pass on the flame to others when they entered it so that it was a gradual build. Our bridesmaids and groomsmen were strategizing up until the very last second of how to time the lighting just right! I should also add that since Matt and I don’t have a lot of floor space in our apartment, we never fully rehearsed our first dance choreography until the night before in our hotel room. I was definitely holding my breath but as soon as the ball started to roll, the whole moment flowed with such ease and beauty. I reminded Matt to step off on the right foot, but he did great. We were surrounded by so many bright, loving faces and you could hear the sparklers crackling amidst the Redwoods as they gradually died down with the end of the music. It was truly a magic moment!However long ago “Glee” was on air, was when I married myself to the idea of having a choreographed wedding number to “Marry You” by Bruno Mars because they had done it on the tv show. One of the first things I did during wedding planning was asking 4 of my girlfriends to be part of my “dance troupe”. I had choreographed the dance and staging in my head while listening to the song on my commute, but putting into action was going to be a challenge. My friends all lived out of town and with work, kids, distance, there was limited opportunity to put it all together. It was seeming too ambitious and I considered aborting the plan multiple times to save us all from the risk of possible disaster, but I decided to follow through. I knew I would regret it and feel like a hole was missing from the wedding if I didn’t make it happen. I recorded the choreography for my dancers to learn on their own, 4 out of the 5 of us held a rehearsal the day after my bridal shower (3 weeks out from the wedding), and the first time we all rehearsed together was in my hotel the day before the wedding (a lot was going on in our hotel room haha!). In between all that were endless texts if we should wear shoes, no shoes, were we going to trip and fall in our dresses, etc. We are trained to learn fast and perform under pressure, but we were all still super anxious! I used the the number to transition the night from the outdoor reception, to the indoor dance party (this means all throughout dinner my girls were counting through the steps in their head!). I had coordinated the plan with the DJ ahead of time, as he would invite the guests inside all at once to gather around the dance floor, which needed to go quickly and smoothly so we didn’t lose people or blow the surprise. My “dance troupe” pretended to not know what was going on, and when the DJ cued the music, they emerged from the crowd on to the dance floor and 5, 6, 7, 8, we were off to the races! It was an absolute blast. It went off without a hitch and everyone loved it!

 

Besides the getting married part, I love that weddings bring friends from all parts of your life together. Me and all these girls are “retired” performers, so that they came together for me was so special and that we could pull it off, amazing! I was on cloud nine! With both these events harboring in my mind for so long and then ultimately having very little preparation when the time came to plan them, there was a lot of anticipation, but also a lot of emotion that came with the uncertainty of these “dreams” coming to fruition. But it wasn’t just that they “worked out” that made these my favorite parts of the wedding. Making special moments with music and dance is something that resonates with us and our circle of family and friends. So it was the feeling of joy and togetherness shared amongst everyone during these parts of the wedding that truly made them the most memorable and special.

 

Do you have any wedding planning or marriage advice that you’d like to share with other couples planning their day?

My advice would be to keep in mind when planning your wedding that a beautiful wedding is not necessarily guaranteed to be a great wedding! Yes I put ALOT of detail and effort into the aesthetic of my wedding, but I also put a TON of thought into the timeline, pacing of events, transitions, entertainment, etc. Not because I was planning the wedding purely as logistics or for everyone else, Matt and I were always the priority, and what we really wanted was for our guests to thoroughly ENJOY the day WITH us. So keeping a good flow is going to keep people’s spirits up and together with yours. Also things like, the guests lighting our first dance with sparklers or everyone knowing the dance steps to a certain song makes it a shared experience! And trust me you will feel the love of everyone who came together for you even greater! I also asked myself what would make Matt and I have a good time if we were the guests? I love to eat and am always bummed when I don’t have room for wedding cake if it’s served right after dinner, and then wish I could have it to eat later. So with our wedding, we waited a few hours after dinner to cut and serve the cake, which was also when we scheduled for our ice cream truck to begin serving. I always need to be tied over, so I had set up a “make your own bag” snack table for that purpose. People were kept satisfied if they needed a little something, they could also take their goodie bags home with them for a midnight snack! And when it was time for cake and ice cream, our guests had room and devoured it!

 

Putting Matt into consideration, he is not the type that dances at weddings and sometimes becomes a wallflower. I wanted there be something for everyone to do so I aimed to utilize every part of the venue with a purpose. Of course there was the dance floor, the bar, I cozied up the deck with pillows, blankets and candles so there was a place for those who wanted to relax a socialize, and I rearranged the venue’s furniture in their banquet hall to serve as a game room. Easy things like tic tac toe or checkers were perfect to have around, but the winner of the night was the giant Jenga. It kept people entertained for hours! So be creative, thoughtful, personable, and reasonable! If you are going to put a lot of work into planning a wedding, put your efforts into what is going to make the night memorable!