Our wedding: the best thing we’ve ever done that we’ll never do again

And lessons we learned along the way.

Samantha Weald
11 min readNov 10, 2016
Lesson # 1: if you’re planning a sparkler send off, make sure a few people in the crowd have a match to get them started!

I’m a woman of the digital age. I have an instagram (or two). A facebook. I follow celebrities and mommy blogs. I care about #vanlife.

Getting married in 2016 means being inundated with wedding posts — wedding gowns, bridesmaids hair-dos, grooms gifts, decorations, wedding planners, styled shoots… the list goes on and on. It gets hard to determine what decisions you’re making for yourself and which you’re making as part of this other Pinterest-wedding-apocalypse you’ve landed in.

So… here’s a breakdown of some of our wedding decisions, our learnings, and our advice if we were going to do it over again!

The guest list.

All 71 of us on the balcony before dinner =)

What we did: we started by making three guest lists (sounds crazy, but bear with me…). The first: an elopement. Who would we have with us if we only had the essentials. The second: close friends, colleagues and family only. The third: anyone we could think of who’d influenced us, inspired us, and loved us.

What we ended up with were lists of about 15, 60, and 120. We had a few conversations about the benefits of eloping (destination wedding, keeping it small, etc) but eventually decided it just wouldn’t work for me. So we were left with two numbers: 60 and 120.

And while I knew I couldn’t get married with only an elopement, Ryan knew a large wedding really wasn’t an option. Decision made… we met in the middle... 60 it was!

But when you really narrow it down, 60 people is direct family (about 10 people) and then an additional 25 couples TOTAL. That’s about 25 people for each of us — including aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, coworkers, family friends, childhood friends, etc. And while it would have been nice to be the kind of people and have the kind of budget that allowed for a 200 person wedding… that just isn’t our reality. We have too many other goals that we’d like to accomplish over the next few years (adventures, housing projects, travel) and too many people we love dearly to even fit them all in one space on one day! So, unfortunately, that meant making some really hard decisions around the guest list.

Family! On the left, my parents and on the right Ryan’s parents and his best man/sister Amy =)

Tips for you: Deciding how big to have your guest list has a lot of implications: budget, family dynamics, friendships, venue, travel. But at the end of the day, it’s about having the right people there to help you honor the moment.

My best advice: stick with your gut.

Location, location, location.

What we did: we both knew we wanted to get married in California, hopefully somewhere near the beach. I combed through The Knot, Instagram hashtags, Wedding Wire, photographer blog posts… you name it, I looked through it. I found 3–5 venues that fit with our guest count and sent them to Ryan.

(L) The view from the deck at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands. (R) The sign at the front of the venue.
Our amazing ceremony site at the Hyatt all set up right before we started!
Our reception area at the Hyatt before the party started! I draped all the walls to create a soft romantic look, and we had uplighting under the tables and along the walls for when the sun went down. Love the wall of windows bringing in so much natural light to the right.

In the end, we visited 3 venues, and on our final visit — to the Highlands Inn (recently purchased by the Hyatt, sometimes known as the Hyatt Carmel Highlands) — we found “the one”. With the perfect ceremony site, the most beautiful reception area, beach views, and a head count limit we could work with (at 80) it was the right price and the perfect size for us. But just because we loved it doesn’t mean we didn’t wish we knew a few things first before going into it.

Tips for you: it really is all about location. Not just “can I see myself getting married here” but more of “can I see myself driving here & visiting 3–5 times over the next year?” With a destination wedding, this is off the table. You aren’t really ever going to visit the venue before your wedding week. But living in California and getting married in California, I think we picked the most frustrating distance for a venue: 3.5 hours driving. Just close enough that you could visit with vendors in person, but just far enough that 7 hours of driving in one day to do it was really inconvenient. Add in Bay Area traffic and trust me, those visits were not exactly quick and easy.

My best advice: pick somewhere close — within an hour driving of where you live — or pick somewhere far — that you’d be fine visiting once, but that you won’t feel pressure from yourself and others to visit as part of every single decision you make (and trust, me, it’s a lot of decisions!)

Design inspiration.

What we did: once we had our venue, we could start thinking about what we wanted to do with it. While we hoped to be near the beach, I knew I definitely did not want any sand, seashells, or beach kitch invovled. Ryan had a vision of succulents, with blues and greens. So we both took to Pinterest to find wedding ideas, and together we made our inspiration board.

Proteas, the grape bridesmaid color, white places, metallic hints, and succulents all in one place!

Floral: proteas & succulents.

We got extremely lucky and the day we visited our venue for the first time, the white arch on the deck (see above) was beautifully decorated with proteas and manzanita branches (basically an exact copy of ours). Ryan and I saw the venue, and saw the arch, and said “yup, sold.” So that was two more decisions done in one moment: not only did we have our venue, but we had our florist and we knew we wanted proteas.

We also knew we wanted to keep the floral design simple — no red roses, just succulents and some accent pieces. So put it all together and there you have it!

The proteas on our arch & my beautiful bouquet.

Color scheme: blue, grape, green, metallic.

The image in the inspiration board of the bouquet with the blue, maroon and yellow color scheme was a pre-made one on Pinterest that Ryan found. After we saw it, we knew we wanted to use it as a jumping off point for the rest of the wedding.

Beautiful MOHs!

And especially after we chose our floral, the color scheme started to emerge. Proteas are this beautiful pink/purple color with green leaves. So that inspired our “Grape” bridesmaid dresses. Succulents can be many colors, but we wanted to go for deep green and black, to bring in some texture and darkness. We also wanted to keep the yellow involved (Ryan says’s it’s my spirit color.)

Love love the pop of color in the copper linen for the cake table.
No crazy huge center piece or crazy table lay out for us. Just simple and beautiful.

Overall, we knew we wanted it to be simple and to reflect who we were. Ryan had the idea to custom make the wedding favors (the wooden candle holders which we put succulent tea lights in — similar here). Reina, our florist, already owned all the amazing concrete vases we used, and the white linen and white table cloths we chose to keep everything clean and elegant.

At the end of the day, I’m so so happy with how the design turned out!

Tips for you: keep it simple.

When we started with the design, we had three separate spaces we were working with — the ceremony space, the reception, and a separate dance space. At first, we thought having different vibes for each would be helpful, but at the end of the day, we realized there was little cohesion to the vision. This also took up way more money than we wanted to spend, would have possibly split our group during the wedding, and required making even more decisions about design, style, budget, and functionality. In the end, we agreed to cut the separate dance space and focus instead on making the reception area the main focus after dark, and the ceremony space the main focus before sunset. This stream lined the timeline for the day, helped us make better use of the beautiful venue we did have, and helped cut the budget.

Our beautiful center pieces: succulents, proteas, and friends in a concrete vase.

We also tried to bring some of Ryan and some of me into everything. From the accent textures (wood & metallic) to the floral (succulents and proteas) we really felt like both of us appeared in the overall design scheme.

The clothes.

What we did: I already wrote a little bit about (the struggles) of picking out my dress and (the ease) of selecting my shoes on Instagram. And while the process was pretty emotional and hard at times for me, it wasn’t that easy for Ryan either. Something we both had in common: we don’t spend really any of our daily lives in fancy clothes. So trying on gowns and getting fitted for suits was way outside our comfort zones. And while we struggled for different reasons, I think we both found our happy medium.

Ryan’s shoes: a last minute grab from DSW. His suit: the Ludlow from J.Crew Mens.

For him: At first, we thought we wanted a black tie wedding. But that idea flew out the window once Ryan realized that he’d be the one having to wear a tuxedo (no thanks). Then, we were thinking about a navy suit, but after trying one on at Macy’s Ryan said he felt too much like a banker. Lucky for us, the Macy’s salesman took one look at Ryan and the blue suit and discreetly recommended we head to J.Crew where we found the Ludlow suit. It was slim, not too heavy (aka warm) and when Ryan tried on the beige you could just see that he loved himself in it.

Ryan’s awesome custom accent pieces: bow tie, purple buttons, and the pocket square =)

When they finally took the suit to a tailor to get it fitted, they didn’t have to make even one alteration. It fit like a glove. So instead, they focused on creating a special surprise for me: an amazing custom look, with purple shirt buttons and a matching pocket square and bow tie. What a stud.

(L) My dress: Tara Keely Style 2400. (R) Shoes: Kate Spade & Jewelry: Haute Bride Design.

For her: I think the best thing about being a bride is you get to see your idea start to come together early on. From fittings, to hair and make up trials, and back to fittings again, I had gotten to see all my amazing pieces become a part of the whole look already. But nothing prepared me for how I felt putting the dress on that day. I was breathless and shaky and nervous and excited and I felt oh so beautiful. And despite my attempts here to do that feeling justice, it was absolutely indescribable.

My favorite girls by my side and the most beautiful dress and jewelry… so amazing.

Our advice: work together.

We wanted the wedding to represent both of us, not just me. So after the engagement we sat down and talked about the things that Ryan wanted to be a part of: the music, the floral, some of the design, and I tried my best to make sure he felt a part of all those decisions. The other stuff? I tried not to worry him about, unless I felt like a decision was going to influence the entire look or feel of the wedding. And this split wasn’t just because I’m the bride and he’s the groom. It was the right divide and conquer for us.

Our gorgeous rings from Brilliant Earth.

Ryan gets stressed out by making too many decisions and talking with too many people. I personally think I could have been a wedding planner in another life. My type A personality loves this stuff. So, we had to meet in the middle on just about everything (see a theme emerging here?!)

Some of the decisions I didn’t even cover today: selecting your bridal party, who will officiate, how much alcohol to buy, what food & how many courses to serve. The list seriously goes on.

All in all, this was a tough process for us. Not going to sugar coat it. We were engaged for 18 months, so we had a year and a half’s worth of tears, and more than a few arguments, before we finally woke up the morning of and though “holy s*** this is really happening. Where did all the time go?”

Heading back down the aisle with a little help from “Feel so close” by Calvin Harris.

At the end of the day, I think both of us walked away giddy. Seriously in love. And oh so happy with how everything turned out.

A little bit of the before and after for each of us =)

But if you asked Ryan if he’d do it again, he’d say “hell no. Once was enough.”

And honestly… I’d have to agree =)

A little dip from our first dance, a choreographed two parter including Work Song by Hozier & Gecko by Oliver Heldons.


I’ll be posting full albums of the photos on Facebook soon!

September 17, 2016