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Rachel & Jeff

* Rachel, Public Interest Lawyer & Jeff, Creative Director * Photographer: Rad + In Love (APW sponsors) * Soundtrack for reading: “The Letter” Al Green *

One sentence sum up of the wedding vibe: An intimate ceremony followed by a rockin’ party, in a breathtaking setting with our favorite people. AKA, the most wonderful day ever.

The Info—Photography: Rad + In Love (APW sponsors) / Venue: The Condor’s Nest Ranch, Pala, CA / Rachel’s Dress: Brides by Liza / Jeff’s Suit: Paul Smith

Other cool stuff we should know about: Our wedding was at a gorgeous ranch in the middle of nowhere. It had adorable farm animals, super quirky decor and stunning views. We got to stay there for a few days before the wedding with our siblings and friends, which was awesome.

We made a lot of stuff for the wedding ourselves, which allowed us to spend more money on the things that mattered to us. Jeff designed the invitations and the chuppah. We grew succulents in our backyard for a year before the wedding, and I used them to make all the centerpieces (in thrifted ceramic planters) as well as the bouquet and boutonnieres. Our guests took centerpieces home as favors, and we replanted the bouquet after the wedding. My sister and I baked the cakes (15 of them in 3 different flavors!) two days before the wedding.

We met when one of my best friends, Rebecca, was dating Jeff’s best friend, Tom. They’re married now and they officiated together.

Favorite thing about the wedding: We couldn’t pick between our two favorite things. First, Jewish tradition requires the bride and groom to go into seclusion after the ceremony and before joining the merriment. We spent ten minutes alone together following the ceremony, reading each other love letters we’d written in the days before the wedding. Second, my cousin Ben and his lady Diane kicked off our reception by singing a gorgeous version of “Be My Baby” (by The Ronettes) that they’d arranged for our wedding. Of all the ways our friends and family contributed their energy and creativity to make our wedding rad, that song was the best! So loving and joyful.

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  • Ashleigh

    Aw the pictures at the start of the man (is it her dad?) holding the baby and her Mum crying with her in the dress are really beautiful. And the chairs bit looks like great fun. I really like the idea of the solitude after the ceremony and although we aren’t Jewish we are thinking of incorporating that. Congratulations you make a beautiful couple :-)

  • faith

    Succulents!! Love how you grew them for a year before the wedding. They came out beautifully!

    The venue, dress, cakes…lovely:)

    And this was the first time I listened to the soundtrack while reading…great song!!


  • Sheryl

    Your dress looks absolutely stunning on you. I’m loving all the dancing pictures, everyone looks so very very joyful here. :)

  • Ash

    This is one of the most beautifully raw & joyful weddings I’ve ever seen! Everyone is stunning- the bride is so expressive in every photo. I love it. You can truly feel the love.

    Congratulations on your marriage!

  • KB

    I always like reading Wordless Weddings and imagining what people are saying at each moment in the photographs – I expect some of what went down for this wedding was incredibly hilarious :-)

  • Ambi

    “An intimate ceremony followed by a rockin’ party, in a breathtaking setting with our favorite people. AKA, the most wonderful day ever.”

    APW really does have an uncanny ability to post things that are crazy-relevant to what many of us need to read right at that moment. I was talking to my boyfriend just last night about what kind of wedding we want, and we kept going back and forth between intimate ceremony/rockin’ party and having all of our guests attend both the ceremony and reception. I have always loved small intimate ceremonies, but at the same time I really love the idea of having this whole big community support you while you take your vows (as we discussed earlier this week). But I can say without hesitation that Rachel’s wedding is exactly what I want. They look so relaxed and happy. I think I’m bookmarking this one for future reference.

    Also, Rachel, you are STUNNING. That dress is amazing, too!

    And finally, can we please convince Rachel to do a guest how-to post giving us a tutorial for growing and making succulent centerpieces, bouquets, and boutonnieres?

    • meg

      Fact: you can have a super intiment ceremony with everyone in attendance (we did). Intimacy is a feeling, not a number of people, it turns out. But also, if you want both, consider signing your civil licence privately with just family at city hall the day before. I wanted to do this (for political reasons as well, I wanted to make them separate events), but we didn’t end up doing it. I know people who have though, and they say it’s the best of both worlds.

      And I’d LOVE for Rachel to do a How To. Rachel???

      • Rachel

        Thanks everyone! We’re so grateful to our awesome photographers Michelle and Jamie for capturing how much fun we all had.

        All 108 of our guests were present for the ceremony. It was “intimate” not in the sense of small, but because our closest friends and family members participated in meaningful ways, and we incorporated readings and themes that were close to our hearts.

        And… DIY succulents post coming right up!

        • Ambi

          Meg and Rachel, y’all are blowing my mind with “intimate is a feeling, not a number of people.” I have worried that having too many people at our ceremony would make it feel, well, like a show! ( . . . and the APW universe comes full circle with that realization . . .). I would love a post from either one of you or another reader on how, exactly, to keep a ceremony feeling intimate even if you have a rather large group of people there. Rachel mentions participation of friends and family . . . is that key? What else? I really am asking. We have discussed having a very short ceremony, with only one reading (Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health!) and no singing or anything like that. Just very short and simple. I had assumed that, to keep it feeling intimate, we would need to also keep it small and forego the formalities that can sometimes make ceremonies feel so rehearsed and performance-y. I really would welcome a post on “How to Have an Intimate Ceremony Regardless of the Guest List.”

          • Rachel

            We opened our ceremony with a reading from Goodridge! Two of my friends read excerpts from Rilke’s “letters to a young poet.” My best friend read something she had written about the symbolism of the chuppah (the home the newlyweds are building). Our officiants shared some of their memories from the beginning of our courtship, and after our vows one of my other dear friends led a “community vow” in which our guests pledged to support our union. We also did a variant on the traditional jewish seven blessings where seven people close to us stood in a row and “blessed” us by expressing hopes/admonitions for our marriage (example: “You will make mistakes. May you forgive each other quickly.”) That was incredibly moving, which we didn’t expect as we’d written the blessings ourselves! Also a dear friend played viola as we entered and exited, which was the only music during the ceremony and was absolutely beautiful.

            When you add our siblings, who held the chuppah, and Jeff’s nephew who brought up the rings, and my parents who *both* walked me down the aisle (my mom is kinda obscured in that photo), about 20 people played some role in our ceremony! It was really important to me to find roles in the ceremony for the most important people in my life. It felt so wonderful to have them all involved.

            You would think that all these blessings and readings and so on would make for a long ceremony, but the whole thing was less than 20 minutes. It was not an imposition. It was not boring. It was, if I may say so, pretty awesome and reflected our love for each other and the love our community was expressing by showing up that day.

          • Ambi

            Rachel, that sounds so lovely and special – I can’t even tell you how much I love the feeling and type of ceremony you just described.

            One of the issues for us is that, while we both view marriage as a deeply spiritual event, we are not exactly religious. Honestly, I struggle a little bit with the fact that Jewish wedding traditions seem to resonate so much with me (they are just so meaningful and beautiful), but we aren’t Jewish (and in fact, we’d probably be best described as agnostic), so I am not sure I feel comfortable incorporating those traditions into our ceremony. So, given the fact that we have yet to find readings/poems/blessings/songs/etc. that feel right to us (other than Goodridge), we will likely just stick to having our officient speak for a few moments, have the Goodridge reading, and then say our vows. I really would love to incorporate rituals or traditions that involved our family and friends, but I have been looking for these sort of things for years now and have yet to find any that feel genuine and true to me, other than, of course, several Jewish traditions that I have read about and have seen recently when my cousin wed a Jewish man. I found the symbolism to be so meaningful and beautiful. We may end up just deciding to go for it and incorporating a few of those things into our secular/christian/courthouse wedding after all.

        • jamie (rad + in love)

          it is SO TRUE. the part about intimacy. it was honestly one of the most beautiful ceremonies i have witnessed! i think it had a lot to do with how incredibly thoughtful the whole thing was, and personalized. the way friends and family were involved, that friends so close to their relationship officiated. and that each part of the ceremony was so clearly something important to them.


          it was amazing.

          and i am so glad you all can see the joy that was there. it was pretty damn beautiful!

  • Beth


  • Jenni

    So much happiness!! I love the dessert bar sign, and those cakes look DELISH!!!! Everyone looks like they are having a BLAST! I wish I could insert myself into this day. :)

  • Kara Haberstock

    Absolutely beautiful! Rachel, you are radiant. Every picture exudes such joy.

  • jackie

    Rachel’s facial expressions MAKE these photos! she’s gorgeous and you can tell that they had a great time. beautiful beautiful wedding :)

    • Denzi

      I came here to say this. Such an expressive, joyful face! And the picture where Rachel and Jeff are looking at each other at the beginning of the ceremony like they are sharing a secret. Love.

  • Helen

    So lovely and full of joy! Congratulations!!!

  • Alicia

    What a lovely wedding! I love the dress, and the dessert bar. :)