Abi & Eddie

I love Abi’s post because she talks so wisely about the way we journey to our wedding, how we have to do the work to “reach the point that you knew existed all along.” Which is so true.  Plus, halfway through Abi’s wedding graduate post, she starts talking about having a meltdown over barn weddings ‘not seeming feasible’ and I started cracking up. I know, terrible right? But in this age of indie-rustic-chic-weddings, who hasn’t been there? Who hasn’t had a meltdown seeing something on a blog, and then trying to replicate it, and then realizing that it would cost a million dollars and require a small production team to pull off? So here is a love song to the journey to your own truth, and to simple weddings that are actually simple.

I started out like most brides probably do.  I ignored any and all duties and began scouring the internet for venues, dresses, caterers and bands.  I set aside school, dog walking, dinners and even my poor fiance while I delved into the once unknown world of trendy online wedding blogs.  I denied that I was working hard on this event, or that I was trying to plan anything spectacular.  When people asked I would say that we weren’t in any big hurry to get married and we would just see what we found.

The truth?  Having gotten engaged in February and being in the middle of nursing school, I was internally freaking out that if I didn’t have my wedding over the coming summer, I would have to wait an entire 16 months from our engagement until the following summer and I just didn’t want to wait that long.  A winter wedding maybe over my school break?  I looked at romantic and beautiful snowy venues but soon realized that it would cost a fortune to have everyone inside and I could hardly ask my friends to fly to San Francisco only to be caught on Donner Pass in a freak snow storm with no chains.

After 2-3 months of trying to squeeze my budget and time frame into the beautiful world of weddings and other brides (with bigger budgets) that I was seeing online, my head began to spin.  I had had it with the wedding industry dictating what I “should” do and tacking on several thousand dollars to every service once the word “wedding” passed through my lips.  I felt like every idea that I had was shot down as being unrealistic for our budget, and that nobody had solutions for me, only potential issues like, “that venue is too small” or “too far away” or “too expensive to get to”…..agh!  One night I finally cracked under the pressure that I didn’t even know existed and began a good solid crying session after a discussion with my mom about how a barn wedding without a caterer just didn’t seem feasible.

After some wonderful consoling from my soon to be husband, we remembered that this was supposed to be fun.  Right then and there I decided to do everything in my power to have a wedding without enlisting the help of “the industry”.  I knew that I could do it and that it could be simple, I was just going to keep my vision and not get distracted.  Once I reached that point and made that decision, it was as if opportunities just started falling in my lap.  I found a venue that night for our reception that I had somehow missed even after 3 months of looking.  My fiance and I went there the next day and locked it in.  We were on our way, our way!

Our wedding day was so relaxed and that was the ultimate goal.  The part that stands out the most to me now is how much I was able to relish the anticipation.  I had all morning to relax, eat, get ready, go boot shopping with my mom and sisters and hang out with my family.  I loved every minute leading up to the wedding because I knew that once it started it was going to fly by, and I was right!

I heard (read) other brides say to just keep it fun, enjoy it, keep it relaxed. In the end I was able to do this, but after the first few months of planning I had started to lose faith in the entire process. Just know that it will work out! I wish I had slowed down and reminded myself of that in the beginning, instead of letting myself get upset and stressed out. In the end, it got me where I needed to be, but man was it tough not to listen to the caterers, planners, and venues out there!

What mattered to us was having time together after our wedding. A lot of couples go right into a good-bye brunch of sorts the next day which is understandable if you have people in from out of town that you need to see. We were lucky in that sense, as we only had our family present and we had our reception 2.5 months later, so we were able to spend the entire morning after our wedding having breakfast, getting massages and soaking in a giant hot tub. Even if this is not feasible for you, carve out some time for yourselves at some point after the ceremony to connect. Your guests will understand and will have a good time. What didn’t matter to us was that our reception was 2.5 months after the wedding and our honeymoon was 3 months after that. It worked perfectly for our schedule, was better for our friends and saved us a bundle!

We were surprised at how many people made it out to California for our reception. We thought that maybe since we had gotten married 2.5 months before, that people wouldn’t feel pressed to show up. I mean….what were they coming for? We were already married! But we were delighted that within a day or two our friends from the east coast and family from Oregon and Colorado had already made reservations at the local inn and were asking us about flights! We felt so loved and were so happily surprised at the turnout for a wedding where nobody actually got married.

It was so hard, at first, to shake the should’s and should not’s of the wedding industry. I hear so many brides say this, and I thought that they were crazy, but once you start looking around, it’s easy to just get sucked in.  Be strong, stay your course. Doing what YOU want should be easy but sometimes it just isn’t.  Keep your faith even when things get hard and it will be easier.

Mostly we were just so so proud that our wedding was so inexpensive, yet beautiful and just what we wanted.  The favorite bits:  the cowgirl boots with red hearts that I found 4 hours before the ceremony, our wedding night airstream trailer, the cupcakes at the reception, handmade napkins & bunting and the most beautiful part?!   That it was so low impact!  All of our reception food was local and organic, all flatware was bambu, all glasses were reusable mason jars or made of corn starch, the napkins were hand made and are being made into a quilt and we were able to burn all paper goods at the bonfire and recycle all bottles and cans, party favors were jars of honey from our very own bees.  So proud we are!

I learned that you have to go through your own journey before you can reach the point that you knew existed all along.  You have to travel to arrive, and it will be so worth it!

Photos By: (As Abi says) Mom, Sister and Brother.  No websites, just the family of the bride! But the beef was from Stemple Creek Ranch. Yay!!

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  • Jen

    beautiful beautiful beautiful.

    Your family took fantastic photos! I hope that last photo is framed somewhere :)

  • Rebecca

    Aw, that was simply gorgeous! Thanks for a beautiful and calming post!

    And my take away?

    “Be strong, stay your course.”

  • Lovely, lovely! These are great photos. The fist bump one is adorable.

  • This wedding just makes me happy. We also had a fairly low-key, simple wedding, and sometimes when people ask about it I feel like it doesn’t compare to the fancy traditional weddings that others have. And then I remember how fun and exciting and love-filled and generally awesome it was, and I am really proud of what we made.

    Oh, and I especially love the last three shots– is that the REI cake topper?… with tents in the background? and beautiful cupcake towers? Awesome. And the two shots by the trailer are timelessly beautiful, too. Your family has talent!

  • Oh my goodness, Abi – beautiful, and inspiring! I feel like you (much like Christa – for different reasons – who wrote a grad post before) must be one of my wedding ‘soul sisters’ because you say so much of what is in my head as I reflect on my own planning experience. (Who knows if I will ever get it down on paper for a Wedding Grad post, but I do intend to try…)

    What I love most is how you say you ‘denied’ you were doing work on the day, while driving yourself mad with wedding research. I did the same – telling people I wanted something, ‘super casual and laid-back’ and ‘it’s not about the wedding, it’s about the marriage’. All true, but I wanted that super casual day to have some beautiful details, dammit! Love that you pulled together such beauty within your budget and with you sanity intact.

    • Kathryn in VT

      First, what a gorgeous, lovely, happy, relaxed, joyous wedding! It looks magical.

      I’m fascinated by this idea of “denying” wedding work, because I’m very much guilty of pretending that “it’s no big deal” when, in fact, I’m putting in a lot of work on our wedding. Those simple little invitations dashed off on my typewriter? Yeah, those suckers took hoooooours. Those vintage plates thrifted from the Salvation Army? I don’t want to admit how much time I spent 1) Googling “mismatched china” and 2) washing those damn plates once I got them home.

      I’m not complaining, because I really enjoy this work; it’s a lovely break from the more intellectual “work” I do (like, for money). I also love the personal touches — the stories that come behind every “DIY” project. I don’t mind putting in the time. So, what gives with pretending it’s all no big deal?

  • I LOVE the caketopper? Where did you get it?

    And I love everything else too. Great post about being relaxed. I am hoping for that as well.

  • Cristina

    Thank you for this post! I am getting married this weekend, and after months of stressing/not stressing, I am hoping to just enjoy the ride the weekend, relax, and hang out with friends and family who don’t get to see very often, and my new husband! We are also having a small ceremony/larger reception, and I’m reassured by how beautiful and joyous both of your events were. Congratulations on your new marriage!

    • congrats!! best of luck for the weekend :)

    • Congratulations!!!! I wish you many happy blessings & joyous, relaxing moments with your loved ones.

    • Jo


  • boot shopping! my now-husband and are of the opinion that all good parties require a good pair of boots, and so we also did some hunting in the days leading up to our wedding, although i never saw anything quite so perfect as yours with the hearts. love!

  • Tiffany, the Student


    I, too, am in nursing school and when I got engaged it was happiness for a little while, then ohmygoodnesswehavetoplannoworelseitwillbeforever freak out. So, my academics kind of went by the wayside and I became a little mental and obsessive because I always thought other “normal” brides have a lot more time and a lot more freedom with their wedding than I do (until I talked to my MOH and fiance and heard how crazy it sounded coming out of my own mouth).

    So, thank you for your post and the beautiful pictures. It is so encouraging to see that someone was able to pull off what I am trying to do. I had (and still occassionally have, since I am still in the planning process) a huge weight that pressures me in to thinking I have to have this gorgeous, memorable wedding that looks laid back and casual. But, it is so nice to hear I am not the only one. My fiance is so encouraging, and if the man still wants to marry me after a few of the moments I have had, I know we will last.


  • clampers

    “One night I finally cracked under the pressure that I didn’t even know existed.”

    I totally feel you on that one. That has happened to me three times in the past two weeks. Sometimes, life sucks.

    Diggin’ your “keep it relaxed” message. The best piece of advice I’ve gotten so far, when deliberating over all the minute details, was from my mom who said, “Choose the one you thought the most of in the first place, before you began obsessing and fussing!”

    Also, I really love your dress with the ruffle at the bottom! So sweet.

    • Isn’t that sort of stress just a MONSTER? I caved under that on my rehearsal night. It’s unbelievable how such a happy day can carve such nasty feelings. I think it’s beautifully cathartic, though. Once you empty yourself of those poisonous emotions, there is so much more room for happiness.

      • clampers

        You’re so right. You always feel better after a hysterical heaving bawl-fest.

  • meredyth

    I love that your wedding was pretty much without vendors. (Not that great vendors are bad!). Other than the place where we’re renting dishes and glassware everyone we are using in the actual wedding/reception are people we know. It just sort of worked that way out of necessity. When I was looking at a caterer (who was pretty nice but suggested things I didn’t want at all) I just had this feeling that our small, personal wedding was being lost because not everyone there was someone we felt close to. I know that for many couples this is impossible, and I completely get it. Having a photographer/caterer/band/DJ that you don’t know and don’t have a connection to is a necessity for most people. But for us, with everything else being done by us, or friends or family, not having a wedding vendor makes it so much more intimate and personal, at least for me.

    Also, I once spent a lovely night in an Airstream like that. Good times! ;)

  • Oh my goodness. This is so beautiful. I love the organic, personal touch you left on everything. I just said my vows on Thursday, so I am finally able to understand that beautiful plane of happiness – where everything has come together, loved ones are abundant, and wedded bliss has wrapped around the heart.

    & I could not agree more about taking time out together afterward. We opted for a private dinner following the ceremony. Even if it was brief, we still had a moment to pause, breathe, and look at each other to say, “We did it. Our life has come together as one.”

    It’s magical. Your day looks amazing. Many congratulations – however belated :)

  • ALSO! I love a couple who gets married in boots :) We did, too, and I was beyond excited to have such comfortable footwear!

    • And (x2) you looked absolutely beautiful. I love how brides truly look better than anything in a magazine on their big day. That kind of happiness you just can’t fake.

  • Jo

    Yes! This is crazily gorgeous and lovely!

    I keep saying to people”my goal is to just be relaxed and present and with people that day” and they all LAUGH AT ME. And I just put up a blog post that I drafted months ago about the fears, and by the time I put it up, I wasn’t really scared of them. This just reminded me to stick to our original goals of making it fun, and not getting bogged in the little things.

    Thank you so much for this reminder!

  • A wonderful post, as usual. These photos were beautiful and I’m glad she was able to get over the should’s and should nots. Congrats!

  • JEM

    Loving a bride with tan lines. I have a feeling we could be friends in real life. :)

  • Kristina

    Lovely. Are you from Santa Fe? I recognize the Randall Davey Audubon and the Ten Thousand Waves Airstream and the sky. If you’re not from Santa Fe, how did you pick it for your ceremony?

    • Abi

      my family lives there now and it has grown on me. I spenta month one summer working at the audubon center and it was an easy pick. They were SO, SO nice there.

  • Way to have a beautiful wedding authentic to who you are. So much love and admiration to you! XX

  • ka

    Oh man, I definitely had a very similar start to planning and the frustration and the stress. And now we seem to be on a path to your kind of wedding zen — I hope!

    So lovely – the cowboy boots, the Airstream (want!), the super awesome family photogs, the smiling!

    (And I laughed out loud as someone who’s been caught on Donner Pass with no chains — seriously, right, it’s no joke!)

  • ML

    the black and white photo with the tan lines? awesome, and so simply says “today is a beautiful, special day, but there were many days before today and there are so many days to come.”

    thanks for sharing abi!

  • you just don’t hear “wedding night airstream trailer” often enough

  • “You have to travel to arrive, and it will be so worth it!”

    SO TRUE!! Thank you for reminding me today about the travel being worth it.

  • Aiyana

    Not to be frivolous, but I too wore cowgirl boots, and we also gave honey from our bees as favors!

  • Celine

    This was a great post! The reception venue looks beautiful – where/what is it?

    • Abi

      It was at a campground in Olema, CA called the Olema ranch. What was great was that there were Inns within walking distance for those not in favor of roughing it :) http://www.olemaranch.com/

  • I am so that bride-to-be in my early days of planning, pretending not to be fussed about the wedding but (secretly) pouring over venues and freaking out. Every time I start to get a little panicky it helps to come here to APW and read a few posts to remind myself that a) people do this everyday and b) that it can (and SHOULD) be fun!