DIY Weddings/Inspiration

Informal & Authentic Wedding in a Cool LA Venue

Sweet Outdoor Ceremony by Rachel Stelter Photography 10

When we asked today’s bride and groom for three words to describe their day, they gave us “heartfelt, laid-back, and unconventional” – and we can’t think of better terms to sum up a day that’s all about celebrating your love.

Angelica & Ryan are college sweethearts who got married with an intimate garden ceremony and informal reception at cool LA venue, SmogShoppe.

From the catering and the cocktails, to the music and the vows, to the style and the florals, every inch of the day was created together by the couple, making it a pretty personalised affair.

Gorgeous images by Rachel Stelter Photography captured all the lush greenery, chic style, and romantic moments (the pre-first look hug is so sweet!). And Karl Stelter Wedding Films created the sweetest film which we’ll be sharing on the blog a little later today.

Scroll down to fall in love with this pair and their heartfelt celebration – and make sure you read Angelica’s sage planning tips too!

Sweet Outdoor Ceremony by Rachel Stelter Photography 29

Our Love Story

We were juniors in college. I was an editor at our college newspaper, next to the student-run TV network, where he was the general manager. I noticed that he was coming around the office quite a lot.

At first I thought it was just to mooch off the free pizza we’d get every once in awhile. (Hey, hungry college students, right?) One day, he asked me for my business card – very charming.

He ended up reaching out, and we spent our first date at the marina. We instantly connected. Twelve days later, he took me to the Getty Museum and he asked me to be his girlfriend as the sun set.

Four years later, I had just come home from a detox sweat lodge and I was totally exhausted, but glad to see him. He was saying a lot of sweet things about how much he loved me and how happy we were together.

This wasn’t uncommon for him, so I didn’t think too much of it, but then he asked me to be his wife. I was overcome, and of course I said yes! You know it’s true love if your partner still wants to propose to you after you look like a horrible mess from a detox sweat lodge.

He was trying to find the right time to pop the question, but he didn’t want to wait.  We were flying out to Boston the next day to see his family on the East Coast, and he wanted to be able to share the news with them in person and re-introduce me to them as his fiance.

Sweet Outdoor Ceremony by Rachel Stelter Photography 11
Sweet Outdoor Ceremony by Rachel Stelter Photography 13

The Style

I really wanted a simple, backless lace dress and was surprised at how difficult it was to find simple dresses these days. I wanted something I could be comfortable in.

I went to a dozen high-end and mid-range wedding dress boutiques, trying on dresses worth thousands of dollars, without finding the dress that felt like me.

It turns out the dress that made me feel most beautiful and comfortable was an off-the-rack $700 David’s Bridal dress that I had tailored and customized to make my own.

The jewelry I wore was handed down to me from my mother.

We wanted our bridesmaids and groomsmen to be able to wear what they like and feel comfortable and confident, so I was really hands-off about the whole process. I told my bridesmaids to try to stick to the gray motif if they could, and to pick a shade and style that suits their unique personalities and preferences! I knew they’d look beautiful no matter what.

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Sweet Outdoor Ceremony by Rachel Stelter Photography 1

Our Wedding

We’ve heard a lot of people tell us that their wedding day was the most stressful day of their lives, that they barely got to eat, and that it went way too fast for them to even get a moment to enjoy it.

Ryan and I wanted none of that.

We wanted our wedding to be as fun, laid-back and meaningful as possible for everyone involved – with zero stress, especially for the two of us. Lofty ambitions, right? But it can be done, and we’re living proof!

I have a background in event planning, and Ryan has a background in film & TV production, so between the two of us, it really was a team effort in putting in the planning ahead of time to make sure the day went as seamlessly as possible.

We wanted it to feel casual, but heartfelt. So we deliberately set it up to have a laid-back vibe, where our friends and family could feel comfortable and have a great time.

We put a lot of focus on the ceremony, which was custom-written for us in conjunction with our officiant, and we wrote our own vows. We tried to make the day as much a reflection of us as possible because we wanted to celebrate  all the things that make our life wonderful. We didn’t just want to present some idealistic “wedding version” of us.

Sweet Outdoor Ceremony by Rachel Stelter Photography 5
Sweet Outdoor Ceremony by Rachel Stelter Photography 6
Sweet Outdoor Ceremony by Rachel Stelter Photography 8

The Venue & Decor

We picked SmogShoppe as our venue because it’s intimate, unexpected but still gorgeous. It used to actually be a working smog check garage, and they converted it into such a beautiful space.

It’s a lovely metaphor for the unexpected turns life can take and transform into something surprisingly beautiful.

It was perfect for us because it’s a departure from a lot of banquet hall-style or golf course/country club-type weddings, which are beautiful in their own right too! This place just felt a lot more like us.

Plus, it’s located right in the heart of LA, where I grew up, and where Ryan and I fell in love.

Our colors were slate and jade, though we didn’t try to be really overt about it – I wanted to keep it close to the color palette of the venue.

I chose simple flowers in jars and succulents in pails for the centerpieces, which I made myself. I wanted to keep the decor simple, without distracting from the effortless, casual beauty of the venue.

We made the the bouquets, Ryan’s boutonniere and the centerpieces ourselves. Ryan and I purchased the flowers and succulents from the downtown LA Flower Market the day before the wedding.

My family has been buying plants and flowers from there since I was a kid, so I definitely had a personal tie to it. My bridesmaids helped me put everything together.

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Advice for Other Couples

Don’t sweat the small stuff! Enjoy the day. Most of the time, the little details you’re stressing about will go unnoticed by your loving friends and family anyhow.

We were only a couple years out of college, so an extravagant wedding wasn’t something we were after (and honestly, we wouldn’t have wanted that even if money was no object!). I think couples need to be realistic about what really means a lot to them. We were choosy about where we decided to splurge and where it was worth it to spend more.

Ryan and I lived off Google Drive and spreadsheets throughout the planning process. Stay organized, and find a system that works for you and your partner. Ryan loves task management apps, and he used 2Do to keep him on track.

Try to lock in your vendors as early as possible, and be wary of budget vendors. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. When reading reviews, make sure that the reviewers are looking for the same thing you’re looking for or make sure they have the same expectations as you have. 

Truly make it a team effort. Ryan played a big role in the planning process, that’s something that a lot of grooms tend to shy away from. It truly made our wedding ours instead of just the “bride’s special day.” 

On the flip side, don’t feel pressured to take advice from anyone but yourselves. Family and friends may be well-intentioned, but this wedding is yours. Don’t compromise on your values or your dreams to meet anyone else’s expectations.

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Sweet Outdoor Ceremony by Rachel Stelter Photography 21
Sweet Outdoor Ceremony by Rachel Stelter Photography 22

The Ceremony

The ceremony was my favorite part, and Ryan says that his favorite part was seeing me coming down the aisle. It was everything we’d hoped it would be, the perfect way to share our love and commit ourselves to each other.

The ceremony was completely custom-written. We collaborated with our officiant, Sasha Kuczynski, to write out and edit the whole “script” – adding lots of meaningful touches like a presentation of white roses to each of our mothers, thanking them for raising us and making us who we are, and symbolizing our families coming together. We also wrote our own vows.

Ryan walked down the aisle to an instrumental version of ‘Here Comes Your Man’ by the Pixies. I walked down the aisle to an instrumental version of ‘Starlight’ by Muse. We love those bands, and the songs were sweet and unconventional.

And our recessional song was ‘Home’ by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, because that song always reminded us that home is wherever we’re together.

We decided to spend a few minutes alone after the ceremony, away from the crowds, just to soak it all in and bask in the happiness of being married. It was so meaningful, and I’m so happy we did that.

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Sweet Outdoor Ceremony by Rachel Stelter Photography 25
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Photography & Videography

Ryan used to run a wedding photography/videography company, and he met Karl and Rachel through mutual work.

Rachel (from Rachel Stelter Photography) and I were actually in a book club together, but aside from being a wonderful person I’m lucky to call my friend, she’s also an amazingly talented photographer.

I love her style and how she knows precisely how to capture a couple’s story and personality. With Ryan having that photography background, he was really picky about making sure we had a top-notch photographer who could capture the meaningfulness and uniqueness of our day. 

Karl (from Karl Stelter Wedding Films) and Ryan had worked together in the past to film weddings for other couples, so we were no stranger to Karl’s brilliance. And after looking at other wedding video companies, none of them could even come close to the quality of Karl’s wedding films. It was a no-brainer!

Build in enough time to take first-look, bridal party and family photos before the ceremony. After the ceremony, there’s just so much going on that you’ll be thankful you got it all done beforehand!

But do take advantage of “magic hour” right before the sun sets, to snag some bride & groom photos in the gorgeous twilight. Just 15-20 minutes after the ceremony while your guests are enjoying the reception can result in so many beautifully lit photos that you won’t believe you almost didn’t get.

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Sweet Outdoor Ceremony by Rachel Stelter Photography 31

The Reception

For the cocktail hour, we made a cheese board with some artisanal cheeses from our favorite local specialty cheese shop in our neighborhood – Wheel House.

For dinner, we had open seating except for our parents and the bridal party. I hand-wrote the place cards for them, and I made gift bags for my bridesmaids with some fun gifts to pamper them. 

We served all-you-can-eat Kogi BBQ, served in courses to our guests. Ryan and I have loved Roy Choi’s restaurants for years. He’s our favorite chef, and he has several restaurants that we frequent in our neighborhood in Mar Vista.

We couldn’t think of a better way to share our love of bold, unique, unpretentious Los Angeles food than by having no-frills but unexpectedly “gourmet” Kogi Korean BBQ tacos, sliders and quesadillas at our wedding.

We also served Sprinkles cupcakes instead of a traditional wedding cake. Again, Ryan and I are such fans of the simple Sprinkles vanilla cupcake – it’s our favorite! We also wanted to avoid having to take home a ton of uneaten wedding cake at the end of the night.

Among our decorations was a small framed parking pass/ticket from the Getty, dated Sept. 17, 2011. Ryan kept that ticket from the from the day he took me to the Getty, where we had our first kiss and he asked me to be his girlfriend.

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Sweet Outdoor Ceremony by Rachel Stelter Photography 33
Sweet Outdoor Ceremony by Rachel Stelter Photography 32

The Honeymoon

We flew to a small resort town called Punta Mita, just 40 minutes outside of Puerto Vallarta in Mexico. The St. Regis was absolute heaven, and aside from feeling like royalty the entire time we were there, we also loved the warmth and kindness of the staff.

It was amazing to get to know them, and there’s very little to complain about when you’re spending time with your love in a place one can only describe as paradise. The beach views were gorgeous, the setting was incredibly romantic.

The food was amazing, and the freshness of the seafood was unparalleled. Ryan even went spearfishing off the coast and caught a fish that we ate for dinner one night!

I highly recommend it. We went in September, which was apparently the off-season. It was a bit more humid than normal, and one day we did experience a thunderstorm, but the resort was nearly empty so we felt like we had the place to ourselves, and the lightning storm was truly spectacular.

I wouldn’t have changed a thing. We’ll treasure the memories we made there for the rest of our lives.

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