Today on the blog, we're sharing Rhea & Andrew's cool Arizona wedding, where South West botanics, and urban foodie culture collide.
With a day that started with vows in Phoenix's Desert Botanical Garden and ended with doughnuts and dancing at The Showcase Room in Tempe, their wedding was a celebration of Rhea & Andrew's favourite things.
And in-keeping all things fun, stylish and candid, they hired the wonderfully talented Monique Hessler Photography to capture it all.
We do like it when a wedding involves a mixed back of aesthetic and styles, and Rhea & Andrew mixed things up beautifully.
Their ceremony was a blank canvas surrounded by dramatic cacti and wild florals, while their reception was a brick and corrugated backdrop with a Mexican buffet and lots of dessert (Rhea's a food blogger!).
Cool decor included edible centrepiece arrangements, pretty signage, thoughtful wooden details, and that awesome sweetheart table backdrop (which I'm totally pinning for myself!).
And leading all the fun and games on the day, gorgeous Rhea in her braided updo and sweetheart strapless gown, dashing Andrew in his sharp blue threads, sealing the deal on their adorable love story.
Wedding Day Snapshot
Our Love Story
After college, my friends and I created “Tini Tuesdays” where every Tuesday we would try out a new place for happy hour, in order to stay in touch.
One Tuesday, a friend of mine had invited a new guy, Andrew, to join us. We grabbed a high top in the bar area, and everyone took a seat.
Andrew got there late due to his longer commute from work. My friends played musical chairs, to ensure that the only open seat when Andrew arrived was next to me.
When he came up from behind to take his seat, I was taken aback by how handsome he was. I immediately got nervous, and recall making fun of him for being on a conference call during happy hour.
I remember that we didn’t talk a whole lot during dinner, but after the night ended, shortly after I got home I received a text from Andrew. Something along the lines of, “Hey Rhea, it’s Andrew. Allison gave me your number. She is kind of aggressive” which we both still laugh about to this day (because it’s true, but we LOVE Allison).
We continued to text all night, and continuously for the next couple of days, getting to know each other and scheduling our first date for two weeks from then, when Andrew would be back in town.
The Proposal Story
2014 was a huge year for us. We sold Rhea’s townhouse, moved in with her parents, and quickly bought a house of our own.
Early in the year, Rhea had won a free trip through work, due to our work schedules, we chose the first week of December 2014. Destination: Hawaii.
It was in October of that year that I started shopping for a ring. Hawaii would be where I would ask the girl of my dreams to marry me. I met with her best friend to secure her permission as well as advice on what the hell I was doing.
As soon as I had the ring, I asked her father for permission. It was during a BBQ session over the grill, and it felt like a proper and manly time to discuss such things. We shook on it.
Soon after I called her brother, who was serving in the Navy (still is). I secured his permission as well. It was November when I had planned out my proposal.
I was going to get her a DSLR camera (which she desperately wanted for her food blog) and I was going to somehow sneak a picture of the ring onto the camera and show it to her on the trip.
I made sure to give her the camera in November so as not to arise suspicion, and to ensure she learned how to use it before our trip.
When we left for Hawaii, I had the ring in my carry-on bag, and it was one of the more nerve racking travel days of my life. In a good way. I gave the TSA agents a look that I hoped conveyed: “ask no questions about that blue pouch.”
The next day we went to brunch, walked around the beaches of Kauai, taking pictures as we went (wink) and settled into vacation mode. After an awesome day of exploring, we wandered back to our room to get ready for dinner.
I leapt into action, grabbing the ring, carefully taking a picture of it on her camera, and then sneaking the ring into the side table nearest me.
Rhea came out, asking if I was ready to go to dinner. I had the camera in my hands. “Sure, I was just looking over our pictures, you got some great ones!” She was happy to show me the rest of the photos she took, when she happened upon the last picture of the day.
A sparkling object; A promise for the future. Her jaw dropped.
I grabbed the ring out of the side table and dropped down to one knee. I told her “I have no idea what this world has in store for me, but I’ll be damned if I don't do it without you by my side. Will you me marry me?”
Cue the happiest tears of our lives and before I knew it the ring was on her finger. We agreed to alert our immediate family members and closest confidants right after, but kept the secret for ourselves for another day.
We spent the rest of the evening in a daze of happiness just the two of us. That haze carried through for the rest of the week, and Hawaii became our new favorite place, and the launch pad for our future.
We had an “Urban Foodie” theme.
We wanted our wedding to represent us, fun, food-lovers, so we made sure our settings were very natural, with the gardens and also with the industrial landscape of our reception venue.
We were inspired by the lush natural backdrop of our ceremony, which did not require much décor at all, as it lended itself as our décor.
We were also inspired by the natural wood and brick in our reception venue. We mostly stuck with neutral tones (navy, gold, blush, and grey/silver) throughout our wedding, other than pops of pink color in my bouquet as well as the centerpieces.
Our wedding in three words? Best. Day. Ever!! Romantic, yummy, exciting.
I knew from the start that I wanted a figure-hugging mermaid cut from the start.
One of my bridesmaids is the owner of Modern Dress out in Iowa, and she flew out to go dress shopping with me and the bridal party.
I instantly fell in love with a Mori Lee lace, sweetheart cut gown. We decided to add a little bling and had my seamstress attach a Mori Lee crystal belt, which really sealed the deal.
I could wear that dress every single day if it were appropriate. I’ve never felt more beautiful in my entire life.
My six bridesmaids wore navy blue floor-length Wtoo dresses, which were so flattering, yet comfortable. They all wore different pieces from Meg Jewelry to accessorize.
Most of our guests were from out of town, so the Desert Botanical Garden was a done deal for us from the moment we walked in.
It was the first and only ceremony venue that we looked at.
The beautiful landscape of cacti, mountain ranges, flowers blooming, greenery everywhere. Something that you don’t always associate with Arizona.
We knew we wanted to switch it up for the reception, and a brand new venue in the area had just opened up, The Showcase Room, which our wedding planners told us about. Another love at first sight.
The wood floors, the industrial open air ceiling, the brick. It was the perfect canvas for us to fill with all of our ideas, and the caterer (Fox) was another deal-maker. Sense the foodie in us?
Our Favourite Moments
It’s safe to say that our favorite moment officially becoming husband and wife. Best friends for life.
After 14 months of planning, it was nice to watch all of our hard work (did anyone ever tell you that wedding planning is hard work?) play out so smoothly, without any major show stoppers.
100 of our favorite people were there, and it was so fun watching everyone enjoying themselves, and we will never get tired of hearing how much fun our friends and family had at our wedding.
I loved that Andrew and I decided not to do a first look, and waited to see each other for the first time as I walked down the aisle.
That was my favorite moment. Seeing his face light up as we finally got a glimpse of each other, and everything else just kind of went mute for a second.
We were the only two people in the universe.
The Ceremony & Music
Andrew and I took the ‘traditional' wedding vows and re-wrote them as they pertained to us, then repeated them after our officiant.
I walked down the aisle to ‘It Was Always You' by Ingrid Michaelson.
For the recessional we wanted something fun and upbeat so we chose ‘Crazy in Love' by Beyonce and Jay-Z.
Our first dance song was ‘Everything' by Michael Buble, the perfect balance between romantic and fun.
Advice for Other Couples
Being a Type-A planner, as the bride, I was looking at bridal blogs as often as possible. I checked Style Me Pretty and Wedding Chicks on a daily basis, looking for unique ideas.
I also googled our venues to see what others had done with the space previously, what worked, and what didn’t.
I used Etsy a lot for purchasing smaller items like table number holders and one-off cards.
As far as budget, I would say to err on the side of caution. It is entirely too easy to just say yes to each and every single idea that you see, and then all of the sudden you’ve spent your entire budget, and then some.
At the end of the day, people will just remember the emotions that they felt and the good time that they had. So we tried not to go overboard with the budget and spent more time focusing on experience rather than “things”.
But what worked for us, is not necessarily what will work for other brides. I’d say take your top three priorities (ours were food, DJ, and photographer) and focus your money there.
When we met with Monique she was so warm and passionate, an immediate friend to us.
She explained how she liked to blend into the scene when shooting weddings so that she could capture natural moments and even brought along past work of hers to show us her incredible capabilities.
This was important to us as Andrew and I wanted to be sure that no one blocked guests’ views, or interrupted the flow of the evening. We trusted her with a smooth and authentic approach to our special day.
She even brought along two assistant shooters to ensure that not a single moment or detail was missed, again blending into the scene.
I rarely noticed them the entire evening, yet came away with the perfect representation of our wedding.
She was so excited about all of our ideas for photos, and even went along with us to our venues prior to our wedding day to get a good feel for the lighting/backdrops/etc.
Andrew’s sister, Rachel, is an extremely talented videographer, so we entrusted her and a close friend to film the wedding, since Rachel was also a bridesmaid.
Then Rachel edited all of the footage for us. I still cry every time that I watch it, and am so glad that we can re-live that day over and over for years to come.
The Decor & Details
We rented wine barrels for the aisle-way at our ceremony and topped them with lush green centerpieces.
For our reception, we let the venue speak for itself, and had minimal décor. However, we did have help creating a sweetheart table backdrop using a rented wooden archway, draped with café lights as an added center of focus in the room.
We crafted wooden bride and groom signs made out of laser cut wood of the states that we are both from (Arizona: Bride, Connecticut: Groom).
My dad cut wooden slabs from a tree in the backyard of my childhood home to use as bases for the centerpieces. He also built us wooden donut stands for our dessert table.
My sister-in-law helped me create the table numbers as well as the seating chart, which we listed guests’ names on wine labels, using empty wine bottles that we collected over the planning stages (wedding planning causes wine consumption).
Food was one of our top three most important aspects of our wedding. We had an open bar and buffet of epic proportions.
Having an open bar was important to us, and Andrew even hand-selected the beers on tap.
We still have guests telling us that it was the best wedding food that they have ever had, and we are so happy to hear it!
We served a buffet of Mexican options including; chips with salsa and guacamole, street corn, shrimp & crab ceviche, both mahi mahi and short rib enchiladas, brown sugar flan, and Mexican chocolate cake.
We had the pleasure of working with Cole at LGO Bakeshop to make our sweetheart cake.
I am allergic to chocolate, so we went with a classic white cake with vanilla frosting, covered in my favorite, sprinkles!
Andrew on the other hand is a chocolate fiend, Reese’s peanut butter cups are his kryptonite. So I secretly had Cole create a larger than life-sized peanut butter cup cake.
I loved getting to see Andrew’s face light up when he realized what it was!
We had specific budgets for each vendor that we wanted to stay under.
We spent more on our DJ, as he was also our officiant (one-stop shop), but made up for it by sticking to more greenery, and less flowers in our bouquets and centerpieces.
We also splurged on our ceremony venue site fees, seeing as we were only at the garden for the 20-minute ceremony and then re-located, but our reception food and beverage minimum was much lower than many other local venues, allowing us to do both locations.
We used our connections and contacts to hire the best vendors within our budget. Our wedding planners are long-time friends of ours, and our videographer was Andrew’s sister.
This made the day so much more special because our favorite people got to be hands on with our day. I also bartered with vendors, offering trades for discounts on rentals.
I personally was not picky when it came to what types of flowers were in my bouquet. I knew I wanted whatever was in season (helped us to stay in budget) and lots and lots of lush greens.
When I met with Andrea at Garden Gate she understood our vision perfectly, and it turned out that she had also done the flowers for my photographers wedding, so we had an instant connection.
The only request that I had was that there was food incorporated in the centerpieces. I run a food blog so it’s safe to say that food plays a large role in our lives.
We wanted a fun component to our centerpieces; something different, something that stood out. Andrea used artichokes, pears, apples, rosemary, lots of greens, and pops of bright pink flowers to create the most perfect centerpieces, and no two were exactly alike.
We also used wood rounds as a base for the flowers, that my dad cut by hand from a tree that had fallen down in my childhood backyard to tie in something a little more personal.
We also used lavender and herbs in the boutonnieres as another foodie aspect.
We went on a delayed honeymoon. About seven weeks after our wedding we travelled to Italy (both of our #1 bucket list destination) and spent 11 days exploring Venice, Florence, and Rome.
I would absolutely recommend Italy as a honeymoon destination for other couples (in fact, can we come along too?!).
The food was to die for, the history, the wine!
We spent the days unknowingly growing our bond as a couple since we were in a foreign country trying to learn the language, the culture, and spending 24/7 navigating our way through crooked streets without cell service!
“Wedding planning causes wine consumption” Rhea is a bride after my own heart!
Such a lovely wedding, right? I could totally go for one of those doughnuts now, and I love their budget tips (an officiant and DJ in one, that's pretty cool!)
Thanks so much to Monique Hessler Photography and of course, Rhea & Andrew for sharing their sweet city meets desert wedding with us.
Be inspired by more awesome real weddings.