There are certain locations for real weddings that, when I see them pop up in my inbox, I know that no matter what, it’s going to be special, romantic, and entirely gorgeous.
Sonoma is one of those places. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a wedding from this particular portion of California wine country that I wasn’t head over heels for.
But Alistair and Brian’s wedding day offered something I wasn’t expecting. It’s still stylish, it’s still basked in the most glorious light (captured beautifully by White Ivory Photography!) but there isn’t a grape vine in sight.
Instead, this flower-filled garden setting takes on a whole new vintage elegance we don’t normally associate with casual California weddings.
But having an elegant wedding, doesn’t mean it can’t have lots of personality too.
Tailoring their day around an intimate dinner party, Alistair and Brian were able to create a celebration that was meaningful and emotional.
From their dog of honour (whose flower collar we’re seriously digging!) to their thoughtful readings (their marriage equality reading is a particularly lovely addition) to an emphasis on great food and wine, all make their day the kind of wedding that’s beautiful inside and out.
And those kind of weddings (regardless of their location!) are always our favourites…
Wedding Day Snapshot
Our Love Story
Brian and Alistair met through mutual friends at a Sublime cover-band show in San Francisco, CA.
After that initial encounter, their paths crossed at various social gatherings but their relationship didn’t officially start until a few months later.
After moving across the country together, going to grad school, and starting their careers, Brian proposed six years later on Ali’s birthday under the disguise of a weekend getaway in Carmel, CA.
The theme of our wedding was elegant vintage. It brought together the beauty of an old Victorian mansion coupled with a lush spring garden.
The greens from the garden were complimented by our color palette which consisted of muted earth tones of lavender, blush, sage, and champagne.
Our table arrangements were dressed in classic Chantilly lace, vintage framed table numbers, and an assortment of gold and crystal antique votive candles.
Our floral arrangements consisted of roses, peonies, and various sprig flowers. We wanted our flowers to take on a ‘wild flower’ look but still have a touch of elegance.
The arrangements also included a variety of leafy greens and succulents for additional texture.
The bride’s dress was a light, airy, A-line gown featuring a plunging V-neck and a chapel train.
The bodice was sculpted with lace motifs on illusion and a soft net skirt with pearl buttons and a double-faced satin ribbon. The bride also wore a mid-length veil which added additional texture.
The ladies in the bridal party wore petal pink, floor length gowns with lace bodices and flowy chiffon skirts.
The men wore grey full piece suits with champagne ties.
The couple’s dog of honor wore a fresh floral collar with matching ribbons.
The kind and friendly demeanor of our photographer (White Ivory Photography) was an instant selling point for us.
Aside from the fact that her portfolio was absolutely beautiful, she was very easy to work with and did everything she could to make sure she captured all of the little details.
We worked with her for our engagement shoot which was a great opportunity for us to get comfortable in front of the camera before our big day.
Our Favourite Details
Our wedding ceremony was very personalized and really represented who we are as individuals and as a couple.
Incorporating our families into the ceremony (including our dog!) and having a close friend officiate were important details for us.
We also wrote our own vows, selected readings that really resonated with us, and weren’t afraid to laugh or interact with the audience while we were both up there crying our eyes out.
We also incorporated the groom’s love for games into the evening by having our guests sign Jenga pieces instead of a standard guest book and creating a personalize crossword puzzle to keep everyone busy while dinner orders were being taken.
Madrona Manor’s beautiful garden was the selling point for us. We were looking for a venue with a lush romantic outdoor setting for our ceremony.
Dinner outside on the Palm Terrace overlooking the garden also provided the intimate vibe we were looking for as we celebrated with our close family and friends.
We personalized our ceremony by having a close friend officiate. It was by far the best decision we could have made.
He gave us homework assignments prior to the wedding by asking us to write (secret) messages to one another which he incorporated into the ceremony script.
Two of the bride’s brothers also performed readings which included a poem called ‘Marriage’ and an excerpt from the 2015 US Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality.
Both readings had beautiful language on the importance of marriage and were a great way to include additional family members in the ceremony.
All of our music was performed by a live string ensemble (violin and cello).
The bridal party processional entered the ceremony to ‘Crazy Love’ by Van Morrison. The bride’s processional was ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ by Elvis Presley. Our recessional was ‘All You Need is Love’ by The Beatles.
Our first dance was ‘Heaven’ by Bryan Adams. And our simultaneous father/daughter and mother/son dance was to ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ by Elton John.
Advice for Other Couples
We got organized and set a budget very early on in our wedding planning (lots and lots of spreadsheets!).
We also set up a savings account specifically dedicated to “the wedding fund” and made monthly contributions to it so that we stayed on target.
We also kept a mega to-do list and assigned each other different tasks so that the planning process was truly a joint effort.
The Decor & Details
In selecting our venue, we wanted a location that already had a lot of natural beauty. As a result, we kept our décor limited to the table centerpieces, a few floral arrangements, and some personalized pieces in our cocktail area.
Our ceremony decorations consisted of two large floral pieces which stood on ceremony pillars provided by our florist.
We brought in some décor for the cocktail area which included large framed pictures of the bride and groom, some personalized signage, and decorative accent pieces.
We made sure to have a variety of votive candles scattered throughout the cocktail and reception areas which gave the whole set up a beautiful romantic glow throughout the evening.
Our only DIY project was handmade ribbon wands which were used by our flower girl and ring bearer during the ceremony. We also placed wands on the ceremony chairs for our guests to use during our recessional and to take home as party favors.
We intentionally planned for our wedding to be on the smaller intimate side (think classy dinner party). As a result, there was a lot more attention placed on the food.
We provided our guests with a three-course sit down meal catered by the Madrona Manor’s Michelin rated restaurant.
A two-tiered chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting was served for dessert. The wedding cake was topped with a fresh floral arrangement provided by our florist.
Being in the heart of Sonoma wine country, we also provided a personal selection of wines from local wineries.
Our total budget was approximately $25,000. We prioritized the venue and the photographer as high ticket items for us.
We ended up paying more than we expected on flowers and décor but we unexpectedly saved money in other areas such as the bride’s dress, rehearsal dinner, etc.
We also made slight adjustments here and there such has having our wedding on a Friday instead of Saturday or Sunday which also saved us quite a bit.
We honeymooned in Kauai, Hawaii and would highly recommend it to other couples looking for a relaxing, low-key honeymoon.
There were lots of outdoor activities that we didn’t need to schedule in advance and many beautiful beaches to choose from. We would highly recommend it!
It’s all so beautiful, isn’t it? I just adore intimate weddings, and how gorgeous is Alistair’s Wtoo Marnie gown? That bodice with the blush lining is just stunning.
Thanks so much to White Ivory Photography, and of course, Alistair and Brian for sharing their elegant garden wedding with us.
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