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A Handcrafted Backyard Wedding in Sunnydale

DIY Weddings

Photos by:

Bethany Carlson

Today’s wedding is made up of so many incredible layers, I hardly know where to begin. The second we heard Kathy’s description of her vision, we were sold: “Imagine if Wes Anderson directed ‘Through the Looking Glass’ and set it in a Cabinet of Curiosities.” How does it get any better than that? Tack on the talents of Bethany Carlson and In the Moment Events, and you’ve got a wedding day no one will forget for years to come.

A Handcrafted Backyard Wedding in Sunnydale - photo by Bethany Carlson

From the bride, Kathy: We wanted it to be quirky and fun. Our description was “imagine if Wes Anderson directed ‘Through the Looking Glass’ and set it in a Cabinet of Curiosities.” I wanted guests to feel like they were dreaming; things just a little off-kilter. Like carnivorous plants and spidery orchids among the flowers on the table. Or lab flasks used as vases, unusual flowers shown off like exhibits in apothecary jars and under glass domes. We started with a cocktail party for the first 45 minutes and THEN did the ceremony, so guests were fed and had had something to eat before sitting through the ceremony. And then, to put as much importance on the feeling of the ceremony as on the reception, Craig and I wrote the entire ceremony, including original readings talking about the values we prize most in our relationship–Love, Kindness, Gratitude, Respect, and Trust. We asked our guests to bless our rings and to stand and commit their support to us. People said it drew them in and made it very intimate and interesting and set an inclusive, warm tone for the party afterward.

A Handcrafted Backyard Wedding in Sunnydale - photo by Bethany Carlson

illustrated wedding invitations - photo by Bethany Carlson

first looks - photo by Bethany Carlson

first looks - photo by Bethany Carlson
Bouquet recipe: Dahlias (cafe au lait dinnerplates, burgundy, and chocolate), scabiosa, snowberry, Queen Anne’s lace, gold celosia, garden roses, Sahara roses, Black Magic roses, spray roses, dusty miller, blushing bride protea, smoke bush, agonis, blackberries, pink astilbe, orchid plants, carnivorous plants.

Wonderland inspired weddings - photo by Bethany Carlson

bohemian ceremonies - photo by Bethany Carlson

jewel toned bridesmaid dresses - photo by Bethany Carlson

flower girls - photo by Bethany Carlson

EVERYTHING was DIY. We bought our house a year ago and spent the first six months fixing it up and the next six turning it into a wedding venue. We planted gardens everywhere, paved a patio, hung dozens of strands of lights and mirrors and lanterns. We made candle holders out of wire wrapped around glasses and bowls from Goodwill, and hung these throughout the trees with LED candles or tealights, depending on location. To define the yard and add color and height, we strung curtains of silk ribbon made from strips of old saris. We hung the same ribbon from our flagpole, from branches in urns at the altar, and in the gate of the passage to our back deck/dance floor. We also used it to wrap the bridesmaid bouquets. There’s an old shed between our backyard and front yard that we used as a passageway. We hung string lights in the rafters and hung curtains down its length, hiding all of our storage and tools–this became a lovely magical tunnel between ceremony and reception. For months I popped in to thrift stores and bought cut glassware. This cache of odd stemware and bowls became the majority of the vases, planters, candle holders, and bar decanters. We had two signature cocktails, a Manhattan and a margarita. We made them up in bulk the day before the wedding so that our bartender needed only to ice, stir, and pour — this kept quality consistent and made it possible to serve dozens of people quickly. For the decanters, I bought old decanters from Goodwill, and for the ones without tops I added pewter animal head pourers.

groom crying - photo by Bethany Carlson

ceremony recessionals - photo by Bethany Carlson

wedding decor ideas - photo by Bethany Carlson

handpainted wedding signs - photo by Bethany Carlson

bride and groom - photo by Bethany Carlson

My MOH got married a year ago, and as her wedding gift we built a big plywood and glass glitter ‘paper moon’ crescent moon photo booth based on another wedding here on Ruffled; when her wedding was over, we hung the moon in our gazebo because it resembles our last initial “C.” This became the backdrop of some of our bridal portraits. We made signs throughout the property out of pre-cut plywood lengths from Home Depot. I did the lettering using Sharpie paint pens or acrylic paints. I also did the “calligraphy” on the invitations and the menus. We created directional signposts by cutting arrows out of deck lumber and nailing them to garden stakes. A couple weeks before the wedding, our neighbor got lengths of a tree that had been felled and I pounced on the tree stump sections, using them with hurricane lanterns to line the aisle. I wanted more color at the altar, so we used a rug I had bought a few years back at Anthropologie. I very much wanted a dress with sleeves and could not find one, so my seamstress made a custom shrug for me to wear over my sleeveless dress using a design we plotted out together that matched the dress perfectly and stayed put all day. I then bought a beautiful black sequined sari from a local store and had her make it into a floor-length wrap/stole. She took extra sequined trim and made an inset for the front of my dress. For the reception I snapped the inset into my dress, donned the stole, and wore it for the evening. For dancing, she made a black taffeta version of the shrug so I wouldn’t trip over the long stole. I loved them–I got my sleeves!

backyard receptions - photo by Bethany Carlson

tablescape centerpieces - photo by Bethany Carlson

A Handcrafted Backyard Wedding in Sunnydale - photo by Bethany Carlson

backyard receptions - photo by Bethany Carlson

tall centerpiece ideas - photo by Bethany Carlson

wildflower centerpieces - photo by Bethany Carlson

reception food stations - photo by Bethany Carlson

Any advice for couples planning their weddings now? Communicate, communicate, communicate. Write things down. Tell people what you expect of them. Because there was so much to do, and my husband (I love saying that!) gets tense when he doesn’t know the full scope of a project, I spent time early on and wrote down every single thing I knew we had to do, from buying candles to installing a patio. I added things over time as new things popped up or as tasks occurred to me. In the end I had a 211-item task list. That sounds crazy, but everything got done, with only about 3 exceptions–sadly, one of those being “Even out your farmer’s tan.” Booo. An exhaustive list is fabulous for when someone asks, “is there anything I can do?” and when you want to assess how much you still need to do… I also wrote up a detailed Responsibilities list for wedding day for every member of the bridal party. I wrote this (with phone numbers, so they all knew how to get in touch with each other) for everyone from the flower girls to the best man and they ranged from “Be at hotel on time, fed, makeup on, ready to get your hair done” to “Dance. A lot.” (The dance floor was full all night–yayy!) AND… always have a Plan B. We planted 25 dahlias, hoping to grow many of our own flowers. They were lush and gorgeous and I made bouquets all summer… until about 3 weeks before the wedding when they developed some creepy disease and went utterly dormant. Talk about frustrating! Plan B: wholesale flower mart. OH. And if you’re getting married at home, remember that it can be way more stressful than doing it at a venue, because not only do you have to have your bodies all ready for a wedding, you have to have an extremely clean house devoid of all the stuff lying around that you were using to prepare for the wedding! ALL your stuff is in the wedding, all of it–your welcome mat, your laundry basket, your garbage cans. (It is very taxing–this huge project is inescapable, and wreaks havoc on everyone in the house, including your pets.) But the flip side is, you don’t have a lot of stuff to pack and carry to and from a venue, and you don’t have to set up and clean up the decor in a compressed time frame. You can do it gradually over a long period, which is what we did.

dessert tables - photo by Bethany Carlson

wedding sign ideas - photo by Bethany Carlson

wildflower centerpieces - photo by Bethany Carlson

reception inspiration - photo by Bethany Carlson

A Handcrafted Backyard Wedding in Sunnydale - photo by Bethany Carlson

View all images from this wedding in the gallery

Wedding Music:
Bridal Party Processional: “If You Were Here,” Vitamin String Quartet
Craig and I were friends for more than 20 years before saying, after finding ourselves single again, “why haven’t we ever dated?” So after all this time, my bridal processional HAD to be “At Last” by Etta James
Recessional: “Happy Together,” The Turtles
First dance: “I Melt With You,” Nouvelle Vague

Wedding Location: Sunnyvale, CA / Photographer: Bethany Carlson / Event Coordination: Mariell Rahmani of In the Moment Events / Flowers: Bride, sourced from Malyne Hazard at California Flower Shippers, Inc. / Venue: Private Residence / Wedding Dress: Impression Bridal via Brides of California / Custom white and black taffeta Shrugs, Sequined Stole: Kirsten Tucker / Sequined stole fabric: Chiffon sari from Nalli Silk Sarees / Sari Ribbons: Felt Better / Fascinator: J-Picone “Jane” via Nordstrom / Ceremony Shoes: Butter / Reception Shoes: John Fluevog / Hair: Eric Restani / Groom’s Suit: Brooks Brothers / Caterer: JJardine Catering and Events/ DJ: Jazcat Mobile Entertainment / Carnivorous Plants: World’s Rare Plants / Vases and Urns: Accent Decor and Save on Crafts / Altar Rug: Anthropologie / Altar Urns: Home Depot / Frames: Michaels and Hobby Lobby / Animal Head Pewter Wine Pourers: Menagerie Wine Pourers / String Lights: Target and Orchard Supply / Sparklers: Wedding Day Sparklers / Wedding Invitations: Sunshine and Ravioli

Shenandoah Valley Wedding

Romantic Weddings

What could be cozier than a bed and breakfast wedding? Melissa and Kyle had once stayed at Virginia’s The Inn at Vaucluse Spring and knew it would be the perfect home for their wedding day. Brooke Courtney Photography and florist Wild Green Yonder were the perfect matches to bring the couple’s vision to reality!

Shenandoah Valley wedding - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

From the bride, Melissa: Our ceremony and reception were held at The Inn at Vaucluse Spring, a beautiful 100-acre bed-and-breakfast in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, about 90 minutes from DC. We’d stayed there once years before and fell in love with it. Our wedding was the perfect opportunity to go back — this time with 50 of our closest friends and family. Kyle and I didn’t necessarily have a clear-cut theme for the wedding, as much as we had little details that we wanted to incorporate. We originally met six years ago as writers, so we tried to sneak that into the decor — in book titles, in postcards that doubled as our guestbook, and in the (not-so-subtle!) typewriter.

purple green boutonnieres - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

bride getting ready - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

coral purple bouquet - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography
Flower recipe: Instead of identical floral arrangements at each table, we used various scattered stems and wildflowers — all pieced together by our amazing florist, Lori at Wild Green Yonder. We asked her for two main things: color and texture — and we got both of them. Flowers included dahlias, celosias, cockscombs, scabiosa pods, yarrow, and Joe Pye weed, and everything was grown locally in Virginia.

groom boutonnieres - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

purple boutonnieres - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

delicate hair pin - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

groom and groomsmen - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

Trying to keep things budget-friendly where possible, we DIY’ed a lot of the decor. Kyle built the postcard stand with dowels, wood stain, and twine. I designed all of the printed signage using Photoshop and cardstock. We thrifted old books and glass bottles, and used them as tablescapes. (Also fairly budget-friendly: We’re dressed in J. Crew, and my flats are from Payless.) My dad passed away almost a decade ago, and it was really important to me to remember him on my wedding day. For the ceremony, I left the chair next to my mom empty for him, marking it with a ribbon and a few blooms. At our guest check-in table, I kept a lantern lit in his memory, and in place of favors, we made a donation to the American Cancer Society in his honor.

bridal processional - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

wedding ceremony - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

ceremony recessionals - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

wedding games - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

chalkboard wedding signs - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

Shenandoah Valley wedding - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

bride and bridesmaid - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

Shenandoah Valley wedding - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

Shenandoah Valley wedding - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

Any advice for couples planning their weddings now? Agree on when to save, and when to splurge. While our overall wedding was fairly budget-friendly, our one splurge was our out-of-state photographer. Photography was really important to us, and we were willing to spend a bit more on that because — after all the food is eaten, and after all the songs are played — photos are one of the few tangible things you’ll be able to take away from a wedding. So do your research and look for a photographer that you really love: their style, their personality (you’ll be spending tons of time with them!), and most of all, their end product.

Shenandoah Valley wedding - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

book wedding details - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

book centerpieces - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

wedding reception tables - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

dessert bars - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

wedding dessert pies - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

Shenandoah Valley wedding - photo by Brooke Courtney Photography

View all images from this wedding in the gallery

Wedding Location: Stephens City, VA / Photographer: Brooke Courtney Photography / Florist: Wild Green Yonder / Venue: The Inn at Vaucluse Spring / Wedding Dress: J. Crew / Wedding Shoes: Payless ShoeSource / Hair and Makeup: Jordan K. Winn / Groom’s Suit: J. Crew / Caterer: The Barbecue Exchange / Pies: Red Truck Bakery / Band: Colebrook Road / Rentals: Crave Event Rentals / Officiant: Rev. Kathy Gracenin

Daily Pick

Home Sweet Flowers

Home Sweet Flowers is flowery hearted; there is no doubt that in every creation that is made the recipe consists of love & intuition. Flowers are not merely “pretty”, we believe each stem has the inevitable ability to enhance ones mood, daily life, & wedding day.

HSF always respects a couples budget, without reducing quality. We use locally grown stems and love that “just picked from the garden” whimsical touch. Let us make your wedding glow!

Become a vendor

Flower Guide: Easy Bridal Shower

Flower Guide, Wedding Design

Photos by:

It’s about time we share another Flower Guide installment with you all! Starting with a zinnia design on the invitations by Paper Boat Studios, this shoot is filled with bridal shower ideas and beautiful florals by Flowers to the People. The blooms starring today are easy to find at the flower market and can be easily made for a shower. Thank you to Hawes Photography for these gorgeous images!

alleyway wedding ideas
red orange stationerypurple yellow centerpieces

Flower Guide:
Bridal Bouquet: Beauty Asters, Tuberoses, Lotus & Bridal Bower
Bridesmaids’ Bouquets: Carnations, Zinnia, Roses (cinnamon/safari), Feverfew, Stock, Bridal Bower
Centerpieces: Same as bridesmaids plus Celosia and Sedum. Yellow teapot has a double bloom Kalanchoe

yellow red tablescapesyellow bouquet ideas

bridesmaids in vintage dresses

vintage pink dressesorange yellow centerpieces

bridesmaids setting table

red flowers yellow potsvintage bridesmaids dresses

bridesmaids holding stationery

spring wedding flowers

View all images from this shoot in the gallery

Wedding Photographer: Hawes Photography / Wedding Flowers: Flowers to the People / Letterpress: Paper Boat Studios / Hair and Makeup: Drew Henry Salon

Daily Pick

Sue Gallo Designs

We here at Sue Gallo Designs are big lovers of flowers! We live and breath in their beauty and all things pretty. As a fresh floral and event company in Hamilton, On., our passion is to create a beautiful celebrations of love. Our designs are the perfect pairing of garden chic and laid back elegance with a whole lot of fabulousness. We see flowers as a big component to any celebration. Together we collaborate the story of you and carefully craft components that are thoughtfully gathered and stunningly styled. Defining your vision for a singular day to beautifully mark that special moment in your lives to celebrate, relish and remember.

From intimate back yard celebrations to elaborate affairs our services are crafted with each of our couples personal style and unique vision in mind.

We’d love the chance to meet you to discuss this fabulous wedding you are planning and to tell you more about Sue Gallo Designs and how we can bring your vision to fruition.

We can’t wait to meet you and make your celebration remarkable!

Serving Niagara Wine Country, The Greater Hamilton Toronto Area, Muskoka, Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo Areas

Become a vendor

Flower Guide: Farm Inspired

Flower Guide

Photos by:

Sassafras Floral and Studio Laguna Photography came together to create a 1700’s prairie inspired shoot, with amazing florals that we get to learn about them today in our next installment of our Flower Guide:

sun flare and purple wedding bouquet
blueberry wedding ideas
purple wedding bouquet

flower guide purple

Flower Guide:

“Black hero” double French tulips
blue leptospermum
plumosa celosia
scabiosa pods

white cascading modern bouquet

View all images in the gallery

Location: Minnesota / Wedding Photographer: Studio Laguna Photography / Wedding Flowers: Sassafras Floral / Wedding Dress: Claire Pettibone via Mestad’s / Wedding Cake: Cocoa & Fig