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A Handcrafted Backyard Wedding in Sunnydale

A Handcrafted Backyard Wedding in Sunnydale

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

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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

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