Designing Our Dream Wedding
After Evan and I got engaged, he knew I wanted almost two years to plan our wedding, and for a few reasons. The first being, I wanted to enjoy this special time of our lives together and not have it be weighed down by crazy wedding planning. And the second being, I knew I wanted certain things for my wedding that I would need the time to plan and research for. The first and most important being our Venue. That was the first thing we booked more than a year and a half out. I did about 4 months of research, pricing, and design visioning before deciding on the Martin Johnson House in La Jolla. Once we had our venue and date selected, it helped me feel more confident in what we wanted our wedding day to be.
From the beginning, I wanted Evan involved with the planning. We both viewed this day as more than just a wedding or a party. We wanted it to be about bringing our friends and family from all over together for a weekend to celebrate our love, friendship, and commitment. We wanted it to be a representation of us and our lifestyle and to feel as casual as a backyard summer party, but with elegance and detail. When I was doing research of how to design our wedding, a lot of guides recommended starting with words to describe your day. Evan and I did this together and decided on: simple, modern, and natural. We are both fairly simple people and try to live a simple life, focusing on things that matter to us, and we felt it was important to carry those values on our first day as a married couple. My personal design taste and ideals are more modern versus traditional. We knew we didn’t want to do all the traditional things people except, and I wanted to stay true to my design self. Lastly, natural related to our venue setting. It is a completely outdoor wedding, on a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean, with beautiful landscaping and old cypress trees. We focused on the natural beauty and colors our venue already offered and tried not to cover it with unnecessary props.
Evan and I set our budget and clearly listed our priorities, also identifying items we felt we didn’t need or we could do ourselves. In short our priorities (aka where we spent the money) were good food (tacos!), live music, photo/video, and furniture rentals (some things I did buy at Target instead of renting, more on that later). Things we tried to save money on were guest favors, desserts (my Mom made our cake), buying our own alcohol, and limited flowers.
I don’t like to say I am DIY person or crafty person. I am a designer, I take the time to research, understand, and visualize a project before just doing something. There were quite a few elements of our wedding that I took the time to research and understand the best way to do it. I did not want my wedding to look crafty or diy-ed. I wanted each detail to look professional and tasteful, otherwise I would simply rather just not have it. Less is more, right?
Here is a list of everything I personally designed for my wedding that I will expand on in this post. There is a lot here with a lot of info, so feel free to jump around to the parts you are personally interested in.
Invitation Suite (Invite, Detail Card, RSVP, Envelopes, Lettering, Stamps)
Signage (Welcome, Bar, Table Numbers, place cards)
Small Decor Items (pillows, alter rug, sign holders, baskets)
Guest Favor Cook Books
From the beginning, I knew I essentially wanted to brand my wedding. I wanted everything to have a purpose and for all the details to be connected. I planned to have several elements repeat, such as a logo, color, material choices, fonts, etc.
I don’t like to say my wedding had specific colors, I just wanted to choose things that went with the surroundings: the deep blues of the oceans, the variety of greens in the grass and trees, the gold color of the sunset, and white and black as the neutral color connecting them. The true details didn’t develop until I scheduled myself two weeks in February to design my Wedding Suite.
The hardest part of my design process was satisfying my design eye with my wedding invite and knowing what I put on my invite was the foundation of the details to be carried throughout. One of my other projects for the wedding was creating a cookbook to have printed as our wedding favors. I had to cook every item and take pictures of it. And I have to say, doing that was easier than designing my wedding suite. I knew I wanted to incorporate multiple cardstock colors, letterpress printing, a two sided design, a vellum wrap, my hand lettering, and vintage stamps. I was ordering paper samples left and right, folding paper to make wraps and visualizing how the invite would come together, browsing the internet for days looking at stamp colors and adding up postage totals. Eventually everything fell into place.
An important aspect of the main invite was that I wanted the main invite to be something people would want to keep. I will be honest, quality invites cost a pretty penny. I wanted my invites to have a life after their purpose. That is what inspired the two sided design. The main invite consists of two pieces of Gmund 14 cardstock, glued together, one side has the wording, the other the art. I ended up going with foil on both sides because I thought it gave it a special attention, and it contrasted nicely with the blind pressed flower on the front. The paper ordering, printing, and duplexing was all handled by Czar Press in Irvine, California. They also digitally printed my RSVP cards and detail cards on Lettra Fluorescent Paper. The other equally important element to the invite was the envelope. I went back and forth on if the envelope should be light or dark, hand addressed or printed. But when I learned more about LCI Paper’s White Ink Printing, I knew my questions had been answered. LCI printed both my mailing envelope and RSVP envelope along with my vellum wraps. Each had a custom design that used my hand lettering and flowers printed brilliantly in white on a dark blue envelope and olive green envelope. And I decided to hand letter each guest’s address to add that personal touch. It is seriously the dreamiest thing.
When designing how all the pieces would fit together, I used Adobe Illustrator to layer the designs on top of each other and play around with where text went and final layouts. It was really easy to fall down the rabbit hole with this, but I am glad I took the time to experiment, because almost every idea evolved into a new one. And the vellum wrap added just enough elegance to complete the package with our names in white ink overlaying the art on the back of the invite, and a small gold sticker to hold it closed.
The stamps, brought the invite above and beyond. I spent a good amount of time looking at stamps. I wanted them to tell a story.
Mr. Buffalo - represents wildlife conservation.
Palomar Observatory - sparked joy for Evan and his interest in Space, and it is in California.
Architecture Collection - represents my interest in architecture and design.
The Folk Art Duck - who doesn’t love ducks!
Trees - I love trees, wish we had more in SoCal.
Brooklyn Bridge - another example of my love for Architecture, and represents where my fathers family settled after emigrating from Italy.
California Statehood Stamp - Evan and I are both from California, live in California, and love California, so it seemed necessary. Plus my favorite color is yellow.
Yes, I am aware you can rent table runners. I originally wanted to use a dark blue velvet fabric for our table runners, but struggled to find any to rent. Being in the interior design industry, I had samples all around me as options of what I was looking for. So I decided I was going to buy my own fabric and have my mom cut and hem them into table runners. But during my research and brainstorming and deciding if I really wanted to put the money towards making my own table runners, I came across another wedding that had used oil paintings as runners, and I thought it was brilliant and beautiful. But I don’t paint with oils, and my watercolor attempts were proving to be a challenge, so I decided to create my own graphic pattern using the flowers details to be printed on fabric. It would allow me to incorporate my art and also have it be functional and the size and colors I wanted. Using a variety of flowers and multiple test arrangements, I finally settled on a pattern. Probably the second hardest and most time consuming thing I designed. I started playing with patterns and layouts in February, but didn’t order the fabric until early May, it took that long to finalize. My mom was literally cutting them for me the weekend before my wedding. I also printed a welcome banner with my table runners to use at our table with guestbook and favors.
Day of Signage
When it came to signage for the bar, welcome table, and table numbers, I kept it really simple. All the colors and fonts were the same I used on the invites. But what made these pieces pop, were the stands I designed and my Father-in-Law executed for me. I wanted the sign holders to be simple and unique, but more importantly not fail due to wind. Our venue was right on the water, wind was something to be expected and planned for. I still have all the stands now, other people are renting them from me for their own events, and I am also considering selling them with original artwork as frames. They proved to be functional and beautiful.
Escort Display and Place Cards
Evan and I decided from an early point we were going to do assigned seating. For our dinner we wanted to create two long communal tables to have it feel like one big family dinner. So we knew it would just be easier if we told people where to sit so there were no weird single seats left and couples having to split up. So obviously I needed to design individual place cards and an escort display. My mindset going into both of these items was that I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on them because I knew the escort display was not going to be used again, and people were more than likely to leave their place cards behind. I really wanted to use objects for peoples place cards, like driftwood or a tile, but in the end I wanted something that wasn’t going to just be trashed, so I stuck with paper hoping it would just be recycled at the end of the night. I also needed both pieces to be windproof, and I needed the escort display to be easily moved by a single person. I also really liked the idea of the escort display being interactive for the guests. But I again didn’t want to spend money on an item that was most likely going to left behind. After days (let’s be real, weeks) of scrolling through Pinterest and blogs, I decided we would write thank you notes to each guest, and the envelope containing their note would have their table number assignment. I went with my dad to Home Depot, bought a single sheet of plywood, asked them cut it in half length ways and take a foot off the bottom, and set up shop in my Dad’s garage, where he routed all the edges for me so it was comfortable to carry in your hands. I sanded all the sides and edges, put two coats of blue paint that match our table runners, and then drilled the holes for the hooks for every guest. I had special cards printed when I did my invite order, and ordered the extra envelopes that matched our invitation color to use for each note. Each table had a different flower to go with the table number, so I very-discreetly printed each flower with the table number under the guest names on the outside envelope. Printing these envelopes proved to quite the process though. My Canon printer didn’t handle the small size so well, so Evan taped each envelope to a piece of printer paper, and ran each one individually through the printer for me. I used the same brass clips we used on the signage holders to hook them to the display. And finally, I painted lettering on the top and bottom and our main flower detail. My secret to this was I printed the flower on some regular paper at the scale I wanted, and layered it over some transfer paper that left a white chalk outline when you traced over it. I later went back with an Acrylic Paint Pen and filled it in. I used this same process on the corn hole boards.
For the place cards, I knew I needed it to be something that would lay flat or be tucked into the napkin to keep it from blowing away. So I just played around with some different ideas using scraps I had laying around. I wanted to use vellum again here because I love vellum and lettering on it, and I had lots of scraps. But I knew on its own, it would not be heavy enough against the wind. So I knew I had to attach it to something. White card stock, easy. But when playing with how it looked in the napkin vs. how it looked when pulled out, I was not happy with the emptiness/whiteness of it. It needed something to be unique. I played around with different proportions (square, rectangle), different ways to attach (glue, thread, gold sticker). And then I saw an image, probably on Instagram, of an invite with a watercolor wash, and I just knew, that is what it needs. I hand painted 75 trimmed pieces of scraps, hand lettered each guests name on trimmed vellum scraps, lightly glued the vellum onto the paper, hole punched two small holes in two corners with my Japanese Punch Tool, ran a thread through it, knotted it in the back and done. It was a multi step process that only cost me my time, and I loved them.
A few other things
When it came to the flowers, I knew I wanted them, but I also knew I wanted to be frugal about them. I wanted to use them where they mattered. I also wanted to give my local guests the opportunity to bring them home and enjoy them. So I decided instead of renting vases, I would provide all the vases. I have seen weddings where people have used wine bottles and beer bottles, and I found that too rustic for my taste. One day, while I was at work, I peeled my kombucha bottle label off out of boredom, and saw the most beautiful reusable amber bottles I had ever seen. It was perfect. I then spent the next year drinking kombucha. While yes I spent more money on drinking Kombuacha daily vs one weekly, I was using my waste for something better, and I had amazing gut health. The brand I like also had two bottle sizes, and I liked being able to incorporate the variety on the table design. When people at work noticed my recycling center I was running under my desk with storing my empty bottles in boxes, other coworkers started offering their amber bottles to me. I ended up with over 100 bottles. I brought all the bottles to my parents where we cleaned all the labels off of them, and double checked numbers to make sure I was meeting my goal. 20 Large Bottles and 60 Bottles for the tables, plus some others to use around the venue. It honestly worked out amazing. We still have most of the bottles, so I have them in case others want to use them for a party, or escort displays.
When it came to the decor items of our wedding, I knew I wanted a lounge area for the people who wanted to sit somewhere different besides their dinner spot and just add to the casual California vibe. So I rented a sofa, coffee table, lounge chairs, and an area rug. I also wanted to rent pillows and blankets to make it more cozy, but ended up buying like five pillows and a blanket from Target on clearance, which proved to be much cheaper than renting. Plus I still have them and can either donate them or reuse them for something else where I don’t mind if they get dirty. I also purchased a Rifle Paper Co rug for our altar. This was a splurge, but I have always wanted this rug, and Evan and I both saw something special in the idea of owning the rug we got married on that we can have in our future home. So I bought it. No regrets. And it was perfect with our flower pieces and the beautiful tree we got married under.
You might be thinking, “Wow, did you also set up all these things the morning of your wedding?” And I would of course say “Helllll No!”. I hired my month-of coordinator a good year before our wedding. Jessica at Crowned Events is honestly amazing and a great person to work with. She completely trusted me to essentially design my own wedding, and assured me that she and her team would see my vision through for me on my wedding day. She handled all logistics for me and Evan the month of, like delivery and set up and timeline. It was amazing and seamless! I organized all my items as best I could for her, even providing some diagrams, so there was no confusion on my intentions, and handed everything to her the morning of the rehearsal, and it was executed beyond my wildest dreams. It was set up exactly how I imagined, if not better. If you are on the fence of hiring someone to help you with your wedding, I encourage you to do it. It will make things so much easier on you, especially on the day of your wedding.
My Thoughts in the End
Looking back, I am so happy I put the time and effort into my wedding. It was stressful at times, but also extremely fulfilling and memorable. It was also nice how my friends and family noticed the effort I put into everything, and thought it was all beautiful. And while I did do it for them, I mostly did it for me. I encourage every couple to make their wedding unique to them and represent them and their values. I know there is a lot out there on Pinterest and Instagram that can make a bride feel her wedding needs to be a certain way. But I am here to tell you, do whatever it is that will make you happy. That is all that matters at the end of the day.
Design - Carmela Designs, Paper and Printing - LCI (envelope printing vellum wraps), Czar Press (invite printing), Gmund Paper, Cards and Pockets, US Mint Sheets, Gold Stickers, White Ink for lettering, Brush
Signage and Decor:
Brass Clips, Target (baskets, pillows, blankets), Rifle Paper Co, Clear Mind Brew Dr. Kombucha, Spoonflower, Brass Hooks, LCI (Gmund Envelopes), Czar Press (Custom Gold Foil Note cards), White Ink Acrylic Pens, Transfer Paper , Adore Folklore Rentals
Month of Coordinator - Crowned Events
Photography - Michelle Lillywhite Photography