Al Fresco California Wedding at Empire Mine State Park
November 20, 2014
California
Classic WeddingsAl FrescoPark
Sweet hues, an al fresco setting, a gorgeous couple - it all makes for a wedding that is perfect parts charming and gorgeous. And when the super talented Mirelle Carmichael is behind the lens to capture it all, it's like hitting the wedding jackpot. Because this gallery? It's as gorgeous as they get. See it all here.
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From The Bride...We joke that it wasn't love at first sight. We met our freshmen year of college at University of Arizona's Welcome Weekend barbecue. We had mutual friends and we were introduced to each other but neither of us took much notice of the other.

The next day, we both attended a meeting for the University's Leadership Program. I recognized Nick from the day before and reintroduced myself. Nick said a quick hello before rushing off for another appointment.

Finally, I guess 3rd times a charm, Monday morning, 9 AM, very first class of college, I walk in and there is Nick. He waved me over and asked if I wanted to sit with him. I guess the rest is history. We have been together over 11 years!

It was very important for us to try to have our wedding all outdoors. My parents had their wedding barefoot in a local park and I wanted to try to incorporate elements of that into our wedding. Nick’s family has a farm in a neighboring town and when my parent’s came to town to help us venue hunt, Nick’s mom suggested we check out this local park. She had been by once before and thought it was beautiful. When we all walked through the gates and saw those gorgeous HUGE trees, we knew Empire Mine was the perfect spot!

Trying to plan a wedding at a state park is not the easiest thing to do especially when we had to do it all long distance. There were a lot of rules to follow and logistics to incorporate into the plans. Because of this, I chose to hire as many local vendors as I could, using recommendations from the state park rangers. Most of our vendors were all familiar with the park rules, the park set-up, and already had great relationships with the park rangers. We were also excited to help support the local community. It was the best decision and despite all the rules, our wedding execution was seamless!

For other vendors, including our photographer, florist, and even dress alterations, I found most of them through friends, for example, I discovered Mirelle Carmichael, our photographer, because she was the cousin of a friend of mine and I found our popsicle vendor from Off The Grid, a food truck gathering in San Francisco.

The theme of our wedding was good friends, good food, and good fun! We wanted to enjoy the process of planning the wedding as much as the actual wedding so tried to keep it casual! I would say our style was garden party, I tried to envision the best garden party and incorporate aspects of those details into the wedding. I have always loved the colors sky blue and lemon yellow. I knew I wanted them together but didn’t want the colors to fight for attention, so I used blue as my main color and incorporated pops of yellow into my bouquet, my shoes, boutonnieres and on other subtle details.

I don’t really know why but I don’t love wedding cake so I tried to do-away with the wedding cake idea, however, my mom insisted that it was cruel to wedding guests (and to her) to not have a wedding cake so we compromised...she could have wedding cake if I could have popsicles, my favorite dessert.

I tried to be conscious of not being wasteful. I picked the few pieces I needed and tried to do away with anything extraneous, including programs, menus, table cards, and sent electronic save-the-dates (only printing a few for family). I tried to gather all the little details secondhand or by borrowing from friends.

I incorporated lots of little details that had special meaning to me. I stored all my jewelry for the wedding in a box my grandmother, who passed away, had made for me when I was little, I pinned the cameo I was handed down from a family friend on my bouquet and for all the decorations, I just tried to stay on theme and true to Nick and my personality...did it represent good friends, was it family-oriented, and was it fun?! If the answer was yes, it was a go!

One of my favorite memories was walking onto the grounds and seeing the final touches coming together for both the ceremony and reception site and seeing all our hard work and ideas finally come to life. A lot of people worked really hard to make it all happen and it was so special to see how great it all ended up. As they say, this wedding took a village!

During the reception, it was about 9:30pm, the cake had been cut and all that was left was to dance until we dropped. All of a sudden I started to see a couple guests running around with carnivale-style masks on...I remember thinking, “how fun, someone brought masks to the wedding!” But then pretty soon more and more guests had them until almost everyone was wearing them except for Nick and I. My parents came up to Nick and I with special masks and shouted, “It’s Cotillion, let's celebrate!” My parents who had been living in Santiago, Chile throughout the wedding planning process had brought back masks for all our guests to celebrate our wedding - carnival style! It was such a cool surprise and was a huge hit with our guests!

This wedding wasn’t just Nick and I, it was a whole group of people who helped along the way. The other piece of advice that helped me a lot was, “When you look back at your photos you want to be able to recognize yourself and your groom in them. Your wedding should be an expression of yourselves and your relationships. Not a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play dress up for the day.” I took that advice to heart and tried to ensure that everything we included felt like something we would want on any other day.

The biggest advice I can give to grooms is if your bride needs your advice, the answer “it’s your wedding, you decide” or “I don’t care” is never the right answer! Decide ahead of time a few things you want to have an opinion on and then offer it when the time comes. Brides are making a lot of decisions and sometimes it gets stressful and overwhelming. It was so helpful to have Nick act as my partner in crime so when I got stuck on a detail I could say do you like this or that and he would give me a straight answer.

Don’t JUST use Pinterest! It can be like a hole that sucks you in and never lets you go. Find a few things you really like and then print it out. I liked to say I pinterested in real life, but really I just got so overwhelmed with all the options, I spent one night with all the magazines and print-outs and created a collage for each section of the wedding: ceremony, reception, flowers, etc. and then used that as my mood board. It helped my vendors get some perspective on what we wanted and gave me a good stopping point.

A guess at the end of the day, it helps to remember, a wedding is just ONE day in your life and it is the START of your life with your husband and becoming part of each other’s families. Keep it in perspective when you’re in the planning process. Make sure that what you come away with, when all the cake has been eaten and the guests have left, is happy memories and a new bond with your family and friends.