Combine beautiful DIY details and a fabulous ranch setting and the results are always amazing. But add in a group of talented friends, the beauty expertise of The Makeup Dolls and a bride (aka, Heather Westcott of Feather West) who knows a thing or two about planning a wedding and it’s more than amazing… it’s extraordinary. See it all captured by Cliff Brunk Photography right here.
From the Bride… After a surprise (to both of us!) engagement (outside, next to a dumpster, in the rain I like to joke… but really: outside one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants, and it just happened to be raining on our walk home that night), we took our time getting around to planning the wedding. Jamie did surprise me many months later with a lovely engagement ring, however that evening after getting home we pulled out my great grandmother’s engagement ring and slipped that on my hand. (No, you don’t have to have a ring when you propose!) We later had ‘2011’ engraved on the inside of that same ring for the year we got engaged, which was originally engraved with the date ‘1906’!
I never had a “wedding of my dreams” in mind, so I formulated what my wish list was: I wanted it to be in Marin County where we spend lots of time cycling and running and I wanted it to be outside in the summer, we didn’t want to spend too much money, and we wanted to put our guests’ comfort and enjoyment of the weekend first.
From there we looked far and wide for that perfect venue… we even started looking in San Francisco when we realized hotels are not abundant in Marin and chartering busses is expensive – but nothing felt right and my huge spreadsheet of venue options was failing me! While Marin County is full of open space there is a surprising small percentage of state or national parkland, and an even smaller percentage of parkland that will allow you to host an event as large as the wedding we had in mind. We learned that most of the open space in Marin County that you see from the roads is privately owned by ranchers. From there I took a last ditch effort to find a ranch owner that would let us host a wedding on their land. This search was successful and finally landed us one Saturday morning at Chileno Valley Ranch, a very under-advertized venue, with no cell reception, where ranch owners Mike and Sally showed us around – we immediately fell in love with their property and decided this was the venue for us! While we had no intention of having a barn wedding when we started out planning, it turned out to be perfect for us. Neither Jamie or I grew up on a farm, but growing up in Ohio and southern Ontario, Canada, we both grew up with picturesque barns and active farmland all around us, so the scene was a familiar one. It was very special to us that this was still a working ranch, not just a wedding venue. You take your chances wearing high heels around there!
The reception would be in the barn, since its Northern California after all and it always cools off in the evenings, but we still had to decide where to have the ceremony itself – by the creek, on the hill, in the barn, in the orchard, in the rose garden? What a great venue to have to make those sorts of decisions! Just one week before the wedding we finally decided to have our ceremony in a field behind the barn that had never been used for ceremonies before – the barn on the west side protecting us from the coastal winds, and the iconic golden hills of California on all sides and behind us as our ceremony backdrop. The Chileno Valley Ranch owners were a wealth of knowledge and were happy to share with us successes and failures from past weddings on their property to help us make sure ours was as successful as possible.
Once the venue was finalized the pieces all fell into place. The date was selected so our families could travel in the summer after school was out and make a vacation of it, and the lodging was booked in the adorable nearby Dillon Beach. Since I am an architect and interior designer for my day job, I started right in with an inspiration board and wanted to do everything myself. I wanted the event to feel classy (the men per my husband’s choice were going to wear tuxes – I love his style!) to contrast with the rustic surrounds we were working in. I hated people asking me what my colors were going to be, so I said none, and decided to use as much white as possible.
Then I started calling for favors – please no gifts we told everyone! Instead, we asked people who felt the need to celebrate with a gift to make a donation to several charities we selected. Fortunately I have always been surrounded by wonderfully creative people. One college roommate is a graphic designer, who designed all of our print material custom for me to letterpress (a convenient side hobby I picked up!). Another college roommate is a fashion designer, and designed and hand-made my wedding dress! The year leading up to the wedding was blessed with lots of trips to NYC to visit this creative duo. My infinitely talented mother took cake decorating classes and made and decorated for us our entire dessert table! My dad took all of my strange requests in stride and worked tirelessly painting, nailing, and stringing lights as soon as he arrived in town to get our venue event ready. I selected my bridesmaids to represent a person from each stage of my life – Julie was a childhood friend, Susie a college friend, Rachel a San Francisco friend, and Maria my sister-in-law. The four of them rallied around my do-it-yourself approach to the wedding and did all of the floral design (buying all of it for only $250 at the SF Flower Mart!) as well as taking care of the day of coordination. They woke up early with me and we shared coffee and pastries as the sun rose at the ranch Saturday morning. We met all of the vendors as they arrived and moved tables and umbrellas and chairs into place. Then, as we had agreed, at noon on the dot they made me go inside, shower, and relax, and they pulled all the final details together before the guest arrived. I couldn’t have asked for better help and I loved being a part of the energy that morning.
Oh, and did I mention the guests all arrived via school bus? Cheapest and cutest charter busses around! Because neither of our families lived in the area we knew that many people would not be able to make it, so one of our special handmade details was a photobooth wall decorated to look like a vintage living room wall with framed wedding photos of family members, some who were there and many who were not able to make the trip or who had long passed away. It was a memorable gathering point for our families to reminisce on past family gatherings – and we now have many photos we never otherwise might have seen! Small receptions in both Ohio and Ontario, Canada later in the year meant we got to share our day with many more friends and family too.
In true Northern Californian style, all of the food on our menu was local sourced and the wines were from nearby Lambert Bridge in Sonoma Valley where my husband has been a long time wine club member. Live music was enjoyed all day – the band started as a duo as guests arrived slowly adding musicians until the evening ended with them transformed into a six piece band for the reception. We couldn’t have asked for more of the day! Sally and Mike who own the ranch we can now call friends and were able to celebrate our wedding with us, and we got to show our midwestern families a side of Northern California that none of them would have otherwise gotten to experience. The whole thing was so successful that after much encouragement from friends I have opened my own creative event company – FeatherWest – to help other brides have as special a day as I did.
Photography: Cliff Brunk Photography | Event Planning: Heather Westcott Of Feather West | Flowers: Flora Organica | Flowers: San Francisco Flower Mart | Dress: Friend Of The Bride (Nancy Friedman) | Wedding Cake: Mother Of The Bride (Donita Singerman) | Invitations: Meghan Eplett (Friend Of The Bride) | Catering: Pam Ferrari Catering | Makeup and Hair: The Makeup Dolls | Band: Americano Social Club | Tuxedos: Black Tie Tuxedos | Transportation: Michael's Transportation | Venue: Chileno Valley Ranch | Rentals: JRB Event Services | Vintage Furniture Rentals: Archive Vintage Rentals