This California bride has got some of the best advice for all you newly engaged. Seriously, the best advice – so make sure to read what she has to say. But before we get there, we’ve got an awe-inspiring wedding to check out! Captured by the lovely Alfred & Emma Photography, this Sonoma affair is DIY, Etsy, and Flower (from the wonderful Violetta Flowers) central – and obviously, we can’t help but love it. The sweet couple, their adorable dog, the sunflower’s in the cake stand? All perfect. Don’t forget to scoot over to the gallery when you’ve finished with this lovely lady’s advice!

Sitting down together at the beginning of our 13 month engagement, we thought that there would be plenty of time to leisurely plan the most unique, intimate, and perfectly personal wedding of all time. Now, here we are, a year later, and after  spending endless hours browsing Etsy and eBay, driving all over Northern California, and overcoming all of those personal differences that we didn’t think we had, we can sit back and share our story.

I am married to the most amazing guy, and the memories that we share of our wedding day are sublime. What made it so good? The planning involved in creating the perfect picture. When you think that you’re totally overdoing it with the details or feeling exhausted because you can’t remember the last weekend that you didn’t spend organizing, coordinating, and designing, don’t stop. Looking back, we’re so happy with the way things turned out, proud of the hard work, and especially thankful for all of our vendors and friends that helped make it happen.

The proposal came as a complete surprise to me while enjoying an August sunset at the edge of a spring-fed lake on an old Vermont farm. Andrew had spent summers there growing up, and we both felt so peacefully at home walking down the dirt road, past the big, red barn and through the gangly apple trees that probably hadn’t been picked in years. That week was a romantic utopia and ultimately inspired the theme for our wedding a year later.

First, we needed a venue. Many of our closest family and friends didn’t live in California, so planning the guest experience was important.  Because we had such a clear vision of what we wanted, finding the place was not easy. Driving all over the Bay Area, we became distraught over the prospect that we’d fail at our first wedding planning attempt. One venue was too eccentric, the next didn’t have a barn, another was too far away, “Oops! How much did you say?!” And so on. It came down to our final destination for the day at a little place with a barn in Kenwood, CA. When we got there, the entrance to Kenwood Farms and Gardens was unassuming (retrospectively, a plus), but the next five minutes would become a memory that neither of us will ever forget. Walking in, we saw cute sitting areas with vine laden trellis, a bridal cottage, slightly rusted early century farm equipment on display, a converted equestrian barn, cutesy pond with fountain, redwood pines, a beautiful garden…little apple orchard?! Neither of us said a word as I hugged Andrew with tears in my eyes, thinking “this is it.”

After the venue ordeal, my memory is a blur of a thousand details and ideas. My mother and I spent a whole day making strawberry jam for party favors, my sister and one of my bridesmaids letter pressed the invitations and programs, a close friend baked cake pops for the candy bar, my mother hand-stitched the ring pillow from a picture I found on the internet, and I spent hours with a very dear friend planning the day of coordination.

Over countless emails, a natural rapport was built between us and all of our vendors, but I’m especially elated with the relationship gained from our photographers; Emma suggested that we use a thumbprint tree instead of a traditional guest book, and it turned out beautiful. Our florist was such a pleasure to work with as she helped us craft insightful and passionate ideas about the “feel” that we wanted the flowers to portray.  It truly is a relief when a vendor expressively wants to figure out a way to fulfill your vision while staying within the original budget.

My advice to my “year ago” self would be the following: Create a detailed budget early, update it as often as possible, and then find vendors that work within your vision and boundaries. If you feel something isn’t right, it probably isn’t going to work on your special day and you will be disappointed.  Communicate as openly and passionately with your fiance, but remember you’re both in this as a team.  Adjust and be flexible as soon as your intuition gives you the uh-oh feeling that won’t go away. We chose the Sound Effect over another band mostly because of the price difference, but they were was absolutely perfect! Their professionalism carried us through a seamless ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception! Lastly, don’t forget to set some time aside that doesn’t involve planning to just be with your fiance. Go on dates and enjoy being engaged. You’re only going to be doing this once, so make the most of it!

Photography: Alfred & Emma Photography / Floral Design: Violetta Flowers / Cake: Petaluma Cake Company / Entertainment: The Sound Effect / Hair & Makeup: Danielle & Angelica, Mes Amis Salon / Venue: Kenwood Farms and Gardens / Dress: Doreen, Maggie Sottero, from Rin’s Bridal / Shoes: Randall, Badgley Mischka / Swarovski Crystal and Rhinestone Hair Comb: Etsy / Swarovski Crystal & Rhinestones Bracelet: Lisa Bracelet, Sara Gabriel / Earrings: Nordstrom Crystal Collection, Nordstrom Rack / Groomsmen Suits: Men’s Wearhouse / Groomsmen Shirts & Ties: Nordstrom / Bridesmaid Dresses: J.Crew / Ring Bearer: J.Crew / Ring Bearer’s Bow Tie: Nordstrom / Flower Girls: Charming Champagne, My Girl Dress / Flower Baskets & Mason Jars: World Market / Baby Ramona’s dress: Pink Princess / Table Numbers: Etsy / Address Stamp: Etsy / Sweet Love Sign: Etsy / Block letter names: Etsy / Wood Slices & 3 Tiered Cup Cake Tower: Etsy / Mr. and Mrs. sign: Etsy / Candy Bar Sign: Etsy / Thumbprint Tree: Etsy / Ring Pillow: DIY / Jam: DIY / Stationery: DIY / Pie Pops: DIY / Love Letters on Candy Bar: Cotton Bird Designs / Thumbprint Guest Book: Your Keepsake Co.

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