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The Most Stunning State Park Wedding Ever.

For those of you who are thinking about planning an outdoor ceremony, let this stunning State Park ceremony be the deciding fact to GO. FOR. IT. Because the outcome? It’s simply put, beyond. With the massively talented Graham Terhune Photography behind the lens snapping up wedding day perfection, we’ve got every stunning detail waiting for you in The Vault!


From the Bride… Our wedding was a dream that started with the proposal. Or, as we like to call it, the proPottsal! Michael was working in North Carolina at the time, and I was in graduate school in California. He spent months planning it with my family, and gave me an incredibly romantic surprise proposal. The first place he ever said “I love you” was on a mountain top in California at the end of a long hike together.

And on July 4, 2015, he had my family take me on that same hike… But this time he was waiting for me at the top to propose! I was completely surprised and almost fell over when I saw him. It was incredible. Just after he proposed, Michael and I started looking at venues, and we immediately fell in love with Empire Mine. We wanted a wedding that was intimate and simple but elegant with a vintage influence. With its natural beauty, historic stone buildings, and immaculate gardens, the Mine was the perfect venue for us.

Some of the best decisions we made were in our vendors. Our photographer traveled across the country for the wedding and was flexible enough to come a day early to walk the venue with us and get ready for the wedding day. Which was super helpful! That way, he was already familiar with the setting and knew exactly where he wanted us for each photo on the wedding day. Also, we worked with a caterer, decorator, and DJ who had done weddings at our venue before and knew it well. They all required a lot of setup, and they were already very comfortable with the Mine and could help guide us in how best to use the space.

Finally, we spent a lot of time thinking about details that would give our wedding a personal touch, and some of my favorite pieces were the hand painted wooden signs, the floral heart-shaped wreath displayed as guests entered, and all of the milk glass vases and antique champagne glasses that my mom spent a year painstakingly collecting. Thank you for everything, Mama! Now, we are happily and excitedly reliving it all through the amazing lens of Graham Terhune Photography. They caught so many beautiful, fleeting moments that we will treasure forever! It was perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Vault CTA

Vault CTA

Photography: Graham Terhune Photography | Floral Design: Forever Yours Flowers and Gifts | Wedding Dress: Janet Ventura | Cake: Emily's Catering And Cakes | Bridesmaids' Dresses: White House | Black Market | Catering: Emily's Catering And Cakes | Makeup: Emily Holthaus | Hair: Ashley Bentley | DJ: Encore Productions | DJ: Encore Entertainment | Groomsmen's Attire: Men's Wearhouse | Wedding Venue: Empire Mine State Park

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Al Fresco California Wedding at Empire Mine State Park

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.


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.

Photography: Mirelle Carmichael | Coordination: Special Arrangements | Floral Design: Simply Blossoms | Wedding Gown: Modern Trousseau | Cake: Emily's Catering And Cakes | Stationery: Minted | Bridesmaids' Dresses: J.Crew | Catering: Antonio Ayestaran | Makeup: Alexa Leonhard | Hair: Alexa Leonhard | Wedding Venue: Empire Mine State Park | Bridal Shoes: Nina | Photography - Assistance: Mirelle Carmichael | Popsicles: Fat Face

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Grass Valley Wedding by Acres of Hope Photography

Oh my goodness, have you ever seen a more adorable bride and groom?!?  I kid you not, these two Grass Valley lovebirds have me grinning from ear to ear with the cutest first look of all time, not to mention one seriously delightful wedding.  Yes, this vintage charmer is literally overflowing with fabulous, including a plethora of darling DIY details, amazing bouquets by Art In Bloom, one very beautiful wedding cake and some insanely gorgeous bridesmaid gowns.  Swoon.  Thankfully, Acres of Hope Photography was on hand to capture each and every amazing moment… and fill our gallery with pretty.  Join me there for even more!

Click here to see the entire gallery of images!

From the Bride… I had been dreaming about my wedding since I made my entrance as a flower girl at age 5! When Patrick popped the question after 3 years of dating I was so thrilled to put the planning wheels in motion and buy out the shelves of bridal magazines! I had been swooning over the gorgeous weddings on Style Me Pretty and loved so many different styles, color palettes and general themes it became very difficult to choose one for our wedding; eventually I decided on my original favorite from age 5, which was fairytale! I wanted the day to feel romantic, elegant and whimsical with rustic and vintage touches to accent the historic cottage we said our “I Do’s” in front of. With such an exquisite theme like “Fairytale” and a more modest budget (15,000) I knew I needed to get crafty! Almost every aspect of our wedding was either completely DIY or had some sort of DIY touches to add the extra touches of love; from the wedding invitations to the water bottles handed out before the ceremony.

Many of our creative DIY projects were inspired by blogs featuring DIY weddings and other ways to personalize your wedding. One of the lengthiest of DIY projects was the table centerpieces. No two tables were alike; for months we scoured thrift stores, antique stores and even family members houses for beautiful rustic and vintage vases, books, doilies and candle holders. The majority of the flowers adorning the tables, lounge area and reception site were straight from my mother’s backyard! One DIY project I am especially proud of is the lounge area I put together. Because we were married in such a small town and had a modest budget to work with we were limited in vendor choices and did not have the option of renting furniture; although the sensible solution would be to not have a lounge area, my then fiancé and family would tell you I was obsessed with bringing the indoors outside and creating this fairytale ambiance; so we rented a U-Haul and packed up any and all vintage/antique furniture mine and my mothers houses harbored; from our old kitchen table to the gorgeous antique loveseat.

Another project I loved doing was decorating candles for each table and cocktail area. I bought Virgin Mary candles from the dollar store and covered them in pages from an old book called “Heart Throbs” I found at a local thrift store then adorned the candles with ribbons and doilies, lets just say me and the hot glue gun are best friends! These projects were very time consuming but very rewarding and worth every second; they allowed my mother and I to bond and realize our passion for weddings and crafting and added so many personal touches that helped make our day so special. Now that the wedding is over and I am left with quite the collection of wonderful rustic and vintage pieces I am planning on renting them out to brides with similar themes!

Wedding Photography: Acres of Hope Photography / Flowers: Art In Bloom / Day of Coordinator: Ashley McGinnis Weddings and Events / Wedding Ceremony + Reception Location: Empire Mine State Park / Wedding Invitations: Mementos By Judy O’Rourke (Mother of Groom) / Bride’s Shoes: Jeffery Campbell / Bow: Etsy / Wedding Dress: Demetrios / Bride’s Make-up: Kendra Evans / Bridesmaid Dresses: Bari Jay / Groom’s Suit: Hugo Boss / Groomsmen Suits: JoS A Bank

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