Sometimes you just have to do what feels right, and for this couple, that was forgoing their plans for a big wedding and doing something a little more spontaneous and a little more them. This Bride’s story is worth the read, and will make Carl Zoch‘s images of this gorgeous day, seem even more special (if you can believe it). See even more here.
From The Bride…My newly husband, Freddie and I have been together now for a little over 10 years. We got engaged on my 28th birthday, and within 3 weeks we started to plan because we were so excited. At first, we planned for July 12th, 2014 in San Diego, CA because that’s where we’re both originally from (right now we’re currently living in Long Beach, CA–Freddie working as an Industrial Designer and Justine as a NICU RN). Also, a lot of our family and friends are in Southern California. I’ve never been the type to dream of my wedding day until I actually got engaged, so I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted it. The next month in Nov, I started my wedding dress search with Pinterest and put in the search “flowy wedding dress” and came upon Leanne Marshall’s Julie dress and absolutely loved it! It was exactly what I wanted, simple, beautiful and timeless. So, I research stores that carried her dresses and found Lovely Bride in Los Angeles. I highly recommend this place for future brides! This place is not your typical bridal store. It has a modern twist, the place is gorgeous, and the customer service feels like you’re their friends. I tried on maybe about 5 potential dresses. Leanne Marshall’s Julie dress was the first dress I tried on and I loved it so much, but I left empty handed because I told myself there’s no way that I could have looked online and found the dress…then it was the first dress I tried on and then I’m going to buy it. No way it could be that easy! I tried one more store and it was a disaster, came back to lovely bride and bought the dress a week after. Next, after checking out a few venues in San Diego we booked ourselves for Nov 23, 2014 (because it was the only date available for the only venue we wanted) with a 200 person guest list.
As January approached, we became overwhelmed with the estimated costs of everything and what started out exciting turned into major stress. In the beginning process of our planning I was going through some wedding blogs. I love looking at real weddings and I came upon one that stood out to me. It was an elopement in the Columbia River Gorge photographed by Carl Zoch and we fell inlove with the idea! We had just went on a trip almost a year ago to Oregon and loved the Columbia River Gorge, and Oregon is only a 2.5 hr flight from southern Cali which was great because it meant that our parents could still make the travel. Freddie’s father uses an electric wheel chair and received dialysis treatment and my mom had some health issues so we were concerned about them not being able to make it. So, even after putting down quite a big deposit on a venue with an ocean view in La Jolla, Ca we made the decision together that this would be way more fun, more “us”, and less expensive then our original plans. We wanted our immediate family to be there, so we talked to both our parents about the idea and they all supported us. I remember being so nervous to tell my mom because my mom is a traditional and hoped we’d get married in church, but when I showed her the pictures by Carl Zoch of the elopement by a waterfall, she smiled with wide eyes and said “that is beautiful.” With our parents’ blessings we were thrilled to start planning. First, we had to tell everyone our change of plans and we both have a huge family. We met some resistance, which bothered me at first, but then I realized that our wedding day really is our special day and even though we want our loved ones to be there, it’s for us. Our immediate family, all of our wedding party, and some cousins, uncles, aunts, and closest friends were on board! We contacted Carl to see if he was available for our date (which is our 10 year dating anniversary) and he was…so we booked him in early Feb. He is awesome! So laid back, fun to talk to, and helpful.
I planned our entire wedding by myself with all my research and inspiration coming from Instagram, wedding blogs, and Pinterest. I researched a waterfall that was a short distance from the road/parking lot to accommodate Freddie’s dad and my mom due to their health. Carl also helped with suggestions because he knows the area pretty well. We decided on Wahkeena Falls, which means “most beautiful”. This waterfall is gorgeous and it is just literally right off the road/parking lot. We have never been there before, but the pictures of it looked amazing. Then we booked the The Cleaners at the Ace hotel Portland. We stayed there a year before and loved the style. I saw pictures and liked The Cleaners because it was a blank canvas, you could design it anyway you want and it was perfect for our intimate dinner with dancing. Our guest list of 200 turned into a guest list of 57 (including ourselves). Then, our official guest list turned into 54 in April. In early April Freddie’s dad was able to get a kidney transplant. It was successful, but this meant he couldn’t travel for 6 months after the surgery, and Freddie’s mom wouldn’t be able to leave him alone because of that. So, after their travel arrangements had already been made, they had to cancel them. At this point, we started to question if we should even go through with it since out of all people we wanted our parents to be there. Then, life hit us with an even more unexpected event. My mom passed away on April 23rd from a head injury. Losing someone you love is already devastating, losing your mother unexpectedly on top of your wedding being nearly 2.5 months away was the absolute worse. I even got the call that my wedding dress was ready to be picked up on the day that my mom died in the hospital. After my mom passed we didn’t want to go through with it at all. We wanted to postpone it because to plan something that was suppose to be happy was a struggle when all I felt was empty because my mom was no longer with us. Everyone’s travel arrangements were made, main things already booked with deposits in so what were we to do? After taking some time off work to recuperate, and after Freddie and I had many deep talks about what we should do, we agreed that “life is too short to wait for what we want and we don’t know what could happen next” and with that in our minds we knew we wanted to continue with our wedding adventure despite all bad things that have happened.
We did a lot of DIY projects not only due to our budget, but we love creativity. This was our favorite part of the whole planning process. It was so fun to be creative together as a couple with both our ideas collaborated. We were inspired by Rifle Paper Co.’s custom wedding invitations, but they weren’t accepting any more custom orders and we actually couldn’t afford it so we made them on our own! We designed them on the computer our selves, bought paper and envelopes from paper source and printed them at home on our canon printer. Since all our guests were all traveling to Oregon we included a booklet that Freddie bound by sowing it together which included places to go, our wedding party, map and directions for the ceremony and reception. Our invitations included name stickers we had everyone wear to help them all mingle during the dinner rehearsal. Our dinner rehearsal was a cute backyard celebration at my Uncle’s house in Hillsboro. This was my Uncle and Auntie’s wedding gift to us.
As I mentioned earlier, all my research was mainly from wedding blogs, Instagram, and Pinterest. I found somethingborrowedpdx through Instagram and we rented from them for all my rentals which included: candle holders, a lamp, wooden coins for our mini wedding pies, and chalkboards. We love simplicity and even in our own home and daily life we own and purchase things based on its form but also function. So everything that we rented was pretty minimal and had a purpose. We rented our string market lighting that we hung for the reception from Barclay Rentals.
I found my florist, Anna Mara flowers from Instagram as well. Loved her work! My favorite flower is king protea so that was my main request, other than that I really don’t know flowers, so we just asked her if she could use inspiration for our flowers from our invitation and she did an amazing job! For the reception I wanted our flowers to be simple, elegant but beautiful. All our guests were flying from out of town, so I thought centerpieces would be a waste because it’d be difficult for them to fly with them, so I decided on a floral table runner. I wanted to incorporate my mom’s favorite flowers so I asked Anna if she cold include jasmine and orchids and she did. We wanted our theme to still incorporate nature since we had our ceremony at Wahkeena Falls. We asked Anna to also include staghorn floral arrangements to hang on one of the walls. Keeping with the nature theme, Freddie and I love geodes. As children, both of us always wished we got to collect them. 2 weeks before our wedding on of my bridesmaids, Roseanne (also Freddie’s cousin) told me to check out a gem fair in San Diego, and I found all the geode slices I needed and made them into personalized magnets, which we used as place cards for all our guests. I used a gold paint pen to write each of our guests’ names on them. This was one of our party favors.
We love pie, and I noticed at the weddings I’ve been to that a lot of the cake went to waste. People took a few bites and tossed it. I didn’t want that. So, we decided on bite size pies for everyone and one whole pie for our pie toppers to stand on. We ordered from Pacific Pie Co. We never been there before and didn’t have a tasting since it was a destination wedding, we just went for it! We had chocolate hazelnut bourbon pie….delicious! And half of the mini bite size pies were strawberry rhubarb. Two people in our wedding party (my sister and our friend) had birthdays that week of our wedding so we ordered them their own mini pies as well and sang happy birthday at our reception. I found our pie toppers from etsy, and loved the style goosegreaseshop because they keep the natural look of wood, but also completely personalize the toppers. Our pie toppers were spot on down to the details of Freddie’s tie and both our cats (Jayjay and Leeloo).
My family, friends, and I love to dance. So, we did something different for the traditional garter and bouquet toss. We changed it to a dance off for them! It was awesome! It was the start of everyone to boogie on the dance floor.
For our guestbook, we wanted something more fun than just people signing their names and writing congratulations over and over again. So, we got a bunch of instax mini 8 polaroid film, and we had everyone just take pictures. They’re so fun to look at!
Another one of our party favors was donuts from Blue Star Donuts! When we came a year ago before our wedding we fell inlove with their donuts, and wanted everyone to be able to taste them as well. We personalized them by placing our own personalized stickers on the snack brown paper bags saying “You donut know how much we love you.”
Since we were on a budget especially after having to take some time off work after my mom passed we decided that we had to give up the idea of a dj and videographer. My good friends, Ana and Jojo heard, and they offered to film our wedding for us as a wedding gift. We were so grateful! And their wedding video turned out so awesome and it was their first time ever making a wedding video before. They incorporated our wedding invitation that we made ourselves and they turned it into an animation. They really captured the wedding so well! Here’s the link: http://vimeo.com/102645508
For our reception, because of costs we were just going to have all our guests add to a playlist on spotify (which they did), but 1 week before the wedding. Freddie’s best men, Borge and Derek, who dj, offered to dj for the reception instead of using our playlist. So, all the songs our guests added to our playlist for the reception ended up being their way of putting in their requests. Everyone danced!
The morning of the wedding, the bridal party (9 of us -1 maid of honor and 7 bridesmaids) got ready with champagne at Ebel Artistry Studio with Claudine and her assistant (found through instagram). Their studio was so cute, they let us play our own music, and there was even a rooftop where we went to check out the view of Portland and take pictures and danced up there.
Along with my dress, I wore dolce vita wedges and my hair piece with Swavorski crystals was from Twigs and Honey. My something borrowed was from my friend, Ana who lend me her Swavorski crystal earrings that matched my hair piece. My something old was my mother’s ring, which I wore on my right hand. My something blue was my garter that was white lace with a few blue beads on it that I got from etsy. And my something new was my dress. My gifts to my bridesmaids were getting ready white floral robes from etsy, personalized wooden hangers, and a Dakota bracelet from Thread and Stone which they all wore on the wedding. My bridesmaids wore dresses from Free People, which was originally priced over $100, but I found online for $49! They wore ivory lace dresses. A lot of people were so resistant to the thought of my bridal party wearing ivory as well, but I didn’t mind. I think it looks beautiful and elegant. My maid of honor wore a Free People dress as well, but it was different than the bridesmaid dresses. I let them wear their hair any way they wanted and wear any shoes they wanted as long as they were a tan/cognac color. All the boys (including my dad) got ready in the house we rented through vrbo in the Alberta Arts District. Freddie wore a navy blue J Crew suit and tie, Steve Maden brown shoes, The boys wore navy blue suits as well, but all different brands. He just had them match the color, white shirts, grey ties, with brown shoes. His gift to them were personalized leather sleeves with their names for a flask, j crew socks (all different and fun), cigars, a leather wallet that Freddie made himself, and Kent combs.
As the wedding party got ready. One of my friends, Tasha who offered to help coordinate the decorating for the reception and guide everyone at the ceremony, so some of my cousins, friends, and even Freddie (the groom) went to decorate at The Cleaners.
Our plan was to start the ceremony at 1pm. I rode with my best friend since I was 11 years old/maid of honor and her boyfriend who I’ve been friends with since I was 13 years old. I don’t know what it was, but even with never seeing where the ceremony and reception was going to be at (besides pictures online) I was so calm. I can honestly say I wasn’t worried about anything, and felt that everything was just going to work out. I didn’t want to “ugly cry” too especially with the thought of my mom and Freddie’s parents not being there. I actually cried pretty bad during the rehearsal when my dad and I practiced walking down the aisle.
When we got to the parking lot of Wahkeena Falls, that was the first time we had all been there. It was the first time we met our photographer, Carl Zoch. I walked down the aisle of white roses with my dad to the processional song of the acoustic version of Lover’s Carvings by Bibio, which Freddie’s talented musician cousin played with guitar. You could hear the sound of the waterfall. It was magical. All I could feel in that moment was complete calm and happiness. There I was walking down the aisle with my closest family and friends watching (with no seating…they were all such good sports and were all standing since this ceremony was more elopement style. It wasn’t a place we booked, we just went there for the first time and got married there). Our wedding officiant was, Matt. He is a best friend to both of us. Freddie has known him since middle school and I’ve known him since high school. It felt really special to have someone who truly knows us well and our relationship to marry us. Everything he said was personable and funny, exactly what we wanted ☺ We exchanged our own vows that we wrote ourselves along with our Tacori rings. The ceremony was probably no longer than 15 minutes.
After the ceremony was over we walked down the aisle with white rose petals thrown in the air. We took pictures at the end of the waterfall, and then we all changed into more comfortable shoes to takes more pictures by the waterfall up close. Yes, I hiked in my wedding dress, but in my Brooks running shoes! I’m surprised that actually almost all of our guests hiked up to the waterfall as well being in their nice clothes. It was awesome! We took pictures close up to Wahkeena Falls. Its translated meaning is “most beautiful” and after visiting it in person I have to completely agree. It is simply magical! So gorgeous. Then, Freddie and I and our photographer, Carl Zoch went on an adventure of our own to take more wedding pictures. We hiked to horsetail falls. This was awesome. We never been there before either. At this hike you can actually go behind the waterfall. It was an amazing site. It wasn’t easy hiking in the dress but it was fun and so worth it! I sweated a lot and Carl was so awesome to lend me his jacket to wipe my sweat off before taking pictures. My dress got muddy at the bottom, but my maid of honor was great and washed it in the kitchen sink when we met back up with them at the rental house, then dried it with a hair blow dryer, and my dress was good as new!
The reception at the cleaners started at 6pm. Open bar was from 6 to 9pm. We had appetizer boards of Popcorn with pimentón, almonds, olives, Artisan cheese, seasonal fruit, crackers , European-style charcuterie, pickled vegetables, and mustard. Dinner was served family style. First course: Clyde Common simple greens salad. Second course: Fideo style pasta, bacon, peas, cream. And third course: 2 entrees of Dry rubbed grilled steak, jus, herb butter and grilled market salmon, spicy remoulade. We even had Stumptown coffee served, so good! It paired great with our Blue star donut party favors! Everything went smoothly. Having a smaller guest count made everything more intimate. I can remember everyone who went, I had a moment with each of them, and I didn’t feel rushed or busy like all the other brides I knew who warned me that the wedding day would be hard to enjoy because you’re busy greeting everyone. I enjoyed it all! The day did go by fast, but that’s what happens when you’re having the time of your life.
For our first dance, we did a surprise choreographed dance to Michael Jackson’s Love Never Felt So Good. In the beginning of the dance it was just Freddie and I who danced, then our entire wedding party (best men, groomsmen, maid of honor, and bridesmaids) joined us for a “wedding party” dance, and it ended with them encircling us while we were back to dancing by ourselves again. Our wedding party was so much fun! The dance was choreographed by Freddie’s two cousins, Rosie and Jonjon. Some of us learned this dance 2 weeks before the wedding, some learned it the night before.
My father daughter dance was to Prince’s The Most Beautiful Girl in The World. My dad is my like my best friend. He is the best person I know in this world. He has been through so much, and any one who meets him always says how much they love my dad too. He’s one of those people that you meet and you can just feel that he’s a great person. This moment was extra special for me because with my mother being gone, it made me appreciate even more that my dad was alive and there with us on our special day. Freddie danced with his Auntie Rose (his mom’s sister) since his mom couldn’t go. They danced to Freddie’s song with his parents “I just called to say I love you” by Stevie Wonder. This song is the song his parents would always play for him as a baby to help him fall asleep.
My Uncle Efren (my dad’s brother) sang us one song at our reception. He loves to sing and is an Elvis impersonator. He wanted to sing 4 songs. I had to limit it to 1 haha. It was a great performance!
It’s really hard to pick a favorite part of our wedding day because all of it was so great. I want to relive this day, and it’s so awesome to know how much our guests had fun too. My favorite moments were exchanging our vows with each other, hiking just the two of us with our photographer, the dance offs, our first dance and wedding party dance, and dancing with my dad.
My advice for future brides is don’t let anything stop you if it’s what you want. If we decided to postpone the wedding we might have not gotten to have the adventure that we had. Even if it seems like the end of the world with whatever you’re going through, you can get through it together not just with your husband, but with the help of your family and friends. Freddie’s parents threw us a second reception in San Diego for everyone who couldn’t make it out to Oregon, so it all works out.
Plan your wedding exactly how you and your soon to be husband want it to be. Don’t try to please anyone. A lot of times, your family and friends might try to make the wedding about themselves—giving advice about how they would want things, but it’s your special day and you want to enjoy it and remember it as something you don’t regret. A lot of weddings I’ve been to were so generic…just doing things and including things in their wedding because they think that it’s what you “have to do.” It’s not like you follow what people say when they tell you how to live your life, so why should it be any different for your wedding day? We look back at our wedding day and just want to relive every moment of it. Half jokingly, I’ve even asked Freddie if we can renew our vows next year ;)
DIY! You save so much money and it makes it much more special because you’ve done it yourself. Our invitations were such a big hit and it feels great because we did it all ourselves!
Don’t be afraid to be different, and just don’t mind what other people think altogether! So many people thought our idea of getting married at a waterfall we never been to was crazy. We did a lot of non-traditional things (no seating at the ceremony, bridal party wearing ivory, dance offs for the garter and bouquet, wedding pie instead of cake, hiking for wedding pictures), but almost all of my guests told me that it was the best and most fun wedding that they have ever been to. It also allowed my guests to take a trip and enjoy Oregon. We all spent time with each other exploring Portland the day before and after the wedding. The morning after we all had brunch together.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or take the help that is offered to you. Your family and friends are there for you and want to help. Our wedding day was so special because everyone was involved. Our processional song played by Freddie’s cousin. Our wedding officiant was our best friend. The best men were the djs. Our friends Ana and Jojo did our wedding video. My uncle and auntie hosted the dinner rehearsal. Our friend Tasha coordinated things for the day of the wedding. My cousins all helped with the decorations for the reception. Everyone helped us, and it helped us really enjoy our wedding day.
Don’t stress out. Focus on what really matters, and that is that you get to marry your best friend/adventure partner! Enjoy!
Photography: Carl Zoch | Videography: Jojo Jalapit | Florist: Anna Mara Flower | Reception Venue: The Cleaners At The Ace Hotel Portland | Hair And Make Up: Ebel Artistry | Groom's Attire: Men's J Crew | Bride's Dress: Leanne Marshall Design From Lovely Bride Los Angeles | Bride's Hair Accessory: Twigs & Honey | Engagement Ring And Wedding Bands: Tacori | Flower Girl Dresses: Zara Kids | Giveaways: Blue Star Donuts | Maid Of Honor And Bridesmaid Dresses: Free People | Outdoor Ceremony: Wahkeena Falls, OR (Columbia River Gorge) | Wedding Pie: Pacific Pie Co | Wedding Pie Toppers: Goose Grease