Chic Vintage Library Wedding
March 4, 2016
Classic WeddingsAcademic Venue SettingsReligious Institution
Infused with all the little things this gorgeous couple loves most, and overflowing with meaningful details, this chic Library wedding is equal parts stunning and stylish. Beautifully captured by Jeff Loves Jessica, this is a gallery you'll want to spend some serious time with. See even more in the VAULT.
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From Jeff Loves Jessica...Kerry & John's wedding day in St. Paul MN appeared effortlessly elegant. The two exchanged vows at the beautiful Nativity of our Lord Catholic Church, then held their reception at the James J Hill Reference Library--a stunning venue with 3 stories of wall-to-wall books and immense architectural and vintage charm! The tables were decorated with bold botanical collections of plants and exotic flowers mixed in with candlelight and some of the library's original study lamps. These two are as tasteful as they are talented--the couple designed, lasercut, printed, and assembled the invitation suite themselves.

From The Bride...I envisioned our wedding to be uniquely stylish, romantic, and tons of fun! I liked the idea of creating a highly personalized experience that represented both my husband and me. I wanted the aesthetic to reflect both of our tastes and experiences. After poring over wedding blogs and magazines, I realized that since all weddings have the same elements, they can begin to look the same in many ways. Like every bride, I wanted ours to have at least some elements that no one had seen as a guest at a wedding before. This meant that I looked for opportunities to be “non-bridal” and add DIY elements at every turn.

Even though it's usually the reception that gets the most attention, it was really important to us that the ritual of the ceremony was deeply meaningful and highly personal as well. I am Catholic, and so I wanted to have the wedding ceremony in my home parish. It’s where I went to kindergarten through 8th grade, and my parents are still very involved there. A family friend who is a Catholic priest performed the marriage ceremony, and he was wonderful in incorporating personal elements into the ritual that we developed with him. He took extra care to ensure that everyone in attendance felt welcomed and involved, regardless of religious background.

One of the personal elements was a foot washing ceremony, which recalls an important event in Christian scripture and demonstrates that the bride and groom were embarking on a life of service to one another. My husband was really nervous to do this in front of all of our guests, but in the end we were so happy to have included something so meaningful and unexpected.

The other special element was something that we did after lighting the Unity Candle. Usually, the bride and groom take their own candles, and together they light the one big candle. But as our celebrant described, that’s not a natural thing for fire to do--fire doesn't get smaller, it grows and spreads. So, after lighting the candle together, we took our candles and lit the candles held by all of our guests. This was intended to symbolize how love grows, and to incorporate our guests in asking for their help in supporting our love. It was really beautiful to look out at all of our guests holding the candles and blessing us! (Although I was mostly worried about not setting my dress on fire...)

Of course, after the ceremony came the reception! When we began wedding planning, we started with the reception venue. My husband John is an architect, so when I asked him what he would like in a venue, the thing that came to the top of his list was "a place where people walk inside and are immediately impacted by the structure". Since we live in New York City, but were planning the wedding in my hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota, we looked to my mom for help. She suggested that we look into the James J. Hill Reference Library. Based on the photos, we were both thrilled! There was only one Saturday date left in the 2015 summer (even though it was more than a year in advance), so we were very lucky to get it!

The visual inspiration for the wedding flowed from the venue. I had been admiring lots of outdoor weddings with natural themes, but I changed course once we picked the library! I love a vintage aesthetic, and both John and I love to explore and travel. When we first met, I was working in northern Mexico, and during the course of our relationship, we spent time in a number of different countries (unfortunately, not often together!) For my work as a consultant for a design consultancy focused on international governance and development, I was actually traveling internationally (to Mexico, Indonesia, Panama, Colombia, Georgia, Turkey...) for about 40% of the time that we were wedding planning! So, something related to travel seemed like it would be fun, but that didn’t feel specific enough to me to make a great theme.

Thinking about the simultaneously intimate and grand interior of the library (as well as the idea of partying amidst thousands of books), I liked that it felt like an old-time private club. I thought of taking inspiration from the real-life Explorers Club headquarters in New York City. Founded in 1904, the Explorers Club is a society for the exploration of the world through field research.

The New York City club has the feeling of stepping back in time; it’s full of vintage maps and artifacts that members would bring back from their travels. We thought we could recreate that vintage club feeling for our reception!

John and I both have an eye for visual design, so visual consistency that evoked the theme without being too on-the-nose was a major focus throughout planning. Of course we wanted yummy food and great music (our band was awesome!) for our guests, but it was the visual impact that I was most obsessed with achieving. From that point, I took visual inspiration from
giant tropical plants—in photos, during my travels, and in vintage botanical drawings and prints. I stopped thinking about wedding flowers and only thought about foliage! Originally, I considering skipping florals altogether in an effort to have a more unique and less overtly "bridal" aesthetic. It was really important to me that the decor was romantic without feeling overly feminine--I wanted it to be something that John felt excited about too! Even though I love traditional wedding flowers, the goal for this wedding was that our guests would feel they were transported to an elegant, boisterous event that wasn't just another wedding. With more visual research, and upon visiting the flower store with our florist, I ended up being quite taken by several gorgeous tropical flower options. We decided that blossoms would be used as hidden treasures among the dramatic foliage rather than as the main event. I worked with our florist to have an abundance of vibrant green foliage and giant tropical leaves. She looked far and wide to source the giant leaves that made such an impact! I also knew that I wanted an impactful bouquet of only one kind of flower. When we couldn’t find garden roses in a color that complemented my dress, my florist improvised and I ended up carrying a gorgeous trio of ginger flower blossoms, which were also an element of the tablescapes. I found out later that ginger flowers symbolize “fiery passion”, so I guess they were a good thing for a wedding!

Rather than pick a traditional color palette, we were inspired by the various greens of the foliage with small floral bursts of deep raspberry and orange color: birds of paradise, ginger blossoms, and velvety celosia cristata (cockscomb), We kept to white and gold when creating accessory elements.

The dramatic tropical decor was a major part of the aesthetic theme, but we wanted to carry through the vintage elegance in the design for all the graphic elements of the wedding, too. We focused on DIY that leveraged our access to digital design and fabrication tools, trying to achieve ultimate personalization without necessarily looking DIY. We designed our Save the Dates postcards, hinting at what was to come by promising "The Start of a Fantastic Adventure". When it came to designing the invitation suite, I was inspired by the use of multi-colored silhouettes in an invitation suite posted on Pinterest. Unfortunately, I neglected to pin it, and to this day have never found it again! The process began with us taking photos of each other with backlighting to create the silhouettes. Then, John used his design skills to convert the photo into a graphic drawing file. I cleaned them up and positioned them, and they were ready to be laser cut! John designed the template for how we would laser cut the silhouettes and then fold and glue them to construct the external envelope, and I did the legwork to pick the right cardstocks. We spent hours in John's workshop, laser-cutting hundreds of invitations and then gently erasing the tiny burnt edges for a flawless look. We were then able to use the silhouettes and ampersand as a logo throughout the wedding, including on the wedding programs, seating chart, and laser-cut cake toppers. In the end, we especially loved the "Is that really you two?" questions that people asked! John was a pro at assembling the invitations and I focused on designing the invitation inserts themselves. I found open-source images of tropical foliage and a vintage-inspired typeface, and combined them to create a design that would be printed on white, metallic gold-backed cardstock. Early experimentation with watercoloring the invitations by hand failed miserably. So instead, I learned how to do a watercolor effect in Adobe Illustrator that looked almost like the real thing, and we printed the invitations at home. We also used the same images of tropical foliage on the escort cards to subtly signal which entree the guest had requested. Other details to support the Explorers Club theme included having an antique travel trunk to accept cards, and having guests sign a large sepia-toned world map instead of a traditional guest book. Another DIY element was the table numbers. I found images from vintage field guides that are now in the public domain on the website Vintage Printable. I selected scientific illustrations of tropical fruits and flowers, including many that were included in the wedding foliage. I added a corresponding table number, printed them on cardstock, and voila -- another uniquely DIY element that subtly supported the visual theme.

We incorporated the use of digital tools throughout all of our wedding DIY projects, but we took it to the extreme in how we approached our wedding bands. Given his profession, John is amazing at 3D modeling software, so he and I designed our rings on our home computer. Then, we sent them off to Shapeways, an online 3D printing service to prototype (not in gold!) and then to print final versions (in gold!). The bands have complementary but unique shapes, with a subtle peak at the top of the ring. It was a huge amount of work to take on all of these projects, but it was actually the most fun part of wedding planning for us because we got to be creative together. I developed my design skills and it was amazing to see him use his professional skills for such a personal project.

My bridal gown was a vintage inspired, beaded dress from Adrianna Papell for BHLDN. To my surprise, I found that I was drawn to the sparklier side of wedding dresses (instead of the lace that I seemed to like in photos). I wanted something that was not overly "bridal" in feeling, since none of the more traditional dresses seemed to feel quite right. The first time I went to BHLDN to try on dresses, this dress was not in the store! I found two other excellent candidates, but couldn’t quite decide. A couple of weeks later, my sister and I called to see if we could score another appointment and they squeezed us in. This time, I tried on the dress and immediately knew it was perfect! I loved the fit and style of my dress, and it wasn’t overly “bridal” (possibly because it is actually sold as a bridesmaid’s dress.)

The beautiful champagne blush color was perfect for my pale skin and red hair, but it presented a special challenge for color matching a veil. My mom even consulted a professional costume-maker to dye the tulle a matching color, but it wasn’t right. I had always wanted to give making my own veil a try, so I followed advice from several wedding how-to blogs, and decided to try doing it myself. My sister and I experimented with a fabric sample, using the boxful of Twinings English Breakfast tea from her cupboard, with delightful success! Somehow, the barely-blush color was perfect. I bought 4 yards of tulle and dyed the full veil length at home, using another brew of that same English Breakfast tea. Then I sewed the tulle onto a metal hair comb to achieve the long veil that I envisioned adding drama to my train-less dress. The color of the dress again posed a challenge for wedding jewelry! Anything yellow gold looked harshly yellow against the blush champagne. After quite a bit of searching, I eventually found the perfect rose-gold accessories to complement it. Advice to wedding boutiques, this is something you can work on!

We decided to serve guests from three flavors of lovely 10-inch cakes rather than a traditional large wedding cake. Both my husband and I share a love of banana cake with cream cheese frosting, and we had our hearts set on serving it at the wedding. So, we were very happy to discover that local bakery Cafe Latte carried a delicious version of it. We wanted to offer our guests a variety, however, so we also served Tres Leches (a favorite of the groom) and Double Chocolate (one of my favorites).

Since the cakes were decorated in a simple manner, we designed custom laser-cut cake toppers, which included our silhouettes, a series of hearts, and the phrase “Mr. & Ms.” Since I had chosen to keep my last name, one of my proudest DIY moments was the "Mr. & Ms." cake topper. I was surprised and disappointed to have had no luck finding the phrase in any of my searching for wedding-themed accessories! My mom and sister also designed a bar of various white-colored candies in crystal dishes for guests to nibble on.

My mom is famous for her delicious frosted cutout cookies, and she baked hundreds of them in advance of the wedding, using cookie cutters in the shape of Minnesota (my home state) and Arizona (the groom's home state). My sister and I frosted them with white icing and crystal sprinkles, and guests received the duo of cookies in cellophane bags on the way out of the reception.

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