There's nothing quite as magical as a garden wedding, where the vibrant blooms and lush foliage create a picturesque backdrop for a couple's special day. Danielle and James recently tied the knot amidst the enchanting beauty of a Californian garden, and their celebration was nothing short of perfection. Couple had planned every detail meticulously, from the custom playing cards as gifts to the sentimental and touching family moments. Their vision filled with the bride's hobby came to life, transforming the place into a haven of romance and bliss, where memories were made and cherished forever.
Tell us a little about yourselves. How did you meet? What do you do for a living? What are your hobbies?
We were set up on a blind date in college! My roommate and I were going to a formal event called Ace. Her date asked if she knew anyone in need of a date as his friend was still available for the night. My original date just so happened to cancel on me last minute. I decided to say yes despite it being very out of my comfort zone! We hit it off right away & my roommate (Jacqueline) was our Maid of Honor!
Now we live in San Francisco with our standard poodle Louie. We both work for tech companies, I work in marketing technology and he does sales. I’m a huge gardener, I spend most of my free time in our small yard trying to grow things in spite of all the fog! James loves being active and social, he’s always running with the dog, rock climbing with friends, cycling, or playing basketball.
Where was your wedding? Why did you choose this venue?
Our wedding was in Sonoma, CA at the MacArthur Place Hotel. We wanted a location that felt like a vacation but wasn’t too far from home. Also we knew we wanted at least part of the event to be outdoors and needed warmer weather than San Francisco has to offer!
What was the concept behind your wedding, and how did you find your inspiration?
I think everything revolved around the concept of a garden party — I am happiest when I’m working in my garden, so I think I was naturally drawn to inspiration that reminded me of it. I spent a lot of time searching things like “English garden party” and “cottage garden wedding decor” on Pinterest! When we first walked up to MacArthur place, there were flowers blooming everywhere, and we just immediately knew it was the one. There ended up being even more flowers in bloom at the wedding than when we toured! We got so lucky and every rose in the courtyard was blooming that weekend!
How long did it take to plan your wedding? Did you encounter any challenges during the planning process?
We planned for 1 year. Everything went smoothly until two weeks pre-wedding when our dog, Louie, came down with a really serious mystery illness. After multiple days/nights at the emergency vet, they eventually discovered that he had inhaled a foxtail (a very sharp arrow shaped grass seed) and the gross details — it worked its way across his entire body to his kidney. We were able to get him in for a major surgery three days before the wedding but we were so relieved. The vets said they had never seen a case like it before, he was a medical curiosity, and just had very bad luck! He didn’t get to participate in as many of the festivities as we planned, but he was able to hangout with the bridal party/groomsmen before the ceremony and he was loving all the attention. Everything else that weekend went off without a hitch, we think poor Louie just took on all the bad luck!
How many guests did you have? Could you describe the seating arrangement at the wedding?
80 — we had a small head table with the Maid of honor and Best man and their dates, everyone else was at round tables!
Tell us about your outfits. How many different styles did you try?
I think I ordered and returned at least 20 dresses looking for a reception outfit. I ran out of time and eventually settled on a really cute Rebecca Vallance mini dress, but when the day finally came around, after all the planning stress, I just wanted something comfy to dance in. I ended up throwing on a pair of Sleeper feather pajamas left over from my bachelorette and it was truly the best wedding decision I made. For my wedding dress: I saw it online and loved the resemblance to regency dresses. It wasn’t quite right when I bought it, but I had a vision for it. My tailor was amazing and essentially took the whole thing apart and reassembled it to change the proportions of the skirt and tone down the puff sleeves, but it ended up being exactly what I envisioned. For getting ready PJs I sent my bridesmaids a bunch of options but everyone decided on simple Eberjey sets which were so comfortable. I’ve heard my bridesmaids now wear them all the time at home so they’re being put to good use!
What was your first dance song? Did you choreograph it or improvise?
‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You’ by Frankie Valli. We watched a YouTube video the week before the wedding and used some of those moves but it was otherwise pretty simple!
Were there any special performances?
Not really! My Papa (grandfather) was our officiant which was really special!
What was the most memorable moment from your wedding day?
I was there to greet my guests when they walked into the ceremony lawn! We took family and bridal party portraits before the wedding in the same courtyard where the ceremony would be. It was so fun mixing our families and friends, it ended up being like a pre-ceremony cocktail hour and we were having the best time. We ended up running behind schedule with the shots list and I kept getting increasingly urgent warnings from my Maid of honor, mother, and planner that the shuttle full of guests was about to arrive and I needed to go back to the room and hide. I realized that moment was exactly what I envisioned as our perfect wedding. All our loved ones together, laughing and capturing memories while surrounded by hundreds of beautiful rose bushes that were all blooming! I didn’t want to go hide and waste even 10 minutes of this precious time.
Suddenly I realized that creating a surprise when I walked down the aisle wasn’t really important to me, so I said why don’t we just stay here? When guests arrived they walked into the courtyard, were handed a glass of champagne, and then individually greeted by James and me. A few minutes before the ceremony we walked to the cottage to grab rings/veil and other last minute items and then we lined up and it all felt so natural. As someone who normally has a lot of anxiety and a severe fear of public speaking, I think it actually calmed me down and reminded me of what was really important! I read my vows and had absolutely no nerves being in front of 80 people, and I went through the rest of the night feeling so calm. Afterwards, we heard from A LOT of our guests that they actually loved getting to see us before the ceremony! It was special and gave us extra time to really talk with all of our guests!
Are there any vendors that you would like to tell us more about?
Our planner, Briana from Alyssa Bray Events, was amazing, just an absolute rock through the whole planning process, we could not have asked for a better planner! Obviously Sydney was incredible! She is so talented with her film cameras and great at pinpointing exactly what shots are most important while still going with the flow of the day. We really wanted photos of details that we could hang in our home that would be more subtle than typical wedding pictures, she took that assignment seriously and we were blown away by the results! My bridesmaids were so impressed they have all been recommending her to their newly engaged friends. Chef Francisco and the staff from MacArthur were also so great. He made us feel like royalty when we came to do the tasting, and sent us champagne whenever we ate at the restaurant on the property.
What advice would you give to couples currently planning their wedding?
Don’t let traditions and the way things are supposed to be done, get in the way of having an event that you truly love! Make sure honoring yourselves and your loved ones comes first! At the end of the day, no one really cares if you have way more groomsmen than bridesmaids, or you had both your parents (or someone else entirely) walk you down the aisle, or which wedding “role” is supposed to have what responsibility. What people will remember is all the love they felt that day!
Did you create gifts for your guests, and if so, what were they?
Yes! This was so important to me because I felt like it was a way I could thank everyone for all the effort/time/money it takes to attend a wedding! I ended up finding adorable mini picnic baskets which fit well with my garden party vision and started researching small goodies and snacks I could include! The main piece was a candle we had custom made — we picked from hundreds of scents and settled on one we both loved and then ordered them in bulk. I created custom playing cards that featured floral watercolors and images of Louie and James and me. We also included tea and honey, saltwater taffy, Tate’s cookies, custom matches, and a “recovery kit” stocked with liquid iv, advil, pepto bismol, stain remover wipes, hand sanitizer, bandaids, emergency-C, and mints. All those little things that can be a lifesaver when you’re traveling! On the Friday that everyone was arriving in Sonoma, my Mom dropped the baskets off at several hotels around town so they would be waiting for our guests when they checked in!
Did you include any special or unique elements, such as a signature cocktail or fragrance, in your wedding?
The event that James and I met at was a long standing tradition called Ace (the color scheme is red, white, and black like a deck of playing cards). That’s the reason I wanted to include custom playing cards in our gift baskets! I also pinned a locket with a photo of my husband's late father to my bouquet, I felt it was just a small way to keep him close during the ceremony.
Additionally, I bought a vintage super 8 camera and asked one of the groomsmen to catch some moments on it, the footage came out so amazing. It has a much warmer candid feel to it than professional videos and was exactly what we wanted to capture from the day.
Did you host any pre-wedding events, such as a rehearsal dinner or bridal shower?
My husband's family hosted the rehearsal dinner the night before our wedding. Sydney was there as well. It took place at a historic property and garden in downtown Sonoma and played really nicely into our garden party theme! It was a great way to kick off the weekend and his Aunt, who we are very close with, put so much time and thought into all the details.
Venue & Catering: @macarthurplace
Makeup & Hair: @santarosapowderroom
Dress: @anthropologieweddings by @willowbywatters