On Wedding Size: Why I Ditched The Big Wedding and Went Small

October 27, 2016 | gabby

big-wedding-small-wedding photo by India Earl

I have dreamed of a big wedding my whole life. When my fiancé Patrick and I first got engaged, our families agreed that a big wedding was the only way to go. Our personal networks are large enough for the huge, inclusive event we had always hoped for, and we couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate our marriage than with an endless sea of smiling faces toasting to our future.

industrial-downtown-arizona-wedding-at-monorchid-4-600x900 photo by Kym Ventola Photography

At first, planning a big wedding felt perfect. Patrick and I fell in love with a sprawling, modern venue in the Texas Hill Country that could perfectly accommodate our guest list of 230. We secured all of our vendors, created a day-of timeline, and started planning our DIY projects. I even bought my wedding dress and began to schedule fittings.

In the midst of creating timelines and discussing tablescapes, something started to feel off. I could feel it, my fiancé could feel it, and even our families felt it. Instead of brainstorming my vows, I was stressing out over the metallic finish of our 50 flower vases. Rather than smiling when I imagined my walk down the aisle, I frowned when I thought about the money we’d be spending on ceremony chair rentals. My heart began telling me a massive wedding wasn’t right, but my brain didn’t care. After all, the venue we fell in love with accommodated our guest list, and it seemed really important at the time to invite my fiancé’s 4th grade math teacher.

romantic-blush-and-gold-inpsiration-shoot-from-vue-photography-16-600x947 photo by Vue Photography

After weeks of feeling this way, Patrick and I started to regret committing to a big wedding. Everyone talks about how being newly engaged is one of the best times of your life, but the giant event was starting to affect our relationship. We found ourselves arguing about our wedding and we knew we weren’t as connected as we should have been.

Somewhere along the way, Patrick and I lost touch with the most important detail of the wedding day: our marriage.

When there are personal and societal pressures on a couple to have a big wedding, the blinders go on and there’s seemingly no other way to do it. Our relationship was undermined by the extraordinary effort that goes into executing a big wedding. It felt as though our wedding had ceased to belong to us and had begun to belong to our colossal guest list. Deep down, Patrick and I knew a smaller wedding was for us.

After many long and difficult conversations, Patrick and I decided to postpone our wedding. We called our vendors, negotiated deposit returns, and cancelled the whole event. The process was emotionally exhausting and our relationship was put to the test. Trying to gracefully explain our decision to postpone (but not cancel!) the wedding to each member of the guest list was a daunting task, but we managed it.

It took months for Patrick and I to truly heal from the experience, but once we did, we knew we had made the right decision. As much as we love our extra-large communities of friends and family, we want to be fully present with each other while still being able to engage with all of our guests on our wedding day. To us, this means we need to have a smaller wedding.

After postponing our wedding, Patrick and I needed time to digest our decision before we could jump into planning another wedding. After six months had elapsed, we agreed that it was time to dust off the wedding binder and revisit the idea. Right off the bat, we promised to be honest, open, and communicative every step of the way.

festive-palm-beach-jewish-wedding-at-the-brazilian-court-concept-photography-15-600x900 photo by Concept Photography

When Patrick and I started talking about our “second” wedding, the first line item to discuss was the size of our guest list. We had watched our sanities, our friendship, and our budget spiral out of control when our guest list was 230, and we weren’t going to watch ourselves do it again.

Many brides and grooms offer the same piece of advice once their wedding has occurred: a wedding is about the celebration of a couple’s union, and it’s not about the angle of their cake topper, the way their napkins are folded, or whether your fiancé’s 4th grade teacher was in attendance.

If you ignore the elephant in the room (or, in my case, the potential wedding guests in the room), you’re compromising the integrity and beauty of what your wedding day should really embody. Throughout the wedding planning process, it’s important to take a step back with your partner, breathe, and have frank conversations about what is truly important to you.

I’m happy to say that Patrick and I are enjoying every moment of planning our April 2017 wedding. We have grown stronger through the surprisingly difficult process of realizing that the priority of our wedding day is our lifelong promise to each other. We cut our guest list to more than half of its original size, secured a charming French Victorian house-turned-venue, and simplified as much as we could about our wedding day. We’re still allowing ourselves to “go big” on the wedding details that really matter to us, but by cutting back on our guest list, Patrick and I are finally going to have the true wedding of our dreams.


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Minimalist and Budget-Friendly Wedding at Oatlands Historic House and Gardens

October 27, 2016 | gabby


Jen and Ryan are self-proclaimed minimalists, so they reflected their personal style in their wedding décor with tons of crisp whites and natural greenery! Their Oatlands Historic House and Gardens wedding was filled with some majorly beautiful DIY projects and organic elements like eucalyptus tablescapes and handmade wooden signs. Lauren Louise Photography captured every moment of Jen and Ryan’s wedding perfectly, including some fab couple portraits among the venue’s gardens!

The Couple:

Jen and Ryan

The Wedding:

Oatlands Historic House and Gardens, Leesburg, Virginia


Ryan & I both lean towards a minimal aesthetic so it was important to us to keep it simple, fresh, clean and most importantly, make it feel 100% us. We also have a lot future financial plans so keeping it on budget while not sacrificing on the things that were truly important to us was something we kept in mind throughout the whole process.






I actually felt a lot of pressure at first to choose a “wedding dress,” with more bling and details, but it just really didn’t feel like me. Ultimately, I went with my heart and chose the Leanne Marshall McKenna dress and it made me feel like I was walking in a dream. It’s simple and timeless with a modern edge which I loved. I also had minimal accessories and shoes that I could wear again after the wedding. I wanted to my whole look to be special but also practical and a reflection of my everyday personal style.










My wedding party wore different dresses in neutral and my bridesman wore a neutral suit. Ultimately, I wanted my best friends to be comfortable and I also opened it up to prints and sequins if they found something they loved. I’m not a fan of the matchy, matchy bridesmaid look, so I’m glad we went this route. All of the colors and patterns really complemented each other and added another layer to our otherwise minimal wedding.


We wanted to keep our decor minimal, so we really wanted a space that was gorgeous on its own. Oatlands is a natural beauty, so we fell in love immediately. Our wedding vibe was minimal, fresh, classy, but modern & laid back. I’m a believer in less is more, so I wanted our day to embody that. I didn’t want to feel pressure to imitate other weddings when those weren’t my style.





We had two of our best friends marry us! They did an incredible job officiating and we included a few of our friends and family members to read some of their favorite stories/poems/songs. In lieu of any traditional wedding songs, we picked our own to make it feel more like us. It was seriously perfect.





Our photographer Lauren is a badass, boss woman and we have so much respect for her. She’s tiny but can take charge and I felt so comfortable letting her explore her creativity because she’s got such a great eye. I couldn’t have asked for a better photographer. Nothing felt cheesy and she made us look and feel gorgeous!



Most of our wedding was DIY, but my favorite project was our seating chart. My dad is a carpenter, so I designed it, and he brought it to life. It was so freaking beautiful.


Our wedding colors were white on white with touches of natural green — I love clean & minimal (and monochromatic done well) with organic touches in my own personal style, so naturally, I was drawn to this color palette.





Our advice: Don’t stress and compare your wedding to someone else’s. Everyone is unique and chooses to celebrate the big day in their own way, so stay true to yourself. It’s definitely stressful but don’t lose sight of what the day actually means– it’s the day when you choose to spend the rest of your life with someone you know you can’t ever live without. And know that while it will be stressful, the day will be absolutely perfect (and most people may not mention it but the day after might be even better — the feeling of relief is incomparable!).



Everyone says the day goes by so fast (and it really does), but I think we’d both agree, that hands down our favorite part was the beginning of the reception when we got to sit down, catch our breath for a second and look around at all of the incredible people in our lives who came from near & far to celebrate our union. Our hearts felt so full & it was hard to contain all of the emotions we were feeling.


Processional: Labi Siffre – Bless The TelephoneEdward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Home
Bridal Processional: City & Colour – The Girl
Recessional: LANY – ILYSB
First Dance: Blind Pilot – 3 Rounds and a Sound (Performed live by Bachelor Boys)






The Wedding Team:

Photography – Lauren Louise Photography
Ceremony Venue – Oatlands Historic House and Gardens
Floral Design – Blooms Reston Floral
Catering – Smokin’ Willy
Cake – Buttercream Bakeshop
Live Music – Bachelor Boys
Invitatiolns – Old City Press Co.
Makeup & Hair Artist – Natalya Diamond
Wedding Dress – Leanne Marshall via Lovely Bride
Bridal Accessories – Vince, BHLDN
Groom’s Apparel – Suit Supply
Rings – May Jewelers


Congratulations to Jen and Ryan, and a special thanks to Lauren Louise Photography for sharing this wedding with us! Love this wedding’s minimalist vibes? Then you’ve got to see this Reading Art Works wedding that takes modern minimalism to the next level!


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Beautifully Wild Iceland Bridal Inspiration

October 26, 2016 | gabby


Ask any adventurous bride where they’d most like to go for an outdoorsy escape, and they’ll answer Iceland. This Nordic country features crystalline rock formations, mossy hills, and icy fjords that could make any photo shoot look otherworldly and moody. We can’t get enough of this wild Iceland bridal inspiration shoot designed by Lauren Field Design and photographed by Archetype Studio. From a tranquil blue gown to calligraphy love letters encased in a stone journal, this shoot is the ultimate wild and free inspiration for a bride that loves epic nature and movement.



From the Designer: We chose a palette of deep hues and delicate texture inspired by the misty microclimate and prismatic shapes in the landscape found in Iceland. Inky tones of navy and black are paired with soft layers of her skirt and the intricate gold texture of her bodice. Her hair is windswept and her cheeks rosy. With starry eyes she looks to the expansive vistas surrounding her.
















We wanted to honor the intimacy of moments surrounding life changing special events, their introspective qualities, and the complex sense of inner voyage that occurs within one’s soul. This story is about a quiet morning wandering the serene landscape amidst moments of reflection. She immerses herself in her thoughts and her writing while contemplating new roles in life and the future as two become one. The presence of water brings a sense of transformative calm.


















The Talented Team:

Photography – Archetype Studio
Event Design – Lauren Field Design
Calligraphy – Carolyn Jane
Paper – Signora Mare, Silk & Willow, Share Studios
Journal – Blue Sky Papers
Makeup Artist – Elín Erna Stefánsdóttir
Wedding Dress – Gilda & Pearl
Hair Clip & Earrings – Hushed Commotion
Hair Crown – Tessa Kim
Model – Oda Østenstad Fjell
Film Lab – Richard Photo Lab


A very special thanks to Archetype Studio for sharing this gorgeous Iceland bridal inspiration with us. Want more epic Iceland wedding inspiration? Then you’ve got to see this crazy passionate Iceland wedding adventure!


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