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I’m pretty sure that if I told you that this wedding had a former Abercrombie & Fitch model for a groom, a bride that rode in on a white horse, and a ceremony that took place on a field covered in yellow wildflowers, you might think I was writing a romance novel. But y’all, it did! For their special day, Kelli and Michael wanted their California friends and family to feel the warmth of Southern hospitality and the fun of a Texas country wedding. With the help of Blue Ribbon Vendor, Two Be Wed, Kelli’s matron of honor’s parents’ ranch became the site of this sweet day, where guests were invited to make themselves at home and celebrate the newlyweds’ love with all things Southern. I love the South, and seeing it shared through our couple’s eyes makes my heart sing–Kelli and Michael even had a good ol’ tractor to transport guests!

We’re so thankful to Christianne Taylor for sharing this lovely day with us in V7!

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. I was a new sophomore in Santa Barbara, where I had just transferred to my new school, and I didn’t know anyone. My dad and I were downtown at Brooks’ orientation, and we wandered into a coffee shop where Mike worked. I immediately noticed the ridiculously good-looking barista. Mike was literally an Abercrombie & Fitch model at the time, so I was understandably shy, and I made my dad go place the order! Months later, I ended up moving into a house in Montecito with four random roommates. One of the roommates, Lauren, happened to work at the coffee shop with Mike, and she quickly filled me in on the fact that this super handsome guy was only a year older than me, had never had a girlfriend before (crazy, right?!), and apparently was super sweet, soft spoken, and shy. And, he was a Christian and a Young Life leader at Santa Barbara High School! Of course, my crush quickly grew into a full-blown obsession. In the meantime, I had started casually seeing another guy, and that relationship ended just before Valentine’s Day. I went out for a single ladies’ Valentine’s Day dinner with Lauren, and she told me that Mike had been asking about me for months! When I had ended the relationship with the other guy on my own, she felt it was okay to finally let me know about Mike. Mike, in the meantime, didn’t know Lauren was chatting with me or that I had ended things with the other guy, but when I got home that night, he had left me a sweet message, asking me to coffee. We have been together ever since.

I had the amazing opportunity to meet and work with wedding dress designer Hayley Paige on an article for Houston Magazine. She comes to Houston often for trunk shows and has become a close friend. She is just the sweetest and most talented person I know. When Mike and I got engaged, she went above and beyond to make sure my dress was perfect and I had everything I needed. I had the privilege to shoot the owner’s of Now & Forever Bridal Boutique’s wedding in Hawaii the year before Mike and I got married. They, along with Hayley, have also become close friends, and they made my dress buying experience above and beyond wonderful.

What was Southern about your wedding? Everything: the decor, the environment, the horses, the ranch, the boots, the rustic theme, and the tractor.

We tried to do as much of our own stuff as possible. We had SO many friends with unique gifts and talents contribute to our day. We couldn’t have done it without them! I made/printed our save the dates, favors, confetti bags for the ceremony, and chalkboard signs for favors. I also printed and designed our wedding programs, which featured illustrations by Tricia Lowenfield.

Tell us a bit about the wedding ceremony. What part was most special to you? Did you include any special readings? It was all so special. We did communion–our faith is an important part of who we are as individuals and a couple.
Who was your officiant? Why did you choose him/her? Our officiant was our pastor who has known me since I was young. I used to be the youth intern at the church with him, and he has mentored me for a long time. It was special to have him counsel Mike and I leading up to the wedding and to have him as a part of the big day.

Bride’s favorite detail of the wedding: The horse we had the opportunity to ride in on! I also loved the birch sticks that lined the ceremony aisles–they had cascading ivy, vines, and white flowers on top. The cross at the end of our aisle had matching florals. The sun setting behind it made the water on the lake glisten. It couldn’t have been a more beautiful way to show our family and friends the warmth of the South.

We got married in Marquez, Texas at my best friend’s ranch. She was also my matron of honor and wedding photographer! Their ranch was such a blessing to have on our big day. Her family was so unbelievably hospitable, and they are much like family to me as well, so it couldn’t have been more perfect. The majority of our family and friends were coming from California, so we wanted to give them a real Texas experience. The ranch was the perfect fit! We had horses, a tractor, boots, and all! The ceremony took place on a field covered in yellow wildflowers, overlooking a beautiful lake. I love nature and wanted our wedding to be simple, elegant, and rustic.

Groom’s favorite detail of the wedding: The coffee favors. He’s become a coffee connoisseur and we home-roasted a lot of coffee ourselves. Our wedding favors were bags of coffee from Northstar Coffee Co. that said “Love is Brewing”–we thought this was only appropriate, considering the role it played in our story.

We had one of my close friends make our cake and cupcakes. She has a vegan catering company called Ripe Cuisine, and everything was amazing. We had chocolate and carrot cake for Mike–it’s his favorite!

Date of your wedding: March 16, 2013
Describe the proposal: It was simple and sweet. We had decided to go on a break for a few months before getting engaged. We both had graduated, he moved to Seattle, and I was in Houston. The break made us realize we were ready to be together for life. He made the move to Houston a few months later, and proposed at my parents’ house.
Three adjectives that describe the day are: Rustic, elegant, and organic
What was the weather like on your big day? Beautiful. It was in the mid-80’s during the day and the high 60’s at night. We had an outdoor fireplace and fleece blankets in baskets for guests to cozy up with.
How many guests attended your wedding? About 150
What was the biggest challenge you faced while planning your wedding? Logistics! I am a creative, so the nitty gritty and numbers stuff have always been hard for me. I’m SO thankful for the girls at Twobewed–they were a Godsend! I couldn’t have done anything without them.
Describe your bridesmaids’ dresses. How did you choose them? It was so important to me that my bridesmaids not feel burdened, but loved the experience of our wedding. I wanted them to encompass our theme, but also be comfortable and embody the warmth of spring in Texas. I picked out some cute, ivory lace, corset-top sundresses from American Eagle that the girls all wore with boots.
What was your reception like? Intimate and informal. We wanted guests to feel at home, and not like there was a routine or regimen that needed to be followed.
What was the design inspiration for your reception? We had hanging string lights and several seating vignettes–lots of chaise lounges–for a cozy, but elegant, backyard ranch feel. The food was served on the porch, set up on rustic wooden doors converted into tables, with vintage wine barrels as the base.
Did you have a cocktail hour? If so, what was it like? Yes, but it was brief. We displayed chalkboard signs depicting our signature mocktails (it was a dry wedding, as our venue dictated).
What kind of food did you serve? We served upscale barbecue with veggies, prepared by Ara Malkein with Aracan Kitchen. He was the sous chef for Wolfgang Puck for several years in California, and he was such a joy to work with!
What was the funniest moment? What was the scariest? Our grand entrance featured Mike leading me in on a beautiful white horse, but my horse almost took off with me on the back of it! 

What advice would you give to someone currently planning his or her wedding? Don’t sweat the small stuff–none of it matters. Just enjoy every moment and take it ALL in. It flies by so quickly.

Photographer: Christianne Taylor / Videographer: Sweet Start / Planner: Two Be Wed / Graphic Designer: Rumford Graphic Design / Venue: Great Rock Ranch / Florals: Joanna Dunton / Caterer: Ara Malekin with Aracan Kitchen / Cake Baker: Ripe Cuisine / Bride’s Gown: “Hattie” by Hayley Paige / Bridal Salon and Accessories: Now and Forever Bridal Boutique / Bride’s Shoes: Jimmy Choo / Bride’s Hair Accessory: Serephine / Bridesmaid Dresses: American Eagle / Hair and Makeup: Shannon Bloodworth / Groom’s Attire: Hugo Boss / Groomsmen Attire: H&M / Paper Goods: Vera Wang / Linens and Rentals: Aztec Rentals / DJ and Lighting: Unique Style Productions / Wine Barrels: Katy Barrel Co.

Two Be Wed is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
3 Comments
  1. avatar Julie reply

    This is just the sweetest thing! I love the ‘meet cute’ sign!

  2. avatar Tricia Lowenfield reply

    So fun to see this beautiful wedding!! I loved working with the bride on her program illustrations.

  3. avatar Un First Look íntimo para dos – My Blog reply

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I could not think of a more perfect venue for Caroline + Ben’s Virginia wedding than the Stoke farm — a historic Civil War era home that has been in Caroline’s friend’s family for years. For a bride who grew up playing in the boxwood gardens of the estate, having a reception there was a no-brainer, and the gorgeous gardens filled the night with something magical. Even the guests said they felt like they were in a movie! Of course, with a cute love story like these two (who friends thought were made to be because of their mutual height!), the movie-like setting was only a matter of good fortune and fond memories. The rest of the wedding was also decked in details contributed by family members and friends. One my favorites? The custom hand-painted crest that Caroline’s friend made for their paper goods. Gorgeous! Big thanks to Gabe Aceves for sharing this with us!

LOVE Ben’s big peony boutonniere! Caroline said peony season was a huge factor in setting a date. We don’t blame her at all.

I took my mom, sister and a bridesmaid to my first dress appointment. It was a lot more overwhelming than I had anticipated. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted but I knew what I didn’t want — no sparkles or extravagant beading, and no princess ball gown. I tried on about five dresses and the last one made my mom cry but I wasn’t sold. After that, I did a little online research and discovered that there were several Jim Hjelm dresses that I really liked. I called around and found a bridal store that carried this line; I also decided to go to this appointment on my own, as I have always enjoyed shopping solo. I tried on another five dresses. The fifth dress was Lazaro and this one in particular really stuck out. I brought my mom and best friend back a few days later and that sealed the deal.

Did you decide to do a “first look”? We decided not to do a first look. Photos were really important to me so I did consider it, but at the end of the day we both wanted to follow tradition and experience seeing each other for the first time walking down the aisle. I think we made the right choice for us!
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? We chose to do the traditional wedding reading from 1 Corinthians and then a not-s- traditional reading that we really liked from Tobit 8:5b-8.
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding. Our first dance song was “Gotta Have You” by The Weepies. If you listen to or read the lyrics it may seem like an odd choice for a first dance song, and we debated using it for this reason. It had become “our song” at some point during the early part of our relationship so we decided to go with it anyway. It just felt right.

There were lots of challenges throughout the process but the biggest one was probably the weather leading up to the big day. We wanted an outdoor reception and our entire vision revolved around not having a tent, but you can’t predict the weather. We went ahead and put a tent on hold but had to let them know if we needed it or not the Tuesday before our wedding. The weather report kept going back and forth between scattered showers and full on rain leading up to our wedding weekend and I was a mess. The forecast started improving as we got closer to Tuesday and after many discussions we decided to forgo the tent and hope for the best — if it poured we would figure out a backup plan on the fly. Luckily we ended up having a more beautiful day than we could have ever asked for with perfectly blue skies and a cool breezy spring temperature. It was perfect.

Describe your wedding cake or dessert: My aunt works for a gourmet food distributer so she has tons of great connections, including a friend who is a former White House pastry chef and now has a bakery in DC. My aunt’s friend made a lemon curd cake topped with fresh raspberries for my uncle’s wedding a couple years ago that was to-die-for. I am normally not a cake person but I told my aunt that when I got married, I needed this cake. Luckily for me she was able to make that happen. I am literally counting down the days until we can break into the leftover top sitting in my parent’s freezer!

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. Ben and I were a year apart at Roanoke College. After Ben’s junior year, he went on an intensive study trip in the Bahamas and met two of my best friends (and future bridesmaids) who thought we should meet, particularly since Ben is 6’8” and I am 6’1”! After school resumed, my friends introduced us at a party and we immediately hit it off. Unfortunately, we were interrupted by one of Ben’s friends (a future groomsman) before we could exchange phone numbers. I mentioned this to another one of my friends (another future bridesmaid) who at the time was dating, and is now engaged to, one of Ben’s teammates on the men’s basketball team. She promptly informed me I would be attending a party hosted by the men’s basketball team the next weekend. Apparently, she also informed all of Ben’s teammates (including a slew of future groomsmen) I was coming to see him because as soon as I walked in, I was serenaded by a raucous version of “Sweet Caroline.” I have never been more embarrassed! Luckily, Ben quickly put me at ease and a few days later took me out on our first date so we could get to know each other away from our future bridal party and the rest is history!
Describe the proposal. The week Ben proposed he told me he had been feeling badly about spending a lot of time at work and wanted to take me to a nice dinner on Friday night. He said that he had heard good things about “this place” but that the only reservation he could get was early in the evening so I would need to head straight to the restaurant from work. I should have been suspicious but he handled it so casually that I didn’t think anything of it. That Friday, Ben called me at work and informed me that he would need to pick me up from work a couple hours early because we had a bit of a drive to the restaurant. I thought something was up at this point, a suspicion that was confirmed when I got in Ben’s car and saw he had the GPS turned so that I could not see where we were going. An hour or so later, we stopped in front of a historic hotel in Annapolis, Maryland, where Ben told me we had a room for the night and that his boss had arranged a dinner reservation for us at the yacht club on the water. After an amazing sunset dinner, Ben handed me an envelope containing a picture of us celebrating my birthday the year before on a boat in front of the Washington Monument. It’s one of my favorite pictures. At the top it said, “Gotta have you…” which is the name of our song and on the back he had written the sweetest note. I was in shock and trying not to cry and didn’t even notice that he had gotten onto one knee. It was an incredibly special moment. Once I had stopped crying and could properly form sentences again, Ben told me the plan for the rest of the weekend. The next morning we would be having a celebratory brunch with our parents back in Virginia and then Sunday we would be flying to Mexico for four days at a small resort. He had even arranged for time off with my manager! Needless to say, Ben was in trouble with all of our guy friends after that one.
In what month did you get married? June
How many guests attended your wedding? About 175
Describe your wedding flowers: Peonies, peonies, peonies!! They are my absolute favorite and the fact that they were in season definitely factored into choosing the date we did. A family friend preserved peonies from her own garden leading up to the big day and our florist purchased the rest. All of the bouquets and arrangements were variations of peonies and garden roses. My parents have a lot of family silver that they have inherited over the years so we decided to use various pieces from their collection for the centerpiece arrangements. I love that it added a personal touch and also complimented the classic, garden party feel of our reception.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: It’s hard to choose one thing but I would have to go with the hand painted crest that my amazingly talented friend painted for us. I am a graphic designer so I did all of our invites, however, I wanted to add something special to really make them our own. I talked to my friend and bridesmaid about my vision and she was able to create a personalized watercolor wedding crest for us. I feel like it really helped tie everything together and brought my vision to life. We couldn’t have been happier with how the invitations and programs turned out thanks to her artwork.
What is the one thing you are most happy you splurged on? Our band. Ben and I both love music and we love to dance so we always knew that we had to have a band. The process of finding the right band is not easy. I did tons of research and eventually ended up reaching out to an agency. This was the best decision I ever made. The person that I worked with at The Washington Talent Agency was so helpful and turned us onto a band called Encore. The best part was that the agency held demo’s at their office so that we could hear the band live before making a commitment. We instantly fell in love with Encore, they were incredibly energetic and very communicative leading up to the wedding. In the end, it was one of the easiest and best wedding decisions that we made, hands down.
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? I can’t choose one particular moment, but the overwhelming love and support that we felt was indescribable and we will never forget that feeling. It’s the happiest day of any couple’s life when they get married, but Ben and I are truly lucky not only to have one another but to come from the most supportive families and to have the most amazing group of friends. The day was made most special by having these people surrounding us.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? The best advice we got was from Ben’s dad. Whenever we started to stress, he told us not to worry, that the event would carry the day. He couldn’t have been more right.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future? Right now we are just enjoying married life and focusing on our careers. We both love to travel and hope to do lots of it in the next few years before really settling down and starting a family, one day.

nicoleyang Written with love by Nicole
7 Comments
  1. avatar Laura reply

    This is absolutely stunning! Beautiful, Gabe!!

  2. avatar Kaleigh reply

    Beautiful dress!! Looks like an amazing wedding. Congratulations

  3. avatar Kelsey reply

    Love this! And I’m going to need to know who did their wedding invitations/programs!!

  4. avatar Erin McLean reply

    Gorgeous!! I love all the details!!

  5. avatar gabe aceves reply

    Hi ladies, just wanted to say thank you so much for featuring this beautiful wedding! It was one of my favorites from 2012 and I am so happy to have it shown here. Thank you!

  6. avatar A Week’s Worth of Wedding Inspiration! | beautybrideorg reply

    […] Some foxy wedding invitations! (Scroll about a third of the way down.) —Southern Weddings […]

  7. avatar Brenda reply

    Would you please share the wedding cake recipe with the lemon curd filling and the rasberry topping? I don’t see the rasberries on top the cake picture; so if the rasberry was incorporated into the cake hidden beneath the frosting that would be a WOW factor with the frosting spread right over the rasberry glaze or jam? A great idea anyway. Hope you can share.

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