Is your lackluster Monday morning in need of a little brightness? If so, you’re in luck, because this summery stunner of a wedding is about to make your day a whole lot brighter. Captured with timeless grace and charm by the matchlessly talented Stacy Able, this vibrantly sunny farm-to-table fête is as lovely as they come. I simply want to step inside these radiant, light-filled photographs and never leave.
As flawless as the setting appears, the couple, Jen and Matt, took a leap of faith in choosing their venue, a farmstead barn that was still under construction when they first laid eyes upon it. “It was cold and snowy, none of the floors or walls were finished, the grounds were all torn up by construction equipment, and a giant septic tank was sitting next to the bare structure,” Jen recalled. “Needless to say, it took some real imagination to think about what it would look like in August. We could tell it had potential, though, and we’re so glad that we went with it.”
The newly built barn—outfitted with elegant chandeliers and local art—and the surrounding grounds on Sycamore Farm, a 20-acre working horse farm that dates back to the 1800s, turned out to be the perfect site for this perfect wedding. Every element sang, from the colorful local flowers to the bride’s exquisite Amsale dress, which was her “something borrowed.” In its third reincarnation when Jen wore it, the gown had been passed around between friends. “The stipulation at each passing was that the sash had to change color,” Jen said. “I think it went from champagne to burnt orange to the blue West African print that I wore. It was neat to have a dress with a legacy.”
Q + A with Jen
How did you choose your venue?
We started looking for venues in late January 2012. We wanted something rustic that would show off Southern Indiana’s natural beauty to all of our out-of-town guests, and we wanted something that was less formal than many standard wedding venues. We looked around at a number of nice places in Brown County, but we were a little concerned about how much time it would take to bus people out and back. We also looked at a few places that were a bit too rustic for Matt’s taste—he drew the line at having his 90-year-old grandmother use a port-a-potty at the wedding! When we came across Sycamore Farm, it was still in the process of being renovated for event use. We actually first saw it on the day that they were putting in the new septic system. It was cold and snowy, none of the floors or walls were finished, the grounds were all torn up by construction equipment, and a giant septic tank was sitting next to the bare structure; needless to say, it took some real imagination to think about what it would look like in August. We could tell it had potential, though, and we’re so glad that we went with it. It really did turn out beautifully.
How did you choose your vendors?
Catering was an easy pick. We love FARM in Bloomington; we eat there all the time. When we asked if they did catering, they told us that they could actually do most of the event planning as well. It was a great choice. Tom Clifford, the event planner at FARM, helped us out with so much of the planning and execution. He was really fantastic. He and I seemed to have some sort of ESP when it came to decorating ideas; we agreed on 98 percent of things.
Matt and I found The Underhills—the band that performed for our ceremony and cocktail hour—by accident, and it was a serendipitous accident. We had booked another local family group, but they had to cancel in mid-July while we were in London. We got word from a friend of a friend that The Underhills were worth checking out. We listened to two of their tunes on Facebook before sending them an e-mail and booking them. I don’t think they’d ever played at an event like ours before, but they nailed it. I’ve never been at a wedding where all the guests spontaneously give the cocktail hour band a 60-second round of applause when the band finishes playing. If we’d had any more time, we would have asked them to play an encore!
We found the dance band, Indy Express, online. We knew we wanted live music, and Matt is a firm believer in the general awesomeness of bands with horns, so we went looking for that kind of band. The members of Indy Express clearly take their craft seriously—they travel with a sound engineer who runs the board all night—and they have fun with it, too. They even dusted off a Huey Lewis tune from their back catalog for us at the last minute—a huge plus.
Our flowers came from Harvest Moon Flower Farm. We actually found Harvest Moon when we were looking for venues; we went out to the farm to see if it would work for the wedding. It’s a beautiful space, but we ended up going with Sycamore instead. (See the note about 90-year-old grandmas in port-a-potties!) However, having talked with the owner, Linda Chapman, we immediately thought of her when it came time to choose flowers, and she did a wonderful job. In the last few weeks, we also got some help with organizing the ceremony (and with a bunch of easy-to-miss details) from Jeff Wuslich, an event planner here in Bloomington. We ordered the invitations from an independent artist who has an Etsy shop.
How did you choose your dress and the attire for your wedding party?
We didn’t standardize attire for the wedding party. Each of my bridesmaids could pick any summer dress that she wanted as long as it was yellow. The groomsmen could go with any cotton khaki suit, and the groomswoman (the groom’s sister) could choose any khaki-colored dress. We got the ties for the groomsmen (and the fathers of the bride and groom) when we were traveling in Italy this summer. It was a rather hilarious hour of negotiation in broken English and really broken Italian at this little tie shop in Siena, Italy, that led to the tie purchase.
My wedding dress has a nice story behind it. It was on its third wedding with us. It was originally worn by the sister of one of my best friends. Then it was passed along to the best friend. Then it was passed along to me. The stipulation at each passing was that the sash had to change color. I think it went from champagne to burnt orange to the blue West African print that I wore. It was neat to have a dress with a legacy.
What were your favorite moments of the day?
Our first dance song was “To Make You Feel My Love,” written and originally performed by Bob Dylan, covered about 10 years ago by Billy Joel, then covered again very recently by Adele. It’s a beautiful song, and the lyrics quietly capture a few inside jokes between me and Matt. Because of its many renditions, everyone at the wedding connected with it in some way. That first dance was definitely a favorite moment for Matt. I loved our first dance, but I really, really loved some other musical moments, too. My cousin, Amanda, and my two friends nailed “Til Death Do Them Part,” a folk song by Paul Kelly, during the ceremony. (Anything that gets multiple groomsmen to shed a few tears must be amazingly well done, in my opinion!) I also loved the toast songs, especially the surprise twist on “Sweet Caroline”—“Sweet Matt o’ Mine”—which the entire dining room sang along with my sister/maid of honor, my bridesmaids, and two of the groomsmen on guitar. It was pretty freaking awesome.
Where did you honeymoon?
We did a pre-moon in Kenya (I was there for work) in June and then a long weekend at a rustic cabin in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. We might try to make it to Indonesia sometime next year as well. We’re big travel people.
What kind of advice would you offer to future brides?
Do not under any circumstances decide to have 100+ people to your house for brunch the morning after the wedding. If you want to have folks over, make sure that the brunch starts after noon, or have it somewhere else besides your house. It is just too exhausting, especially if you’re the type to stay out late with friends. The plus side is having friends who are worth staying out with until the wee hours of the morning. The negative side is that the morning comes way too soon, and it’s incredibly exhausting to have so many people around and so much attention focused on you for days on end!
Photography: Stacy Able / Ceremony and reception venue: Sycamore Farm / Flowers: Harvest Moon Flower Farm / Day-of coordinator: Tom Clifford of FARM / Catering: FARM / Ceremony music: The Underhills / Reception music: Indy Express / Hair: Felicia Pafford of Bounce Studio / Makeup: Caitlin Holmes / Wedding gown: Amsale / Bride’s sash: AKN Fabrics / Wedding invitation: Yours Truly Invitations