With its mistily romantic setting—a rustic hillside lodge overlooking the rugged Mendocino coastline on a dreamily overcast day—this intimate wedding appears as if it stepped out of the pages of some great old-time love story. “When people ask how we chose the location, we like to joke and say we threw a dart at a map and that was where it landed, which is pretty close to the truth,” said Melissa, the radiant bride, who was a vision in Claire Pettibone’s Victorian-inspired “Kristene” gown, a perfect complement to the day with its delicately playful layers of intricate English lace embroidery.
Melissa walked down the aisle to Brian Eno’s “The Big Ship,” a song that holds special meaning for her and David, with an old sixpence coin that once belonged to her great-grandmother tucked inside her left shoe. Following the ceremony, which was set among the inn’s fragrant herb beds and punctuated by “brilliant moments of laughter” and “tears of joy,” Melissa, David, and their photographer, Sonya Yruel, set off for the coastal woods, grassy dunes, and gold-spun fields nearby to take photos. “We discovered some amazing hidden gems just a few short miles from the inn, including secluded forests and abandoned barns, the things wedding photography dreams are made of,” Melissa said. “Sonya did a great job of capturing not only the beautiful surroundings but also the love and joy my husband and I felt that day.”
We could literally spend hours marveling over Sonya’s beguiling images, which draw you in like nothing else. We dare you not to fall under their spell.
Q + A with Melissa and David
What’s your love story? How did you meet, fall in love, and get engaged?
A little more than five years ago, we met on an August evening in a café-bookstore in Sarasota, Florida. Melissa had just moved to Sarasota to begin her third year of medical school. She was studiously engaged in esoteric medical texts when she noticed me in the middle of reinventing myself over a feminist theory textbook. We had noticed each other a few times before this evening in the same setting, but we were about to have the excuse to finally talk. Some guy who I didn’t really like said hi to me as I walked into the café. Out of proper decorum, I allowed a brief chat and went on to grab a coffee and sugar and table. I wasn’t settled more than five minutes when Melissa stated, “Your friend left his keys.” Within a minute of that, the so-called “friend” returned and grabbed his keys, and Melissa and I were engaged in a conversation that has not ceased.
Can you tell us a little bit about the details of your wedding and your sources of inspiration?
David and I wanted an intimate and romantic wedding in nature surrounded by our closest friends and family. We wanted to have a relaxing weekend together in celebration of our love. Neither one of us wanted to have a big wedding; we wanted our wedding to be a fun affair without too much structure or formality. We wanted to concentrate on what was most important to us: our love for each other. Together with our families we had a weekend wedding celebration that turned out to be more perfect than we could have ever imagined. We did not really have a wedding theme, although I guess you could call it romantic/vintage.
Our wedding took place at the Stanford Inn, a lodge nestled on a hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the Mendocino Bay. When people ask how we chose the location, we like to joke and say we threw a dart at a map and that was where it landed, which is pretty close to the truth. We had only our closest friends and family—11 in total—join us. Having the wedding be small and intimate and spread out over three days was what made it truly special and allowed us to spend time with, and give attention to, all of our guests.
The ceremony took place outside, atop a meadow that overlooked the rugged coastline of the Mendocino Bay. The day of the wedding was overcast, which caused a fog to set in, creating a romantic and whimsical—almost dreamy—feel to the day. In addition to the naturally picturesque backdrop, several of our friends and family contributed to the décor with little handmade items that they had brought with them. Anne, my best friend since elementary school, and my good friend Ashlee made little “just married” signs, which made perfect picture props, and my mom brought a black and white “Melissa and David” wedding sign that welcomed our family to the ceremony. My stepfather walked me halfway down the aisle to the wooden picket fence that surrounded the ceremony site. There my father was waiting to walk me the rest of the way down the aisle. The aisle was lined with vintage, wildflower-filled Mason jars.
Taped to the inside of my left shoe was a sixpence coin that had belonged to my great-grandmother and had been saved by my mom and given to me on the morning of the wedding along with some pictures of my great-grandmother and a sweet note.
To add to the pleasure of marriage, we were both thrilled with the Stanford Inn’s owner, who officiated our wedding with the perfect amount of humor and warmth. There were brilliant moments of laughter throughout the ceremony, as well as the occasional tear of joy. The whole time I couldn’t take my eyes off the handsome man standing in front of me who was grinning ear to ear.
Following the ceremony, our friends and family headed inside the inn for appetizers and drinks while Sonya, our wedding photographer, took us into the surrounding landscape for pictures. There are numerous stunning photo opportunities in Mendocino, and Sonya did a great job of capturing not only the beautiful surroundings but also the love and joy my husband and I felt that day.
Our reception took place at the Stanford Inn’s restaurant, which specializes in delicious vegetarian dishes using local, organic ingredients. No one else in our family is a vegetarian, so they were all a little wary of the vegan meal planned for our reception, but afterwards no one could believe how surprisingly delicious the meat-free food was. The decorations for the reception were created by our family and friends and included the vintage Mason-jar flower arrangements that had lined the aisles and the strands of flower buds that had hung in the background during our ceremony. Our chairs were decorated with paper garlands from BHLDN. Numerous candles completed the finishing touches and created a magical scene. It was so great to have such a small wedding party; everyone could sit together at one table and celebrate intimately.
Following dinner we had a variety of pies instead of cake for dessert. One of our favorite decorative pieces was the “cake” topper, which was made by Ready Go Paper Studio. It had been personalized to match everything from our hair and eye colors to my dress and David’s feather boutonniere.
What were your favorite moments of the day?
One of my favorite memories of our wedding day is of the music we chose for the ceremony. I walked down the aisle to “The Big Ship” by Brian Eno, a tremendously joyful yet very sublime song that is very dear to both of our hearts. Following our vows, for our recessional song we chose “This Magic Moment” by Lou Reed.
I also had a ton of fun taking pictures with our photographer. We discovered some amazing hidden gems just a few short miles from the inn, including secluded forests and abandoned barns, the things wedding photography dreams are made of.
Other than the joy of marrying my truest love, I was excited to indulge in pre-wedding spirits with my brother-in-law at a friendly Irish pub in downtown Mendocino.
What kind of advice would you offer to future brides?
My word of advice would be to make sure that you take time throughout the planning process and on your wedding day itself to sit back and take it all in, because it flies by so quickly. We had a small wedding that was intentionally held over a long weekend because I wanted it to be about having those moments, not about a year spent planning something that would fly by in the blink of an eye.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help and assign certain tasks to members of the wedding party. On your wedding day, you do not want to have to be the one responsible for worrying about anything. It’s your wedding day, and you should not have to do anything other than sit back and enjoy it.
Photography: Sonya Yruel / Venue: Stanford Inn / Flowers: Rosa of LR Farm / Catering: Ravens’ Restaurant at Stanford Inn / Cake and pies: Sharon of Mendo Cakes / Cake topper: Ready Go Paper Studio / Officiant: Reverend Jeff Stanford / Bride’s wedding dress: Claire Pettibone / Bride’s shoes: Vince Camuto / Bride’s necklace: Sundance / Bride’s hairpiece: Tradesy / Groom’s suit: Calvin Klein / Groom’s tie: Ted Baker / Groom’s shoes: Donald J. Pliner / Boutonniere: Pomp and Plumage / Hair: Jocelyn DeChenne of Mantras / Makeup: Amy Wall of Mendocino Beauty / Custom letterpress guestbook: Blush and Beau / Custom wooden wedding sign: Craft Mart Texas / Cake server and garland: BHLDN