It’s hard to envision a more picturesque setting for a wedding than the rolling coastal hills of San Luis Obispo, whose sprawling ancient oaks have become popular ceremony sites for rustically inclined romantics. The choice of this locale came naturally for today’s lovely couple. “Getting married at a ranch on California’s Central Coast felt perfect to us, as we wanted the wedding to be a reflection of our life together, and we spend most of our vacation time backpacking secluded trails, exploring mountains, and seeking adventure in the great outdoors,” said the beautiful bride, Rachel, who gravitated toward a “loose rustic-chic feel” and opted for a cheery yellow and warm aqua color palette befitting the bright California sunshine. For a homespun vibe, almost every detail was made from scratch, from the hand-stitched linen napkins to an assortment of comfortingly delicious desserts—think bite-sized pumpkin pies and brownie pops—displayed on tree stump slices and vintage cake stands. Being excellent craftsmen, the groom, Brandon, and the bride’s father busied themselves with the task of creating numerous carpentry-related elements. “My husband and dad spent the weekends building everything they could out of reclaimed wood,” Rachel said. “They built a bar with working taps, crates for décor, the huge stand we used to clip seat assignments/drink markers to, a customized directional ‘post’ that provided mileage from the wedding location to places we have been or would love to go together, and unique table numbers for each and every table. If we wanted it, they made it. I love that we did this, because it allowed the wedding to truly be ours and to feel just like we’d imagined.”
Luckily, the striking scenery and the sweet moments were all captured through the lens of the blessedly gifted Nick Radford, whose mesmerizing photographs are little treasures unto themselves. To add to the loveliness, the visual storytellers of Threaded Films were on hand to document the day, and the result is a real gem.
Q + A with Rachel
What’s your love story? How did you meet, fall in love, and get engaged?
Our love story is truly unique. We met at my brother’s wedding. The wedding was in Mexico, and my family and I arrived before all the guests. We came outside to greet the buses of guests arriving at the hotel, and that was the first time that Brandon and I saw each other. I was drawn to him, so when I saw him talking to my dad, I used the opportunity to introduce myself. We have been together ever since. Come to find out, he had been friends with my brother since they had been neighbors one summer 10 years ago. Somehow, our paths had never crossed until that fateful day. He met my whole family the weekend that he met me, and since it was a destination wedding, we were able to spend a lot of time together. Our relationship continued to grow as we both realized that we had something special, and two years later, we became engaged. Brandon planned a motorcycle ride and camping trip on the California coast over a four-day weekend. This was something we’d wanted to do for a while, so I wasn’t surprised or suspicious. Brandon was heading to paramedic school, and we knew that we wouldn’t have another trip for about eight months, so we were excited for the getaway. We had an amazing first two days, stopping in wine country to taste a bit, and we purchased a bottle of very nice wine to share in our tent that night. We stopped to stretch our legs along the winding, cliff-hugging Pacific Coast Highway just before sunset. As we soaked in the views, Brandon began singing the song that we performed a karaoke duet to the night that we met. This wasn’t unusual for us, and neither was our sweet slow dance that began up on the cliff, hidden from the road. When he got to the chorus, he changed the lyrics from “let’s stay together” to “let’s get married.” He pulled out of our dance, dropped to one knee, said some things that neither of us remember, and asked me to marry him. I will never live down repeatedly asking him if he was serious, but in my defense, he is always joking, and he didn’t have a ring box out. He finally freed the box from the pocket of his jeans, at which point I realized that he was serious and quickly answered. We had never shopped for rings or talked about styles, yet he spent months scouring stores and ended up having the perfect ring designed. By the time my shock had subsided enough for us to get back on the bike, the sun had set, and it was dark. Brandon surprised me with a reservation at this little cottage nestled into the side of the cliff, and as we arrived, the only restaurant for miles closed. Luckily, the owner of the restaurant and cottages knew that Brandon was proposing that night and that we might be arriving late, so she let us into her little store, where we bought canned ravioli, Cup Noodles, and packaged cookies for dessert. We shared our perfect dinner and wine by the fireplace, ecstatic to be engaged. I knew that I’d made the right choice in a man when Brandon told me about the day he asked my dad for my hand in marriage. This guy really knows the way to my heart.
Can you tell us a little bit about the details of your wedding and your sources of inspiration?
Getting married on a ranch felt perfect to us, as we wanted the wedding to be a reflection of our life together, and we spend most of our vacation time backpacking secluded trails, exploring mountains, and seeking adventure in the great outdoors. Because of this, it was important to us to have both our ceremony and our reception outdoors. Once we found our venue, our vision for the day quickly fell into place. We share a very eclectic taste, and we gravitated toward a loose rustic-chic feel for our wedding, incorporating some vintage family pieces. We aren’t formal people, so we wanted the day to feel like a beautiful backyard family reunion.
We are a very hands-on couple, and we decided to make almost everything (literally) for the wedding. We designed our invitations with the help of my graphic designer sister-in-law, made DIY envelope liners, and sourced vintage postage stamps. We designed welcome bags for our guests that contained water with custom labels, homemade chocolate-salted caramel pretzel bark, kettle corn bags, information sheets, and “for life’s little emergencies” kits. We wanted our guests to feel loved and important immediately upon arrival and all through the weekend. My bridesmaids and my mom were angels for the time they put into crafting with me. They helped me assemble the emergency kits, source fabrics for our homemade guest napkins, sew each of the napkins, iron tablecloths, and more. I was so thankful to have such wonderful women surrounding me! We turned my parents’ house into Wedding Central, taking over their bonus room and quickly learning that a pool table is great for cutting burlap table runners! My husband and dad spent the weekends building everything they could out of reclaimed wood. They built a bar with working taps, crates for décor, the huge stand we used to clip seat assignments/drink markers to, a customized directional “post” that provided mileage from the wedding location to places we have been or would love to go together, and unique table numbers for each and every table. If we wanted it, they made it. I love that we did this, because it allowed the wedding to truly be ours and to feel just like we’d imagined. It utilized my dad’s and husband’s excellent craftsmanship and gave them time to work outside together, which I loved seeing.
We had a small, traditional wedding cake that my mom made and decorated for us to cut, but I have a big sweet tooth. Knowing that we had some excellent bakers around us, I asked some of them to contribute to a homemade dessert table. It turned out beautifully, with a variety of sweets from which guests could choose displayed on a mixture of tree stump slices and vintage cake stands.
My husband and I felt strongly about not seeing each other before the ceremony, so I decided to do a version of the “first look” with my dad instead. He had been helping to set up and do whatever needed to be done all day, so when we had him come down for pictures, he was given a card from me to read while I waited around the corner with his boutonniere. I will never forget the moment when he saw his little girl in her wedding dress and veil and the emotion that he couldn’t hold back. It was a very special moment for me.
We worked with our officiant to write our ceremony, and we individually wrote our own vows. This made the ceremony so special to us, because we were able to share something from our hearts with each other in front of the people who will be holding us accountable for the promises we made. We also tied our actual wedding bands to our dog’s customized collar, since having a personal ceremony would have been impossible without her. Our 10-month-old niece did a great job as our flower girl; she was wheeled down the aisle in a decorated wagon.
Can you describe your wedding day look for us?
I found my dress at the first shop we went to, which happened to be at a boutique where I’d made an appointment in order to rule the place out. I continued on to other stores, but I found myself comparing every dress to the pictures of me in the dress that became mine. When I couldn’t stop dreaming about it, I knew I had to cancel my other appointments and go back for it! I knew that I wanted to wear Western boots as soon as we found our venue. I loved the contrast of the rich, smooth leather with the tulle and lace of the dress, and I couldn’t have been happier with that decision. I had socks custom knit in our colors to wear under the boots. The top of my right foot said “Mrs.,” and the top of my left said “Jones.”
What were your favorite moments of the day?
My favorite moment of the reception happened to be unplanned. We had prepared a sparkler-lined exit with a powder-blue 1941 Studebaker at the end of the line to take us away. While we waited on the empty dance floor for the guests to get their sparklers lit, one of our favorite songs came over the speakers and we danced, alone, under the café lights at our empty reception while sparklers shined in the distance. We were so full of joy and love after an amazing night, and we couldn’t stop laughing. It was just one of those blissful moments. Then we walked (and danced) through the sparkler-lined walkway full of the smiling faces of the people we love, and the happiness was palpable. We had one more chance to stop and thank my parents for everything they did to make all of our dreams come true, and we watched the people we love cheering us on as we left. I couldn’t imagine a better end to the best night of my life.
What kind of advice would you offer to future brides?
Follow your hearts. Determine your priorities and stick with them. If you choose the option that feels right the first time, you won’t change your mind or feel uneasy about your decision. I think the best decision we made when planning our wedding was involving our family and friends. We have so many amazing memories from our engagement year with our favorite people, and our wedding was even more special to us knowing that we shared a year building our big day with them. Everyone will tell you this piece of advice, and that’s because it’s important. Relax and have fun at your wedding. As soon as I left our rehearsal, I let go of anything that could go wrong. I had a blast with guests who were arriving in town, slept peacefully, and had a great day getting ready with my girls. Because I planned ahead and chose vendors that I trusted, I felt comfortable letting the day happen and enjoying the most important day of my life.
Photography: Nick Radford / Cinematography: Threaded Films / Ceremony and reception venue: Spanish Oaks Ranch / Flowers: Lori Boe Floral Design / Day-of coordination: Shelly Swope / Catering: Pacific Harvest Catering / Cake: Laurie Harvey (bride’s mother) / Desserts: Made by friends and family / Rentals: All About Tabletops / Ceremony music: Ron and Evan Redmon (bride’s uncle and cousin) / DJ: Ritchie Ruggiero (groom’s friend) / Guest transportation: AmericanStar Trailways / Getaway car: Classic Motoring Car Rentals / Hair and makeup: The Queens’ Bees (Victoria for hair and Candice for makeup) / Robes: Plum Pretty Sugar / Invitation and paper goods: Jessica Harvey (bride’s sister-in-law)