Whimsical, Forest Wedding

In honor of our 1st wedding anniversary, I decided to do the weekly blog post about our wedding day. Pretty much all these posts are going to be TLDR because this is just a narrative of all the things I want to remember when I’m old and too many adventures are competing for space in my brain, but if you want to be a part of the small group of people who also want to remember small details forever: Welcome! I’m so happy to see you here! I also plan to drop really pretty pictures here and there to break up the text, sometimes they match the timeline of the story, but some are just pictures I love.

The planning started about a year in advance, and the theme I shared with my mom after looking at my pinterest board was a “whimsical, forest wedding,” and never have I seen a dream come to life like this magical day. It took a lot of hard work, and was a team effort by MANY people, but my mom definitely deserves a special shout out because she was unwilling to compromise on the whimsy and forest-ness, and it was the most beautiful wedding I have seen to date. How lucky it was OUR wedding!

I think if Dan had his way, we would have gotten married at the courthouse or eloped, but since we are both pretty easy going and outdoorsy and low-key, getting married in our backyard seemed like a good compromise. Dan and I are not huge fans of dancing, so we wanted to have yard games because we DO like yard games. Jenga, Corn Hole, Ladderball. The original plan was to have very few guests because that was part of the compromise deal, but once I added up all my family, we were already up to about 40 people, so I think the final invitation count was 80 people after we added in our closest friends. I’m pretty sure Dan loved every moment of it.

I’ll give credit to all the people who played an integral role in making this day so beautiful at the bottom, but for now I’ll just let it all unfold the way I saw it. BUT, before that, I want to take a moment to remember how suddenly everyone was a meteorologist, and we were all more aware of the weather than ever before. A month before the wedding, Dan and I buried a large bottle of scotch upside down at the site of the ceremony, because apparently that’s supposed to guarantee a rain-free wedding day. The whole week leading up to our wedding, we kept flipping back and forth about setting up outside, or committing to our Plan B venue, and it wasn’t until the day before that we decided.

On the day before the wedding, I went to get a manicure and a pedicure at a nail place near our house. I’d never been before, but it was just the closest place and I was getting short on time. While there, I was talking about how our wedding was the following day and how I was a bit unsure about the weather and how it was an outdoor wedding, and we still hadn’t decided what to do. Two very magical things happened to give me a sign:

1. I was sitting in my chair waiting for a pedicure, and a little butterfly floated inside and fluttered around me, and I just knew it was Kelli telling me to go with the outdoor venue, that it would all be okay.

2. A woman overheard my whole story and very generously paid for my entire manicure and pedicure experience, and I was just blown away by that kind of kindness. I literally couldn’t speak and I was brought to tears. I kind of still get choked up just thinking about it.

It ended up being the most perfect and magical day, both weather and temperature wise.

So the night before was our rehearsal and our dinner at Castiglias where we ate delicious Italian food and there were 2 cakes, one said “I Love You” and the other said “I Know.” We played that game where Dan and I sat back to back and answered questions about each other. It was a nice time spent socializing with our out of town guests and the wedding party, and after that, I went back to the room I reserved with my bridesmaids. We laughed and chatted until maybe 10 or so, and then when they all went to sleep, I stayed up until about 2 am perfecting my wedding vows. I’m convinced last minute vows are normal, because there’s nothing like the pressure of a deadline to bring out the deepest, truest promises in your heart.

I woke up the following morning to run 5 miles with Delanie and Matt around downtown Fredericksburg, ate breakfast at the hotel, and then we drove to my house to shower and get ready together. I gave my girls their gifts and we had a blast all morning. Katie and Sara came over to do our hair and makeup (beautifully, I might add), and the morning flew by. Dan made us burritos for lunch, and I think sent up a veggie tray.

One of the surprises I remember that day was how Dan hung keys from the ceiling of my craft room, just like in Harry Potter, and he gave me a copy of our house key with a cute little fox on it. I didn’t take a picture of the keys, probably because I knew in that moment that they would be a permanent fixture from that day on.

Then the time started moving really fast and it was time for our “first look” photos. We decided to do this so we wouldn’t have to spend tons of time after the ceremony taking pictures, and I’m glad we did. It was so exciting and felt so special. Plus, the background is so beautiful! I love the trees and the green and the purple accents.

This is also when we gave each other our wedding gifts, which I was also glad to have captured with photographs. Dan got me a beautiful ring box because I’m always paranoid about losing my rings, plus a beautiful handmade crochet piece from his grandmother with our last name. I got him some Star Wars themed cuff links and a Run Happy hat, custom made by my friend Kris.

Next were the photos of the wedding party. My girls: Brittany, Carrie, Beka, and Delanie. One best friend from nearly every important stage in my life. Brittany is my lifelong best friend from preschool, which is incredibly rare. She has the kindest soul, is a great soundboard to seek advice and guidance, and she has a talent for speaking and writing eloquently and with great compassion. She is my fellow introvert, and she finds the gold in each day and in every person she meets.


Carrie is my best friend from high school who is the wittiest and funniest person I know, and my book best friend. She is super duper smart and aware of what is going on the world, and also probably my most politically savvy best friend. She is a music wizard and you definitely want to have her on your trivia team.


Beka is also a best friend from high school, but we met against all odds because we went to different schools and met through travel volleyball. I don’t know that I’ve ever met someone who I just clicked with this instantly. We giggle continuously whenever we are together and discuss the most random things. She is bubbly and energetic and full of big ideas and dreams and will work tirelessly to achieve them.


Delanie is my best friend from college, who gently (and sometimes not so gently) tugged me out of my comfort zone. She convinced me to embark on new adventures, and any day spent with Delanie makes you feel like anything is possible. She is so strong and confident and sure of herself, and you just know that everything will work out and be okay if Delanie is involved.

Then we did photos with the whole wedding party. Dan had a team of two: Brian as his best man, and his brother, Brandon. My cousin Kelli’s daughter, Maddie, made a beautiful flower girl, and my nephew, Ryan, was her escort. I don’t think he actually carried the rings or anything, but he was still super cute. My Aunt Tracy let me wear my cousin Kelli’s Tiffany bracelet as my something borrowed, and I am so grateful that I was able to wear such a meaningful token on this very special day.

After the photo session, I went down to the basement to wait to make my big entrance. Our guests trekked up the hill to take their seats for the ceremony on our hand made benches. Our DJ played the playlist I made on Youtube (free trial = no ads), and it was all acoustic versions of well known songs. You can find it here if you want to listen. This was also when I gave the last of my gifts to parents, ending with my dad. I had a custom handkerchief embroidered through someone on etsy for my parents and Dan’s parents, and I think they were well received. I never planned out my dream wedding when I was younger, the only things I really envisioned when I thought of my wedding was my dad walking me down the aisle, and the father-daughter dance. It was all as perfect as I imagined.

My girls walked down the aisle to Somewhere Over the Rainbow, a cover of the version by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, and my dad and I walked to Can’t Help Falling In Love, a cover of the Elvis Presley song. Both acoustic, and so beautiful. The aisle was marked by huge wood rounds with planters on top, plus a white runner and some tulle artfully tied here and there along the way. Walking up the hill with my dad to stand in front of my friends and family, and to marry the man of my dreams was starting to get a bit emotional, but as soon as I saw Dan waiting for me at the end of the aisle, all my attention was on him and everything else kind of went out of focus. Looking at the pictures now, I can remember how my dad was as cool as a cucumber, and that definitely helped me keep my cool too.

For the ceremony, we had Brian Thompson as our officiant, and he did an incredible job. When I think back on this day, it really amazes me how everything all came together so beautifully. He spoke about love and connection and promises, we lit a remembrance candle to honor any one who couldn’t be with us, and Dan and I exchanged our own vows. I highly recommend this. It was really stressful to think about, and I was worried about saying all my special promises in front of everyone, but really only Dan and Brian, our officiant, could hear both of us clearly. I learned later that even the first row couldn’t really hear us. So if you’re on the fence about writing your own vows, I say go for it!

After the ceremony, the wedding party and their partners lined up to form a receiving line. Meaning we hugged and thanked each individual guest for coming almost immediately, also highly recommend. I thought that since we had a relatively small wedding that we would have plenty of time to socialize, but the time really flies by. Hug your guests!

From here, our guests went to get drinks and snacks and play games, and family went back up to the ceremony location to take more pictures. I think it would have been handy to write down all the combinations I wanted ahead of time to hand to the photographer because even though I filled something out online, it took a lot of coordination to get people together. If it was all written down, it could have been much more efficient, and I would’ve made sure to get all the combinations of people I wanted.

Next, Dan and I were introduced as Mr. and Mrs. for the first time, and our wedding party made a light saber tunnel for us to walk through. We did get married on Star Wars day, so we had to incorporate it somehow! After this, we all ate. Our guests had mission barbecue, and Dan and I had his red curry with chickpea meatballs. We offered this as a vegan option for anyone who was interested, but only a few people actually chose that on their RSVP. To be fair, we didn’t advertise what it would be or else I’m sure more people would have chosen it. We didn’t know what it would be when we sent out the invitations. I’ll include some pictures of just how beautiful the whole scene was here too.

Towards the end of dinner, Brian and Brittany gave their speeches. Brian’s was a great speech, both funny and charming, and totally off the hip. He talked about how he and Dan kind of decided to “try the dating thing” once they had both established their professional lives, which led us to today. Brittany’s speech, however, was incredibly well thought out and planned. It was touching and meaningful and full of little inside jokes and nearly made both of us cry (it totally made both of us cry). I do wish I would’ve thought to record the ceremony and these speeches so I could live them over and over again, but I’ll just have to relive it all in my head.

Next was time to cut the cake and eat cupcakes! Dan baked our cake and decorated it, and it was nice because we got to have a couple practice cakes leading up to our big day. I ordered the cake topper off etsy, and its currently displayed on a bookshelf. We got the cupcakes from Sweet Reasons, and maybe ordered too many. I think we got 8 dozen, a mix of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and carrot cake, and we had a cupcake or two a day for like 5 days after the wedding because you can’t just throw cupcakes away!

While everyone was enjoying cupcakes, we did all the dances. I really don’t like dancing and it actually causes me great anxiety, but I definitely wanted my first dance with Dan, because that’s a tradition and I love tradition, and of course my dance with my dad and Dan’s dance with his mom. Dan and I danced to Grow Old with You. Yes, the song Adam Sandler sings to Drew Barrymore in the Wedding Singer, but this was an acoustic cover by Joseph Vincent, and it’s really the perfect wedding song. It talks about taking care of each other as you grow older together, and it’s just so cute. My dad and I danced to American Girl, by Tom Petty. Some might say this is a bold choice for a father daughter dance song because it’s not really very slow, and it’s also pretty long, but we love American Girl. It’s OUR song. I was cracking up the whole time because my dad is just a funny guy, and it sort of donned on us how long and fast this song was while we were dancing to it. We also laughed about how we tried to mix it up and spin the other direction, but I literally couldn’t. Could not compute. Dan and his mom danced to What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong, which was lovely and heartwarming and what you imagine a Mother and Son dance to be. So sweet and loving.

The rest of the evening went by really quickly. Everyone danced or played games, and it was a lot of fun. The sun setting behind the trees and the fairy lights were especially beautiful. Guests were asked to put their thumbprint on a little tree hanging, and to take Polaroid pictures and hang them on a line of twine. I currently have the Polaroids hanging in my craft room, and it’s so fun to look back through the evening through the lens of a camera, capturing little moments I never would have known about otherwise. The bottle of scotch we buried was dug up at some point, and shortly after that, very light rain started. It was a miracle that we avoided rain all day, and that it only started as people were leaving. I’m convinced it was the magic of the scotch bottle that was broken when it was unburied, but the magic lasted exactly as long as it needed to. There was a sparkler send off, and the night ended as gracefully and beautifully as it started.

Now, one year later, we are stuck in quarantine together, and there’s not a single person I’d rather be stuck with.

In the year leading up to the event, here are some projects we completed: (this is a HUGE list, so I’m sure I’ll miss some and add them in later. And I’m giving credit, because where else can I give our team credit!)

  • Removed all the leaves from our backyard after years of accumulation (mom, dad, me)
  • DR Brush Cutter/ Chain Saw treatment to eliminate unsightly/dead trees an unwanted undergrowth to achieve the look of a state park (dad)
  • burning of brush and undergrowth (team effort)
  • the accidental creation of a wood wall from all the felled trees
  • New sod and grass seed to build on the state park look (Dan)
  • Massive wood rounds cut and positioned to mark the aisle (Mom & Dad)
  • the creation of numerous planters for our flowers so we could enjoy them all summer long (Debby, Dan, Aunt Michele)
  • filling in all the holes and cutting all the tripping hazards along high-traffic areas (Dad)
  • hanging a swing for photo ops (Dad)
  • hanging lights in the trees to create a magical, illuminated forest (Dan)
  • Painting the trellis for the backdrop during the ceremony (Mom)
  • Cutting trees into rounds, painting 2x6s (?), and turning them into the benches for the ceremony (Mom, Dad, Dan, me)
  • Staining our porch (Mom & Me)
  • Lattice installation under the porch to make it pretty (Dan)
  • painting the foundation at the back of our house (mom)
  • garage clean out (me)
  • making the center pieces (me)
  • making the seating chart and table numbers, plus the holders (Debby & me)
  • staining/making the pallet to display the schedule (me)
  • Baking our wedding cake (Dan)
  • renting tables, chairs, linens, white doors (mom and me)
  • arranging the food (mom)
  • arranging desserts (Dan and me)
  • Baking our wedding cake (Dan)
  • Something borrowed (Aunt Tracy & Uncle Curt)
  • Corsages and bouquets (Gramma)
  • 2 old-timey pieces of furniture for decoration, plus some old bed frames (aka “bed ends” if you’re Dan)
  • Officiant recommendation (Lisa Culver)
  • cupcake pick up (John & Debby)
  • Taking apart our old fire pit (Dan)
  • dance floor construction (Dan, Dad, Brian J.)
  • rehearsal dinner (John and Debby)
  • signs for ceremony, chalk paint (me)
  • light saber accumulation (mom)
  • arbor, borrowed from friends
  • polaroid camera table and set up
  • cakes for rehearsal dinner: I love you, I know (John & Debby)
  • Making beautiful flowers out of coffee filters to decorate the chairs for the ceremony (Debby)
  • thumb print tree and set up (mom)
  • wood burning little ornament favors for guests (Papa & Joy)
  • Bagging up goodies for guests (Aunt Michele & Mom)
  • finding a DJ, creating a song list, and creating a playlist for the ceremony (mom & me)
  • the day of decorations and general seamlessness of events (Debbie C., Aunt Michele, Uncle Greg, Aunt Tracy, Uncle Curt, Alex, John, Debby, mom, dad, Brian J., Brian G., Sam, Stephanie, Garrett, Kyle, Michelle, Britty, Delanie, Carrie, Beka, Gina, Papa, Joy, Uncle Sean, Zeke, Aunt Lisa, Aunt Jana, and I’m sure more people that will come to me later. We had a HUGE and amazing team of helpers!)

And now, since you read to the very end, please contact me for your prize!

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