From a breathtaking proposal in France to an elegant wedding in a quaint woodland chapel, the story of Kevin and Becky McDonald seems written for a storybook. But their courtship wasnt always so glamorous. The couple likes to joke that they met while digging foxholes and its partly true. Both were finishing up their sophomore year at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs in May 2007 when they became acquainted while working at a training course for basic training. A month later, they were sent to the same Air Force base in Arizona for a three-week internship.
Their first date was attending a John Mayer concert together. Dating at an Air Force academy is no easy feat. Stringent social rules allowed them precious little private time. But our love only grew stronger as we learned to appreciate the time we spent together no matter how regulated our encounters were, said Becky. The pair began to travel together during most school breaks. They vacationed in Mexico, then England. But their trip to France in June 2008 proved to be a turning point in their relationship. Everything about Becky seemed to be the right fit, said Kevin, who had been planning a proposal for six months. I wanted her to feel special and to remember it forever.
A romantic proposal
Becky had a keen appreciation for fine art, especially for impressionist painters. So during their trip to France, on the one-year anniversary of their first date, Kevin took her to visit Claude Monets home in Giverny. After a bike ride and a stroll through the gardens, he asked her to marry him in a secluded spot overlooking the famous lily-covered pond that inspired Monets work. Both Becky and Kevin wanted to be married on the Central Coast. Kevin grew up in Solvang and still has family in the area. Becky, who grew up in Edmond, Oklahoma, knew her family would happily travel to California for the occasion.
Because the couple was finishing up their final year at the academy, the entire wedding was planned long-distance from Colorado. Becky immediately began looking online for wedding venues. Initially set on a Santa Barbara wedding, she stumbled upon a photo of a wood and window-clad chapel in the diminutive town of Harmony, near Cambria. It was a very secluded, romantic setting surrounded by trees and flowers, she said. The Harmony Chapel is a non-denominational church that only hosts weddings. Because the couple comes from different religious backgrounds yet liked the idea of a church wedding, it was ideal.
They strategically planned their reception for Guiseppis, an Italian restaurant in Pismo Beach thats 40 miles from the wedding site. We wanted people to take a drive and really enjoy the coastline, said Becky. Another advantage to holding their reception at the restaurant was built-in ambience. It had these great rustic tables, a fountain, flowers we were glad we wouldnt have to do a lot of decorating, said Becky.
Reliance on Web sites
The couple found several Web sites that gave them a wealth of ideas and do-it-yourself projects to create the simple yet elegant vintage look they wanted. Based upon a photo on www.MarthaStewart.com, Becky designed her bouquet of cream-colored and soft blue flowers tied with antique lace. The arrangement was then created by local florist Lori Boe. Instead of the traditional wedding cake, the couple opted for cupcakes from Arroyo Grande Bakery. Using an idea they found on www.once-wed.com, they ordered custom tags printed with special sayings, which they glued onto toothpicks and inserted into each cake. The cupcakes were then displayed on a four-tiered ceramic cake stand rented from www.clarafrench.com.
Beckys love of art inspired her to use the work of independent artisans whenever possible. On www.etsy.com, the couple found artisans to create affordable, handmade items for the wedding, including the ceremony programs, a bicycle-themed cake topper (an allusion to their engagement-day bike ride), and handmade pearl earrings for Becky. From www.unveiledbridaldesigns.com, she ordered her custom vintage-style birdcage bridal veil. Fewer than 40 guests were expected to attend the wedding. Still, the couple economized by hand-making many items, including wedding favors. They created three favors for guests: small boxes of salt water taffy, bags made of vintage reproduction wallpaper, and cookies made from favorite family recipes. Some of the flowers for the chapel were picked the morning of the wedding from the garden of Kevins mother. She also made potted flower arrangements for outside the chapel. Candle holders for the reception tables were mason jars wrapped in ribbon, set up in advance by Beckys mother.
The budget of $11,000 did allow for a couple of carefully-chosen splurges. The first was the handmade, bicycle-themed invitation. Crafted from handmade paper and vintage lace, they cost around $800. I really wanted them to be special, because the invitation really sets the mood, said Becky. Becky also wanted a designer dress in a vintage style. Although her family was paying for the wedding, she volunteered to pay for her dress. After becoming discouraged with the price of designer gowns, she found the Web site www.preownedweddingdresses.com, where brides can create listings to sell their dresses for a small fee. The first dress Becky bought wasnt to her liking, so she simply resold it. The second was a keeper. She purchased an $11,000 Badgley Mischka gown made of silk and intricately beaded lace for $2,000. She hopes to resell it for around the same price.
An intimate ceremony
Becky and Kevin flew out a week in advance to make final preparations for the wedding. . Becky met briefly with the wedding professionals she had worked with via online and phone communication, just to make sure everything was in order, she said. Everything was. The wedding date, June 13, 2009, was exactly a year since the proposal and two years since the couple went on their first date. The small afternoon ceremony was intimate, involving friends and family. Beckys father became licensed for the day to act as officiate. One of Kevins high-school friends, an accomplished guitarist, played music for the ceremony.
After the wedding, the couple drew upon yet another tip gleaned from their Internet research. Enchanted with the Jewish tradition of yichud, where the bride and groom retreat to a private room, the couple ducked behind the chapel after the ceremony to spend their first quiet moments together as husband and wife. As the sun began to set that evening, the newlyweds and their guests feasted on pasta, Italian pot roast, and pistachio crusted chicken. The couple had loaded favorite songs on an iPod to play through the restaurant sound-system. They used this for background music as well as for their traditional dances.
They left the next day for a four-week honeymoon that included visiting the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, as well as a Caribbean cruise. Kevin and Becky, who graduated from the academy one month before their wedding, are now stationed at Los Angeles Air Force Base. They both share fond memories of the wedding, which they attribute to their laid-back, unflappable attitude. Even when the couples cutting ceremony cake melted in the summer heat, Becky refused to get upset about it. There can be so much stress and anxiety around a wedding, she said. We treated it like a celebration, a party with our friends. It helped us to just relax and enjoy the day.