Three couples. Three distinct approaches.
One unconventional couple chose to hold their ceremony and celebrations at four local wineries, using a wine trolley as transportation. Another incorporated their passion for food and wine. A third opted for creative – and budget-friendly touches. We hope you enjoy their stories as much as we did.
As the summer wedding season nears, we thought you’d enjoy their stories. Read on as each couple shares how they incorporated meaningful special touches in their ceremonies and receptions.
On their wedding day, this couple put their friends and family first
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Roma Egan likes to recount how her husband Blaine won her heart by driving her each morning to watch the sun rise — in an old golf cart.
They were both groundskeepers at San Diego State University in August 2004. Roma was a junior majoring in biology and Blaine was a senior majoring in chemistry.
“It’s hard to pull off love, lust, or any such nonsense while you’re covered in rubbish with sleep in your eyes and a good pair of sturdy rubber gloves,” she quipped.
Friendship evolved into romance and on Mother’s Day 2009, Blaine proposed to Roma while they were strolling through Balboa Park. They quickly set their wedding date for July 24, 2010.
With a $12,000 budget, they knew they would have to spend carefully. Their biggest splurge was the wedding location: Flying Caballos Guest Ranch in San Luis Obispo.
The location would be convenient for most family members. Roma was born in San Diego and, though she moved to Santa Maria as a junior high student, she still has relatives in the San Diego area. Blaine grew up in the Bay Area and has family all around the state.
They reserved the ranch’s three guest houses for three days so that family members could stay onsite and share in every phase of preparation and celebration.
Nearly every item for the wedding was handmade or budget-friendly. Roma, who is finishing up graduate school in biology, and Blaine, who is a chemist, both confess to being typical left-brain scientists. But Roma harbors a definite creative streak.
Familiar with Adobe illustrator for creating scientific diagrams, she re-learned the program to create printed materials for the wedding, such as the programs and invitations.
She printed the invitations on wedding cardstock purchased at Michaels, then wrapped them in tissue paper and strips cut from brown paper bags — an intricate and involved process that Blaine helped her with. She enclosed directions, a suggested packing list, and a recipe card so that guests could share a favorite recipe. Sixty-five invitations cost her about $75 to create.
“It was important to us that they were creative but also reflected our desire to upcycle and keep cost to a minimum,” she said.
Roma, her mother Lynn Bublitz, and her sister Winnona Piazza handmade most of the decorations. For centerpieces, Lynn and Winnona picked flowers from Lynn’s garden and mixed them with sunflowers from a local farm.
For favors, Lynn and Roma made jam from apricots picked from Lynn’s tree as well as local Santa Maria strawberries, topping the jars with fabric scraps collected by Roma’s grandmother. Lynn also harvested and dried lavender from her garden to make sachets for guests.
Roma saved on her gown by buying an off-the-rack dress during a sale at David’s Bridal. With alterations to have the train removed and change the sash, the gown was just over $600 with tax.
She wanted a shorter, cooler dress for the reception. So she had her mother’s wedding dress altered into a cocktail dress.
Their one splurge, besides the wedding site, was to hire a live band.
At 10 a.m. on their wedding day, about 100 guests gathered around the front porch of the ranch’s 1905 farmhouse for the ceremony.
“We wanted it to be an all-day affair, because we know my family likes to hang out, eat and just visit,” said Roma.
Not interested in following tradition, the bride and groom walked down the aisle together while Blaine’s brother Trevor Egan played the guitar. A friend of Blaine’s presided over the ceremony, and the couple recited vows that they had written. Immediately following the ceremony, they poured champagne for guests and gave the ceremonial toast. The couple thanked their guests for attending and asked others to propose their own toasts.
The lunch reception was held outdoors on the back lawn. Taco Roco provided a taco bar and fresh fruit salad. Drinks were simple and casual. The couple purchased a keg of beer from Firestone brewery to offer as many local products as possible.
Instead of a traditional wedding cake, the couple had San Luis Obispo bakery Amy Bakes Cupcakes create a selection of cupcakes.
To keep kids busy at the reception, the couple devised a scavenger hunt with disposable cameras and a list of items to snap photos of. Family members developed the photos and presented them later to the couple.
After an afternoon of dancing and relaxing on the lawn while listening to the band, many guests lingered well into the evening hours. “We ended up having a bonfire and doing a hot dog roast that night,” Roma said.
Although the wedding was a considerable amount of work for the couple and their family, Blaine and Roma were happy with their efforts.
“There’s a sense of pride you get — that you made it all happen,” said Roma. “We felt it was our gift to our guests. It was personal, a part of us.”
This ranch wedding was a feast for the senses
Neal Ferrazzani and Leah Greenstein fell in love over the dinner table.
They started out as purely platonic roommates, sharing a Hollywood apartment and a love for food.
“I just got out of the restaurant business,” explained Leah, who is a food and wine writer. “We spent most nights cooking dinner, eating and talking.”
They began dating a month after they met. A year and-a-half later, while visiting Neal’s parents in Boston, Neal woke Leah up on Christmas Eve morning with a love poem that ended with a marriage proposal.
“She said yes and we went downstairs and had champagne with my parents at 8:30 in the morning,” recalled Neal.
When they returned to California, the couple turned their attention to wedding plans. For two people passionate about good food and drink (Neal is a web developer and beer brewing hobbyist), the wedding feast was a top priority.
“We wanted the wedding to feel like everyone coming to our house for a great dinner party,” Leah said.
They set their wedding date for April 24, 2010, and immediately contacted Los Angeles wedding planner Emily Kelly with Unscene Inc. who was recommended by a friend.
Then they began looking for a venue that would allow them to hire their own vendors.
Venues in Southern California proved too pricey. Trips to Sonoma County yielded few leads. So the couple decided to look at locales in San Luis Obispo County. When they toured Santa Margarita Ranch, they knew they had found the right place.
“We were looking for a place that’s rustic and elegant at the same time,” Leah said.
Emily and Leah began to research vendors. Unforeseen assistance came when Leah discovered the website of San Luis Obispo photographer Cameron Ingalls. His blog featured interviews with other wedding professionals. The couple used it to select their disc jockey and hair and makeup stylist.
With the help of caterer Pacific Harvest Catering of Atascadero, the couple created a family-style reception menu that incorporated many local and seasonal ingredients. The main course featured halibut with heirloom baby carrots, and rack of lamb with roasted fingerling potatoes and braised artichokes. They selected three wines and champagne.
With the menu in place, the couple took a laid-back approach to the rest of the wedding, putting a premium on handmade, personal details that also helped keep their budget in check.
Instead of the traditional wedding cake, they made desserts that were meaningful to their families. Neal’s family specialty is cannolis, so they prepared these for guests. Leah, her mother and a cousin made several hundred rugelach cookies from Leah’s grandmother’s recipe. Homemade limoncello and fresh strawberries with mascarpone cheese rounded out the selection of sweets.
Whenever possible, the couple chose items that were made of repurposed materials, or that could be used again.
Leah and her mother shopped ay antique stores for vintage patterned tablecloths, from which they sewed napkins — something Leah knew she and Neal would use daily after the wedding. Table centerpieces were potted culinary herbs that guests were encouraged to take home and plant in their gardens. Wedding favors were seed packets of an Italian variety of zucchini.
Decorations reinforced the homey feel that the couple wanted. A wallpaper-covered wall displaying family members’ wedding portraits greeted people as they entered the barn.
Leah was not what you’d call a fussy bride — except for one thing. Only able to find small wine glasses at area rental companies, she hauled 150 glasses in her car from Los Angeles.
Her dress was a simple J. Crew silk gown. She ordered three from a catalog, then picked the one she liked best. “I don’t like poufy frou-frou things — and I don’t like shopping,” she said.
Her bridal bouquet was made from ranunculus mixed with fragrant herbs like rosemary and thyme. Emily bought all of the flowers from the Los Angeles Flower Mart and made the bouquet herself.
The wedding was held at 4 p.m. in a courtyard under the canopy of an ancient oak tree. About 100 guests from around the state and beyond came to share the day with the couple. A close childhood friend of Neal’s, ordained for the day, was the wedding official. He and the couple wrote the ceremony and vows.
A cocktail hour in the courtyard followed, featuring two beers made by Neal: a “Death Do Us Porter” and “Happily Ever Amber.”
The reception took place in the old barn that was strung with white lights.
There were few of the traditional rituals — no cake ceremony, no throwing of the bouquet. The couple wanted the pace of the reception to be relaxed to allow people to enjoy the dinner and then dancing.
Leah credited her wedding planner with the wedding going off without a hitch — and with minimal headaches.
“We knew a lot of what we didn’t want, but weren’t able to articulate what we did want,” Leah said. “She was able to ask questions to create a vision, and actually put it into practice. It’s not something we could have accomplished on our own.”
Neal agreed. “She made it so we didn’t have to think about anything that day,” he said, “except each other.”
For this couple, a wine trolley was the perfect alternative to tradition
Dustin Purdy and Brittany Holland just wanted to get married. They didn’t intend to “do the whole wedding thing,” as Brittany put it.
It was only after coaxing from their families that they agreed to do so — with three conditions. Although both grew up near San Diego and still live there, they wanted the event to be in San Luis Obispo County as Dustin had attended Cal Poly. They also wanted the wedding party to stay at their favorite bed and breakfast, Petit Soleil in San Luis Obispo.
Their top priority was for the wedding to be fun and original. “We just wanted friends to get together and have a good time,” Brittany said.
Brittany is accustomed to being unconventional. As a project manager for a commercial flooring company, she works in a male-dominated business. In fact, it was her work that brought her to Dustin. They became engaged after dating for about a year.
Dustin’s sister Cortnie Purdy, who also attended Cal Poly, offered to head up wedding plans. She and Dustin’s mother, Terri Purdy, visited the county to scout out possible wedding sites. They returned with an unusual proposition.
“They told us they had an idea about a wine trolley wedding, and that they hoped we liked it because they already contracted with the trolley company,” Brittany recalled with a laugh.
Luckily the couple was won over by the idea.
“We wanted our wedding to not only be about us, but also the people involved, and we figured a wine trolley wedding would be interactive for the whole party,” Dustin said.
Dustin, Brittany, Cortnie and Terri traveled together to Paso Robles to visit wineries. They chose Robert Hall Winery for the noontime ceremony and first wine tasting. Central Coast Trolley Company would then take guests to Eberle Winery for more wine tasting and a picnic lunch. Another tasting would take place at Clautiere Vineyard, followed by a dinner reception and dancing at Bianchi Winery.
To make the trolley wedding possible, the couple had to drastically limit their guest list.
They decided on an intimate group of 28 people — just their parents, Dustin’s sister, and close friends. They planned to hold an informal reception in San Diego with the rest of their friends and family three weeks after the wedding.
From there, Cortnie took the reins. Brittany’s only directive was for the colors: orange, light blue and chocolate brown, chosen for their originality.Family members contributed to the wedding with handcrafted decorative pieces in a simple, rustic style that complemented the pastoral settings of the wineries.
Terri Purdy and Brittany’s mom Glidia Holland sewed colorful table linens for the reception. Dustin and Brittany’s father, Thomas Holland, crafted rustic cupcake pedestals from birch branches. Thomas and his girlfriend Vivian Goldschmidt sanded tree branches for a handmade canopy for the wedding ceremony. Dustin’s mother made white paper flowers for the canopy’s base. Cortnie spray painted wine bottles white to use as vases for the catering table. Brittany pitched in by making personalized wine charms for favors.
Splurges were carefully considered, because so much of the $30,000 budget would be spent on food, wine, and the multiple venues. Brittany purchased her strapless silk gown at high-end La Jolla bridal boutique Chez Bride Moderne because she valued their selection and attentive personal service. The couple also paid top dollar for photography.
When the big day arrived on September 26, 2009, the couple was married under an oak tree.
Instead of a traditional wedding party, Brittany stood with her high school best friend and Dustin stood with his father. Their vows were simple and meaningful.
When guests arrived at Eberle for their second stop, they found boxed lunches of sandwiches and fruit spread out on picnic tables covered in red checked tablecloths, with baskets of green apples as centerpieces.
After their tasting at Clautiere, dinner at Bianchi began at 6 p.m. on an outdoor patio with a menu prepared by Phil’s Catering of Grover Beach.The evening ended with dancing that lasted until after 10 p.m. This turned out to be both the bride and the groom’s favorite part of the wedding day.
Although the couple eschewed standard reception activities like the bouquet toss and garter, they did opt to have a cutting ceremony with a small cake that sat alongside cupcakes they offered to guests.
The group’s size allowed Cortnie to incorporate many personalized and thoughtful details. For instance, they purchased white fleece blankets from IKEA that they draped over each chair at the reception, should guests need an extra layer of warmth.
The only drawback of the unconventional wedding “was that since Cortnie planned everything, she was always running ahead of us setting up,” noted Brittany.
Dustin has only fond memories of the day. “I felt very lucky to marry my best friend,” he said, “and to have such an amazing party on the same day.”