Real Wedding: Rachel + James

When I think of my childhood, there is one smiling face that shows up in more than half of my memories and that is the face of my friend Rachel. Our friendship has been nothing short of adventurous: from riding ATVs up north with no helmets and watching her cousin bite worms in half in order to “fish better” to staying up ungodly hours of the night to watch trash TV to cruising the Caribbean twice to witnessing drug busts in the nation’s capital to acting as one another’s wedding Plus One’s to surviving puberty, high school, and a number of break ups, we have done so much together!

Needless to say, when Rach texted me one January morning to tell me she was now engaged to her high school sweetheart, my heart was bursting! Not only because IT WAS ABOUT TIME, but also because our conversation turned to wedding plans and logistics. As an event coordinator at the Winery still, I started to cry when she took me up on my offer to host her intimate nuptials at my venue AND allow me to help coordinate the Big Day.


Rachel and Jimmy began dating our senior year of high school. Like most early relationships, they did wander from one another after graduation, but it didn’t take long for their hearts to call them  back together. What is meant to be will always find a way! They both have adventurous, wanderlust hearts (traveling the world is one of their shared passions) and have enough differences to balance one another in a strong partnership.

Jimmy proposed to Rachel on Christmas Day.  As his family watched, a beautiful solitaire gold ring was found by Rachel tied with a ribbon around the collar of their new puppy, Hopper. Jimmy fell to his knee and the rest is history…

Having discussed their wedding ideals prior to the engagement, both Jimmy and Rachel knew exactly the kind of celebration they wanted: an intimate affair surrounded with their closest loved ones. Both fearing the crowds of a large to-do, they opted to spend their expenses on a month-long honeymoon to explore the world together rather than a lavish party. Perhaps a reception sometime in the future, but for now they were seeking somewhere small, cozy, and preferably rustic.

Cue me!

When Rachel told me what sort of venue she was seeking and her budget, I knew exactly where (and who) should “run this show.” My Winery’s special event space boasted an adorable fireplace ideal for a ceremony’s backdrop, wood beams for a rustic feel, and all the wine imaginable. Plus the rental fee was exactly within the bride’s margins! Without much persuading, Rachel came, saw, and placed a deposit on the space for a date only two weeks in the future for her wedding. And so the preparations began…

The wedding would host both the groom’s and bride’s immediate family. This meant grandparents, parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews only. The group planned to go out for dinner following the ceremony, so only light hors d’voures were needed. As for decor, Rachel’s mom and I worked with the most simplistic of tools to bring a light, airy feel to the venue: tulle, organza, Mason jars, and baby’s breath were all it took.

With less than two weeks to prepare, Rachel’s savviness was impressive! She found her wedding dress (a gorgeous ivory lace gown) at a local bridal shoppe. The gown was a floor sample and just happened to fit this bride like a glove! Seriously! Look at this stunning bride!

Rachel dressed and prepped in my office upstairs as Jimmy took residence in the office across the hall. Skipping tradition, the two met before the ceremony to capture the “first look” and share a bottle of wine. When time, Jimmy took Rachel arm-in-arm and they entered the ceremony together down the staircase; the guests were silent as the beautiful couple cascaded down to say their vows.

The ceremony was officiated by the couple’s friend and tattoo artist. What felt like eternity for the couple was actually only about five minutes worth of stating vows, exchanging rings, and making the announcement of husband and wife.

Then it was time for the festivities! The couple toasted the beginning of their future with a bottle of 2016 Dablon Sparkling Chardonnay  and a beautiful naked cake created by an amazing pastry chef (and high school friend) to provide a sweet treat for guests and couple alike. The vanilla cake with raspberry filling paired well beside other bottles of wine being sampled by the family as all present celebrated the growth of their families.

The after-ceremony celebration involved a lot of mingling, hugging, and well-wishes for the newlyweds.

It was so amazing to witness this intimate affair and see the happiness in my friend’s life. There were many laughs throughout the afternoon as we all mingled and shared stories of the past and dreams of the future.

And though I loved every moment of the ceremony, one of the most memorable moments of the day for me was when the photographer, the newlyweds, and I ventured around the Winery for a photo shoot. Anji, the photographer, and her assistant Andrew were an awesome team to witness.

First we went to the Winery’s barrel room. Anji had me cut the overhead lights and highlighted the couple using a lighting rod. Then we took to the vineyards and patio. Thankfully there was limited snow for a Michigan January! The weather was actually misting, but temperatures were not below freezing. The gray sky assisted in accentuating the colors of the photographer’s subjects. After a bit of fun outdoors, we moved into the tasting room for the finale — and a little wine.

The process Anji went through to capture these images was incredible — that woman is ridiculously talented — and her final products speak for themselves:

For a dreary Michigan Sunday in January, the love and warmth of this ceremony melted all coldness from the world. Ending their celebration with a wine tasting, the couple quickly and easily packed up their belongings and headed to a great dinner with their families…

And off into the rest of their happily married lives together.

I am so thankful to have been able to be a part of this momentous day for my long-time friend. I am even more thankful she was so gracious in granting me permission to her wedding photographs and freedom to write a little piece on this intimate affair. I love ya, Rach!

Venue: Dablon Vineyards
Photographer: Anji Monique Photography
Cake: Mandy Krause of Love and Macarons
Event Coordinator: Ashley Wall

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