Cool-Girl Brides Will Love This California Wedding's Laid-Back Vibe
Madison "Maddy" Nikkel and William Few were both recruited as athletes to compete at Ole Miss—that's how the California girl met the Georgia boy in Oxford, Mississippi. "I was (and still very much am) completely head over heels for this Georgia boy!" Maddy says. "We balance each other out perfectly and he is my best friend."
After the pair became engaged (this involved a romantic beach proposal), they began planning a destination wedding in Santa Barbara from the bride's hometown of Clovis, California. "It helped a lot having a local Santa Barbara wedding planner since we were not from the area and couldn't always drive there to explore multiple options," says Maddy. "Katelin of LaVie Events kept us organized and made sure everything was on track day-of. I had nothing to worry about."
One area the pair didn't need help with was choosing a venue, as the groom had his eye on a winner from the beginning. "Will actually pushed me to go look at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum because he felt it would be perfect for our big day," says Maddy. Although the bride's style tends to be more modern, she agreed to give the historical locale a chance. Luckily, she was sold, and the couple booked the venue the same day they toured it. "I loved how romantic it felt," she says. "It was also one of the only venues we looked at that had a ceremony area, cocktail area, and reception area all in one location; they were completely separate, but connected spaces. We felt that would be ideal, especially for a destination wedding." Will was particularly pleased that his pick was the one they ultimately went with. "He reminds me every day that he was right about the museum!" Maddy jokes.
Although the bride originally had a contemporary black-and-white color scheme in mind, as they pair got deeper into the planning process, they began to draw inspiration from the museum itself. "The mood of the historical site, the color of the buildings, the natural stone, and the greenery of the grounds all ended up influencing my choices," says Maddy, who chose a palette of white, gray, gold, and rust. "The overall theme of the wedding was modern-meets-historical," she adds. "I was used to California casual and Will was used to more formal celebrations. We tried to create a relaxed California vibe with hints of formality to blend our upbringings, and it turned out absolutely perfectly!"
A Bespoke Invitation Suite
Maddy's father is a graphic designer, so she and her dad worked on the entire stationery set together. "Initially, we both felt a very modern design would be the direction, but the inspiration from the historical venue definitely played a part in the design and printing creative process," says the bride.
The finished suite included a mix of modern and traditional elements. "We started by designing a modern interpretation of a monogram (traditional to the South) while keeping the typography and other graphic elements somewhat minimalist," she explains. "We chose letterpress for the printing process; the thick cotton paper required also contributed to a handcrafted feel." The invitation package contained multiple cards placed inside a folded carrier cover; the carrier was sealed with a monogram wax seal. "I love that I get to look back at this wedding with memories of going through the creative process with my father," adds the bride. "It made every element that much more special to us!"
Bells and Tassels
Her embroidered Rue De Seine wedding dress featured unique bell sleeves with tassel details, an open back, and a long train. "My favorite part of the dress was that it was so breathtakingly beautiful, yet relaxed," says the bride. "The minute I put it on I couldn't stop dancing around in it! I felt like a bride."
The bride's favorite accessory was a pair of white Prada mules in shiny patent leather. "I am a sucker for a good pair of shoes, and I did not want to disappoint on my wedding day," she says. "They were the perfect cool-glam heels and were extremely easy to walk in. I wore them the whole night!"
A Classic Veil
Right before the ceremony, Maddy considered leaving off her veil—but her mother urged her to at least try it on. "The veil brought the whole look together and it just felt right," says the bride. "Mothers always know best!"
Maddy's heart-shaped tropical bouquet was composed of white anthurium, beige roses, and peach-hued ranunculus and lilies.
White flowers with auburn leaf details were attached to metal wristlets; the cuffs were perfect for Maddy's VIP female guests.
Women in White
Maddy's bridesmaids donned ivory jumpsuits from BHLDN for the big day, fulfilling one of the bride's original visions. "I knew I wanted my bridesmaids to be in ivory, but I also felt the jumpsuits would make the perfect attire to rock it on the dance floor!" she says. "The girls all looked absolutely stunning."
A Memorable First Look
Will and Maddy shared a first look before the ceremony; the bride was particularly happy to get past one major detail. "I'm awful at keeping a secret so I was glad to finally show him the dress!" she says. "And I was relieved to be able to start enjoying the day together."
On-Palette Ceremony Décor
Since the outdoor ceremony site was naturally beautiful, just a few enhancements were added to the space. Several rows of dark wooden chairs were accented with aisle arrangements composed of earth-toned florals and green foliage. All Heart Rentals created a breathtaking cross for the ceremony that was draped with flowers and greenery from Idlewild Florals.
Flowers on the Ground
Rust-, peach-, and mustard-hued floral arrangements defined the aisle.
A Christian Ceremony
The couple exchanged traditional vows in a Christian service that also featured live music.
Maddy's father also designed custom signage that directed guests to the cocktail hour.
A Vintage Snack Station
During the cocktail hour, the couple offered a "Popsicle Pour Over": sparkling rosé poured over an all-fruit strawberry frozen treat, served straight out of a vintage trailer. "The trailer was easily the star of cocktail hour—a perfect addition to the night," says Maddy.
The duo kicked off their menu with dessert: Guests had a choice of chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies with a sweet cream ice cream center, dipped in edible flowers and wrapped in custom logo wrappers. Cold brew coffee poured over a coconut or caramel popsicle rounded out the offerings.
A Striking Seating Display
Attendees found their seating assignments for the reception from a tile-inspired display with modern typography, also created by Maddy's dad.
Pretty Natural Accents
Colorful succulents arranged in planters dotted the reception site.
A Fantastic Family-Style Dinner
The reception was held in the museum courtyard, surrounded by beautiful Spanish stonework. Spanish moss and smilax were added to string lights overhead to bring a little Southern charm to the atmosphere.
Long redwood dinner tables were left bare and arranged in groupings to make the event feel more intimate. "Then we went more modern-meets-formal with solid gray dishes and silverware in white and gold," Maddy notes. "The white linen napkins with trim detail added whimsy to the table settings."
Centerpieces were arranged Ikebana-style; the minimalist arrangements were set in white ceramic bowls and featured ranunculus blossoms and white anthurium. The flowers were accompanied by tall, rust-colored candles that tied the look together. "The centerpieces blew me away," says Maddie. "They were perfectly unique and modern, but still so elegant."
"How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You" by James Taylor played during the couple's first dance as husband and wife. "We chose this song not only because it's a classic, but also because we felt it was the perfect song to sum up our relationship," explains Maddy. "We also wanted a song that was more upbeat but still sentimental; this was the perfect in-between. I loved that it gave us a moment to be just us two."
Photography, Ellie Koleen Photography
Wedding planning, Katelin Ridenour for La Vie Events
Videography, Reger & Co.
Flowers, Idlewild Floral
Calligraphy, Sophia Loves Letters
Officiant, Brad Bell
Veil, Untamed Petals
Hair and Makeup, TEAM Hair & Makeup
Bridesmaids' jumpsuits, BHLDN
Groomsmen's attire, Generation Tux
Engagement ring and wedding bands, Crown Jewelers
Guest book, Artifact Uprising
Music, Upside Down Kingdom (ceremony); Dart DJ (cocktail hour, reception)
Transportation, Luxe Transportation
Lighting, Bella Vista Designs