A Rustic Autumn Wedding in a Barn in Pennsylvania
Melissa and Adam
Melissa Bartley met Adam Leach in an elevator. It was his first day of work at the television show where Melissa was a set designer. Six months later, they were a couple. After a cross-country move from California to Philadelphia, and a job change (she's now a visual manager at Terrain, a home and garden store), he popped the question on Christmas Eve.
For their October 16, 2010, wedding, they incorporated decorations that celebrated the natural landscape and season, plus countless handmade touches that, like the way they met, elevated it all.
Nestled in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania's Brandywine Valley, Sweetwater Farm provided a picturesque setting for Melissa and Adam's wedding. The bed-and-breakfast hosted friends and family for the weekend-long celebration.
Melissa's coworker, Matt Muscarella, helped with the design of the bridal bouquet. The architectural arrangement included a dried Star of Persia, dried agapanthus from Melissa's mother's yard, succulents, silver brunia, copper beech, seedpods, and branches. Melissa loved it so much that she held it throughout the ceremony so it would be in all of the photographs. She later planted the succulent and dried the rest of the bouquet as a keepsake.
A Special Touch
A pin by Mani Designs (a jeweler who casts seedpods and flowers in silver) was the perfect touch to ornament the handle of Melissa's bouquet. A poppy, which reminded the bride of her California roots, decorated her bouquet, and a matching one pinned her mother's corsage.
Adam's twine-wrapped boutonniere also mixed dried and freshly picked flora. Adam wore a corduroy suit from L.L. Bean Signature. As a surprise, Melissa's mom cut out a heart from the lining of Melissa's dress and sewed it onto the back of Adam's Ben Sherman tie. She stitched on the letters M and A, and embroidered the same letters onto the scarf of Melissa's dress.
Photographer Jonathan McBride of Vantage Pictures took photos of Melissa and Adam before the ceremony. The oak tree behind the manor house was the perfect backdrop.
Something for Everyone
Upon arrival, each guest picked out a unique boutonniere or corsage that had been crafted by the bride and her mother. Some were designed for wrists, others were meant to be pinned to shirts or hats, and a few were attached to hair clips.
Prior to the wedding day, the couple snapped a few photos of themselves modeling various ways to wear the handmade creations, and displayed the pictures at the welcome table.
The two flower girls wore Crewcuts dresses with rickrack flourishes. A Crewcuts headband was embellished with a handmade fabric flower.
As they walked down the aisle, the flower girls tossed hay from chicken wire-formed baskets with orange fabric blooms.
Ring bearers Cody and Lucas wore plaid and striped ensembles. They carried a heart-shaped kraft-paper box filled with deer moss.
The Grand Entrance
The venue owners surprised the couple by offering to drive them to the ceremony in a horse-drawn carriage. Once the carriage arrived at the ceremony site, the bride and groom walked down the aisle together.
Letterpressed programs by Starshaped Press outlined the ceremony, listed family members, and reminded guests to sign the photo guest book.
The outdoor ceremony was officiated by the couple's good friend Evan. He used enlarged photos of Melissa and Adam to tell the story of their relationship.
Melissa wore a simple J.Crew gown -- but as with most of her clothes, she customized it a bit. A subtly striped Ralph Lauren scarf was sewn on to add a halter neckline, with its tails draping down the back and connecting with a white fabric flower. More fabric flowers were added to the bottom of her dress in a small cluster. To help her get closer to her groom's towering height, she wore 4 1/2-inch Calvin Klein heels. J.Crew bracelets and diamond studs made from her mom's engagement ring were the finishing touches.
Five members of the West Philadelphia Orchestra played Eastern European and Balkan folk music. During the ceremony, they covered "Postcards from Italy" by Beirut and "On an Aeroplane Over the Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel, in addition to their own original folk songs.
After the ceremony, the band led a parade up to the barn for cocktail hour. A DJ duo continued the music for the reception.
During cocktail hour, guests tossed shiny pennies down the venue's well with their wishes for the couple.
The fall elements were purposely subliminal: dried greenery and flowers, figs, and warm candlelight. The one overtly autumnal decoration was a pair of heirloom pumpkin displays. Blue Hubbard and Jarrahdales flanked an entrance to the barn. The bluish gray skins were carved with the couple's initials, revealing a soft orange flesh that matched the color palette perfectly.
The cocktail hour and reception were both hosted in the barn. Straw wreaths (a recurring symbol of the wedding rings the couple exchanged) hung on the doors; the hay and grasses were collected by the bride and her mother along the country roads of Pennsylvania during the months leading up to the wedding.
Feastivities Events prepared a selection of hors d'oeuvres: flatbread cracker spoons with balsamic-glazed beets; brie, crab, and asparagus pastries; cumin-seared beef tenderloin with mushroom kebabs; mustard-crusted chicken with scallion dip; butternut-squash soup shooter with grissini; curried lamb kebabs with mango chutney; and bacon-wrapped figs.
A pair of cloches decorated the bar and informed guests of the signature drink: the Stonewall Cocktail (originally named for Civil War general Stonewall Jackson). It consisted of local cider (from Linvilla Orchards) spiked with spiced rum and garnished with an extra-long cinnamon stick, served over ice.
Customized beer cozies held bottles of Pennsylvania Dutch birch beer and doubled as favors -- their design matched that of the save-the-date.
Wood tags stamped with a table number and labeled with each guest's name were hung on a cork board covered with navy fabric using wooden pushpins. Veneer strips stamped with a wood grain pattern bordered the display.
In lieu of the standard guest book, Melissa and Adam set up a DIY photo station. Costumes were provided for guests to dress up in, as was a white board for writing messages on. A sign explaining how it all worked was displayed in a wood frame.
The Place Settings
The tables were relaxed and inviting. Navy-and-white plaid dishtowels from Ikea made the boldest statement on the otherwise neutral tables, while assorted vessels holding dried allium, moss, and bittersweet branches decorated the sweetheart table.
Wood tags labeled with guests' names and stamped with the same branch icon as the escort card tags were tied around the napkins. Melissa assembled the napkins eight months before the wedding and labeled them as the response cards came in; she plans to sew them into tablecloths and napkins and give them to family members who contributed to the wedding.
Galvanized metal lanterns from Ikea, painted with orange numbers, anchored each table. Burlap runners were embellished with either an orange yarn crosshatch or an "A&M" monogram. Baby's tears (grown for six months by the bride), PeeGee hydrangea, figs, and dried agapanthus, alliums, and thistle made up the centerpieces. Wine bottles with muslin bags stamped with the wedding date kept the palette neutral.
The 130 guests dined at long tables during the evening reception. Feastivities Events created a seasonal dinner of a salad of mesclun greens dressed in raspberry vinaigrette, accompanied by a mini chicken pot pie and rosemary focaccia with olive oil, followed by a buffet of smoked brisket with spicy barbecue sauce and sweet-and-smoked sauce; cedar-plank salmon with juniper berry and shallot beurre blanc; butternut squash risotto; roasted root vegetables with balsamic syrup; and a saute of zucchini, carrots, and red pepper.
Mismatched vintage trim, paper chains, and ribbons draped over the space like streamers. Window boxes of dried grasses were installed. Navy chair cushions echoed back to the palette.
A bonfire roared outside the barn, attracting guests for some late-night marshmallow roasting.
The couple's friend Lora Pietrangelo packaged s'mores kits in paper bags. Each contained homemade marshmallows, graham crackers, and Hershey's chocolate bars. "S'mores" was stamped in white wood-grain lettering on each bag.