An Outdoor Rustic Destination Wedding in Texas
Ellie and Shawn
Ellie Noelke and Shawn Connell first met at a dinner party at her aunt and uncle's apartment in New York City with friends, fun, and puppets (her uncle makes them). For their April 23, 2011, wedding, the pair (she's a wedding videographer from Austin, Texas; he's a fine art photographer from Australia) envisioned an equally creative event. So they joined forces to wrangle all their fun ideas together. Ellie's dad said it was special because "There wasn't a left-brained person involved, from start to finish."
Ellie designed the accordion-folded invitation, which had a blind-embossed cover. She had a polymer plate made through Boxcar Press, bought Crane & Co.'s Lettra paper from Shulman Paper, and attended a class at Brooklyn letterpress printing studio, The Arm, where she learned how to use a Vandercook Universal press.
The invite featured a cluster of tiny stars.
A page with a map, directions, and the wedding's website came next, followed by a perforated response postcard with a hummingbird stamp affixed for return postage. The illustrations were done by Kate Nielsen.
For Ellie and Shawn, the decision of where to wed was an easy one: the bride's parents' ranch, two hours outside of Austin, Texas. "It feels really special out there," Ellie said. "You can't see any buildings or hear any cars, and the stars at night are big and bright."
The Bridal Look
Ellie accessorized her J.Crew dress with a lace bolero made by The English Department and her grandmother's veil from 1940. The finishing touch: a pair of diamond studs from Tiffany & Co. that Shawn gave her earlier that day.
Ellie wanted to go with her bridesmaids to pick Texas wildflowers with her bridesmaids before the wedding, but they were scarce as state was in the middle of a terrible drought. Instead, Ellie and Shawn bought the flowers at a local shop, Austin Flower Company. Ellie spotted an Australian flower, the waratah, and got a few for her bouquet as a nod to Shawn. Shawn, whose New South Wales driver's license featured the bloom, recognized it.
The Bridal Party
Bridesmaids received a swatch of Liberty of London's "Strawberry Thief" fabric and were asked to find dresses in any color that matched. By chance, they all ended up with blue. Pieces of the fabric were wrapped around their wildflower bouquets and used to make the gents' bow ties, which were paired with Club Monaco suits and Red Wing boots.
All in the Family
The couple, surrounded by the groom's family.
All in the Family
The bride and her parents.
A Grand Entrance
The bride and her father rode from the house to the ceremony site on Charlie and Honey, a pair of horses kept on the ranch. Ellie counts the 10-minute jaunt as a favorite part of the day.
During the Episcopalian ceremony, Ellie's cousins played cello and guitar, and sang "How Can I Keep from Singing" by Eva Cassidy. The lyrics were printed on the back of the program so everyone could sing along.
The 150 guests sat on hay bales borrowed from a neighboring ranch that were covered with coffee bean sacks and a few vintage Pendleton blankets. Some people sat on the rocks, which formed a sort of natural amphitheater around the couple.
The Flower Girls
Ellie's niece and her goddaughter, both three years old, wore dresses made by Ellie's aunt, Casey Compton, who is a costume designer for Mettawee River Theatre Company. "I didn't think that they would actually make it down the aisle, but they did!" Ellie said. "They practiced scattering anything they could get into their basket -- leaves, pens, tiny toys -- for days beforehand. So it must have paid off."
After the ceremony, all the children served as "special ribbon twirlers" and waved streaming wands as everyone marched to the cocktail hour. Other guests carried giant orange windsocks that were made in the 1970s by the bride's uncle, Ralph Lee, a noted puppet maker. (He took the enormous "flying fish" out of storage for the occasion.) A mariachi band accompanied the group.
For Ellie, it felt like her own version of the final scene in the movie "Emma" (the version with Gwyneth Paltrow).
Shawn planned the timeline around the setting sun, hoping to capture the soft light of dusk during the predinner portrait session. Christian Oth and Mike Falco of Christian Oth Studio (where the groom also works as a wedding photographer) snapped photos of the couple.
Ellie's brother made big batches of prickly pear margaritas. The couple picked the fruit off cacti on the ranch five months earlier and used it to flavor a simple syrup, which they froze until the wedding.
Stir sticks stamped with "Cheers big ears!" were created as a treat for the groom. The slang saying is an Australian greeting. "I made them as a surprise for Shawn when I rejected his request to have Vegemite on toast at cocktails," Ellie said.
A Special Spot
Guests enjoyed the swing, which Ellie's dad had made for her mom a few years earlier.
The Place Settings
Atop each plate sat a screen-printed bar towel that read "Tuck In" and the couple's names and wedding date. A bow tie was also printed, as a wink to her grandfather -- Ellie writes him weekly, and in lieu of his name on the envelope she draws his signature bow tie. When the napkins were tucked into shirts, it looked like guests were wearing them, too.
On the prowl for "rustic"-looking timber to use as decor, Shawn had spotted a wood pile at a home down the road from the ranch. He went over with some groomsmen and told his story, and the friendly neighbor agreed to a loan. On the way out, Shawn spotted buckets of deer antlers and begged to borrow them as well. These were placed down the center of each table at the reception alongside arrangements of local flowers.
A Handmade Element
Groomsman Manu Kingston made salt and pepper cellars out of mesquite wood.
A friend roasted pig and lamb from a local farm, which were served with sides of Southwestern quinoa salad, garden herb salad, roasted fingerling potatoes with rosemary, and grilled asparagus.
The newlyweds danced to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong's "Cheek to Cheek," played by a band that included the saxophone player who had performed at Ellie's parents' wedding 30 years earlier.
Dancing with Dad
Ellie and her dad, Lea, danced to "Stairway to the Stars," which was the song he'd taught her to dance to when she was six. "Anytime we hear the Ella Fitzgerald version, we dance to it. We've had a lot of practice over the years," she said.
Yossy Arefi-Afshar of Apartment 2B Baking Company pulled double duty as bridesmaid and cake maker. The topper was originally used at Ellie's maternal grandparents' wedding, as was the sword used to cut the cake. It belonged to Ellie's grandfather, a lieutenant commander in the Navy, and has been used by aunts, cousins, and Ellie's parents to cut their wedding cakes.
The Photo Booth
Rob Northway, an editorial photographer and friend of the couple's, set up a photo booth in the barn.
The Photo Booth
Tools, leather chaps, helmets, and other finds were used as props.
The Photo Booth
One guest in action.
Wedding Planning: Carrie Sartor and Lyndsey Hamilton of Lyndsey Hamilton Events
Entertainment: Mariachi Estrella; Tony Harrison; Mark Kazanoff (saxophone); Floyd Domino (piano); Rick McRae (guitar); Terry Hale (bass); Art Kidd (drums)
Officiant: Anne Knight Hoey
Lighting Design: Manu Kingston of rEvolve Furniture and Lighting
Cake: Yossy Arefi-Afshar of Apartment 2B Baking Company
Groom's Wedding Band: Belenky Brothers