Delicious signature drinks, a family-style meal, and salt favors were all part of this food-loving couple's big day.
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Michelle and Derek were friends and colleagues at the same architecture firm for two years before they started dating. They both have a passion for cooking, so they took turns making lunch and eating in the park together. After getting to know each other better, Michelle asked him out on a date shortly after a coworker said, "Derek, you'll make a good husband someday," and looked at Michelle and smiled. They've been smitten ever since. Through all of life's adventures, kitchen disasters and successes, long nights at the office, and lots of laughter, the Seattle-based couple never looked back. After six years of dating, Derek popped the question on a birthday trip for Michelle to San Luis Obispo, California, and two years after that, on August 5, 2017, they became husband and wife.
They looked for opportunities where friends could contribute and showcase their talents in parts of the wedding—from the invitation sketch to the table number holders. Meaning and intent were layered within the design details, and the natural setting of Alderbrook Station, in Astoria, Oregon, inspired the tone, which was juxtaposed with bold graphic statements and some modern touches. It was important to the couple that their guests felt welcome and appreciated—so they also focused on the aspects that gave a sense of accommodation and delight, like the paella cooked in front of all 70 of them during the cocktail hour. Of course, for a couple that enjoys cooking as much as Michelle and Derek do, the food, drink, and nods to the culinary world were present throughout.
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The invitation was a labor of love for the bride and groom, who tackled the design themselves. Overall, they knew the design would be clean, modern, and incorporate bold typography, but they also wanted the pieces to feel thoughtful. Within the strict palette of black and white, they added softness with layers, materials, and textures.
For the invitation, they both liked the wedding date in a large numerical format as the main graphic element. Use of white space and a delicate typeface kept the date the focal point but clearly provided the necessary details. They commissioned a friend and colleague to hand sketch their venue and printed the artwork on vellum to be an overlay for the invitation card—the print also became a keepsake and memento of the celebration.
Black and white baker's twine was tied around the bundle of pieces, which included a black tag information card rubber stamped with white ink. The pieces were tucked into a muslin bag that was stamped with Michelle and Derek's monogram, before going into a Kraft mailer sent using custom postage sporting elements from the suite. "The invitation as a final piece seemed simple, but every element had meaning and purpose," says the bride.
The ring box was equally thought-out. Michelle commissioned the blackened steel design from Adam McNae when she was planning to propose to Derek—but then Derek told Michelle that he wanted to propose. So, she secretly held on to the box and his engagement ring, and years later, when they visited their venue and decided it would be where they got married, the couple walked to the end of the dock and she "proposed back" to Derek.
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Michelle donned a Luly Yang Couture fit-and-flare gown with laser-cut peony lace and a sweetheart neckline. "I fell in love with the fabric and how the design of the dress showcased my favorite features," Michelle says of why this was "the one." "I also kept thinking of Luly's story as an architect who applied her design education to create beautifully-crafted details to her work. I'm lucky I said yes to the dress when I did; the lace was soon discontinued."
They did their first look on the dock, which Derek recalls as his favorite part of the day. "I was beginning to feel anxious, but when I was with her, she calmed my nerves," he says. And Michelle agrees, noting that her favorite memory was turning around to see her dapper husband at the end of the dock.
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Michelle's "something blue" came in the form of her earrings, which matched Derek's tie. She wore a little collection of native berries and a pair of blooms in her hair that coordinated with Derek's boutonnière and also connected back to the natural beauty of the setting.
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Michelle's late grandmother's diamond necklace was woven into the silk ribbons of her bouquet as a way of honoring her memory. The bouquet was comprised of scabiosa, ranunculus, dahlias, and roses, in shades of ruby and blush.
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After looking all over Seattle and attending several weddings throughout the city, it was difficult for Michelle and Derek to envision their own memories at the same venues. They wanted a place that could be all theirs and that felt personal. Years before getting hitched, Michelle had the opportunity to help work on restoration projects at Alderbrook Station, in Astoria, Oregon. She fell in love its beauty, the tales of the historic buildings, and the parade of ships that sail past the station along the Columbia River. When she took Derek to Astoria for his birthday, they visited the loft building and they immediately envisioned their wedding there.
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A low flower arch framed the ceremony space, which sat on the shores of Alderbrook Lagoon, by the Columbia River. Musician Lydia Ramsey performed acoustic versions of her original songs, which have a hint of nostalgia thanks to Americana and folk influences. Instead of writing their own vows, Michelle and Derek had written messages of what it meant to love each other and their officiant read them aloud. Luckily, both the smoke and hot weather from the fires in British Columbia earlier had cleared out the day before and guests were happy to enjoy the clear, 70-degree day for the 5 p.m. ceremony.
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"We wanted something our guests could interact with that was old and vintage, like the station," Michelle says of the typewriter set up in lieu of a traditional guest book. "Our paper goods also used a typewriter font, so it was a perfect fit." The couple plans to frame the scroll of typed well wishes and hang it in the stairway of their home as a daily reminder of the love and support from their family and friends.
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The Recipe for Love
Michelle surprised Derek by collecting his family recipes and some of their favorites and combining them with the engagement photos they'd taken (which were cooking-themed) and making their very own cookbook. She sprinkled personal messages throughout, too, including her favorite note, "Treat your marriage how you treat your pantry; keep it well-stocked, full of love and quality. Deposit more than you withdraw, and you shall never be hungry."
"I have been writing in ruled notebooks for over 15 years," Derek says of his previous method for collecting the recipes. He notes that the gift was significant because he's cooked many of the included dishes with Michelle and because cooking together is such a big part of their life. Adds Michelle, "Our guests know how much we love to cook, so they were flipping through to view our secret recipes."
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A live keyboard performance filled the air as guests snacked from the locally-sourced raw bar of oysters on the half shell and shrimp cocktail. Since the bride and groom love margaritas, they served the "rosemary refresher" made with fresh red grapefruit juice, a house-made rosemary syrup, and a smoky reposado tequila. The happy couple has since referred to the cocktail as their "marriage margarita" and plan to enjoy it on their anniversary.
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"Derek is known for his koozies and I tease him that he has one for every occasion," notes Michelle. Counters Derek, "You never know when a beer will present itself."
Though the groom loves the clean look of white, he didn't have an all-white koozie yet. So, as a surprise, the bride had their monogram screen-printed in black on a thin white neoprene koozie with matching stitching. It was given to guests who ordered beer, which made Derek smile. Even after the wedding, the couple's guests still send Michelle and Derek texts and Instagram posts of the koozie in use.
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Planner Tara Lee of Sugarcomb worked with Michelle on the signage, including this seating chart, which was printed on matte vinyl and mounted to white PVC board by a local sign company. Tara handmade a pair of leather lops for each sign and hung them with rope commonly used for fishing nets.
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Guests took their seats at long tables set up on the third floor of the Net Loft. The décor was equal parts beautiful and elegant, but also fitting of the space. They chose dark farm tables and wooden chairs from Classic Vintage Rentals as the foundation for the reception design. Different wood textures are part of the character found in the setting, and Michelle and Derek wanted to consciously complement that. As a contrast, they created a crisp, clean tabletop. They purchased crinoline fabric to top the tables—noting that they chose the textile for its simple rawness and net-like texture as a small nod to the collection of fishing nets on site.
Concrete urns, smaller amber bottles, and petite glass bud vases that held flowers and herbs brought color, warmth, and lushness to the table without being too distracting. Because the venue stands on piers over the Columbia River, the couple wanted to incorporate an element from the water, but with an elevated look. They hand-painted river rocks—one half of the stone painted with an opaque solid color and metallic gold stripe, the other half left as is to reveal its natural beauty. These were sprinkled down the center of the table, and many guests took some home as a keepsake.
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Derek envisioned blackened steel table number holders, so he and Michelle asked a friend to create them. As a special surprise, the pal stamped the pair's initials and wedding date on the back. "We love the holders so much, we now use them to display photos at home," says Michelle.
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White earthenware plates, modern black flatware, and gray linen napkins were set at each seat. Menus with each guest's name doubled as place cards, and were dressed up with a simple sprig of rosemary. As for what was on the menu, from the beginning it was an important idea that there be some performance aspect to the cooking of dinner. Crown Paella fulfilled that, as they bring their large paella pans and cook on site, so guests can interact with the chef. It also worked out well since the venue doesn't have a caterer's kitchen, but this outdoor setup worked just fine.
For the favors, the couple honored their shared pastime of cooking together. "Nurturing the mind and body by sharing a home-cooked meal is one of our favorite rituals as a couple," Michelle says. "It was an easy decision to send our guests home with local artesian salt by San Juan Island Sea Salt. It travels and keeps well. No matter what your comfort level is in the kitchen, everyone can use a good salt."
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Michelle and Derek don't usually like cake, but swooned over La Joconde Cakes' delicate textures and the delicious buttercream that wasn't too sweet. Inside this three-tiered confection were layers of tiramisu cake and honey whiskey filling. A black metal cake stand added a bold contrast to the subtle design and natural floral accents.
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Photography, Bonnie Sen
Location, Alderbrook Station
Event planning and day of paper goods and signage, Sugarcomb
Catering, Crown Paella
Flowers, Erba Floral Studio
Cake, La Joconde Cakes
Rentals, Classic Vintage Rentals
Bride's gown and earrings, Luly Yang Couture
Bride's shoes, Mercedes Castillo
Hair and Makeup, Portland Makeup & Hair
Favors, San Juan Island Sea Salt