A Cool, Eclectic Wedding in the California Desert
Mollie Crutcher and Steven Ruddle first met in middle school in Louisville. "I was a grade below Steven and had a major crush on him, as did most girls in my grade," says Mollie. "He had a bowl cut, played hockey, skateboarded, and couldn't have cared less about us. How could we resist such a catch?" During high school, the pair really got to know each other. Steven took Mollie to his junior prom, and they dated for a year before going their separate ways; Steven stayed in Kentucky while Mollie headed to California for college.
Flash forward several years, Mollie and Steven found themselves together at a party. "We kissed on New Year's Eve in 2009, which rekindled some long buried feelings," says Mollie, a wedding and portrait photographer. "We continued to stay in touch until we realized we were in a relationship again, and this time the feelings couldn't really be ignored." They dated long distance for a year, then Steven (an inside sales representative for a medical equipment company) moved to California to be with Mollie. The Santa Barbara-based couple eventually got engaged and tied the knot a year later on March 18, 2017, at Colony 29 in Palm Springs, California. The wedding had 85 guests, a neutral color palette with jewel-toned accents, and touches of Mediterranean and desert-inspired design.
Mollie and Steven got married at Colony 29, a vacation rental resort in Palm Springs, California. The city has sentimental value, since the couple vacations there often. "It's our favorite place to forget our cares and soak up some sun—and margaritas!" says Mollie. "Also, because I'm a wedding photographer in Santa Barbara, I've shot pretty much every venue within a 60 mile radius. I wanted our wedding to feel different from work." She discovered the venue a few years prior, and kept it in mind for her own big day. The couple loved the venue's natural scenery, desert-inspired color palette, and spaciousness.
The Bridal Ensemble
Many people in Mollie's life got their wedding dresses at the same boutique in Corona del Mar, California, including her sister, friends, and countless clients. Not believing the "magic of The White Dress" would work for her, Mollie trekked to New York City to find her dream gown. She discovered a lot of pretty dresses, but none of them were "the one." Finally, Mollie visited the salon everyone around her had loved and ended up finding the perfect gown for her big day. The Amanda Wakeley number featured a silk georgette skirt, embellished waist belt, and elaborate beadwork along the chest. Built-in necklaces cascade down the open back of the gown. The dress also came with a bit of irony: "Two years before, when we were there looking at The White Dress for my sister, she pulled the Amanda Wakeley out and said if I were going to pick one dress for you, it would be this," says Mollie, who was at first reluctant to consider on a two-year-old dress for her wedding. "But I put it on and everything just clicked into place. It was my dress. It was made for me, the end."
Mollie accessorized with gold magnolia earrings and delicate gold rings. She kept the jewelry simple so as not to clash with the statement-making dress.
Mollie's sister served as the maid of honor, and the other bridesmaids were friends from college. The ladies wore white floor-length gowns and carried long stems of pampas grass wrapped in metallic cuffs and leather cord. After the ceremony, the bridesmaids donned brightly-colored flower crowns, floral pins, and floral combs as "a nod to the transition from the neutral ceremony to the full color party," says Mollie. "I also just love an excuse to put flowers on things!"
Steven's brother was his best man. The other three groomsmen were Steven's best friend from Louisville and two close friends from Santa Barbara. All men wore boutonnières by TOAST Santa Barbara made with pampas grass and pieris with a leather cord wrap.
The First Look
Mollie and Steven had a first look before their ceremony. "I was totally blown away by Mollie and her dress!" says Steven. "I'm not well versed in the different styles of wedding dresses, so I was not expecting what Mollie chose. I loved the uniqueness of her dress—it complemented her perfectly!"
Mollie's dad walked her down the aisle to "Emmylou" by First Aid Kit.
The late afternoon ceremony took place on the lawn of Colony 29. Desert mountains created a stunning backdrop. A triangular arbor adorned with pampas grass and gold foil—made by the couple's friend who officiated the wedding—anchored the site. Since Mollie and Steven wanted a neutral color palette, they decorated the site with cream, leather, and metallic accents. To shield guests from the sun, they offered parasols and set up fringed gold umbrellas near the copper chairs. The non-religious ceremony featured lighthearted vows.
In the Details
Traditional Moroccan wedding rugs (adorned with fringe and beading) lined the steps leading to the altar, with metallic lanterns from Pow Wow Design Studio placed on top.
After the ceremony, guests attended cocktail hour in the garden of Colony 29, where they enjoyed drinks, passed appetizers, and a crostini station with hummus, mousses, cheeses, and jams. Signature cocktails were "The Heated Snake" (a spicy margarita) and "Gold Rush" (a whiskey, lemon mix). The passed appetizers included chilled cucumber gazpacho, a yam chip with smoked salmon and crème fraiche, and spinach and feta spanakopita. Guests played lawn games and listened to a variety of music: indie rock, bluegrass, and tunes from the '60s and '70s. In terms of design, the cocktail hour featured light aquas, magentas, and metallic decor. "Since the ceremony was so neutral, we wanted this to be a stepping stone before the full color design of the reception," says wedding planner Tamara Kesser of TOAST Santa Barbara.
The Escort Cards
Gold-foiled leather tags served as escort cards, with jewel-toned tassels in the wedding's color scheme adding a decorative touch to the display. The keepsake tags were calligraphed by Sophia Loves Letters.
The reception took place on the venue's larger lawn. "When Mollie first brought us her design concept, I got giddy with excitement. She was calling it her 'Mediterranean Desert Gypsy Wedding'," says Tamara. "The style of the wedding was bohemian with a modern twist and a touch of desert influence." A canopy of string lights above the lawn created a magical atmosphere. Guests sat on copper chairs at wooden tables, and the newlyweds had special "king peacock chairs" embellished with bright florals.
"The wooden feasting tables were covered with macramé runners from Anthropologie, bright aqua plates, clear acrylic menus, and colorful floral centerpieces with accents of papayas, artichokes, and cacti," says Tamara. To make the centerpieces stand out, TOAST Santa Barbara filled the hammered copper bowls with hot pink and light pink ranunculus, variegated light pink and white anthurium, Japanese sweet peas, merletto crimson carnations, Charlie Brown orchids, baronesse roses, romantic antike roses, and peach and salmon amaryllis. The centerpieces were finished with eucalyptus and foraged greenery. Ivory candles in vintage gold candlesticks completed the tablescape.
The Place Settings
The menus, designed by Mollie's friend and calligraphed by Sophia Loves Letters, were printed onto clear acrylic sheets and placed on top of napkins with surged hot pink edges. Brass flatware with wooden handles sat next to blue dinner plates. F10 Creative catered a dinner of spinach salad, artichoke potato gratin, lamb lollipops with a blackberry glaze or traditional mint sauce, roasted cauliflower, chicken tagine, and grilled asparagus wrapped in prosciutto.
The First Dance
Mollie and Steven danced to "Harvest Moon" by Neil Young, which was Steven's favorite memory of the day. "It was the moment where a lot of the pressure of the wedding was behind us, we were finally married, and it all began to sink in," he says.
Guests enjoyed passed desserts while dancing the night away.
Photography, Michael Radford
Location, Colony 29
Event planning and flowers, TOAST Santa Barbara
Catering, F10 Creative
Stationery, Wootton Printing
Calligraphy, Sophia Loves Letters
Music, Dart Collective
Bride's gown, Amanda Wakeley
Hair and Makeup, Tawni Yoko Jones