This Couple Transformed a Historic Ranch Into Their Dream Wedding Venue
Some relationships begin slowly: You start as friends and, over the course of a few months or even years, it dawns on you that perhaps there's something more. But that wasn't the case for Laurie and Michael. "We met on Match.com and instantly had a connection," remembers Laurie. "We set up a second date that day." Which quickly became a third, and then a fourth. One year later, the adventurous couple (a florist and contractor, respectively) found themselves on a river rafting trip in the Grand Canyon. After hiking up a waterfall to take in the renowned views, Michael popped the question and was met with a resounding "yes."
After a year-long engagement, the couple tied the knot on July 18, 2018, at Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley, California. The intimate affair included 75 guests—a number of whom stayed in "cowboy cabins" on the ranch itself as a way to prolong the festivities over the course of the weekend. The couple initially chose the venue because it offered stunning valley views, but it delivered in a much larger way on the wedding day: Laurie, Michael, and their guests were able to celebrate with the kind of weather most couples merely dream about, and the bride and groom worked with what nature gave them to design the day, relying on a color palette of natural hues like peach, coral, and nude. The décor also incorporated plenty of biographical touches everywhere from the stationery to the cocktail napkins and, perhaps most enjoyably, the signature drink.
A Paper Trail
Designed by Rosaura Unangst at Pigment & Parchment, Laurie and Michael's invitation suite featured watercolor artwork that incorporated many of the couple's favorite things. The central piece was a charming map that highlighted a number of the couple's relationship highlights, like the location of their first coffee date and their Grand Canyon proposal. Next, a floral motif with coral and lilac blooms paid homage to Laurie's career and found its way onto each piece of stationery, as the couple's cruiser bikes took center stage on the response card.
Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley served as the location for the day's festivities. Established in 1928, the historic venue featured breathtaking valley views, rolling mountains, and 400 picturesque acres. Plus, with ten aptly-titled "cowboy cabins," there was enough room for Laurie and Michael's children and grandchildren to stay and celebrate together for a few days. With so much land at their disposal, the day's events were spread out in different locations on the ranch, with much of the partying occurring in the barn adorned with string lights and potted arrangements at its entrance.
A Lunch Date with Destiny
While out to lunch at Bergdorf Goodman, Laurie's friend did what any good one would do—she forced her to make an appointment and try on some wedding dresses. It only took a few attempts before Laurie found her perfect gown: an Ines di Santo with a plunging neckline. "It felt like it was made for my body," she says. The mermaid silhouette featured gorgeous lace from top to bottom over layers of flowy tulle. A chapel-length veil both completed the look and added sentimental value, as it was the same one Laurie's daughter wore on her own wedding day.
An Expert Arrangement
As a florist herself, it's no surprise Laurie's arrangements were spectacular. But on this day, she wasn't behind the scenes, she was the bride. She was also a very proud mom. "My bouquet was made by my daughter and it was one of my favorite things about the whole wedding," she says. "It was perfect." Seeing the cascading arrangement in photos, it's hard to disagree. Filled with blooms like dahlias, garden roses, tuberose, and chocolate cosmos alongside wild grasses and gravellia, it was the picture of natural beauty and perfect for the rustic bash.
With just her daughter and best friend by her side, Laurie's bridal party was small, but that was all she needed. The women wore floor-length gowns in a dusty blue hue with an elegant cold-shoulder neckline. For an added pop of color, each incorporated fresh flowers in their hair. The ladies' dangling earrings were the perfect finishing touch, adding just the right amount of sparkle to their already cheerful ensembles.
Men of the Hour
Michael's best friends and cousin served as his groomsmen, donning mismatched suits of their own choosing. The groom himself opted for a gray Calvin Klein number with a coral ranunculus boutonnière with greenery for a pop of color.
As guests arrived, servers passed tequila-infused jello shots to get the festivities in motion. No detail went unnotice—even the cocktail napkins were personalized with the couples' names and their beloved cruiser bikes. The freehand watercolor feel was in line with the style established by the invitation suite and continued on the rest of the signage throughout the celebration.
A Celebratory Ceremony
Guests found their seats as pastor and longtime friend Rene Schlaepfer began the ceremony on a sprawling lawn overlooking the Carmel Valley Hills. With mountains visible in the distance, Laurie was escorted down the aisle by her brother as an acoustic version of "True Companion" played—giving Michael what he pinpoints as his most memorable moment of the day.
A Comfortable Arrangement
Guests were invited to relax and mingle during the cocktail hour at cozy al fresco lounge areas with potted flower arrangements. Shibori-style throw pillows in bold colors contrasted nicely against the cream-colored antique furniture, but also served as a preview for some of the décor stylings to come during dinner.
With the festivities underway, guests headed to the cocktail hour to enjoy some of the evening's signature drink: Michael's Margaritas. Served in blue glass goblets, the selection was no surprise to anyone who knows the groom and his love of tequila. With a cocktail in hand and great views of the valley, guests had everything they could possibly need.
Cruise On Over
The watercolor seating chart gave another nod to the couple's love for biking, and encouraged guests to "cruise over" to their seats at the U-shaped floor plan.
Over on the rose patio, a shibori table linen from La Tavola Fine Linen Rental served as the inspiration for the bold tablescape. Wooden crossback chairs kept the rustic charm of the environment while various blue stained-glass pieces were painted by hand to serve as table numbers. Floral arrangements in campo de Fiori containers overflowed with dahlias, garden roses, grevilla, grasses, herbs, and chocolate cosmos.
Each place setting featured a heartfelt thank you note with the couple's bike logo atop gray stoneware plates and modern two-tone flatware. A small Monstera leaf adorned each plate as well, bringing together the lush greenery of the arrangements and the bright blue linens beneath.
The First Dance
After everyone was seated, Laurie and Michael entered for their first dance as husband and wife. Musician Keith Greeninger performed an acoustic version of "Marry Me" and the newlyweds had a moment to take it all in. "The people, the location, food, music… everything was just perfect," remembers Michael.
Foregoing a traditional guestbook, the couple decided to let guests run wild with instant cameras and snap photos of themselves instead. After, they added the pictures to a keepsake book for the bride and groom. This charming station set up atop a wooden barrel was simply too inviting a place not to stop and have some fun.
Filled with Flavor
A mouthwatering cake by Edith Meyer (with a semi-naked middle tier dripping with chocolate) took center stage after dinner when the party moved into the barn for the remainder of the evening. Boasting not one, not two, but three flavors, the cake alternated layers between Meyer lemon and salted caramel separated by fresh raspberry. And fresh flowers dressed up each of the tiers.
It's easy to work up an appetite after a few hours on the dance floor—and luckily Laurie and Michael planned for such a situation. Late night snacks including pizza, s'mores, and donuts from a local bakery were available for guests to fuel up and keep the party going.
A successful evening under their belts, Michael had this advice to share with newly-engaged couples. "Planning a wedding takes a lot. Keep it a positive experience." It's safe to assume this lighthearted approach to the day is a large part of what led to its success—something Laurie is proud to say isn't just a biased opinion noting, "so many of our family and friends say that it was the best wedding they had ever been to!"
Photography, Carlie Statsky
Location, Holman Ranch
Event planning, E Events Co.
Catering, Paradise Catering
Bar service and margarita bar, Pour Girl
Flowers, Seascape Flowers
Stationery and Calligraphy Pigment and Parchment
Music, Keith Greeninger Band
Bride's gown, Ines Di Santo
Bride's accessories, Valentino shoes
Hair and Makeup, Kelly Jo Hair and Makeup
Groom's suit, Calvin Klein