An Intimate Wedding at the Bride's Family Home in Massachusetts

vanessa steven wedding couple hands in air
Photo: Valorie Darling Photography

The bride and groom traveled from their home in Los Angeles to the rural northeast for an intimate ceremony with vibrant florals, lush greenery, and sentimental touches.

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vanessa steven wedding couple road
Valorie Darling Photography

During the summer of 2013, Steven Grayhm was traveling across the country as a keynote speaker for a national fundraising tour to raise awareness about a feature film on veterans issues. "We had been on the road for several rigorous months on a grueling schedule, often driving through the night to get from city to city and operating on little to no sleep. It had been raining for a week straight during my speaking engagements in New England. When my colleague and I pulled into the parking lot of a venue in rural Massachusetts, the skies literally opened up as this beautiful young woman [Vanessa Tierney] walked across the lot to greet us," says Steven. "As she approached, out of ear shot and completely sanguine, I whispered to my colleague, 'My God. I'm going to marry this girl.' Four years later, I did."

About three years after they began dating, Steven (a writer, actor, and director) planned to propose to Vanessa (a photographer) on a picturesque beach in Malibu. He recruited a friend to dress incognito, hide behind rocks along the shore, and take inconspicuous photos. As he waited for the right moment to propose, a woman approached Steven, saying a "weird guy" was taking photos of him from behind the rocks. Steven quickly flashed the ring box and explained his plans. Shortly after, the proposal was almost spoiled again when two angry Chihuahuas started biting the photographer friend's ankles. Knowing he had to act quickly before another unfortunate event unfolded, Steven finally took a knee in the surf. "I pulled out the ring, and as if time stood still, a gentle calm came over me. And she said yes!" he says.

On August 26, 2017, Vanessa and Steven traveled from their hometown of Los Angeles to Erving, Massachusetts. They got married at Vanessa's parents' house, which gave them flexibility to plan their dream wedding with no restrictions. Sixty-six guests enjoyed a communal dinner, naturally organic decorations, and sentimental touches.

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The Stationery Suite

vanessa steven wedding stationery flowers
Valorie Darling Photography

Printable Press created the couple's stationery suite with leaf graphics and clean typefaces.

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Modern Style

vanessa steven wedding couple walk stroll
Valorie Darling Photography

Steven rented a midnight blue tuxedo from The Black Tux. He paired it with a pleated dress shirt, a black silk twill bow tie, suspenders, and a black linen pocket square.

Vanessa originally coveted a long-sleeved lace dress, but the style didn't feel right for her body. After trying on gowns in many styles, she ended up with a two-piece crop top and skirt ensemble. The crop top was by Alexandra Grecco, while Spanish designer Otaduy made the skirt. "I loved that (using two designers) allowed me to switch up my look during the day—and also how bold and modern it felt," says Vanessa. She also enjoyed how the pieces could be worn in her everyday life after the wedding.

To complete the outfit, Vanessa wore a hair piece from Michaels and earrings from Stark The Label. She also donned an Alexandra Grecco cape for the ceremony and photographs, which she treated like a veil. "I absolutely loved the cape. I'm still trying to figure out how I can wear that one again!" she says.

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The Shoes

vanessa steven wedding shoes ceremony
Valorie Darling Photography

For the ceremony, Vanessa wore booties from Bella Belle Shoes. Steven opted for patent leather wood-sole shoes paired with American flag socks, which were a gift from a friend.

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The Jewelry

vanessa steven wedding bracelet ring box
Valorie Darling Photography

A delicate hand chain and bracelet from Serose Jewelry added understated elegance to Vanessa's ensemble.

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The Rings

vanessa steven wedding rings
Valorie Darling Photography

While visiting Tuscany in 2004, Steven spoke with an owner of a small ceramics shop, who made every item to be unique. Inspired by the sentimentality years later, Steven decided to hand-craft a one-of-a-kind engagement ring for Vanessa. "The engagement ring was designed in yellow gold with a simple diamond arrangement and soft flowing lines. The result was truly priceless!" says the groom.

Steven also wanted the ring to have an antique look that would match his late grandmother's wedding band, which he gave to Vanessa on the big day. His grandmother was forced to leave Europe with Steven's mother and grandfather after the Nazis invaded Poland in World War II. "Aside from the clothes on her back, it was the only possession that made it across the Atlantic by boat," says Steven. "My mother had held onto it after my grandmother's passing, and with her blessing, I wed my wife with it. I was very close to my grandmother, so the sentiment of her plight and struggle, and the priceless value of the ring, is beyond words."

Vanessa had Steven's yellow gold wedding band made by the same jeweler who created her engagement ring. A small diamond was placed inside the ring, along with an inscription of their wedding date.

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The Bouquet

vanessa steven wedding bouquet
Valorie Darling Photography

"I knew I wanted it to be big and overflowing with florals!" the bride says of her bouquet. She ordered blooms and greenery wholesale from Fifty Flowers, then recruited Adria Lowry Unique Floral Design to create arrangements for the big day. The bouquet had king protea, white anemones, red amaranthus, burgundy wine ranunculus, garden roses, and mini carnations.

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The First Look

vanessa steven wedding couple hands in air
Valorie Darling Photography

The couple decided to spend the morning of the wedding together, and even got ready for the big day with each other. "Even down to my wedding hair and makeup, I was able to get his opinion and it helped to calm any nerves we both had!" says Vanessa. However, Steven left before Vanessa got dressed, and the pair had a first look before the ceremony. "We picked a spot at the edge of the woods and did our first look there, just a private moment between us, and then went straight into family photos!" Vanessa says.

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The Ceremony Site

vanessa steven wedding ceremony site
Valorie Darling Photography

The ceremony took place in a wooded area of Vanessa's parents' property. "My dad cleared out a circle of the woods in the late winter and had it seeded with hopes for some grass to grow by the wedding," says the bride. "We had guests dropped off at a pathway that led to the clearing in the woods so they wouldn't walk into the reception location, and it made it have a more whimsical feel!" Tree stumps topped with candles framed the aisle, which ended with a wooden archway built by Vanessa's dad.

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Arch Adornments

vanessa steven wedding ceremony flowers
Valorie Darling Photography

The wooden arch was draped with fabric and floral arrangements resembling Vanessa's bouquet. Adria Lowry Unique Floral Design included blooms like king protea, ranunculus, anemones, and red hanging amaranthus.

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An Antique Piano

vanessa steven wedding ceremony family pics
Valorie Darling Photography

As a sentimental decoration, Vanessa's late grandmother's piano was brought into the woods, draped with a garland of eucalyptus and salal greens, and adorned with photos of the couple's grandparents and parents. "I wanted to find a way to incorporate our grandparents that couldn't be there with us. My inspiration behind this was to have it seem like a mantel and make it feel like it was taken right out of our home," says Vanessa.

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The Ring Bearers

vanessa steven wedding ring bearers
Valorie Darling Photography

The couple's nephews (Emmett, Milo, and Troy) served as a trio of ring bearers. They wore pants from J.Crew, as well as suspenders and bow ties from armoniia. Two flower girls (nieces Isabella and Alexa) participated in the processional as well.

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A Furry Friend

vanessa steven wedding dog
Valorie Darling Photography

One of the couple's best friends walked their dog, Meadow, down the aisle. "One of the main reasons for having the wedding at my parent's house was being able to have Meadow there! She is such an important part of our life together, and we wanted to have her involved and able to spend the entire day with us," says Vanessa. "While she was not a fan of the floral collar, we were able to get it on her for a few pictures!"

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The Ceremony

vanessa steven wedding ceremony vows
Valorie Darling Photography

Steven's brother played songs from the movie "Braveheart" on the piano during the processional, during which the groom and his mom entered to "Main Title" by James Horner, then Vanessa and her dad processed to "A Gift of a Thistle" by the same artist. The couple's close friend, Matt Dallas, who watched them meet for the first time, officiated the wedding. Vanessa and Steven also wrote their own personal vows. According to Steven, "The most memorable moment of the day for me was looking into my wife's eyes after saying my vows and knowing that this was truly forever." To ensure guests were present in the moment, they opted for an unplugged ceremony.

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Postceremony Portraits

vanessa steven wedding couple house hand holding
Valorie Darling Photography

After the ceremony, the newlyweds took portraits with Valorie Darling Photography. "Valorie had found this amazing house that we took photos in front of, and then we played in the street a bit and got some of my absolute favorite shots there," says Vanessa, "They were so fun and we finally had a minute alone to just reflect and enjoy!"

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Cocktail Hour

vanessa steven wedding cocktail
Valorie Darling Photography

As Vanessa and Steven took pictures, guests gathered around a swimming pool for cocktail hour. They ate local meats and cheeses, along with a variety of dips, spreads, nuts, and olives. Passed hors d'oeuvres from Heirloom Catering included vegetable spring rolls and spiced ginger/turmeric chicken bites.

Signature cocktails were "Mama's Margarita" (Epsilon tequila, Cointreau triple sec, lime juice, homemade simple syrup, and salt) and "Maple Bourbon Smash" (local Berkshire bourbon, Canadian maple syrup, lemon juice, and home-grown rosemary). According to Vanessa, "We tried to use ingredients that were local to our families—Canadian maple syrup from where Steven is from, and bourbon and garnishes from my hometown." Additionally, the couple served local beer from Lefty's Brewing Company (which the couple drank on the day they met), Steam Whistle beer from Toronto, and their favorite wine from Shelburne Vineyard in Vermont.

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The Escort Cards

vanessa steven wedding escort cards
Valorie Darling Photography

Vanessa and Steven painted mismatched vintage frames, positioned them against the side of a shed, and hung paper escort cards on rows of string inside them.

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The Bar

vanessa steven wedding bar
Valorie Darling Photography

The couple rented a raw wood bar from Lefty's Brewing Company, then placed it on a handful of barrels. Marquee lights spelling "BAR" leaned against the setup, while hanging chandeliers brightened up the area. Vanessa's brother-in-law wrote the names of the cocktails on a framed chalkboard sign.

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The Reception

vanessa steven wedding tent
Valorie Darling Photography

The reception took place underneath a tent on Vanessa's parents' property. The bride's dad built a stage for the DJ, and he also worked with Vanessa's brother-in-law to construct the dance floor. According to Vanessa, "We couldn't find the right floor for us to rent, so they built one out of plywood and painted wood lines and knots on it to make it look like actual wood flooring." Bistro lighting created a magical ambience.

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The Reception Setup

vanessa steven wedding placesetting tables
Valorie Darling Photography

The couple opted for long wooden tables, since they give a communal feeling and encourage conversation among guests. Garlands of eucalyptus and salal greens draped down the sides of the table, while a white runner brought a modern touch. Tapered red candlesticks in vintage holders rose above the other decorations—but they were surprisingly difficult to set up. According to Vanessa, "The few hours leading up to the wedding we had an assembly line of people hot gluing the candles into place. For some reason, the candles that we had gotten didn't fit perfectly into the vintage holders, so we were in a mad dash to make them stay!" In the end, though, the candles successfully added moody romanticism to the reception.

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The Place Settings

vanessa steven wedding placesetting
Valorie Darling Photography

Each place setting had gold flatware, vintage-inspired rose-colored glasses, and two matte blush pink plates from IKEA (bought in a last-minute shopping trip with wedding planner Jessica Boskoff of Twenty Three Layers). The colorful items popped against the wooden tables and green garlands.

Menus printed by Minted listed the dinner items from Heirloom Catering: a first course of New England clam chowder and vegan potato leek soup; a second course of tomato and mozzarella caprese, green salad with house dressing, and locally-made breads; and a main course of grilled ribeye, filet mignon, lemon garlic rosemary chicken, and eggplant stuffed with quinoa, chickpeas, and tahini. Sides included pesto rice salad, grilled seasonal vegetables, and roasted potatoes.

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Special Seats

vanessa steven wedding couple kiss chairbacks
Valorie Darling Photography

Greenery-covered signs reading "Mr." and "Mrs." donned the newlyweds' chairs at the sweetheart table.

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The Sneakers

vanessa steven wedding shoes reception sneakers
Valorie Darling Photography

Vanessa and Steven wanted to loosen up as the night progressed, so they changed into "his and hers" Adidas "Gazelle" shoes in royal blue and blush pink. "It was the perfect adjustment for comfort, style, practicality, and fun!" says the groom.

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The First Dance

vanessa steven wedding first dance
Valorie Darling Photography

For the reception, Vanessa exchanged her cape for an Alexandra Grecco lace topper. "I loved how it was a subtle change but really made a difference in the overall outfit. It also allowed me to move around more without worrying about the cape getting stepped on or me getting stuck on something," she says.

The newlyweds danced to "Latch" by Disclosure featuring Sam Smith. Then the groom's brother sang "Tennessee Whiskey" by Chris Stapleton, and everyone joined the couple on the dance floor. "It was at that moment when I don't think I have ever been happier," says Vanessa. "To have every person we love dancing or around the dance floor enjoying the moment with us was perfect!"

Steven also mentioned the importance of soaking in the moment: "A few hours into the reception, a friend pulled me aside to impart some of the best advice that has ever been given to me. A married man himself, he knew that for most, your wedding day is often experienced in a flash. He was emphatic when he said, 'Look around you. Everyone is here to celebrate you guys. Make sure that you and your wife take a step back, even just for a moment, to take it all in.' We were glad we took his advice!"

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The Cake

vanessa steven wedding cake cutting
Valorie Darling Photography

During the cake cutting, Vanessa donned a white leather jacket with "Mrs. Grayhm" printed on the back by Alli K Design. 2nd Street Baking Co. made a white cake with buttercream frosting, raspberry filling, and a blush-colored "drip" design. Fresh pink flowers and a "LOVE" sparkler topped the sweet confection. The couple placed the cake on a bar cart with plates by Suite One Studio and custom embroidered "cheers" napkins. In addition to the cake, a dessert bar offered donut holes, heart-shaped rice crispy treats on a stick, sugar cookies, chocolate covered s'mores, and an assortment of chocolates and truffles.

After snacking on desserts, guests danced until one in the morning. "Our wedding was special for us because of the people that were there with us!" says Vanessa. "While it was wonderful to have a gorgeous backdrop, my dream tablescape, and the most perfect day, it wasn't all about that in the end. There are no words that I can find to express the amount of love, joy, and pure good energy that was present on our wedding day!"

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vanessa steven wedding couple road embrace
Valorie Darling Photography

Photography, Valorie Darling Photography

Event planning, Twenty Three Layers

Catering, Heirloom Catering

Flowers, Adria Lowry Unique Floral Design (florist); Fifty Flowers (flower supplier)

Stationery, Minted (menus); Printable Press (stationery)

Cake, 2nd Street Baking Co.

Music, Silver Arrow Band

Rentals, Classical Tents; Lefty's Brewing Company (bar)

Bride's gown, Alexandra Grecco (crop top); Otaduy (skirt)

Bride's accessories, Adidas (reception sneakers); Alexandra Grecco (cape and lace topper); Bella Belle Shoes (ceremony shoes); Michaels (hair piece); SeroseJewelry (bracelet and hand chain); Stark The Label (earrings)

Hair, Bridal By Carleigh

Flower Girl dresses, Milly Wedding Shop

Groom's tuxedo, The Black Tux

Groom's reception sneakers, Adidas

Lighting, CJC Event Lighting

Transportation, Travel Kuz

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