Leah and Michael's Shabby Chic Wedding in Texas
"When we found out it was in the middle of Austin and Houston, where the majority of our family live, we knew for sure it was the spot," the bride recalls of deciding to set the scene for the big day at Rachel Ashwell's venue in Round Top.
Though now based in Venice Beach, California, Leah Ashley and Michael Finn are both Texans, and wanted to return to their home state to get hitched on May 3, 2014.
Four-and-a-half years prior, Leah had a reading with a family friend who is a psychic medium. He instructed her to "pay attention to the butterflies. That feeling you get when you don't know if it's excitement or nerves." Three weeks later, she got that feeling when she crossed paths with Michael in the Los Angeles airport after coming home from Thanksgiving with their families in the Lone Star State. She approached him, gave him her business card, and suggested they get coffee if he was a local. He emailed her that night and took her to dinner three days later.
The talk show host and actor channeled their roots, and planned a wedding in Round Top with plenty of rustic charm, adding feminine elegance and personality along the way, thanks in part to the innate shabby chic nature of their venue, The Prairie by Rachel Ashwell. Just before the early-evening ceremony, 130 guests joined them in the garden for cocktails.
Leah met Rachel Ashwell, the lifestyle and furniture designer, at a party and they bonded over their love of Texas. Rachel mentioned her bed and breakfast out in the country and Leah knew instantly that it could work for the wedding. "When we found out it was in the middle of Austin and Houston, where the majority of our family live, we knew for sure it was the spot," Leah recalls. And once they saw The Prairie by Rachel Ashwell, they booked it immediately.
The restored property dates back to the mid-1800s and inspired the celebration's palette of muted pastels—though Leah added a pop of coral to the mix.
The wedding invitations were based on an existing design by Gold Fox Paper.
Leah saw a Berta Bridal gown in a few magazines and knew she wanted to try it on. So she visited a boutique that carried the designer and the dress she had her eye on was the first she tried on. "I had these grand visions of spending the whole day drinking Champagne and trying on dresses like a princess. But the whole process was over in 45 minutes after I tried it on," Leah recalls. She paired the gown with a matching veil, and accessorized with Christian Louboutin shoes that served as her "something blue," a simple gold cross on a chain that belonged to her late mother-in-law, Tiffany & Co. pearl studs from her stepdad, and her Cartier Love bracelet.
The Bridal Bouquet
Leah carried a clutch of spray roses, ranunculus, and peonies in shades of white, with trailing greenery to give it a cascading shape.
The maid of honor and bridesmaids were asked to choose their own short white dresses. They carried bouquets of spray roses, king protea, ranunculus, coral charm peonies, garden roses, ivy, and other trailing greenery.
The Flower Girls
The two flower girls wore white dresses from Target and brown cowboy boots.
The Ceremony Setting
A mix of chairs and benches were set out for the early-evening ceremony. Guests were given parasols to shield themselves from the Southern sun, as well as a vintage handkerchief (Leah had collected 150 and had them monogrammed for the event). A chalkboard displayed the program for the service.
The Wedding Rings
A pair of matching glass boxes held the wedding bands, which were carried down the aisle by Leah's stepbrother and Michael's nephew.
On the arms of her fathers, the bride entered to Ray Lynch's "Tiny Geometries." Her little brother followed behind, holding her train.
Standing atop a patterned rug and under a chandelier hanging from the tree in front of where they stood, Leah and Michael became husband and wife in a ceremony taken from Marianne Williamson's book, Illuminata, and led by the same medium who Leah visited right before first meeting Michael. They exchanged their own vows and recessed up the aisle to "Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
Leah's grandfather made the wooden signage for the occasion.
Wild for Wildflowers
A floral head wreath allowed guests to add a bit of flair to their hair and feel a part of it all. A sign read, "She wore flowers in her hair."
Mini bottles of bubbly and festive straws were set on a bar cart with a sign reading, "Time to drink Champagne and dance on the table."
The Seating Chart
Guests found their seating placement via an oversized scroll by Artful Designs by Rachel Nieman.
Inside the barn, one long table was set for the bridal party, flanked by two rectangular tables for the families. The rest of the tables were round. "We had to get creative with how to fit all 130 guests," Leah recalls. "Our wedding was the biggest one that the Prairie had ever hosted, but it worked."
Leah wanted the flowers to be a "wow" moment, and so two high arrangements of coral charm peonies, hydrangeas, spray roses, and hanging amaranth added height and impact to the space. Low centerpieces adorned the other tables.
The Table Numbers
Gold-and-white table cards from Bhldn helped guests find their seats.
The Place Settings
Clear chargers and gold flatware added an air of sophistication, while the menus (which were rubber-stamped onto paper bags holding bread) balanced it out with a more casual touch.
The Wedding Cake
The top two tiers of the wedding cake (made by Brenham Olde Towne Bakery) were German chocolate, and the bottom layer was white cake with lemon curd. The confection was crowned with a wood topper by The Paper Walrus. Leaves were pressed into the sides of the cake at an angle, while fresh blooms were placed in between the tiers.
The First Dance
The newlyweds had a special performer sing their first dance song—Johnny Mathis. "He is an American legend and a golfing buddy of my stepdad's, and they play music together sometimes," Leah says. "We were so thrilled that he was able to be a part of our big day."
As a surprise, Michael performed an original rap song right after—taking the story of how they met and setting it to a beat.
Leah's stepmother made rose-petal jelly for the favors. Small canning jars were filled with the treat and dressed up with floral fabric and twine to keep with the shabby chic style of the celebration. A kraft paper tag read, "Spread the love," in the shape of Texas.
Photography: Joe Goger
Location: The Prairie by Rachel Ashwell
Event Planning and Design: Natalie Dawley of Two Be Wed
Catering: Royers Café
Bartending: Excel Pours
Flowers: Tamara Menges Designs
Videography: Pixel Studio Productions
Stationery: Gold Fox Paper
Calligraphy: Artful Designs by Rachel Nieman
Music: Mike Benjamin Band
Rentals and Lighting: Aztec Events and Tents
Vintage Rentals: Loot Vintage Rentals
Hair: Deborah Lowery of Scissortails Salon and Spa
Makeup: Rouchelle Burdick of Beautiful Reflections
Shaved Ice: Shivers Shaved Ice