A Super-Stylish and Beautifully Personal California Wedding

Carey and Eric

wedding couple kiss
Elizabeth Messina Photography

Sometimes love can hit hard—like a pile of rocks. Carey Galliani was on a tubing trip down the Sacramento River with new boyfriend Eric Lowe and his friends. During a break on the riverside, "I sat alone happily and made rock stacks," she says. "One of his friends came over to me and said, 'Carey, why are you being so weird?' And he kicked over one of my stacks. Without missing a beat, Eric said that if I wanted to be weird, I could be weird, and he started to build a rock stack with me. Aha, I thought. This is what it means to have a partner. He doesn't care if I'm different, and he even joins me out of solidarity. I realized I could be with him forever." For Eric, meanwhile, love arrived as effortlessly as sinking into a soft easy chair. "From our first date, she was so chipper and cute and nice and easy to hang out with. It felt like a relief to be with her."

Though Carey is an event designer who, through her business, the Idea Emporium, handcrafts stationery, decorations, and other elements that make a wedding stand out, she and Eric were steadfast about focusing on the deeper meaning of their union and not getting caught up in surface details. Like most couples, they wanted an ultra-personal day— "I wanted everyone to say, 'This is so Carey and Eric,'" she says—but they went further, planning each element to be personal for their guests, too. It started the moment everyone led into the ceremony space. Waiting for them were handwritten letters "explaining why each one was so special to us," says Carey.

The ceremony (which took place in the newly renovated Museum of Northern California Art, which had not yet even opened to the public) blended touching moments—like Eric reading words from Carey's late father—with unexpectedly funny ones, such as when Carey's uncle, who officiated and knew the couple love Seinfeld, capped off their lengthy vows with refrains of "Yada, yada, yada." And when they were declared husband and wife, the surprises had only begun: Sliding doors parted to reveal a hidden 24-piece symphony orchestra. Eric thought he was in on the secret—except instead of the classical piece that was supposed to introduce their first dance, the orchestra played the theme from the original Star Wars, one of his favorite movies. "A symphony was right up our alley, with how over-the-top we are," says Eric. "It just made sense."

At the reception at Red Tavern, guests went on to find photos of themselves with the bride or groom, which doubled as escort cards. "We spent our engagement digging up all those photos," says Carey—each uniquely framed to suit the style of the recipient's home. And everywhere, throughout the evening, were rock stacks, a symbol of a love that was just so Carey and Eric.

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Save the Date

save the date
Elizabeth Messina Photography

"I figured if I was going to ask our guest to mark their calendars, I should give them one," says Carey, who got to work creating the custom pieces. Guests received 13-month desktop calendars marking the year leading up to the wedding. The couple had already requested that members of the bridal party and favorite aunts find quotes that reminded them of Eric and Carey; these quotes were foil printed on the bottom of each month.

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The Stationery Suite

stationery suite
Elizabeth Messina Photography

The stationery heralded the classic black, white, and gray palette of the event. The signature quote of the wedding was calligraphed by Anne Robin, and then Carey handstamped it into charcoal velvet for the invitation. A botanical-print book contained the wedding details, and the reply card had a tiny gray envelope attached to it, holding cards for attendance and menu choices. Finally, a card was provided for each guest to write advice and well wishes for the couple on; a guest book at the ceremony contained pre-pasted photo corners that they could then pop those cards into.

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A Chico Welcome

welcome box
Elizabeth Messina Photography

Welcome boxes built by Eric, a skilled carpenter who co-owns a heating and air-conditioning company, contained favorite and local treats including olive oil from a friend's press, local walnuts, gummy bears, and a reusable tote bag.

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Tears at First Sight

first look
Elizabeth Messina Photography

The couple both teared up at their first look, but luckily, they had also gifted cotton hankies to all the guests. "I said, 'I need a hankie,'" says Carey, "and I was instantly offered dozens of them. It was perfect." Both Carey and Eric recall this as one of their favorite parts of the day: They stood back to back and, on the count of three, turned to face each other—and both started crying. "It was relaxed and not rushed, and everybody we really cared about was there to see us see each other for the first time," says Eric. Carey agrees: "Anyone on the fence, do it," she says. "It took all of the nerves away. And he was so handsome! He's always handsome, but he was busting-out-in-a-tux handsome!"

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Bespoke Sleeves

wedding dress sleeves
Elizabeth Messina Photography

Carey embroidered her own sleeves, using flowers she had cut from her mother's wedding veil. "I probably shouldn't have taken that on," she says.

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Memory Keeping

wedding accessories
Elizabeth Messina Photography

A monogrammed hat box contains wedding memories, from the license to special photos from the couple's engagement.

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With These Rings

wedding rings in box
Elizabeth Messina Photography

Carey's two engagement rings—a highly impractical 14.7-carat aquamarine, plus her sturdier "everyday diamonds"—nestled in a heart-shaped box that belonged to her father, along with his wedding band, now worn by Eric, and her grandmother's wedding band, now worn by Carey. Four people in total have worn the band Eric now sports—starting with Carey's grandfather, her father, and then Carey (on a chain).

As for that "highly impractical" stunner that's extremely bedazzling… "I saw the ring, and it was not normal. It was perfect," Carey says. "An aquamarine set in gold from my grandmother's wedding band. Light blue and the size of my face. He delivered big-time."

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The Bridal Bouquet

wedding bouquet
Elizabeth Messina Photography

The bride's bouquet, made by Molly Ryan Floral, contained favorites such as lilies of the valley, fritillaria, muscari, lady's-slipper orchids, hellebores, and crispy wave ferns, tied together with a gray silk ribbon.

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Motherly Love

couple with mothers
Elizabeth Messina Photography

The couple included tributes to their mothers (as well as many remembrances of their fathers, both lost to cancer).

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All Together Now

wedding party
Elizabeth Messina Photography

Carey requested portraits of the wedding party, which included friends and family, in front of the same wallpaper that hangs in the couple's bedroom. "Eric calls it our personal Sherwood Forest," says Carey. It was in front of this backdrop that the couple also did their first look.

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Beautiful Boutonnieres

Elizabeth Messina Photography

There were variations among the men's boutonnières, with Eric's being an extra-special Japanese porcelain of lily of the valley.

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Flowers Forever

gold combs
Elizabeth Messina Photography

Friends who served as "flower women"—instead of flower girls—received gold lily-of-the-valley haircombs; antique gold lily-of-the-valley brooches were given to three beloved aunts.

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In Case of Tears

wedding favors
Elizabeth Messina Photography

At the ceremony, guests could help themselves to matchbox-style packages containing cotton hankies, a signature accessory of Carey's late father.

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Blooming in Place

ceremony space chairs
Elizabeth Messina Photography

Carey and Eric tied the knot at the newly constructed wing of the Museum of Northern California Art. "I had always imagined I would get married surrounded by a magical garden, but because it's an art museum, they didn't want that much moisture coming into the building—and definitely nothing with bugs on it," says Carey. "This evolved into my paper flower installation. If you laid them out in size order, the biggest, the hydrangea, was black, and the smallest, the pansy, was light gray. All the sizes in between were all the shades of gray in between. There were 38 different versions of the flowers. We built wooden corners, rigged a fishing line system from left to right. Once the fishing line was up, I got in there with my mom and a hole punch, and we strung them where they needed to be."

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The Ceremony Décor

paper flowers
Elizabeth Messina Photography

The ceremony room's perimeter was festooned with laser-cut paper flowers that Carey made herself and suspended on invisible wire. 1,000 blooms were made, taking inspiration from the tradition of folding a thousand origami cranes for good luck. Carey felt that the muted look of the décor would keep the focus during the ceremony on the words they were speaking. Also, "it's classic!" she says. "I wanted something we were going to love forever. I can look at this 30 years from now and it will be timeless.

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Language of Flowers

wedding seating labels
Elizabeth Messina Photography

The couple made a seating chart for their ceremony space, with each row marked with a type of flower. The meaning of each bloom was letterpressed onto a tag and tied in place with wax twine.

Another thoughtful touch at the ceremony were the notes on each seat. Carey and Eric spent the year of their engagement writing notes to every single guest, and arranged them accordingly.

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The Ceremony

Elizabeth Messina Photography

The couple exchanged vows in the midst of their guests, who were seated in the round. The service began at 1:43pm, it's the couple's code for "I love you" (representing the number of letters in each word). "We did the bride-side/groom-side thing, but then Eric and I switched sides so we could see our own people. My experience as a bridesmaid in the past was that I could see the groom's face when I really wanted to see my best friend. I think every bride and groom should trade sides, so that you can see your people."

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The First Dance

first dance
Elizabeth Messina Photography

Carey and Eric shared their first dance to the strains of the Paradise Symphony Orchestra.

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I'll Drink to That

white russian with stirrer
Elizabeth Messina Photography

White Russians were served at the cocktail hour, in a nod to the first movie the couple saw together, The Big Lebowski.

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Custom Nibbles

wedding appetizers
Elizabeth Messina Photography

Carey made laser-cut black acrylic appetizer picks with the couple's intertwined initials for the passed hors d'oeuvres served by Bacio Chico during the cocktail hour.

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The Guest Book

guestbook with pen
Elizabeth Messina Photography

Carey laser-cut the couple's favorite quote onto the walnut wood guest book that Eric had made (the quote was calligraphed by Anne Robin) and asked guests to sign an oversized copy of their vows using Carey's father's "fancy pen".

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Sign Here (and Here)

guest signing guest book
Elizabeth Messina Photography

Carey and Eric also asked guests to sign a copy of their vows.

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All in the Family

guests laughing
Elizabeth Messina Photography

"Best woman" (and Eric's sister) Cassie and groomsman Wes are themselves married.

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Here Comes the Sun

wedding couple and wedding party walk
Elizabeth Messina Photography

Though the forecast called for downpours—which indeed did pour leading up to and all the way through the ceremony—"but then the skies magically cleared, a gift from our dads," says Carey, and so the entire wedding walked the few blocks from the museum to the restaurant where the reception would take place.

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All in Favor

wedding favors packaging
Elizabeth Messina Photography

When guests arrived at the restaurant, they found gifts labeled with their names and table numbers. The wrapping papers were all different designs, created from the botanical prints used in the ceremony space. A gray silk tassel and oversize wax seal topped each. Inside were the framed photos of those guests, plus the bride or groom. "It was the best to walk around the restaurant and see all our guests showing off their framed pictures," says Carey. Carey had spent months shopping for frames to best suite each guest and their home. "It meant the world to me to spend time thinking about how much I love these people," Carey says of her guests and why she made them individual gifts. "They're why we didn't go to a courthouse."

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The Reception Tables

Elizabeth Messina Photography

At Red Tavern, laser-cut table numbers, menu cards printed in white foil, and taper candles—all in black—stood out against gray velvet linens and verdant centerpieces. Marbled-gray glass vases held begonia leaves and ferns, black scabiosa, ranunculus, dogwood, and black and green hellebores, among others. Alongside, of course, were stacks of river rocks.

Eric, deferring to Carey's wedding-design expertise, weighed in on only those elements that were most important to him: what to eat for dinner, the guest list, and what Carey wore. (He hoped his bride, who normally favors unusual fashion choices, would wear a white dress and a veil he could lift back.) "I was surprised by how amazing it turned out," said Eric. "The thought Carey put into it and how she pulled everything together were amazing. She could see the final picture all along."

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wine glass cheers
Elizabeth Messina Photography

The couple planned for no music during the reception, just toasts and conversation. "We just wanted to talk to our people," says Carey.

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Mini Sweets

wedding desserts
Elizabeth Messina Photography

Dessert choices included their personal favorites: for Carey, rice-cereal treats; and for Eric, cookies-and-cream milkshakes. The bride put white-chocolate "wax seals" on the chocolate sandwich cookies that topped the milkshakes.

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Giving Thanks

thank you notes
Elizabeth Messina Photography

Thank-you cards featured a letterpress of the couple's favorite quote, again calligraphed by Anne Robin; envelopes were tipped with thick charcoal piping.

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wedding couple portrait
Elizabeth Messina Photography

Ceremony and cocktail-hour location, The Museum of Northern California Art

Reception location and dinner, Red Tavern

Event planning, CES Weddings & Events

Cocktail-hour catering, Bacio Catering

Flowers, Molly Ryan Floral

Photography, Elizabeth Messina

Stationery and branding, The Idea Emporium

Stationery production, Czar Press letterpress printing; Digital Print & Design flat printing; Ultimate Business Cards foil printing

Calligraphy, Anne Robin Calligraphy

Music, Paradise Symphony Orchestra

Rentals, Bright Event Rentals; La Tavola Fine Linen; Scout Rental Co.

Bride's gown, Badgley Mischka

Bride's accessories, Olivia the Wolf veil; Serengeti West Fine Jewelers engagement rings; Tom Ford shoes

Hair, Sarah Mallory; Kaitlen Ballew

Makeup, Powder Room Beauty Bar

Bridesmaids' dresses, Rent the Runway

Flower women's hair combs, Sparrowstation

Groom's tuxedo, Calvin Klein

Groom's boutonnière, Iryna Fleur

Mother of the bride's dress, Vera Wang

Mother of the groom's dress, Nightway

Wedding styling, Type A Society

Rice-cereal treats, Lovely Layers Cakery

Hat box, Trousseau & Co.

Vintage brass hanger, Curiosix

Ribbons and bag (for flower petals), Silk & Willow

Napkins and matchboxes, ForYourParty.com

Candle holders, vases, and display boxes, Accent Decor

Glass card tray, Jacquie Summer

Welcome box contents, Carriere Family Farms walnuts; Knaughty Farms olive oil; ChicoBag travel bag; Boylan Bottling seltzer

Backdrop wallpaper, Anthropologie

Wax seals, WaxSeals.com

Table-number holders, Nate Berkus for Target

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