A Natural, Meaningful Wedding on a Tree Farm
Rachel and Elijah
Blind dates can be intimidating, but they can also pan out into something remarkable. That was the case for Rachel Escobar and Elijah Bisbee. Elijah and his friends Heather and Dave were hanging out one night, when Elijah started getting unsolicited relationship advice. He shared his "criteria for the perfect woman," they had some good laughs, and then weeks later, Elijah learned that Heather's cousin, Rachel, had moved to town for grad school. Heather passed along Rachel's business. The pair finally met at the pond behind the Cleveland Art Museum, and fell deeply in love with each other.
They tracked and documented their first 100 dates, and eight months after that initial meeting Elijah popped the question with a grand scheme involving a surprise trip to the bride's home state of North Carolina to ask for Rachel's parent's blessing and a proposal in a cabin decorated with lace, candles, and rose petals. A little over a year later, on October 15, 2016, they made it official not far from their home in Cleveland, Ohio.
"Rachel said all she wanted was to get married in the middle of a field surrounded only by nature," Elijah says. "We found our field at Ricciardi's Tree Farm." Of making the day their own, Rachel notes that they both like things with a bit of grit and didn't want anything to be too tidy or orderly. The overall theme was "natural and intentional" and with the desire to have everyone feel at home. "While we wanted it to look and feel unassuming, we wanted the wedding to represent us," Rachel says. "To showcase our favorite things and to honor our histories. Every place we could add a meaningful detail we did." Elijah concurs.
Though the guest list was 175 in all, the day felt intimate with connections made throughout. In part, because of the bride and groom's passion project—Terra Ohio City—a wedding consultation and coordination business that also works with the community to bring people together throughout concerts and yoga workshops. They applied that objective in full force, aiming for everything to have a specific purpose, and a sense of communal participation. In the end, it was a day shared with family and friends that Rachel sums up as "on nature's canvas, we painted every brush stroke with intention and love."
Ohio-based Champaign Paper created the custom wedding stationery, which featured paintings of the two significant organic elements in the wedding day's décor—eucalyptus and rosemary.
Elijah donned a classic suit by Indochino, with a tie clip and cuff links from District31. His bride's ensemble was just as timeless. "My grandmother, mother, and godmother all wore the same wedding dress, and I wanted to wear it too," she explains. "But when we took it out of the box, the fabric had yellowed substantially and the dress was about four inches too short." So it was on to Plan B and off to the bridal salons. Rachel tried on about a dozen gowns before spotting a Demetrios number on the rack, with sleeves, a big satin skirt, and lace detailing—just like her grandmother's.
She accessorized with Dansko booties that were perfect for getting hitched in the middle of a field in fall, antique pearl-and-ruby earrings that were gifted to her by her future mother- and sister-in-law that came along with the bible verse: "She is worth far more than rubies and pearls," and a rose gold necklace made with the diamond from Elijah's mother's engagement ring. And her socks were her "something blue."
The Bridal Bouquet
Rachel's cousin and bridesmaid, Katie, made all of the bouquets and flower arrangement for the wedding. Strips of Rachel's grandmother's dress were wrapped around the bouquets.
Instead of a color palette, two of the bride and groom's favorite scents were woven throughout the celebration—rosemary and eucalyptus. Symbolically, the former represents remembrance, and the latter signifies the purification of old and making room for the new. Elijah's mother grew both plants for use in the personal flowers and bud vases on display at the reception. Rachel's bouquet also included roses, Queen Anne's lace, lavender, ranunculus, and wax flower.
Before the ceremony, Rachel, her mother, mother-in-law, and attendants shared a laugh.
A Ceremony in the Round
Bales of hay were set in in a circular pattern for the ceremony. Mismatched fabric and burlap sacks were secured to the tops. Two ushers rolled out a red fabric runner for the processional. Rachel entered to the sounds of a song her husband-to-be had written for her during their first few months of dating.
Anchoring the Ceremony
The red fabric aisle led to the altar, which was set with planks of wood from Elijah's family's farm and a circle of floral fabric for the couple to stand on. The bride and groom also partook in a ritual in which they combined dirt from Elijah's mother's home in Illinois and Rachel's parents' home in North Carolina. They then planted grass seed, and watered the new soil they'd blended. Rachel's cousin wrote and performed a poem titled "The Whole World at Once." The couple exchanged vows they'd written, but sets of vows were also exchanged with everyone in attendance, the family members, and Rachel and Elijah's parents.
"I remember how Elijah was looking at me while I read my vows. And in that moment I could see just how much he loved me. And then I remember hearing the wedding bell chime as we had our first kiss as husband and wife," Rachel says of a favorite moment of the day.
Elijah recalls the ceremony as another special memory of the day. "A moment that was unexpectedly powerful for me was the community vows," he says. "I researched, edited, and wrote the vows, each one ending in them saying 'we will' together. Imagine having written the vows and then hearing the power, focus, and intention of 175 of your friends and family agreeing together. I get goosebumps every time I think of that."
The Bridal Party
"Rachel and I, like many people, toiled over the process of choosing our wedding party. Ultimately, we came up with the thought of each one being ‘emotionally pressing,'" Elijah explains. "I had guys from every big season of my life; all representing a different party of me. Perhaps most importantly, I asked my sister to be my 'best man.' While we were getting ready, I took a few moments to explain how much they each mean to me. And moments before the wedding we stood in the loft of the barn and prayed, meditated, or set intentions—whatever felt right to each individual. I believe those minutes very much set the stage for the rest of the day." Likewise, Rachel and her bridal party sat in a circle while they were getting ready, and her mother let everyone know how much they meant to Rachel.
The ladies wore neutral, textured dresses of their own choosing—in shades of ivory, blush, gray, and navy. Rachel's matron-of-honor even repurposed her own wedding dress for the occasion. The gents also wore what they wanted, with some style guidelines from the groom. Some wore jackets, some sported suspenders, but the look was cohesive overall.
How do you get a photo with the whole family when your uncle is the photographer? He turns the camera and gets in the frame!
Booze on Wheels
Sweet Water Caravan's mobile bar was set up for cocktail hour, and there were two signature drinks on offer—a vodka tonic in honor of the bride’s grandmother, and an Old Fashioned. A playlist of music provided the soundtrack, while guests played corn hole, mega Connect Four, and other lawn games. A local taco and rum joint, Bomba Tacos, passed appetizers like roasted chicken empanadas, bacon-wrapped jalapeño peppers, Adobo popcorn, and grilled corn.
The Escort Cards
Copper boot trays filled with rice held the escort cards in place.
A Barn Reception
The barn was transformed with strands of fairy lights painstakingly hung from one end to the other. Sets of 15-foot long curtains adorned the entrance and softened the space.
Setting the Tables
The base of the tabletop décor was a series of wood runners fashioned from reclaimed barn wood from Elijah's family farm back in Illinois. "My family heritage is really important to me," the groom says. "I wanted a special and unique way to incorporate it. My uncle graciously let us use some of the wood from a barn dating back to the 1890s. I went to Illinois and spent an afternoon cutting, cleaning, and prepping the slats. Then my mom spent hours doing more cleaning. She said it was like uncovering memories with every wipe."
Atop those significant pieces of wood, were potted plants—some of which housed the table numbers. About 50 plants total were grown and nurtured for the reception, and were a mix of succulents, philodendron, ivy, pachysandra, and ferns. Bud vases and larger vessels held flowers and river rocks with candles, respectively. Mason jars housed votive candles to add extra light.
Dinner kicked off with a salad of mixed greens, roasted sweet potatoes, pepitas, radishes, goat cheese, and garlic thyme vinaigrette; chips, salsa, and guacamole were also set and ready to be enjoyed. Two taco bars ensured no one went hungry and the options were endless. Instead of cake, Rachel and Elijah opted for a variety of mini desserts, including cream puffs, chocolate ganache tartlets, vanilla cheesecakes, cupcakes, and eclairs.
Their Names (or Initials, Rather) in Lights
On the far side of the barn, over the stage, hung five-foot tall R+E marquee letters made by Elijah and his friend using plywood and industrial lights. They doubled as a keepsake, as the newlyweds took them home after the celebration.
The First Dance
For their first dance, the newlyweds chose the same song they first held hands to—"We Played Some Open Chords" by A Winged Victory for the Sullen. "It was our most meaningful song, and we wouldn't have wanted anything else," Rachel notes.
Everybody Dance Now
"As sweet as the first dance was, I wanted to add a bit of flash to the reception," Rachel says. Along with 20 of her nearest and dearest (her bridal party, her mom, her mother-in-law, several aunts, and a few friends) she performed a flash mob. Rachel's friend had choreographed a routine and taught it to everyone during the bachelorette weekend, recording it then to share with those who couldn't attend the weekend so they could learn it at home. It was a mash-up of five songs and came as a total surprise for Elijah and the rest of the guest list. Later in the night, the attendees got in on the fun by starting a Conga line.
Music is super important to Elijah, who co-writes songs for the band Nomads. So he organized two bands to play during the reception. "It was a beautiful thing, really, to see my closest friends play and my friends and family dance, enjoy, and take in the music," he says. "I forever cherish that some of my best friends set the music mood at my wedding."
A Sparkler Sendoff
"The sparklers created such a unique light and I love those final pictures at the end of the night," Rachel says of their sendoff.
The Getaway Ride
Rachel's dream car, ever since she was young, has been an old Volkswagen bus. She called in a favor with a friend who owns one, and the newlyweds drove off in the retro ride of the bride's dreams.
Photography and Videography, John Dolan
Location, Ricciardi's Tree Farm
Event coordination, Terra Ceremonies
Day-of coordination, Noteworthy Events
Drinks, Sweet Water Caravan
Flowers, Katie Conway
Stationery and Calligraphy, Champaign Paper
Desserts, Whole Foods Market
Rentals, Canton Chair Rental
Groomer, Ericha Grondin
Bride's gown, Demetrios
Bride's accessories, Dansko booties
Groom's suit, Indochino
Groom's accessories, District 31 cuff links and tie bar
Getaway car, Brandon Antz