A DIY, Refined Rustic Wedding on the California Coast
Sarah and Kelly
Cooking for a professional chef on your first date takes guts. Luckily, when Kelly Hendrix, a director of hotel operations, invited Sarah Simms, a private chef and food stylist, over for spaghetti one November night in 2008, he didn’t know enough to be nervous. “I had no idea how talented she was,” Kelly admits. Or that she had generations of restaurant-biz blood running through her veins. Even if his Bolognese sauce hadn’t passed muster—which it did—he still would’ve aced another unexpected test that presented itself mid-meal. “He had this spotless, modern white apartment, and I spilled a huge glass of red wine all over the carpet,” Sarah recalls. “When he didn’t even flinch, I thought, ‘God, he’s a keeper!’”
Of course, it was more than just Kelly’s cool demeanor (or his proficiency with pasta) that drew Sarah in. The two, who live in Los Angeles, bonded over a shared career history—they had met working in the hospitality industry earlier that year—and the fact that each has a twin sibling. Things got serious fast, and it was on a road trip up the California coast two years later that they first talked marriage. “I grew up in Carmel, near Big Sur, which I’ve always thought of as sacred and special. He’d never seen it,” says Sarah. “When we finally went together, he pulled the car over and said, ‘I’m going to marry you here.’”
As predicted, the serene region—all soaring vistas and bright blue ocean—became the site of their Wednesday, October 16, 2013, nuptials, most of which were dreamed up (and sketched, painted, printed, and glued) by Sarah and her graphic-designer twin sister, Rebecca. In fact, the bulk of the day's special details were handcrafted and family-made, making the picturesque occasion even more special.
Parts of the suite, designed by the bride’s sister who runs Wylie West Creative, were modeled on vintage Big Sur postcards and signs. It came with an “Adventure Guide” that had hiking trails and a mushroom-foraging cheat sheet on one side and a hand-drawn map on the other. Gold foil accents added a bit of flair.
Welcome baskets held water, apples, illustrated maps of area attractions, honey-bear bottles filled with trail snacks, and decks of cards.
Red-Cross-stamped muslin pouches held first-aid essentials for guests venturing out on the area’s hiking trails during their time in the area.
Gifts for the Gals
At the rehearsal dinner, Sarah presented her bridal party with arrow-printed goody bags brimming with treats: gold heart-silhouette rings, which they all wore for the wedding; floral silk robes embroidered with “Camp Hendrix” and each girl’s name; printed socks; and Jonathan Adler’s Big Sur–scented travel soaps. (Rebecca, the bride’s twin sister and the unofficial MVP of the event, also received custom-made black-diamond studs in her satchel.)
Gifts for the Guys
Sarah and her twin, Rebecca, posed with Kelly and his twin, Scott. “It’s nice being with someone who understands what that’s like,” says the bride.
The Bridal Bouquet
The bride carried a bouquet of roses, chocolate cosmos, pink peppercorns, scabiosas, Queen Anne’s lace, and poppies, many of which were sourced from the immediate area. “We wanted the flowers to be as local and seasonal as possible,” says Sarah of the bouquet made by Burst & Bloom.
A Cute Greeter
Pre-vows, Sarah’s niece got a kiss from Dottie, the Simms family’s miniature horse, who came to the party to greet guests.
A Ceremony On A Cliff
The couple settled on Anderson Canyon, a cliff-hugging private estate, as their venue. On a bluff near the main house, with the vast Pacific Ocean as a backdrop, 60 guests watched them recite the vows they’d written together. Sarah’s cousin, who was ordained for the occasion, performed the nondenominational ceremony.
The Interactive Programs
The bear motif on the cover of Sarah and Kelly’s programs was inspired by their dancing-bears cake topper. Rebecca designed and printed the programs digitally on letter-size card stock, then folded them in half and stuffed them with small pouches of rosemary (a love symbol dating back to the Middle Ages) for guests to toss in lieu of rice.
The Bridal Party
Sarah’s bridesmaids wore Monique Lhuillier gowns and clutched fragrant bouquets of rosemary, bay leaves, and olive branches. The flower girls, her nieces, donned crowns of white wax flowers and rosemary and Seahorse by Watters frocks. “The olive branches and rosemary came from my parents’ farm,” says the bride, who wore a gown by Olia Zavozina.
“It was a total vintage find that we just fell in love with,” Sarah says of the golden bee-topped box she unearthed at a flea market. “I didn’t plan it that way, but I guess it was our something old and our something blue!”
Kelly’s brother and nephew wore boutonnieres made of tiny bundles of rosemary and olive branches.
Attendees soaked up views of the Pacific Ocean during cocktail hour.
Well Wishes and Wall Art
The bride’s sister created a message board with 30 mini envelopes to hold well-wishes from guests; Sarah and Kelly plan to read one a year for the next three decades of their marriage. The other side of the board shows a photo of Big Sur that is displayed in the couple’s bedroom between annual envelope openings.
Quite The Spread
A 10-foot spread of almonds, dates, olives, cheeses (truffled Brie and local chèvre), and the charcuterie cured by Sarah’s father added up to one superb predinner display.
The bride designed cocktail napkins and matchbooks, then had them foil-stamped by ForYourParty.com.
With help from her sister and groom-to-be, Sarah crafted mini dream catchers for escort cards. In fact, she was still making the last of them in the car on the way to Big Sur!
Next up was an alfresco feast. Uncovered tables made of reclaimed barn wood were illuminated with simple clusters of candles—Sarah sourced the glass holders from flea markets—and heirloom tomatoes, persimmons, and figs.
Each setting was a mix of humble and refined elements: paper-bag place cards and kitchen-towel napkins flanked by gold flatware and menus punched up with drawings by Rebecca.
A salad of rocket greens, kale, radicchio, pine nuts, borage, and edible flowers preceded the seasonal feast of red-wine-braised short ribs (Kelly’s must-have), wood-roasted chicken with garlic gravy, and roasted beets, carrots, and fennel with bok choy and herbs. Clusters of late-season heirloom tomatoes, persimmons, and figs replaced traditional floral centerpieces.
Made With Love
Extra-extra-virgin olive oil, cold-pressed by the bride’s parents from olives grown on their property, awaited guests’ use in small vials next to each dinner plate.
In addition to lanterns, and plenty of candles, the outdoor dining area was decorated with a few full-size dreamcatchers, made in the day's color palette of mustard yellow, oxblood, sapphire, pewter, graham cracker, peach, and oyster.
After dinner, revelers gathered around the dance floor for the couple’s sparkler-lit first dance to Ray LaMontagne’s “You Are the Best Thing.” “Everyone surrounded us and the sparklers burned for the whole song,” says Sarah. “That was a really special moment—and the photos are amazing.”
The Wedding Cake
The cream cheese–frosted coconut cake was topped by dancing bears—the first thing Sarah bought for the wedding—that the baker gilded with 18-karat gold leaf. It was placed on a “cake stand” (now a side table in the newlyweds’ home) that the baker’s boyfriend fashioned from a fallen Monterey Pine.
A Caffeine Fix
The folks at Big Sur Bakery, who catered the wedding, set up an after-dinner coffee and chai bar and stocked it with cups and custom sleeves the couple made using a portrait stamp from Lillimandrill.
A Classic Camp Touch
Playing up the “Camp Hendrix” theme, Sarah and Kelly had fixings on hand for DIY s’mores around the fire pit. But these were no out-of-the box ingredients: “We had two types of chocolate, milk and dark, and Big Sur Bakery made whole-grain graham crackers with local honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar,” says Sarah. “You really can’t go to camp without having s’mores!”