This Couple Invited Just Three Guests to Their Cliffside Wedding in Big Sur, California
Though Grace and Dutch felt "an instant, genuine, and deep connection" from the moment they met in 2016, they focused on becoming friends before starting to date. "Our friendship sparked lots of questions in our hearts and a true desire to protect what God was doing in our lives," they say. "The timing wasn't right, so we took it slow and tried to shift our focus toward healing, faith, and friendship."
Nearly a year later, after lots of reflection, they felt ready for their first date—at an Italian restaurant—and "the rest," they say, "is history." In November 2018, Grace and Dutch spent the day at Disney World with Grace's daughter, Riley. "We closed out the evening with a beautiful fireworks show in front of Cinderella's castle and after most of the crowd had cleared out, Dutch got down on one knee and told me that he knew from the minute we first met that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me," says Grace. After she said yes, Dutch asked Riley for her permission to join the family and gave her a small ring of her own.
A few months later, on May 2, 2019, Grace and Dutch exchanged vows in front of Riley and their two siblings on a cliff in Big Sur, California. "We love exploring," says the couple. "None of us had explored this part of California before, and it was truly a brand new adventure for all three of us as a family." They limited the guest list to keep the planning low-stress and to focus their attention on the powerful commitment they were making within their faith. "We really wanted to have something intimate, meaningful, and surrounded by God's natural beauty," says the couple.
Their Gorgeous Gowns
Grace made several wedding dress shopping trips, including one with friends and one with Riley, before settling on her tulle V-neck number with an illusion bodice and lace detailing on the train. "I took my time," she says. "With so few things to actually choose for our wedding, I had more time to explore." When she found her gown—part of the Willowby Collection from Watters—the attraction was instant. "I tried it on and it felt like a feather," she says. "It was so light and easy to walk in, and I just knew." She added a tulle veil and a Twigs and Honey hairpiece borrowed from a friend.
In Full Bloom
The white-and-green color palette of Grace's naturally-shaped bouquet from florist Anna Le Pley Taylor was replicated in the men's simple boutonnières, and served as the only decorations at the ceremony. "We chose to keep things simple and let the location speak for itself," says the couple. "Bouquets and boutonnières were the main ceremony décor details."
Into the Blue
Dutch opted for a navy blue suit, patterned tie, and a crisp pocket square. He also wore a pin designed to look like three darts on a dartboard that Grace gave him as a wedding gift—a reference to a game of darts they shared before getting engaged. "Dutch made a bet with me that if he hit a bullseye, then I would marry him," says Grace. "His next throw was a bullseye." Despite never having thrown a bullseye before, Dutch went on to throw two more in a row, sealing the deal. "He started laughing in disbelief and I just stood there, shocked," says Grace. "On the day of our wedding I included the pin in his gifts with a note that read, 'I lost the bet, yet I still won.'"
All in the Details
Though they didn't send invitations, the couple's color palette of indigo, white, champagne, and gold came through in custom calligraphy on unique paper from Papier Handmade Finery. The bride and groom each carried a booklet for their vows, and together wrote a letter to their children—Riley, as well as any they might have in the future—so that they would "know we had them in mind on this amazing day," says the couple. Other thoughtful details included Grace's jewelry—a gold cross necklace and a gold bracelet with an R charm; simple green-and-white boutonnières; and Grace's floral heels. "Because we didn't have a guest list, we really just focused on the details that were most important to us," says the couple.
Before seeing Grace on the wedding day, Dutch and Riley shared a first look. "When they saw each other, Dutch had an intimate moment with her where he shared some private words and gave her a gold bracelet with the words 'I promise' on it," says Grace. It was an emotional moment for him—but Riley kept things in perspective: "He cried a lot," says Grace, "and she reminded him that this was supposed to be a happy day. We had a good laugh about that."
Feels Like Home
After seeing Riley, Dutch waited for Grace to arrive for their first look. "In that moment, I remember looking out at the ocean and just being so grateful to God," he says. "When I turned around and saw Grace for the first time that day in her dress, I was overwhelmed. Who was I to deserve someone like this? It was one of the most humbling yet joyful moments of my life. I felt like I was finally home."
The first look was a breathtaking moment for Grace, too. "When I finally saw him, I was so happy and overjoyed that the moment was finally here that I could not contain my excitement and joy," says Grace. "I was ridiculously giddy. I was face-to-face with my best friend, a handsome, kind, generous, and wise soul who loves me in a way that I have never been loved before."
Three of a Kind
Grace and Dutch allowed plenty of time for portraits with Riley, who happily posed with her mother and soon-to-be stepfather. Her shorter gown mimicked Grace's for a sweet mother-daughter look. "Riley wanted a dress that resembled mine," says Grace, "so we made sure there were tulle and lace elements to match my gown."
Brothers and Sisters
The only guests at the couple's ceremony and dinner were Grace's sister, Gretchen, and Dutch's brother, Daniel—and although they technically served as the bridal party, too, the bride and groom let them choose their own outfits. "We both love our families so much, and it wasn't an easy decision not to have every single person we love join us," says the couple. "Intimacy was really important to us and we're fortunate that we have families that are supportive and respectful of our needs."
After posing for portraits, Grace, Dutch, and Riley walked together to the cliffside where the officiant waited. Riley took her flower girl duties seriously: "On our way down to the ceremony site, Riley stopped to pick flowers from some of the nearby bushes. She wanted the flowers to be special," says the couple. "This was a really sweet and touching moment."
Force of Nature
The walk gave Grace and Dutch plenty of opportunity to take in the stunning views of the mountains, ocean, and local foliage. "The raw scenery of Big Sur was definitely a huge reason why we chose this location," they say. "We both feel a deep connection with God when we are in the elements. We wanted to choose a location that made his beautiful creation the altar on which we would proclaim our lifelong vows."
When they reached the ceremony site, Riley walked slightly ahead to spread flowers while Grace and Dutch followed together close behind. "We chose to walk down as a family," the couple says. Violinist David Dally of Monterey Strings performed an instrumental version of Hillsong Worship's "What a Beautiful Name," one of the couple's favorite songs, during the processional.
On Top of the World
The ceremony, officiated by Roy Piña of Shoreline Church, was shaped by the couple's religious beliefs. "We're Christian, and our faith is the cornerstone of our relationship," says the couple. During the ceremony, Grace and Dutch shared communion. "This was our first act as husband and wife in a reflection of our most important priority in our relationship and in our personal life," they say.
From the Heart
Grace and Dutch wrote their own vows to read during the ceremony. "They did run a bit long, but that's mostly because we couldn't stop crying," says the couple. "We truly shared our full hearts and exchanged more than just vows. That moment is hard to top, and even harder to describe. But it is by far the most important memory we have."
A Special Reading
During the ceremony, Riley read a Bible verse—Ecclesiastes 4:9-12—famous for the phrase, "A cord of three strands is not easily broken." Though the couple had a calligrapher write out the text as a keepsake, the ceremony reading came directly from Bible rich with family history: "The Bible that Riley read from was a bible that Dutch carried throughout his training in the Army and two deployments in Iraq," says Grace.
After their first kiss as husband and wife, the violinist began playing the couple's first dance song, Ed Sheeran's "Perfect," while the newlyweds shared a spin. But the couple's moment quickly became a family matter: "Riley joined in shortly after," the couple says. "This was such an emotional and beautiful moment. She ran up to us, we picked her up, hugged, and danced to the song the same way we have danced to it in our living room dozens of times."
Table for Two
Post-ceremony, Riley and the guests left the cliffside to meet Grace and Dutch at a steakhouse for dinner, while the newlyweds stayed to watch the sunset with Champagne and charcuterie at a table styled by Type A Society. Driftwood and floral accents contrasted with simple china and vintage 1920s candleholders, while two place settings on each side gave the couple their choice of seats.
A bright white peony garland filled out the tablescape and intensified the deep blue shades seen throughout.
Ending their ceremony with a private sunset view remains one of the couple's favorite parts of the day. "Watching the sun set over the ocean as husband and wife was a magical experience," they say. "Neither one of us could believe that it was real. It felt like we were living out a dream. To say that it was one of the most beautiful days of our lives is a huge understatement. There aren't words to express this kind of joy and gratitude."
Photography and videography, Mon Soleil Weddings
Event design, Type A Society
Flowers, Anna Le Pley Taylor
Officiant, Roy Piña
Violinist, David Dally; Monterey Strings
Bride's gown, Watters
Bride's hairpiece, Twigs and Honey
Hair and makeup, Lilian Beauty Makeup and Hair Design
Paper Products, Papier Handmade Finery