One Couple Planned a Laid-Back "Love Party" in Yucca Valley, California
Darcy Sheppard and Matt Iseman didn't just plan a wedding: They coordinated what they call a "love party," complete with a sunset ceremony, alfresco dinner, and evening of dancing under a full moon in the Mojave Desert. Their shared passion for the outdoors was evident in every part of their November 3, 2017, wedding—and even during the events that lead up to it, include the snow-dusted surprise proposal atop a mountain in Breckenridge, Colorado. A year after they got engaged, the couple hosted a destination wedding at Cactus Moon Retreat for 80 of their closest friends and family. Though Darcy and Matt call Los Angeles home, most of their relatives live out of state: Matt, who owns a finish carpentry business, and Darcy, a communications director for a lighting studio, both grew up in Oklahoma and met during college at Oklahoma State, so the desert location served as a scenic weekend getaway for many of their guests. It also became a cherished spot that the bride and groom could return to often: "It holds such treasured memories," says Darcy. "The views, sunsets, stargazing, and dirt roads re-energize our soul every time."
They let their West Coast lifestyle inform many of their planning decisions, from the earth-toned color palette and a barefoot portrait session to DIYed floral arrangements and simple, locally-sourced pizza. "We stayed true to ourselves and our imagination, creating and crafting everything we could through thoughtful and functional design," says Darcy. Turning the 1950s ranch house and its outbuildings into a reception space required careful attention to detail, since the couple had to provide everything from chairs to a disco ball, but it taught both the bride and groom a few important lessons. "I was surprised by the number of decisions that had to be made and recommend breaking the bigger DIY projects down into smaller, more attainable tasks," says Matt. "Plus, listen to your future wife."
An invitation suite in a desert-inspired color palette included a line drawing of the couple and their two dogs, a schedule of events for the evening, and an array of colorful stamps. Elle Gound, a friend of the couple, designed the stationery, which was printed by Paper Chase Press. Slanted calligraphed addresses by Kelsey Clark were the finishing touch.
Matt surprised Darcy with two engagement rings from Attic Gold: a black, pear-shaped diamond on a gold band, and a second sister ring with six melee diamonds. The couple chose coordinating wedding jewelry from Octavia Elizabeth in the form of a slim gold wedding band with a v-shape to fit around the point of the diamond for Darcy, and a plain gold band for Matt. The bride also added one unexpected element to her groom's ring. "I surprised him with two small stones set on the inside, citrine and tourmaline. Those are our birthstones, and a plus was the healing powers they possess."
An Easy Dress Decision
For Darcy, finding her dream wedding dress was one of the easiest parts of the planning: The "Wilder" gown by Rachel Comey was the first and only one she tried on. Flowing sleeves and a loose fit were accented with a wrap-around silhouette and silk trim, while dance-all-night Brother Vellies leather slides with pink Marabou feathers offered a little something extra. Darcy and her bridesmaids sourced the flowers—including roses, amaranthus, brunia, and berries—from the Los Angeles Flower Market and Matt's sister Melissa created the bouquet.
Relaxed and Happy
Darcy and Matt put their own twist on the idea of a pre-ceremony first look. Instead of seeing each other just before they walked down the aisle, they brought their wedding outfits to their engagement shoot with photographer Jackson Augustus Adair and took most of their posed portraits then. "We rented a beautiful house in Topanga Canyon for the day and I'm so happy we did it," Darcy says. "It was nice to not worry about those photos the day of our love party."
For Matt, choosing a loden-green wool suit was a no-brainer, but "it took forever to find the right shirt to go with it," he says. He ended up with a natural linen button-down, and a favorite pair of Sperry boots completed his outfit. He stayed true to his own style by forgoing a tie. "They make me uncomfortable just looking at them!" he says. "I've maybe worn a tie a total of five times in my life."
Pin One On
The men wore boutonnières made of scabiosa, leaves, and grasses, secured with a Yucca Valley desert lapel pin; Darcy gave her bridesmaids the same pin as a small token of appreciation (and a keepsake).
Long-sleeved dresses kept the bridesmaids warm as the sun went down and temperatures dropped. "I fell in love with the Anka sweater dress in crème bouclé cotton for my girls," Darcy says. "The company that makes the dress is called Dôen, a Los Angeles-based collective of women who design beautiful, vintage-inspired clothing. I'm in love with everything they create."
Darcy also gave her bridesmaids custom sunhats that she personalized with song or album titles for each girl, from "Blonde on Blonde" and "Honeysuckle Rose" to "Bright Sunshiny Day" and "Hedwig's Theme." "Since we were spending a lot of time in the desert and it's pretty unforgiving out there, I thought they might want some sun protection," she says.
Florals and Photos
The welcome table was filled with personal touches, including framed photos, plants, and textiles. The sign-in book offered space for guests to take a Polaroid and include it next to a personalized note; Darcy's godmother added a custom design of hand-painted flowers on the front.
Father and Daughter
Darcy's father escorted her down the aisle at the beginning of the ceremony to The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun." "That era makes me think of my dad and that song is so nostalgic of my childhood," she says. The gate separating the house from the ceremony area was decorated with handprinted scarves from Block Shop Textiles, while bronze and ivory ribbons staked throughout the space waved in the breeze.
Vows at Sundown
The outdoor ceremony, officiated by a friend, began at sunset. Guests took in panoramic views of the desert and mountains as Darcy and Matt pledged themselves to each other. "My favorite memory is when we exchanged our vows," says Matt. "We wrote them the morning of while enjoying a cup of coffee in bed together."
Man's Best Friend
The couple's two dogs joined the wedding party for the ceremony. "Our dogs are our best friends, so it was only natural that they stand next to us on our wedding day," says Darcy. Their crested terrier-poodle, Herb, watched from the bride's side while Mr. Brown, a standard poodle "with a heart of gold" performed the ring bearer role.
Darcy, Matt, Herb, and Mr. Brown led the guests from the ceremony back to the house for cocktails as Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" played—a moment Darcy calls her favorite of the day. "We walked down the aisle as husband and wife," she says. "Best feeling ever!"
A Joint Venture
An unfussy seating chart directed guests to long tables for the outdoor dinner and dancing. Matt and Darcy made the leaning installation by printing the table assignments on one large sheet of thick paper and attaching it to a clean-cut sheet of birch plywood. Matt made the frame from small copper pipe and Darcy used light-colored leather straps to attach the wooden signs.
Strings of twinkling café lights added a soft glow to the yard as twilight fell before dinner. Guests sipped the bride and groom's signature cocktails—maple bourbon sours for him and mid-winter margaritas for her—before taking their places for dinner. Darcy designed the centerpieces herself, choosing indoor plants in shallow terra cotta pots and small clay vases for an organic, earthy feel.
Pizza and Prosecco
Natural linens from La Tavola Fine Linen Rental coordinated with ivory plates, gleaming flatware, and floral sprigs. A casual meal of "Prosecco and Pizza" began with Caesar salad and included an assortment of pies from Wheat Fire Pizza: Italian fennel sausage with crimini mushroom and olive tapenade; salame and sun-dried tomato; candied bacon with jerk chicken, red onion, and pesto; and bell pepper, red onion, mushroom, and tomato. "They cook everything in a stone oven on wheels and grow their own fresh herbs and vegetables," says Darcy.
Each reception table included a disposable camera so guests could capture their own favorite memories during the evening.
After about two hours of dinner and storytelling, the couple sliced into their apple-cinnamon cake from Over the Rainbow Desserts. The semi-naked cake got a thin coating of brown sugar and cinnamon buttercream frosting, a powder sugar glaze drip, and a topper of cinnamon sugar mini donuts.
Time to Dance
Darcy and Matt then kicked off an evening of partying under the full moon with their first dance, which was set to "Danny's Song" by Loggins and Messina. Darcy and her dad took a spin around the dance floor to the Father of the Bride classic "The Way You Look Tonight." "We had waited a long time for that one!" she says.
Under the Stars
Sparklers sent the newlyweds off with a glowing exit after the party.
Location, Cactus Moon Retreat
Catering, Wheat Fire Pizza
Flowers, Los Angeles Flower Market
Calligraphy, Kelsey Happy Clark
Saxophonist, Ricky Sims
Linens, La Tavola Fine Linen Rental
Bride's gown, Rachel Comey
Bride's shoes, Brother Vellies
Hair, Alba Gonzalez of Ocean Hair Studio
Bridesmaids' dresses, Dôen
Engagement Rings, Attic
Wedding Rings, Octavia Elizabeth