A Literary-Inspired Outdoor Rustic Wedding in California

Photo: Kirsten Ellis
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Alexandra and Steven

Kirsten Ellis

It's only fitting that a college writing professor and a literary agent would have a storybook wedding. West Coast couple Alexandra and Steven enlisted the help of some creative friends to write the script for an imaginative affair full of personal touches, tasty food, and great music. The tale of their "I dos" unfolded on a historic ranch in Montecito, California, on April, 22, 2012.

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The Stationery Suite

Kirsten Ellis

Children's book illustrator Lane Smith and his wife Molly Leach, both close friends of the couple, worked together to create the wedding suite. Lane created an image of lovebirds on the top of a wedding cake that became the focal point of the invitation. Then Molly incorporated the design into every paper element of the wedding, including the menus and place cards.

To make their invitations a truly special delivery, the couple used postage from Champion Stamp Company to find stamps that reflected each guests' interests.

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Welcome Gifts

Kirsten Ellis

Loved ones attending the wedding received a framed print entitled "A Love Story in Three Acts" made especially for the big day by illustrator Marla Frazee. Alexandra finished each brown paper package with twine and a hand-stamped thank-you tag from Martha Stewart Home Office with Avery.

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The Location

Kirsten Ellis

The couple first visited The San Ysidro Ranch years ago and were charmed by its gorgeous gardens, intimate atmosphere, and romantic history -- Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier were married there, and it was John and Jackie Kennedy's honeymoon destination.

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The Fashions

Kirsten Ellis

Alexandra wore a Claire Pettibone wedding dress purchased at Bliss Bride and Badgley Mischka shoes. Steven looked dapper in John Varvatos.

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The Wedding Bands

Kirsten Ellis

Kirsten Ellis of Beax Arts Photgraphie snatched a copy of "I'll Be You and You Be Me" written by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Maurice Sendak from the seating card display and used it as a backdrop for a photo of the couple's simple wedding bands -- yellow gold for her and white gold for him.

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The Bouquet

Kirsten Ellis

The bride's spring-inspired bouquet was a combination of lavender, sweet peas, and gardenias, with a handkerchief belonging to her great grandmother tucked in.

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Day-Of Accessories

Kirsten Ellis

Embroidered hankies from Etsy seller Katie Moore served as gifts for each set of parents, and this one was given an "A" for Alexandra. A vintage clutch, which had a long life in the bride's childhood dress-up box, reappeared on her wedding day as a sentimental accessory.

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The Portraits

Kirsten Ellis

The bride and groom took portraits around the grounds of the San Ysidro Ranch before the ceremony. Here, the bride posed with her matron of honor Erin, wearing Ann Taylor.

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The Setting

Kirsten Ellis

Fog from the Southern California coast rolled in on that afternoon resulting in a romantic mist that settled over the ceremony gardens and the mountains surrounding the ranch.

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The Ring Pillow

Kirsten Ellis

The mother of the bride designed and stitched a monogramed ring pillow for the ceremony. It now has pride of place on a chair in the couple's home.

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The Ring Bearers and 'Best Baby'

Kirsten Ellis

Ring bearers Yaakov, Binyamin, and Eliezer -- all nephews of the groom -- proudly walked down the aisle waving flags Alexandra made from a graphic navy-and-white car print fabric purchased from Purl Soho. The strapping lads in yarmulkes and duds from Crewcuts also looked out for best baby Lucas, whose job was simply to be adorable in a bow tie from Etsy.

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Ceremony Decor

Kirsten Ellis

"We wanted our decorations to be an organic extension of the beautiful grounds of the San Ysidro Ranch," said Alexandra. Florist Mindy Rice decorated the ceremony with aged urns filled with blooming lavender plants.

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The Vows

Kirsten Ellis

An a cappella rendition of Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy" signaled the start of the ceremony. The bridal party, Steven, and his parents walked down the aisle to The Ronettes' classic "Be My Baby," preceding Alexandra and her father who entered to the Zombies' "This Will Be Our Year." Friend of the couple, Mac Barnett, officiated the ceremony and the pair recited personally written vows.

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Post-Ceremony Festivities

Kirsten Ellis

Cocktails, dinner, and music followed the late-afternoon service. Guests gathered on cushioned wooden benches and coffee tables adorned with potted lavender and candles. Benches were draped with soft grey blankets to keep guests warm in the chilly evening air.

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Cocktail Hour

Kirsten Ellis

Guests snacked on hors d'oeuvres before dinner, including this treat with goat cheese, figs, and honey.

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A Whimsical Welcome

Kirsten Ellis

Large illustrations from "Alice in Wonderland" greeted the bride and groom at the entrance of their reception. The familiar props once decorated a children's bookstore owned by Steven's parents, and were a subtle nod to the groom's grandmother (nicknamed 'Bunny') who owned the first children's bookstore in South Africa.

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Escort Card Display

Kirsten Ellis

The literature-lovers used books from their childhood collections to display seating assignments. Alexandra made "bookmark" seating cards using Martha Stewart Home Office with Avery tags and a simple stamp kit.

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Books and Bookmarks

Kirsten Ellis

Each bookmark corresponded to a seat number tied to the backs of the dining chairs.

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Edible Centerpieces

Kirsten Ellis

Fresh flowers, herbs, and appetizers trailed down the reception tables. The inspiration came from these fresh produce centerpieces at Gail Simmons' wedding featured years ago in Martha Stewart Weddings magazine. Thankfully, Alexandra's mother had every issue since the magazine's inception so they could use them for additional inspiration.

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The Meal

Kirsten Ellis

Guests feasted on vegetarian fare, including spinach and ricotta ravioli with wild mushroom and Meyer lemon cream sauce; Westland Farms "little gem" salad with chevre, roasted Marcona almonds, baby beets, and ranch lemon dressing; and a choice of Comte cheese risotto with snow peas and baby arugula or ginger lime marinated tofu with steamed jasmine rice and baby bok choy.

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The Guest Book

Kirsten Ellis

In lieu of a traditional guest book, the newlyweds invited guests to express their creativity using blank cards and a bounty of colored pens and pencils. Guests deposited their cards in a wooden box featuring a hand-carved camellia made by Alexandra's grandfather years ago. "Now we have a treasured collection of illustrations and beautifully crafted well wishes," says Alexandra.

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The Cake and Desserts

Kirsten Ellis

In addition to wedding cake, guests satisfied their sweet tooth with miniature butterscotch puddings and Brown Butter Sea Salt cookies from the couples' favorite bakery.

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The Cake Cutting

Kirsten Ellis

Honoring their shared love for coconut, the couple recreated this toasted coconut cake. Alexandra handcrafted the felt cake topper based on the illustration featured on their stationery.

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Kirsten Ellis

Photographer: Kirsten Ellis, Beax Arts Photgraphie

Venue, Catering, and Cake: San Ysidro Ranch

Wedding planner: Betsy Bracken, Bixby and Ball

Florist: Mindy Rice Floral and Event Design

Officiant: Mac Barnett; author and friend of the bride and groom

Stationery: Illustrated by Lane Smith and designed by Molly Leach

Entertainment: Rose Melberg and Larrisa Loyva, Colin Meloy, Frank Portman

Rentals: Classic Party Rentals; La Tavola Linen

Videographer: Shawn Harris

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