A Minimalist, Organic Micro Wedding on the Cliffs of Whidbey Island, Washington
For Meaghan Murphy, falling for Dylan Cox was as simple as walking into her kitchen for breakfast, where he was hanging out with his best friend, her older brother. The only problem: Meaghan was in seventh grade, and Dylan was just two years older. Eventually, he also fell for her. "Mind you, this was seven years after I decided I loved him at the breakfast table," says the bride, "but who is counting!"
Over the next six years, Meaghan and Dylan moved from city to city, logged plenty of miles as international travelers, spent time as a long-distance couple, and even adopted a dog. When Dylan proposed in 2019, he chose one of their favorite spots: Whidbey Island, Washington. "It was just us two in the most beautiful private cove in the rain and it was just perfect—very us!" says Meaghan. "That day, we went to Fort Ebey on Whidbey Island and sat on the bluff with Champagne and listened to music. It's the most idyllic place in the world—a huge grassy bluff looking out to the water, and it's a spot we spent a lot of time over the course of our relationship. We both agreed it would be so special to get married there, but knew it wouldn't be possible. Little did we know, we would end up getting married in that exact spot."
Though they had planned a 2020 wedding for 180 guests, they put those plans on hold to accommodate social distancing and travel guidelines. "After a few months, and a spontaneous trip to Fort Ebey, we started to think about doing a little elopement over the summer and as time went on, we just decided, why not!" says Meaghan. "We would do them both." She and Dylan invited 25 friends and family to their cliffside ceremony and seated dinner at a private home they rented just two weeks before the event. "We originally planned the reception at the park, but they banned events shortly before the wedding," says Meaghan. "Luckily, someone cancelled their Airbnb for the most perfect location the morning that happened: It was five minutes from the park and had a huge backyard set on a farm with a lavender field and an outdoor firepit to make our paella. It couldn't have worked out any better."
With the help of their 25 guests—and without a planner—Meaghan and Dylan styled and organized their entire day, which they wanted to feel like a chic, intimate dinner party. "I wanted the guests to feel like they were just as big a part of the day as we were," says Meaghan. Friends and family helped with setting the table—designed by Meaghan, director of brand creative and social at Jenni Kayne; her father and best friend, both professional chefs, provided the meal; and everyone dressed in a cohesive palette of white, tan, and ivory. As the couple exchanged vows overlooking the water in the same spot where they got engaged, their wedding felt so perfect that they decided later not to move forward with their larger, postponed event. "We picked a really private spot at the edge of bluff by a tree where Dylan's grandparents ashes were spread, and the rest is history," says Meaghan. "I like to think the bluff was always calling our name."
On the morning of the wedding—after a day of lounging together in the sand—friends and family gathered at the house to set up the reception, style the table, and arrange the food—one of the couple's unexpectedly favorite memories. "We had nearly the entire wedding party there—steaming linens, prepping dinner, setting the table, and drinking lots of wine," says Meaghan. "The boys steamed all the girls' dresses at the last minute. It was an all-hands-on-deck situation, but it was so fun having everyone help and the wine made it enjoyable."
In the midst of the prep work, Meaghan took a moment to transcribe her vows—in the property's extra-deep bathtub.
Meaghan's wedding-day beauty look was low-key: Her sister created a casual updo and the bride did her own makeup—with a little professional training before the big day. "Chanel Cross, an incredible makeup artist, coached me via Zoom and told me everything to buy ahead of time," she says.
The bride chose two different silk Shona Joy wedding dresses for the couple's small big day. "My ceremony dress was high neck and hugged my body perfectly, but felt classy and understated," she says. "I wanted something simple, and I knew I wanted the veil to steal the show, so when I tried it on, I knew it was the one."
She had more trouble finding her show-stopping veil than she did deciding on her gown, finally falling for a tulle piece with a blusher from Australian company Bo and Luca. "My veil was the piece I cherish the most," she says. "I am in love with it. I searched for so long for the right one. I loved that I could wear it over my face and pull it back—although, I had no idea where I was going when I walked down the aisle because I couldn't see!"
Meaghan asked her bridesmaids to choose their own attire, requesting only that they stay within a neutral color palette that mimicked the landscape of the coastal bluffs.
In Black and White
The groomsmen also chose their own looks—tan pants and white shirts—which created a crisp contrast to Dylan's outfit. "Dylan was very set on wearing black from the start, and I naturally wanted him in all shades of white and tan," says Meaghan, "but in the end, he was right! The black was perfect to offset all the other guests."
Calling Their Bluff
Dylan and Meaghan chose a special spot to meet before the ceremony: "We had our first look in a really beautiful private spot on a cliff above the bluff that overlooks where we would be saying our vows," says the bride. "We've had many picnics and shared many bottles of wine in that spot, so it felt fitting. It was also really sweet because we could see everyone below on the bluff getting ready for us to come down." As they shared some time alone before the service, all of their nerves vanished. "I felt very at peace and just so happy," says Meaghan. "Dylan is my best friend in the world and marriage was never something either of us felt like we needed to feel complete in our relationship, but in those moments leading up to the ceremony, I really started to understand how special this commitment is."
Meaghan asked florist Ondine to keep the ceremony space natural. "The bluff is really the most beautiful place I've ever seen, so I wanted it to be very simple," she says. Tubers of Queen Anne's lace sunk into the ground added an organic floral accent that didn't overwhelm. "The goal was to gently hold space for us while letting the beauty of the setting shine forward," says Meaghan. "At the end of the ceremony, we were about to start heading to the reception and I started pulling them out of the ground. All of my friends were in shock because they thought they were just naturally there already."
On Either Arm
After Meaghan's parents walked her down the aisle, she and Dylan exchanged personalized vows in a religious ceremony officiated by one of their friends.
In Their Own Words
"I was raised Christian and it was important to me that God was part of the ceremony, but I always knew I wanted a ceremony outside in nature because that is where I feel closest to Him," she says. "I am more of the writer between the two of us but Dylan blew my vows out of the water and made everyone cry. His vows still make me cry when I read them."
So Happy Together
The joy Meaghan felt during the first look carried through the whole event. "I was just so, so happy," she says. "I had most of my favorite people in the world around me and we had the entire day to just be with one another and eat delicious food and drink wine and dance and celebrate. It was surreal."
After the ceremony, guests decamped back to the house for the reception while the newlyweds spent their first few moments as husband and wife alone. "My very favorite part of the day was in the moments after our ceremony when everyone else left, and Dylan and I stayed behind at the bluff to take it all in just the two of us," says Meaghan. "We were in our favorite place in the world, newly married, sitting on the grass in our dress and suit with Champagne. I think it's so easy to get caught up in the details of the day, so a moment in nature with just us two was grounding and magical."
Dining Al Fresco
The private home on Ebey's Prairie that the couple rented for their reception included space for an outdoor dining table overlooking lavender fields and the water. Meaghan and Dylan used inexpensive folding tables draped with oatmeal-colored Jenni Kayne frayed linen tablecloths to create a single table for their guests, and bought IKEA chairs—"cheaper than renting," says Meaghan, "and I loved them more!"
A collection of floral arrangements from Ondine included foraged and in-season blooms that tied into the local landscape—cosmos, Queen Anne's lace, scabiosa, strawflower, and cloud grass—plus other natural elements. "Our florist brought Asian pears and quince from her family farm and laid the down the table," says Meghan. "We also collected rocks from the beach and put them on the table!"
Meaghan and Dylan designed their place settings using a mix of borrowed and purchased items: plates from IKEA and water glasses from CB2, placemats and napkins from Jenni Kayne and cutlery borrowed from Meaghan's father's restaurant. "One of my friends calligraphed guests' names on place cards and our florist put explosion grass on each plate," says Meaghan. "I really wanted it to just feel like the best dinner party you've ever been to."
Keeping It Simple
For the reception, Meaghan changed into a long-sleeved silk gown with a plunging neckline, frilled cuffs, and front button detailing. Her bouquet of cosmos, yarrow, and frosted explosion grass had an understated shape with a big impact. "My vision for the bouquet was something airy and minimalist that fit with our surroundings on the island," she says. "Simple always wins."
Made with Love
The reception menu included paella cooked in the home's outdoor fireplace, filet, grilled artichokes, clams, and grilled bread—a joint effort from two of the couple's nearest and dearest. "My dad is a chef and my best friend is as well, so they cooked together!" says Meaghan. "My friend Megan grew up next door to us and was always around, and our parents cooked together a lot, so seeing them in the kitchen together was one of the most special parts of the day."
In lieu of specialty cocktails, the couple offered tequila shots and their favorite wine. "We are big into wine, so I made a trip to Oregon wine country with my dad and sister shortly before the wedding and we brought a lot of really special wine to the wedding," says Meaghan. "A lot of natural wine, too! Orange wine was the hot commodity of the day. It was perfect in the sunshine."
A round Meyer lemon olive oil cake with chamomile lemon frosting offered a neutral backdrop for a collection of edible blooms provided by the florist.
The couple simplified their big day by creating custom playlists for the ceremony and reception instead of hiring musicians, keeping the focus on their intimate dinner party atmosphere. "We sat around the table at candlelight until it got chilly, so we lit a roaring fire in the fireplace inside and had a huge dance party," says Meaghan. "It was the best night of my life."
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