This Couple Released Butterflies During Their Secret Garden-Themed Ceremony

wedding couple portrait in garden
Jen Rodriguez

Sydney and Adam met through a mutual friend in October 2011, and although the pair lived two-and-a-half hours apart, they quickly became friends and enjoyed visiting each other over the next year. Eventually, their friendship turned romantic, and the new couple began dating long distance. Eight years into their relationship, on May 1, 2020, the couple drove from San Jose, California, where they lived, to the central valley to visit Adam's parents. Taking the scenic route, they stopped for a short hike along the ocean in Carmel—which is where Adam surprised Sydney with a thoughtful proposal. He even teamed up with Sydney's best friend and his parents to plan a surprise celebration, making the moment that much more memorable.

As they began the planning process, the duo immediately envisioned a small wedding with their closest friends and family. After visiting a few venues, Sydney and Adam fell in love with Hammersky Vineyards in Paso Robles, California. "We really had no intention of selecting a venue that day, but after spending a couple hours walking the property and drinking some wine, we both felt that no other place could top it," Sydney says.

With their big-day location squared away, the couple hired wedding planner Katie Kalender of Ribbon and Leaf Events to help them pull off a secret garden-themed event with a color palette of lavender, mauve, cream, navy, ivory, and green. Luckily, the pair's wedding wasn't impacted by the pandemic, as California re-opened the week before their June 12, 2021, event. They invited 80 of their nearest and dearest to join them—safely and joyfully—for their outdoor vineyard wedding, which featured plenty of butterflies (real and faux!).

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Simple Suite

pink wedding invitation suite
Jen Rodriguez

The couple's paper suite by Paradise Invitations was printed on handmade paper with deckled edges; a mauve custom floral crest highlighted their initials and the upcoming wedding's color palette.

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Love Notes

bride smiling and holding wedding notes
Jen Rodriguez

The couple wrote thoughtful letters to each other and exchanged them before the ceremony, shortly after getting ready.

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Garden Gown

bride holding fall colored bouquet
Jen Rodriguez

Sydney went wedding-dress shopping with her mother, Adam's mom (via FaceTime), and her bridesmaids. When she tried on a tulle V-neck Tara Lauren gown with lace appliqués, there was no point in continuing the search. "When I put on, it felt really good," she says, "and the number one thing was that the fabric reminded me of the garden theme." On the big day, she held a loose bouquet of cream, blush, lavender, and mauve flowers by Sweet Memories Flowers, which was tied off with sky blue ribbons.

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Finishing Touches

elegant white wedding accessories
Jen Rodriguez

She paired her look with a tulle veil, Bella Belle shoes, an heirloom bracelet, and earrings and a backcomb from Dareth Colburn.

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Navy Suits

wedding party in blue and lavender
Jen Rodriguez

Adam wore a bespoke two-piece navy suit (as did the rest of his attendants) with an alpaca liner, mauve tie, and brown belt; the suit was embroidered with the pair's initials and the date. The final touch? A watch, which was a gift from his best man—Sydney's brother.

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Mauve 'Maids

bride and bridesmaids in pastel purple dresses
Jen Rodriguez

Sydney gave her 'maids a few mauve color options and two fabric choices and let them select their own ensembles.

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A First Look

couple hugging during first look
Jen Rodriguez

Sydney and Adam shared their first look in a garden on the property. "We were both extremely excited to see each other for the first time on our big day," Adam says. "We left even more excited, eagerly anticipating the ceremony and finally being a married couple."

  • Pro Tips for Capturing That First Look Magic
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Under the Oak Tree

white chairs set up for outdoor wedding ceremony
Jen Rodriguez

Their ceremony was held on the lawn, underneath a massive oak tree, with views of the rolling hills and vineyards in the distance.

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Grounded Arch

pink and burgundy and cream colored wedding ceremony floral arch
Jen Rodriguez

The scenic spot allowed them to keep the décor simple. They marked the altar with a grounded flower arch filled with a variety of mauve-and-lavender blooms, from roses to delphiniums.

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Butterfly, Fly Away

bride and groom releasing butterflies at wedding ceremony
Jen Rodriguez

Having exchanged letters earlier, the couple decided against writing their own vows, but they did include a few religious verses. At the end of the service, they release live butterflies in the air—a nod to the garden and butterfly theme.

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Kiss and Recess

couple kissing during garden ceremony
Jen Rodriguez

The pair's recessional song, "Brighter Than the Sun" by Colbie Caillat, was drowned out by the sound of guests cheering and clapping.

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Posing in the Vineyard

couple taking wedding portrait in vineyard
Jen Rodriguez

Attendees enjoyed beer, wine, and soda during the cocktail hour, along with passed appetizers like heirloom tomato bruschetta, pulled pork sliders, and chicken and waffle skewers. Sydney and Adam, however, skipped the interlude to take photos around the venue.

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Generations Table

older couple standing at wedding generations table
Jen Rodriguez

The couple set up a generations table to honor their nearest and dearest. "Family is a huge part of our relationship and our lives," Sydney says.

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Find Your Seat

rustic garden wedding escort card table
Jen Rodriguez

A reclaimed wood table was topped with a mauve runner to showcase the seating cards. Floral arrangements in white vases flanked the ends of the station, and rose buds were strewn about.

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cloches on escort table
Jen Rodriguez

Table numbers were printed and placed inside glass cloches, so guests could easily read them.

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On-Theme Signage

clear wedding sign up against tree
Jen Rodriguez

An acrylic sign emblazoned with a sweet sentiment—"Here's to a lifetime of butterflies"—also displayed their wedding crest.

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Dinner and a View

elegant rustic outdoor wedding tables
Jen Rodriguez

The couple's reception took place just outside the white barn and farm house that has been on the property for over a century. Three long reclaimed wood tables were set with mauve velvet linens and paired with white metal chairs.

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Taking It All In

burgundy and lavender wedding table
Jen Rodriguez

Sydney and Adam cite entering their reception as one of the most memorable moments of their big; after the emotions of the ceremony subsided, they were able to take in all of the tabletop details, which included ornate vintage glassware and blush napkins.

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Centerpieces in a Row

elegant fall colored wedding table
Jen Rodriguez

Voluminous centerpieces incorporated cream, blush, and mauve flowers with tons of greenery and foliage.

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Calligraphy Moments

scripted table number for wedding reception
Jen Rodriguez

Dainty, deckle-edged table numbers were calligraphed in gold.

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Sweetheart Station

rustic wooden sweetheart table at outdoor wedding
Jen Rodriguez

The newlyweds ate dinner at a small circular table topped with a white runner and decorated with a sweet ceremony memento—the grounded floral arch was placed at their feet.

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A Sweet Party

wedding first dance in garden
Jen Rodriguez

As some of Sydney and Adam's family members gave toasts to the couple, guests enjoyed a three course meal. Dinner began with an arugula salad with pine nuts, lemon vinaigrette, and parmesan. The main course was a choice of grilled beef tenderloin or lemon chicken with a brown butter potato purée, roasted Brussels sprouts, and bacon jam.

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Textural Cake

white wedding cake with flower designs
Jen Rodriguez

At the end of the meal, the pair sliced into a two-tier chocolate wedding cake—filled with tiramisu cream—with textural blooms. "It was so romantic," Sydney says.

  • Trending Now: Bas-Relief Wedding Cakes
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Ice Cream Truck

couple holding ice cream cones by creamery truck
Jen Rodriguez

For a final surprise, the pair hired an ice cream truck from the local Negranti Creamery and served up a few flavors in cones. "Pick two or three of your most important ideas or wants—venue, photographer, catering (ice cream in our case!)—for the wedding and make sure you get those," advises Sydney. "Do not stress about the smaller things, as everybody is there to celebrate with you and have a great time regardless!"

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couple portrait with butterfly on bride's hand
Jen Rodriguez

Photography, Jen Rodriguez
Venue, HammerSky Vineyards
Wedding Planning and Event Design, Katie Kalender, Ribbon and Leaf Events
Invitations, Paradise Invitations
Paper Products, Wilhelmina Typography
Flowers, Sweet Memories Flowers
Bride's Gown, Tara Lauren; Ivory Bridal Boutique
Bride's Veil, Ivory Bridal Boutique
Bride's Jewelry, Dareth Colburn
Bride's Shoes, Bella Belle Shoes
Bride's Hair and Makeup, The Queens Bees
Alterations, Ella Marie Designs
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Revelry
Groom's Attire, SuitSupply
Groom's Shoes, Allen Edmonds
Groom's Watch, Oris
Groomsmen's Attire, Men's Wearhouse
Music, DJ Glen Peterson, Kramer Events
Catering, Society Cuisine; Negranti Creamery
Cake, Autumn Cake Design
Transportation, SLO Safe Ride
Rentals, All About Events; La Tavola Linen

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