Our Delightful Summer Solstice Wedding in South Hero, Vermont
On Saturday, June 22, 2019, Nick and I married on the solstice at a family property in South Hero, Vermont. This place is very close to our hearts, and I was honored to stand on the same timeless rocks and shoreline that my parents, and many other family members exchanged their vows on. Just a few days earlier, a huge storm had come through the area and knocked down trees and the lawn was collecting puddles. Thanks to the help of more than a few people, everything pulled together and we had a wonderful windy, sunny day.
The details and design of the day was something I had a lot of fun putting together. We wanted to create a day that had style but felt loose, creative and put people at ease. We incorporated as many personal and family elements as possible. I did a fair amount of DIY projects, but I tried to limit it to projects that could be created ahead of time, like signs and paper goods. It was definitely a labor of love to design our invitation suite, print, and assemble, but that was something I wanted to take on and kept me busy in February.
I found my dress, Haze by Rue De Seine, at Everthine Bridal in Burlington. The fit of the dress meant I could run around and dance as much as I wanted, and the texture in the skirt meant that any dirt or brush I picked up along the way wouldn’t be too obvious. I chose a 1 inch coral sandal from Kork-Ease and I was actually kept my shoes on from 9am to 2am. My priority when choosing my outfit was comfort, practicality and bohemian style.
Choosing our rings was a much longer process than I originally anticipated. Searching for unique men’s rings felt endless, but Nick eventually stumbled across Castro Smith, who hand engraves each piece. We both fell in love with his flowering heart signet ring. For my rings, we worked with Perrywinkles Fine Jewelry. The main stone belonged to Nick’s grandmother, and was saved for this moment for many years. The smaller stones on the outer band are from Nick and my family and complete the design. Using stones from both families definitely made it feel extra meaningful, and while the rings are very different, they compliment each other nicely.
As a wedding photographer, I anticipated that I might feel very nervous or in hyper aware of all the machinations of the day coming together. Instead, once I arrived to the house to get ready, I felt completely present and enjoyed every minute!
I worked with our wedding planner, Randi Nonni, to plan a timeline for the day that was very detailed and yet expansive with lots of wiggle room for things to change as needed. Randi made sure the timeline worked with all the vendors, and we also shared it with our key people, our parents and the wedding party. I felt a little nervous about being overly communicative with so many people about our hopes for the flow of the wedding day, but it worked out everything went so smoothly! I never looked at a copy of the timeline on the wedding day and trusted all of our people to keep things on track.
On the topic of trust, I gained a whole new respect for the complexity of weddings and the quality of the people you choose to partner with. Randi was phenomenal to work with and so much more than a day-of coordinator. She is intuitive with her approach, insistent in the right moments, smart, kind, honest and a pleasure to be around. Randi and her team made everything more enjoyable, functional, and was often the reason I could sleep at night.
Not surprisingly, another key person for me was the photographer. I was so ecstatic to have my friend Jacquelyn Potter document the day. I’ve had the pleasure of photographing a wedding with Jacquelyn before, and I knew she was someone who would I could be vulnerable with and would document the day with talent and emotional intelligence. All the photographs on this post are from Jacquelyn and her second photographer Macaulay Lerman, both of whom I highly recommend.
Melissa of Fast Pony Flowers blew me away with her delicate blooms. Our color palette for florals was a variety of whites mixed with pops of coral, ochre and peach with almost no greenery. She’s a total problem solver, keeping all the florals hydrated and upright on a windy day!
I had a friend come and do my hair and make up, and the rest of the ladies all did their own. It reminded me so much for getting ready for a school dance, everyone taking turns using the mirror and borrowing each other’s curling iron! With everyone full-bellied from delicious bagel sandwiches, caffeinated and dressed, my favorite women helped me look my best.
Not surprisingly, our dog Zhivago was present for the majority of the wedding.
I gave each one of my ladies a birthstone ring from Local Eclectic as a thank you gift. It was fitting that each ring was different, as I had each person find their own dress for the wedding. Keeping on the eclectic theme, Melissa created three different styles of florals for my wedding party - two bouquets, two pageant bouquets and two hoops. It took effort, but I loved the eclectic vibe, and in the end I always err on the side of creativity.
I wanted to have a first look with my dad because I knew I would probably spend very little time with him on the day. It was really great to get in a some quality time.
Meanwhile, Nick and his wedding party had been helping set up various elements for the reception before getting ready. All the gents wore grey and blue suits and a tie bar from Nick as his wedding gift.
Nick and I wrote our own vows, and while we didn’t know what each other wrote, we did know it was going to be very real, deep and personal. We are both introverts and decided to plan an extra long first look, private vow reading and portrait session combo to give us that emotional space. It’s impossible for me to even think about what the wedding day would have been like without taking the time to be together for this part of the day.
While Jacquelyn made our tears look beautiful, we did have to go and clean ourselves up before wandering around to take portraits.
Nick’s Dad, Burt, passed away very unexpectedly about a year before, so we did several things to keep him part of the day. One was to have a stone made and permanently installed in the garden, where we have several other stones for family members. The ritual of being able to visit the stone and honor his memory felt very meaningful.
We took all our group photos about an hour before the ceremony, which I highly encourage for a smooth day!
Just like that, guests began arriving and it was time to turn the GoPro on! We got the idea from a friend to put a GoPro on Zhivago to record the ceremony, and I will say - it worked great! He’s a very small dog so the GoPro was often recording sideways, and he did fall asleep for part of the ceremony, but having footage of the ceremony and subsequent cocktail hour (when he was fed many treats) was hilarious and heartwarming. Just what we wanted.
Right before the ceremony began, Mark reminded all of our guests that no cell phones or cameras should be used during the ceremony. Then the guitarist began by playing “Here, There and Everywhere” by the Beatles which cued Nick and his mom to walk down the aisle, followed by the rest of the party. Sara, the Best Woman, walked Zhivago down the aisle and Dave held her hoop, and Nick’s nieces were flower girls.
While the guitarist played “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder, I felt so privileged to be able to share such a special moment with 135 of our closest friends and relatives. Nick and I spent a lot of time thinking about this moment and creating a ceremony that reflected our values as a couple. We asked my mentor and high school history teacher to officiate the wedding, and his perspectives on marriage and weddings perfectly matched what we were looking for in an officiant. Plus, Mark is a tall guy at 6'7", and at one point we had joked about having a Hobbit-themed wedding, so with Mark towering over us it certainly had some of that flair!
Mark began the ceremony with a moment of mindfulness. “I ask first that we all work to honor this marriage by being fully present throughout the brief time that we have together during this ceremony. If you have troubles, worries or pains; or if there are things you eagerly anticipate; please set those thoughts aside for now. If you have a cellphone, please power it off. If you have a camera please save the picture taking for after the ceremony. If there is anything that might hinder your ability to be fully here with Nick & Julia, we ask that you let that go for the duration of this ceremony.
As we begin, I would like to take a moment, as a community, to be silent, to feel the warmth of the sun, the breeze off the lake, hear the sounds of summer in Vermont, and ground ourselves in this important moment. Please join me in a moment of mindful silence.”
We followed that up with a group wolf howl that went over quite well! A few years back at a Sylvan Esso concert, she had the whole audience do a simultaneous wolf howl, and ever since then Nick and I like to enjoy a good wolf howl when the right moment arises. I’d highly recommend it!
In his final days, Nick’s Dad, wrote us a wedding toast. Upon receiving the note, we sealed it and saved it for this moment. Josh, Nick’s brother, read the note at the ceremony and it was very meaningful to have his words with us on the wedding day. We knew it would be hard to not have him there, but having his words read for all to hear brought a lot of closure and meaning to the moment.
We anticipated this would be a very emotional moment for everyone involved, so we asked our friend Callison Stratton to sing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Callison has always had an incredible voice, and she perfectly honored this moment while also bringing everyone together to sing along by the end of the song.
We invited my mom and our close friend Butch to each read a poem.
Neruda Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
From Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
We have moved through our day like dancers,
Not needing to touch more than lightly
Because we are instinctively moving to the same rhythm.
A good relationship has a pattern like a dance
and is built on some of the same rules.
The partners do not need to hold on tightly,
because they move confidently in the same pattern,
intricate but gay and swift and free,
like a country dance of Mozart's.
To touch heavily would be to arrest the pattern
and freeze the movement,
to check the endlessly changing beauty of its unfolding.
There is no place here for the possessive clutch,
the clinging arm, the heavy hand,
only the barest touch in passing.
Now arm in arm, now face to face, now back to back --
it does not matter which
because they know they are partners moving to the same rhythm,
creating a pattern together,
and being invisibly nourished by it.
The joy of such a pattern is not only the joy of living in the moment.
Lightness of touch and living in the moment are intertwined.
When the heart is flooded with love,
There is no room for fear,
for doubt, for hesitation.
And it is this lack of fear that makes for the dance.
When each partner loves so completely
That they have forgotten to ask themselves
Whether or not they are loved in return;
When they only know that they love
And are moving to its music - then and then only;
Are two people able to dance perfectly in tune
To the same rhythm.
When it came time for us to read our vows, I couldn’t have been more grateful for reading them privately earlier. It was an unusually windy, so it was actually a bit tricky to read with the wind whipping the pages back and forth! I was very conscious of trying to speak into the mic properly so that our guests could hear me.
We concluded the wedding with hand fasting and the exchange of rings. We chose to include handfasting in the ceremony because a wedding is largely about symbols. “Symbols are important and helpful, because they make an idea and a value concrete and physical – something we can see and touch. They’re helpful because they serve as a powerful reminder of a time and a place and a memory – a feeling and even a promise.
The knots of this binding are not formed by this cloth but instead by your vows, the promises you make in your hearts and uphold each day through your actions. Remember, you hold in your own hands the making or breaking of this union. Just as your hands are now bound together, so too, are your lives. Because you cannot always be physically joined together, you will each give to the other a wedding ring to symbolize that connection. It will be worn on your hand as a constant reminder of the bond shared between you as a married couple.” - Mark
After saying “I do,” Mark declared us partners for life, we sealed it with a kiss and processed out to “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green! Our ceremony felt like such a true expression of our intent for our marriage. Having all our favorite people participate in the ceremony with howling, singing and voicing to support us, felt earnest and real.
Shortly before the wedding, we asked our caterer and bar service to put together a small plate of snacks and a beverage for us to have somewhere private after the ceremony - for a last minute decision this was such a good choice! My stomach was in knots before the ceremony, and afterwards we were both ravenous. It was such a relief to sit down for 5 - 10 minutes and jubilantly feel the moment while also scarfing down some amazing food! This worked out in our favor, because once we rejoined cocktail hour, despite standing only a few feet away, we couldn’t reach the charcuterie table.
Cloud 9 did a fantastic job with catering, delivering super fresh and delicious food using local ingredients to our guests. They were incredibly fast, professional and delivered on amazing service. Deli 126 handled the bar service and they provided astounding cocktails (my favorite being the tequila-based Gengibre) and made sure everyone was enjoying themselves. They were awesome to work with, helping us come up with a shopping list and comprehensive bar plan.
As Nick is a librarian, we thought it would be fun to have a Little Free Library pop-up for the wedding, and we invited guests to bring books they’d like to contribute. Hopefully a few people perused the shelf, although after the wedding we realized we definitely had now amassed more great books to read!
Nick and I have been living together for five years, and have collected a lot of household items along the way. Instead of a registry, we asked our favorite people contribute to our honeymoon. Everything we received has now been added to our first ever shared bank account that is exclusively for travel. We plan to use the funds to plan an amazing adventure and send thank you notes to our guests along the way with updates on how we spent their contribution - like a wedding kickstarter. Knowing that our favorite people will have made the trip possible will make it all the sweeter!
Nick is a fastidious homebrewer, and he brewed up 15 gallons of Kolsch beer to give as our wedding favor. Kolsch, a style born in Cologne, Germany, is a light, low ABV beer akin to a complex pilsner. Kolsch is brewed like an ale with top-fermenting yeast, then ages like a lager. It is bright, lightly golden in color, malty or wheaty in aroma and leaves a brisk, clean taste.
Vermont Tent Company provided my favorite tent (something I never thought I’d have preferences about), and all the rentals. Like almost every single vendor we worked with, I have worked with them many times before and go way back with the folks there. It was very informative to be on the other side of things and get the full experience of being the wedding couple. I have so much more respect for how much time and effort goes into choosing all the elements that comprise the day. We’re lucky we had our parents, wedding party, and random friends who could come into town early and end up helping us for 3 days straight! I felt so privileged and grateful to work with such a supportive team of vendors and friends.
We wanted to keep the reception decor simple but romantic. You might recognize the bud vases and bar from Sarah & Tom’s wedding! I became close friends with the family throughout the process of their wedding and it was awesome to have a little piece of their joy as part of our celebration. One of my self-care hobbies is making soy candles, so I made about 100 lavender and ylang ylang candles for our table settings. We also added a handful of eclectic candles that we had from our home.
My mom, Casey Blanchard, is an amazing artist, specializing in nature-inspired monoprints. She created art for our table numbers, featuring images of birds, various animals and printing with old family lace. The numbers all peel off, so we are hoping to frame several of them to have in our home.
We officially started the reception with our first dance to the Flamingo’s “I Only Have Eyes for You.” Nick and I love to dance together, although we certainly don’t have any training. We had a lot of (goofy) fun dancing in front of our people, which suited us just fine.
What then followed was a series of incredible, funny, and moving speeches that I cried all the way though. Those high quality, ochre napkins really came in handy. My dad has always had a way with words, and he opened up with some words that I’ll cherish forever. My mom planned an epic surprise - each table had an envelope marked “do not open until instructed” which had the lyrics to “What the World Needs Now is Love.” She asked everyone to stand and sing to us, inviting more musical guests from our families onto the dance floor. This was a totally different energy than when Callison sang at our ceremony, which felt reverent and motivating. When our closest loved ones all sang in unison with no prep, it was all joy and gratitude, pure love.
After a dinner break, my Best Woman, Sara, shared a poetic story of childhood, and the magic of this life. Nick had two best men, Kevin, who made me cry, and Dan who made me laugh when he shared a hilarious embarrassing story I had somehow never heard about Nick, followed by sweet words that also concluded in tears. I always say the more emotion, the better when it comes to weddings, so I guess we had plenty of that at ours!
Ever the jokester and fan of things that light up (or light on fire), my dad handed me a glowing teeth device, often used by children at Halloween, to bring a little extra zing to our dance. We danced to Stevie Wonder’s “You are the Sunshine of my Life” and I loved every minute. Nick spun his mom around the dance floor to Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.”
Our close friend Shana of Sweet Babu made cupcakes and a sweetheart cake of almond, orange curd filling, espresso frosting and topped with candied almonds. My dad surprised us with a chocolate sculpture from a friend at Lake Champlain Chocolates that had a camera for me and book for Nick.
I go way back - to the time of diapers - with Ben and Jerry of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. They asked if we might want some scooping at the wedding, and thought that would be a pretty epic way to share Vermont with our friends. Another exciting element was that Jerry had just become a grandparent in the past 48 hrs!
With the sunsetting over the Adirondacks and illuminating Lake Champlain, we headed down to the shoreline to make a sunset wish, a tradition in my family where you sit silently, watch the rays dip below the horizon and make a wish.
After this point, it was all party! The DC Project Band based in Boston were absolutely phenomenal, and guests have raved about them in the months since. I’d had the pleasure of working with them Charlie & Maggie’s Wedding and Sarah & Tom’s Wedding and knew they were just an absolute killer of a band, truly top talent. The group are excellent musicians, but somehow even nicer people who bring warmth to the celebration, and Rovaun brought the energy. Nick and I were both double majors at Skidmore College, and the major we shared was music. Having a fabulous live band was incredibly fun for us, but even more fun for all our buddies (and one dog) who were ready to dance their butts off.
So much pressure is placed on the wedding day for every couple to have “the best day of their lives.” It may surprise some of you to know that growing up, I never daydreamed about getting married. I thought I’d most likely be someone who bounced around relationships until my later years, when I found someone intriguing to live with. I just couldn’t imagine me in a white dress, planning a big event and saying very serious promises to another person. Then I met Nick, and that changed everything. We had a joyful wedding that was personal and meaningful to us. The whole weekend will be something I treasure and I am incredibly grateful to everyone who made this possible. It’s a true privilege, and these memories are only made sweeter by all those we were able to share them with.
Wedding Planner: Randi Nonni Events // Photographer: Jacquelyn Potter // Florist: Fast Pony Flowers // Videographer: Go Pro strapped to dog, Zhivago // Event Design: Julia Luckett Photography // Invitations & Signs: Julia Luckett Photography // Table Numbers: Casey Blanchard Studios // Venue: Private Residences // Tent: Vermont Tent Company // Catering: Cloud 9 // Cake: Sweet Babu // Chocolate Sculpture: Lake Champlain Chocolates // Ice Cream: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream // Bar: Deli 126 // Band: DC Project Band // Stamps: Artisaire // Julia’s Rings: Perrywinkles Fine Jewelry // Nick’s Ring: Castro Smith // Dress Boutique: Everthine Bridal // Dress Designer: Rue De Seine // Shoes: Korkease // Hair & Make-up: Jackie Maria // Julia’s Wedding Party Rings: Local Eclectic // Groom Suit: Suit Supply