Intimate Big Sur Wedding

You may have seen this wedding before on Once Wed, but we thought you might want to learn a little more about the back story.

Tiffany planned her own wedding (with Joy Thigpen’s guidance). Tiffany and Matt did their whole wedding, including their two-week honeymoon in Bali, for under $10,000.

From Tiffany:
I wanted my wedding to feel special—to carry meaning, but beyond the traditions I’d witnessed in other people’s weddings, I had no idea how to go about making that happen. I also wanted it to be beautiful, but after days of zombie-scrolling my way through thousands of wedding images on Pinterest, I was left red-eyed and disillusioned. My Pinterest board was a hurricane of burlap, sunflowers, and galvanized buckets (none of which I loved—all of which I thought were “wedding musts” at the time).

Before I began my Creative Session with Joy, I remember feeling totally disconnected from the idea of a wedding. It simply felt like an event I was supposed to put on. It seemed meaningful, sure, but in a very distant way. Like maybe at some point, way back at the beginning of the wedding tradition, there existed a concentrate of meaning. But by now, after being over-processed and produced for so long, it was just a watery version of what it once was (or could be).

I was so excited for marriage. I was so excited to be engaged. But I wasn’t sure how to feel excited about a wedding when I couldn’t envision myself (or my fiancé) really being ourselves in it.

One of the first questions Joy asked me during our Session was, “how do you want to feel at your wedding?” This floored me. Now, it seems so obvious, but at the time—it was the most ridiculous question I’d ever heard! What do you mean how do I want to feel—I have tables to rent! But I sat with that question, and then her next, and her next…and I curled up on a couch beside her, scrolling through thousands of Pinterest images that had nothing to do with weddings and everything to do with the “oh my god I love this” feeling.

My Pinterest board evolved from burlap and sunflowers to this moody, peaceful, intimate collection of oceans, jungles, and microorganisms. I remember exclaiming, “THIS BOARD IS WHAT MY SOUL LOOKS LIKE!” and then we worked on my Words, which felt like putting language to the unspeakable things within me. (To this day, these Words and Images drive so many of my creative and spiritual ventures.)

Then Joy suggested that we take the Words and Images we gathered and turn them into a wedding. My wedding.

The following six months of wedding planning/design was a slow, unfolding enlightenment for me. With every decision, I came to understand that I can truly reimagine everything. I can do away with anything that doesn’t feel like “me” and I can add whatever unexpected ideas I want!

One of my top “feeling” priorities was: “I don’t want to spend my entire reception shaking the hands of people I hardly know. I want to sit around one table and look at every single person’s face and be able to say about each of them, ‘that person truly knows me, and I know that person deeply.’” Before my Creative Session with Joy, I don’t think I realized that I was allowed to have a wedding like that. My understanding of weddings was so cluttered with should’s that, until I ventured through my values, priorities, Words, and Images, I couldn’t see that there was another way. A better way.

My husband and I decided on a laid-back, simple wedding. No frills (and no burlap)—just the people we loved in a beautiful place.

Another one of my top values was to have time to connect with my friends and family during the entire wedding weekend. I didn’t want to miss out on all of my favorite people being in one place! We had a very small guest list (less than 30) and we were all flying out to California for the event, so my husband and I decided to invite everyone out on Thursday (for a Sunday wedding) so that we could really soak in our time together and celebrate our love and friendships for more than just a few blurry hours. In the days leading up to the wedding, we went on hikes, swam in the ocean, and had long, slow breakfasts together. I remember one of my friends saying, “only you would be jumping off of a waterfall the day before you get married!” and I thought she’s right! This is so me.

Compared to many weddings, we did very little. We skipped save-the-dates. We even skipped invitations! We chose a free venue and set our own table. We gathered together on one long table overlooking the sea—the cliffs to our left, freckled with eucalyptus and towering redwoods—and the endless expanse of sky to our right, the horizon blurred by a thick blanket of fog. We had the entire shore to ourselves—it felt like we were the only people on earth. It was everything I never knew was possible—intimate and full of meaning, personal and unlike anything I had ever seen.
It was, and still is to this day, the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever been to—because it was mine.


Do you want Joy to walk you through the same design process she led Tiffany through? Click here.



Creative Direction & Styling: Joy Thigpen | Photography: Erich McVey | Ceremony location: The overlook at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park | Reception location: Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur | Dress: Cheryl Taylor | Catering: Yam & Bean | Rentals: Classic Party Rentals | Officiant: Tyler Thigpen