Real Wedding | Ashley & Erik

They say when you find your wedding dress, you just “Know.”  Ashley looked for 8 months then found and fell in love with her dress after seeing it only online.  She ordered it…. and was right.  It was Her Dress.  It fit her style perfectly and was the perfect fit for her stunning wedding in Yosemite National Park. Take a look at her beautiful wedding and I’m sure you’ll agree….

Ashley &  Erik | June 19, 2010 | Yosemite National Park, California

How he proposed
My grandparents’ own a cabin just outside of Yosemite National Park, and the location evokes memories of white Christmases, summer hikes through the forests and priceless time spent with family.

Erik’s first visit to Yosemite came many years later in December 2008, when he flew out the day after Christmas to join my family in Yosemite.  It was a fateful trip.  A snow storm dumped nearly a foot of snow on the area, closing the roads in Yosemite entirely the day before Erik was to arrive.  Luckily the next morning brought clearer skies, and open roads allowing Erik to see Yosemite for the first time covered in a pristine blanket of snow.

After spending a few days skiing and enjoying Yosemite, the whole family drove to San Francisco, where Erik planned to propose.  It was New Year’s Eve Day and Erik was ready to pop the question.  He thought about proposing at Twin Peaks which overlooks the city, but fog prevented that.  He tried several times to get me alone for even just a moment, but in classic Ashley style, I was too interested in shopping to accommodate.

Finally, while walking out of Ghirardelli Square, a couple walking past was discussing a wedding, prompting me to jokingly ask Erik if he had any marriage plans of his own.  Erik’s response: a beautiful ring and an even more perfect proposal.

The ceremony
We were married outside on the Ahwahnee’s wedding lawn at 4:15 in the afternoon.  Mother Nature pulled out all the stops: unseasonably late snow and rainstorms meant the waterfalls were filled to the brim, and the weather was balmy with a comfortable breeze as I walked down the aisle to the sound of Ave Maria played by a string trio.  With one of Yosemite’s famed waterfalls as a perfect backdrop, Erik and I were married in front of 60 of our closest family and friends. My four bridesmaids consisted of my two sisters, one of Erik’s cousins and a best friend.  Erik’s two groomsmen consisted of his cousin and a best friend.  My twin cousins acted as flower girl and ring bearer, and their older brother carried my cathedral length veil down the aisle.

The reception
Following the ceremony, the guests were treated to a cocktail hour with heavy appetizers and live music on an outside patio.  Following the cocktail hour, guests were invited inside where they picked up their place cards, which featured dogwood flowers, one of Yosemite’s most impressive flowering trees, and were seated and then treated to a buffet of delicious foods crafted with local ingredients by the Ahwahnee’s chef.  Keeping with the natural surroundings, the tables were decorated with a lantern centerpiece with moss and river rocks at the bottom of the lantern and surrounding the lantern.  Table numbers were created from Styrofoam covered with moss and wooden numbers spray painted a deep hunter green.  The kids’ table featured a centerpiece with stuffed bears in honor of Yosemite’s most infamous wildlife.  Each child received a goodie bag with coloring books and other toys to keep them occupied while their parents ate and conversed.  In honor of Erik’s proposal in San Francisco’s Ghiradelli Square, each guest received a Ghiradelli chocolate in the shape of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Following toasts, we cut the three tiered cake which featured sugar dogwood flowers.  In addition to cake, guests had the option of chocolate covered strawberries or bananas foster from the flambe station while live music played for dancing.  Our first dance was to Louis Armstrong’s A Kiss to Build a Dream On, and I danced with my father to Somewhere Over the Rainbow, in honor of the fact that my family currently lives in Kansas.

The moment Ashley won’t ever forget
Erik and I were seated at a sweetheart table in front of huge windows which looked out to a meadow with Half Dome in the background.  There was a point during the dinner where, even though we were surrounded by 60 people all talking and eating where Erik and I looked at each other and it was as if we were all alone.  It was in that moment that it really struck home that we were married, that the wedding had gone flawlessly, and how truly happy and relaxed I was.

Splurges & Savings
I splurged on my dress, Manolo Blahnik  heels, and on having live music for the entire ceremony and reception.  The wedding location was also a splurge, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing!

As far as savings go, I am incredibly lucky to have a multi-talented mother.  She made my veil, she hand embossed and calligraphied our save the dates, invitations and place cards.  She came up with the idea for the dogwood theme, which she embossed on the invites and created the dogwood flowers for the place cards.  She also orchestrated the creation of the centerpieces, which were entirely a d.i.y. project.  Having flowerless centerpieces saved us a bundle.

We used local vendors to save on traveling costs, and the results were magnificent.  Our flowers were designed by Natalie Galasso and hair and make up was done by Carol Cardinale-Ruiz,  and of course our amazing photographers were the husband and wife team of Johnny Stafford Photography

How she knew her wedding dress was “The One”
I tried on so many dresses I lost count!  After getting engaged, my mother and sister flew to NYC where Erik’s family lives and we went EVERYWHERE it felt like.  We hit up Saks, Macy’s and several other wedding locations.  I tried on dress, after dress after dress-everything from top designer to budget friendly.  After striking out there, I returned to D.C. where I live and continued the search, trying on more dresses.  Still nothing that made me excited.  Then, while studying for the bar, I became obsessed with searching wedding blogs and online sources for inspiration.  I can’t even remember how I ended up on Rosa Clara’s website, but l did.  When I saw the Laura dress, I fell in love.  Since she is a European designer who is still a bit of an unknown here in the states, and because the Laura was several seasons old, I had a rough time finding it.  Luckily with the help of an online forum, I was able to order my dress.  Buying a dress having never tried it on is nerve wracking, but I had been looking diligently for over 8 months at that point and was willing to take the risk.  The dress was perfect-it was classic and timeless but the lace was unique enough that it didn’t look like every other lace wedding dress out there.  It’s art deco feel matched the Ahwhanee’s old Hollywood vibe perfectly.

Her Advice for Other Brides
Find good vendors, and then let them do their job.  I live in DC and my wedding was in California, so I had to do the whole thing from a distance.  My family joked that I would be a bridezilla since I have control freak tenancies, but working from a distance forced me to do my research on the vendors I hired.  I asked the Ahwahnee for references, and searched the internet for reviews of each of the vendors, which I suggest highly.  Its easy to get wrapped up in planning your perfect day and forget that these people are professionals who pull off  hundreds of successful weddings a year.  If you put in the time to find the right vendors, they will take care of the rest (if you let them).  I put a lot of faith in my vendors to help me find the right flowers, the right hair and make up etc, and the result was a PERFECT wedding.  Even with the benefit of hindsight, there isn’t an element I would change, and I owe a lot of that to my vendors.

Ashley’s Wedding Dress: Rosa Clara Laura
Photography: Johnny Stafford Photography