Chelsea+Matt at The Amala Foundation

ChelseaMattChelsea is our guest blogger today, she and Matt were married a couple of weeks ago at the The Amala Foundation.  These two truly followed their heart in every aspect of planning their wedding! From Chelsea:

Hello there! I’m Chelsea, part of Team Chatt! (That stands for Chelsea and Matt, the names of myself and my husband.) Mike was so kind as to let me to write a bit about how we met and our unique wedding, so here goes!

Matt and I met each other at college in Carnegie Mellon. He was a mathematician majoring in computer science and I a cartoonist majoring in Japanese and fine arts. We connected over shared passions like video games and our love for making things together with our friends like experimental cuisine or comics. In the seven years following our meeting, as our passion for creation and philanthropy grew, so did our love for each other. We knew without a doubt that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together and last year we made it official. Matt proposed to me at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center with a picnic of artisan cheeses, and I proposed to him by making an interactive fiction video game for him a few months later. Matt now works as a software developer and myself as an interaction designer, where we both make technology smarter and more usable. We’ve always believed that good technology is a blend of both human and digital parts.

Both Matt and I were inspired by Art Nouveau, an art style in which manmade forms like glass and copper combine with the beauty of nature to create a union that is more than the sum of its parts. We chose our colors of copper and emerald to match that theme, and also used a motif of flourishes which evoke the shape of the infinity symbol and of fractals. Our decorations were primarily glass, apothecary jars and a few flowers to accent the natural beauty of our venue.

The Sanctuary was a clear choice for us. The venue is run by the Amala Foundation, a non-profit that connects youth from around the world and inspires them to be better leaders. We feel great knowing our venue fees went to a local non-profit whose mission we care about, and we love the space they provided for us. The Sanctuary’s oak trees lent their beauty and shade to our special day, and also made for a fun and unique photo-op from up in the branches.

This wedding is not only a reflection of Matt and my passions, but a reflection of the intentional community that we have built around us. After we read our handwritten vows, we followed up our ceremony with a traditional Chinese lion dance from Matt’s kung fu studio. He’s been practicing kung fu for over five years and as a black belt, we see the folks at the Austin Kung Fu Academy as family.

The wedding was very memorable for us—we enjoyed climbing up a huge tree in the middle of The Sanctuary together and dancing with our friends and family with glowsticks at night. After almost everyone left, we swung together in the tire swing that was on site and laughed as my dad and my nieces pushed us, higher and higher. It was a perfect reminder of our enduring love, friendship, and the incredible and generous people with whom we have surrounded ourselves.

amalafoundation austin wedding


Gabrielle+Brad wedding at the Vineyard at Chappel Lodge

First dance at sunset Vineyard at Chappel LodgeGabrielle and Brad have one of the best engagement stories!  Warning for any guys reading this, Brad is professionally trained.  Please do not try this at home.  Lots of vendor details after the pictures!  

From Gabrielle:

While attending Michigan State University Brad and I were neighbors in the same apartment building. I lived on the third floor and he on the first. One afternoon while I was sitting on my balcony, I spotted a very handsome fella walking towards our building with a group of guys. He must of noticed me because he shouted for me to come down and enjoy a get-together he was hosting. It wasn't long after we were an item.

Engagement Story:

Brad and I drove to Michigan for the holidays and it happened over the course of our trip. He had made four wooden ring boxes, and he staged four fake proposals to build suspense/ to torture me. The first he handed to me non nonchalantly, "I wanted to wait to give this to you, but thought you would want to show it off to our families." When I opened the box inside was a seatbelt cutter. Something I had jokingly asked for to prepare for a zombie apocalypse. Definitely not what I expected. I knew then I was in for a long Christmas vacation.

One evening we attended a Christmas party at a friend’s house. After several drinks Brad said he wanted to take me for a walk. We walked through the neighborhood looking at the Christmas lights, and after some nervous words Brad opened the second box and said, “Will you take a concealed handgun class with me?" Inside the box was a bullet. Again, something I told him I wanted to do, but not what I expected. He even pretended to be nervous to throw me off.

The third proposal came as we drove from the east side of MI to the west side. We stopped at the Michigan State campus, our alma mater, to stretch our legs and let our dog out. It was 10pm and freezing cold, but Brad insisted we walk by the Sparty statue. Once there he got down on one knee, opened a third box, and inside... beautiful rose gold earrings! He got me again! Awkwardness followed as a car full of girls passing by saw him on one knee and wanted to share in the excitement. Brad, not wanting to explain that he had just pulled a mean joke on his girlfriend, got them to carry on.

As our trip neared its end, I thought there might never be a real proposal. We needed to get our dog out of the house for a while, so Brad suggested we walk him up the trail to our picnic spot on the north point bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan. We got coffees and started walking up the trail. It was freezing cold and I was weary that he was planning to trick me again. He promised he wasn't. I didn't believe him, but we continued on. When we reached our picnic spot overlooking the lake, Brad pulled out another box.  Inside was a memory card. He told me it was so we could get family pictures taken. As he laughed and reveled in another successful con, I planned how to push him off the bluffs. He composed himself and asked if I was disappointed. Of course I was! He made me hike up a frozen mountain just to mess with me. Aware that I was ready to lose it, he said he had one more gift and pulled out an envelope. He opened it and recited a poem he had written about us. For those who don't know, writing colorful, Dr. Seuss-quality poetry is one of Brad's many hidden talents. It was a beautiful poem and at the end it poetically instructed me to remove the frame from the fourth box and inside would be a message. "Hit it guys!" (A running joke about a flash mob proposal.) As I read the message he got down on one knee with another box. Inside was the most beautiful ring i had ever seen. I said "YES!" And followed with, "About time, jerk!"


Stick up for the things that are TRULY important to you. Don't let others talk you out of your vision; (hanging large chandeliers in trees, string quartet, having your fur baby part-take as best man, etc.).... but be flexible with the little things. When it came to our guest list we wanted to keep invites to a minimum keeping it small and intimate. To ensure this process is painless, set a strict deadline for invites. We ran into issues when my “amazing” groom forgot to tell me of a few guests he invited verbally. Luckily moving things around was not that difficult and in the end their presence made a world of difference. There will undoubtably be family and friends who offer suggestions and opinions for your special day. If someone wants to contribute something to your special day by asking to include a family heirloom or photos of loved ones, it really does not hurt to say “yes, of course” Just don't go overboard. In the end it is your special day.

Poem by Brad displayed at the wedding:

Story of us

Twas a college bonanza, a Friday I think,

We gathered to mingle and have a few drinks,

A friend and I struggled to lug the keg in,

A heckler appeared on her face a great grin,

“Whats with all the beer you handsome young fellow?"

"Thats more than enough to make all the town mellow."

I replied with a quip and a wink of the eye,

I invited her over to the party that night,

We drank an obscene inappropriate amount

Our hearts stood no chance they were down for the count,

There started the story of Brad and of Bree,

I in love with her and her in love with me,

An inseparable pair from there we became,

My rock, my compass, my unwavering flame,

So join us in Austin for one final bash,

We'll give you drinks if you give us cash

By Brad Herm






Romantic, vineyard style, gold accents – we wanted an outdoor wedding and reception, but did NOT want a rustic wedding. Being Michiganders, we love Texas live oak trees and wanted to have them at our venue. Unfortunately no venues in Houston had the look and feel we were going for, so we ventured to Austin. In addition to the large oak trees, we also wanted the venue to reflect a romantic feel (in hopes of hanging large chandeliers). Our requirements were met when we visited the lovely Vineyard at Chappel Lodge. The venue had the amazing asks we were looking for with breathtaking outdoor ceremony, reception and cocktail areas, beautiful rainy-day backup plan for both reception and ceremony, and on site lodging for our out-of-state guests, which made up the majority of our wedding party.

Color inspiration:

We really didn't want to have “wedding colors” we wanted things to seem natural and organically elegant. We chose a neutral color scheme (tans, creams, blush, champagnes, golds, etc.)


I wanted to continue the neutral flow by having whites and creams with only a few light blush accents (to match my dress). I think hydrangeas are a very romantic and the aroma they give off made them my number one flower choice. After meeting with my florist team (Magpie Blossom Boutique) and showing them my MANY pintrest inspiration photos they understood the vision. Lead designer, Nikki, suggested using Juliet roses for my blush accent, which has since become by FAVORITE flower. I would recommend having them in every bridal bouquet! Another recommendation would be having the Magpie florist team for your special day! They listened and truly shared my vision! Décor was very important to me, as I wanted to make sure the wedding seemed elegant and not rustic. They made that happen, and in turn greatly exceeded my expectations.


Martina Liana, strapless, sweetheart, ivory and blush organza – my dress is a love story in itself. I fell in love with my dress while playing dress up in college, long before the engagement in 2012.  I worked in wedding and event planning and needed to stay in the loop with bridal trends. I brought Brad along for one of my spontaneous dress shopping trips and ended up falling in love with the gown that I got married in 3 years later. Of course after getting engaged I shopped at every bridal boutique in Houston and finally had my dream dress brought in because nothing compared to how I felt in that dress 3 years prior. After trying it on again, I knew it was my dress.

Dress Alterations:

Kristin Johnston Alterations - All brides have a few panicked moments. Mine was a less than adequate dress alteration. The first place I went wasn't attentive to what I wanted and rushed me through my fitting. After a small panic attack and some research, a friend (Manager, Aisha Osanyin of La Réve Bridal Couture) sent me to Kristin Johnston, who is very knowledgeable and took the time to listen to what I wanted. I felt like she truly cared about me looking beautiful for my wedding. I loved the dress when I bought it, but after seeing Kristin's work I was completely blown away.

Stationary: – Minted made our invitation process very painless. Its simple to create custom save-the-dates and invitations and having the ability to have them pre-addressed means all you have to do is drop them in the mail. We were thrilled with how they turned out.

Wedding Websites:

The Knot – Personal wedding website, guests list manager, and check list/timeline tasker.

Stylist Team:

Naava Spa - Samantha Grua (the most amazing salon wedding coordinator!), Micki (the most wonderful hair stylist!), Amber (SPECTACULAR nail artist! - she came in to the salon outside of her work hours to make nail design adjustments), Amber Griffin (most talented make-up artist!). I was so blessed with this style team! I have NEVER in my life felt so beautiful. I huge thank you to all of them!


Fred Astaire, Leah Brown - I've always been able to bust a move on command, but Brad on the other hand only has a few awkward dance moves in his repertoire. Leah at the Fred Astaire dance studio in Sugar Land Texas was very patient with us (Brad), and created a beautiful choreographed dance to “Time of our Lives” from Dirty Dancing.


Barton Strings, Tracy Seeger - Barton Strings were amazing to work with. They have an extensive list from which to choose your music including both traditional and modern selections. They are also willing to learn songs specifically for your occasion. Having a string quartet was one of my “must haves” from day one and I couldn't be happier with my choice.


Look No Further DJ, Keith Jones - Keith from “Look No Further DJ” made sure that we didn't have to worry about a thing. After providing him with a few of our favorite songs and an itinerary for the wedding day he made sure everything stayed on track and that the dance floor stayed full. Keith surprised us after the wedding with a playlist of the songs he played at our receptions so we could enjoy them for years to come. I felt like that personal touch was the cherry on top of an already great experience.


Mike Reed and Barbara - This duo makes for one amazing photography team. When meeting with photographers we expressed a need for direction. Striking a pose can be cheesy and uncomfortable and on a day with so many distractions, we wanted to make sure we weren't bumbling our way through photos. Mike and Barbara were organized and artistic. They knew exactly where to shoot, when to shoot and how to control the situation. They made the process very smooth and very fun. I was amazed at the lengths they went to get the perfect shot; laying in the dirt, climbing on chairs and creating interesting noises to get the attention of our overstimulated puppy. If there were one thing that truly impressed us on our wedding day it was how fabulous it was to work with Mike and Barbara. Thanks guys.


Big Night Catering, Chef Dan Arnold - Having so many out of state guests we provided several meals aside from the reception dinner. The Big Night Catering team provided us with four unique meals for breakfast, brunches and dinners. Brides always say that they are so busy on their wedding day that they don't get to enjoy their meal. I can say that with this food it was impossible not to. The food was amazing and so was the staff. They were attentive and efficient and I would recommend them for any event.


Michelle's Patisseries - My groom and I are not big cake people. We passed on the traditional wedding cake and went with a selection of very unique and very delicious bite sized desserts. We were asked repeatedly by our guests where they could get more of the lemon bars and mini cheese cakes. Some even said they were going to stop by the bakery before flying home. Needless to say their creations were a huge hit.


Marquee Rentals, Amberley Adams - Amberley with Marquee rentals worked meticulously to get us what we needed for our special day. She was always available and very patient with the dozens of changes we made to our order throughout the wedding planning process. The item that we feel completed the look of the reception were the beautiful dark wood vineyard tables. They have a great showroom to choose from and their team, especially Amberley, are very pleasant to work with.


Trevor Herm (Father of Groom) - A purveyor of the Lord for over twenty-five years, Brad’s dad, Trevor, was the obvious choice as our officiant. He was able to create a very thoughtful and personal service that meant a great deal to both of us. Not everyone is lucky enough to have an officiant in the family, but having someone who knows you as a couple makes the experience all the more memorable. I would highly recommend it.

Wedding party and special thanks:

Murdoch Herm (Fur baby) – Best Man

Sandy Herm

David Brown

Matt Herm

Emma Martinsen

Ashley DeVille

Janelle Bouchard

Kim Samuels

Joe Grant

Dan Atkinson

Aisha Osanyin


Rachel+Bryan at Old Glory Ranch

rachel&bryanIt was a perfect fall day for a wedding - complete with an amazing sunset followed by LOTS of dancing and a bit of good cheer.  Many thanks to Rachel and Bryan for not only letting me share their wedding, but also to Rachel for being a fantastic guest blogger. From Rachel:

Bryan and I were at a total loss when it came time to start planning the details of our wedding. I’m not one of those girls who had a scrapbook about my dream wedding since I was five...and he’s a boy, so…he had no idea either. But once you spend a little time on Pinterest (but not too much time or you’ll start thinking your wedding will be a disaster unless every guest gets a $45 miniature terrarium as a favor) and other wedding-focused sites, take a look at some magazines, and ask your married friends for advice, you will start to get an idea for what you like and dislike.

My husband and I landed on rustic chic – not pretentious, but certainly not Honey Boo Boo back woods either. Burlap, lavender and green flowers, antiqued wood and metal fixtures and centerpieces. If any of this sounds like it might be interesting, there are a few things we did for our wedding that you should consider including or doing a variation of.

Semi-Naked Cake

Nope, I’m not being raunchy, although I was a little nervous to Google this at first. If you’re not familiar, a semi-naked cake looks like the icing hasn’t been completely applied to the outside of the cake. There are lots of versions on Pinterest (of course), but here is why I thought it was great:

1.        First of all, our vendor nailed the cake. Classic Cakes by Lori gets an A++. The final cake looked better than the Pinterest pictures I sent them…and how often does that happen??

2.        I don’t love icing. In fact, if it’s not cream cheese icing, go away, don’t talk to me. This type of cake minimizes that heavy icing you find on the outside of a lot of wedding cakes and makes for a very light and fluffy cake experience.

3.        It went with the rustic chic theme. It was a beautiful cake but it didn’t look like it was meant for Her Majesty the Queen.

Wooden Crate Table Assignments

We went back and forth on if seating would be a free-for-all or if we’d keep it structured. Bryan and I thought about the weddings we’d been to, and although we ended up sitting at our table for the meal only and then getting up and moving around, it was nice to initially have at least an assigned table so we weren’t scrambling to find a spot and not annoying people to sit with. Once we decided to assign tables, we Pinterested (ugh I know, I know) some options and found one that really matched the theme.

The outside of the structure is a large crate and inside, little banners are strung across the top that say “Find your table”. Then below, each table has an individual card, listing the names of everyone who’s to be seated there. You can make it as rustic or as fancy as you’d like. We bought all of the materials from Michaels and it did take some time to put it together so if you’re able to pay someone to build it for you (at least the outside structure), it would be worth the money.

Hill Country Grill

Ok so Bryan and I are foodies. But we’re also not billionaires so picking out reasonably-priced yet yummy food for the wedding was a bit of a challenge. We looked at a few vendors, but ended up moving forward with one (Our Lady of the Lunch) that we felt fit the theme the best.

Here’s what we (really just our guests because who ends up being able to actually eat at their own wedding??) ate at our wedding:

  • Hill Country Grill
  • Lemon Rosemary Grilled Pork Tenderloin
  • Citrus Herb Grilled Chicken
  • Assorted Hill Country Sausages
  • Chicken Spinach
  • Sun-dried Tomato Feta Pork
  • Jalapeño Beef and Pork
  • Roasted Seasonal Vegetables
  • Green Chili Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
  • Strawberry Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese and Candied Pecans
  • Homemade Rolls
  • Dessert (supplemental to cake)
  • Miniature pies
  • Pecan
  • Buttermilk
  • Lemon
  • Mexican Wedding Cookies

Everything on the menu was amazing, delicious, real food that we received tons of compliments on. And don’t worry, they packed us a two special plates to eat later when we realized all we ate at the wedding was one homemade roll.

There are so many other ways to make your wedding rustic chic, but I would warn against getting too obsessed with making everything match just perfectly. Find the things that make you happy, the things that represent you and your future spouse and are special to both of you. That’s really the only important wedding “theme” to have!


Tanya+Alex Hummingbird House

Tanya&AlexTanya went above and beyond today as our guest blogger, so we’ll get right to it!  One thing to note, if you decide to skim, make sure you check out the last section "Tips for future brides:".  This is great advice for being truly present and enjoying all those little moments throughout the day. From the newly wed bride:

Our story:

Alex and I met in Seattle through a mutual friend, and truly, it was love at first "meet". We met at Kell's in Seattle's Pike Place Market, a touristy stop that locals don't typically frequent. Alex was out for his birthday while I was out for a ladies' night on the town. Our conversation was electric and after that first night, I'm fairly certain we saw each other every single day for the first month or so. After three months, we were living together and planning an eventual move somewhere warm.

Our engagement:

Five years later, on a trip back from our new home in Austin, we met our families for dinner on the Seattle waterfront. Each time we came home to visit, we would make a stop at Kell's to share a drink at the place where we met. So naturally, after dinner we planned to grab a drink with everyone there. I had actually been grilling Alex earlier that day about not having a ring or being prepared and how this would have been the perfect moment to propose. Little did I know, he had been planning this for a few months and sure enough, had a ring in tow. As it turns out, he's an amazing actor!

The moment we all sat down at Kell's he got down on one knee and proposed in the exact place where we had met five years prior. I was shocked. I actually thought he was joking at first! But it was wonderful to have our families there to share the moment, plus we got some great pictures!

Choosing the venue:

We always knew we wanted to get married in Austin so that our friends and family could get to know our new home and hopefully fall in love with this city as much as we have. So immediately after we got engaged, I wanted to get our venue locked down. My parents actually found the Hummingbird House by searching venues online from their home in Washington state. And once Alex and I toured the venue, we knew it was perfect for what we envisioned--a lush green garden showcasing the beauty of Austin.

Choosing a photographer:

Choosing Mike was a no-brainer for us. I literally was looking for exactly what he says on the homepage, "Fun, bright and colorful wedding photography" and when I saw his work, I was sold. Working with Mike is easy, fun and laid back, but he knows the drill and knows exactly how to time the event. He knows precisely how long it takes to get "burned out" taking photos and keeps things moving so that you can enjoy your event. And it was as if he and his assistant were invisible the whole night, but magically would appear the moment I needed them. It was amazing! I love my photos and would hire him again in an instant!

Choosing flowers:

The Hummingbird House is already so beautiful, so I wanted to keep table settings and decor fairly minimalist. I had seen a great photo of simple bud vases with delicate blooms and succulents and immediately knew that's what I wanted. With most of our guests coming from out of town, we wanted to keep tables conversational. Big bouquets in the middle seemed too intrusive for our family-vibe. I made the succulent favors/table cards myself and had Verbena Floral (amazing ladies!) do the bouquets, boutonnieres, table centerpieces and fill in the arch a bit with greenery. Everything turned out perfectly.

Choosing catering:

We chose Pink Avocado specifically for their family-style service. We wanted to showcase light, yet subtly Texan fare and the menu they developed was impeccable. We also wanted to do pie rather than cake and they came up with a great selection of individual pies for dessert. I can't say enough great things about Pink.

Choosing colors:

We're pretty casual people so we didn't really "choose" a color scheme. Once Alex chose his navy suit, we decided the groomsmen could wear navy, but they didn't have to "match" their suits. And for the bridesmaids, I told them to choose a floral dress of any style they wanted. I really don't like the idea of putting people in uniforms and being super matchy. Surprisingly though, the bridesmaids dresses matched one another perfectly! I think everything turned out really nice and fit the "bohemian garden" theme we were going for.

Our style:

All we really wanted was for everyone to have an amazing trip down to Austin and have a blast. With that in mind, we kept formalities to a minimum. BBQ pool party instead of fancy rehearsal dinner? Why not! Magic school bus transportation to/from the venue? Sure! Father John Misty instead of Pachelbel Canon in D? Badass! The best compliment we received was that our celebration felt totally "us".

Tips for future brides:

The best advice I received was from one of my coworkers. She said, "Enjoy every sweet sweet moment," and for some reason, this resonated with me. I repeated this over to myself throughout our week of wedding festivities and embraced being "in the moment" as much as possible. Everything happens so quickly that you need to just enjoy the people around you and forget all the rest.

Alex's boss, my mom and many many other people, reminded me over and over again that this day is all about me and him and that nothing else matters. I don't know why this is hard for couples to remember, but it's imperative. You are the ones getting married. You are the ones paying for the event. And you are the ones celebrating your lives together. Everything else, and everyone else's opinions, just really don't matter. If you are able to embrace that, your wedding day truly will be one of the best days of your lives.


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Lauren+Joe at The Rock House Barton Creek Resort

Lauren&JoeLauren is our guest blogger/bride today and what a truly gorgeous wedding she and Joe had.  Rich in details would be an understatement, It was obvious that Lauren paid special attention to all the little details of the day and the results were spectacular - a real treat for your favorite wedding photographer!  The Rock House itself was amazing; I actually had no idea it even existed, all the weddings we’ve done previously at Barton Creek were at the main resort.

From Lauren:

I couldn't have asked a more amazing wedding; my mom and dad orchestrated an incredible wedding at the “The Rock House” which is an authentic Texas, limestone house on a gorgeous lawn on the edge of the sparkling Barton Creek at the Omni Barton Creek Resort in Austin, TX which sits majestically high in the spectacular Texas Hill Country. For style, my inspiration was “Bohemian-chic” but not overdone. The wedding ceremony and reception were all outdoors, so the weather had to be (and was!) perfect. The Bohemian theme was reinforced with burlap and wild flowers and the Chic theme was accented by a crystal chandelier hung, outdoors, over the wedding party table amidst sparkling Tivoli lights with a nearby seating set featuring rich, blue velvet, Queen Anne sofas and chairs nestled atop a bed of perfect green lawn. Ottomans? Of course they were faux cowhide; what else would they be?

Most of all we wanted it to be carefree and fun, and the setting with all of its seeming contradictions, proved to be just the perfect venue for “our party”!

I couldn't have asked for anything more, as it was the most beautiful scene I’ve ever witnessed and I was so happy to see everyone. We loved savoring our dinner and talking with everyone. Joey and I were so happy and he makes me feel like me, I love him so much and can’t believe we're married!