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Our day, our way: a romantic outdoors wedding in California

Our day, our way: a romantic outdoors wedding in California

Written by Katie Byrne

Nikki and Kevin celebrated their love in a sundrenched celebration in California


Nikki Wheeler, 28, a stay-at-home mum, and Kevin Hanson, 37, Assistant Coach for NBA team New Orleans Pelicans, held their wedding ceremony and reception at Saddlerock Ranch, California.

Budget: £80,000

Flower budget: £18,000

Photography: Rebecca Yale

We first met at a bar in Santa Monica after a basketball game. He bear-hugged me as I walked in and the rest is history! We wanted to create a bohemian-chic feel for our wedding - it’s just our style to a tee. 

We love the rustic farmhouse look but wanted to add a touch of elegance to make it true to us. Our venue was perfect: it was upscale yet laidback, with a winery setting. The giraffe definitely added a playful twist!

My wedding dress was by Monique Lhuillier and I loved its mermaid cut. There were areas of lace appliqué across the body of the gown, which meant it perfectly matched my long veil.

My bridesmaids all wore white. My friends are like my sisters, so I loved the idea of us all matching, rather than me standing out! There was so much greenery at the venue that the white really pops in our photos, which I love. Plus, I wanted my girls to have dresses they could wear again after the wedding, too. 

We chose to have a head table rather than a sweetheart table because we wanted to sit with our friends. With 10 bridesmaids, 10 groomsmen and all their plus-ones, we had a very large bridal party. My step-sister, who was our wedding planner, had the genius idea of a T-shaped table in the centre of the space, where everyone could see us.

Our other reception tables were long and rectangular: we used a lot of greenery to fill them and incorporated peonies, hydrangeas and roses into the decorations.

When I started planning my wedding, I didn’t really know much about flowers – apart from which ones I liked! However, I know how impactful and what a statement they can make, and I really wanted ours to fit in with the feel and style of our venue. My step-sister, who was my wedding planner, is a huge flower advocate, so having her help make the decisions was invaluable. I wanted a natural look: my bouquet featured a lot of white and blush tones.

I loved the anemones, which I thought added something different. My bridesmaids also held neutral blooms, whilst the boutonnières featured succulents and anemones. For the decorations, we used a blend of hydrangeas, garden roses and pampas grass, as well as astilbe, dahlias and scabiosa.

We had an incredible three-tier wedding cake, which was made from layers of cookies-and-cream and red velvet sponge. It featured metallic details and was decorated with anemones and thistles. The top tier is freezing as I speak!

One of my favourite parts of the wedding was the speeches. I was laughing, I was crying – they were just wonderful. Hiring a great DJ really helps. I don’t think the dancefloor was empty once. I didn’t want the party to end; if we could do it all again, we’d definitely extend the night beyond 11pm.

For our favours, we decided to gift our friends and family a late-night pizza fix! Each guest received a pizza box that was topped with a label that read: ‘All you need is love and pizza’.

My tip for brides-to-be: If you’re planning an outdoor wedding, don’t over-look the importance of lighting. You don’t want your venue to be too light or too dark, so picking the perfect lighting is key to setting the tone. Also, be careful of uneven ground. Kevin almost twisted his ankle whilst walking down the aisle!

Steal their style

FLORIST: Rise To The Occasion VENUE: Saddlerock Ranch, California DRESS: Monique Lhuillier BRIDESMAIDS’ DRESSES: Show Me Your Mumu CAKE: Frost It Cakery