Handmade Michigan Barn Wedding: Carissa + Ryan

Love ribbon wall

Happy Monday, lovelies! We’re starting off the week with Carissa + Ryan’s charming Michigan barn wedding, which was filled with an abundance of fun + meaningful handmade details! A total romantic at heart, Ryan proposed to Carissa with a thirty-two page fairytale poem, with the question “Will you marry me?” hidden inside. (Ladies, are you dying yet?!) Naturally, letters + book pages became a major design element of the entire wedding. Ryan rewrote every poem he’d ever given Carissa, and she turned those pages into paper flowers for her bouquet and his boutonnière. Such a lovely idea! And books were used as their table numbers, too. The pair spent most of their weekends and free time at thrift stores or bargain-hunting for burlap, jars + supplies to incorporate into their day. Their hard work definitely paid off because their wedding was such a sweet reflection of the two of them + the life they’re building together. Here’s a bit more from Carissa:

From the start, we wanted our wedding to be transparent. Being in love is about vulnerability, and we wanted to be as open as possible with those who had so meaningfully helped our love to grow. From our handwritten vows to the invitations, the song selection to the poetry and decor, we wanted to take a risk and put our passions on display in every element of our wedding. Nothing was included “just because” in our wedding – everything had its place. We handpicked each of our vendors and loved every one of them. They are such gifted, honest, and devoted people; without them, our day would not have been full of so much peace and joy.

Thanks so much to Glass Jar Photography for the beautiful photography and congrats to Carissa + Ryan!

dyed tea bags

bride getting ready

note exchange

note exchange

maroon pants groomsmen


Carissa handmade most of the bridal party’s accessories + the fun wildflower boutonnieres, too!

peach bow ties

mixed bridesmaids

bubble necklace

fabric bouquet


I’m really into tea and Ryan is a huge coffee enthusiast, so coffee beans and tea stains were included throughout the decor. I even dyed around 600 tea bags in a pot on my stove to get the ombre effect across one of the ceremony doors. Since words mean so much to us, we also chose a meaningful quote to paint inside the other ceremony door, along with four poetic pieces that had defined our love over the past three years.

dyed tea bag wall

dyed tea bag wall

outdoor ceremony

outdoor ceremony

outdoor ceremony

outdoor ceremony

Processional: Turning Page (instrumental) – Sleeping At Last

Recessional: Settler – Balmorhea

First Dance: Turning Page – Sleeping At Last

outdoor ceremony

love ribbon wall

wedding party

bride and groom

bride and groom

bride and groom

bride and groom

I made sure to acknowledge every moment and aspect of the day - the way it sounded to hear my maid of honor laugh when we were getting our hair done, and the tears my mom couldn't hold back right before she left me to be seated. I studied Ryan’s eyes as he fought back tears, the wrinkles around his mouth and across his forehead, and the way his lips formed the words to our vows. It was beautiful. Maybe some of the best advice we received was to get away from the crowd and really take in our wedding. We did this several times throughout the night, and those moments are forever burned in my mind. Probably our favorite escape was when we ran out to the field during the last moments of the sunset and we stood silent, listening to the muffled music coming from the barn, the laughter of our closest friends and family, and we were just us – completely us, together. We both agreed that we’d never felt more entirely ourselves, and so accepted and loved for it, than on our wedding day.

bride and groom

bride and groom

fabric boutonniere

bride and groom


The Milestone Barn is such a pretty venue!

white barn reception

oats favors


And how cute are their tree-slice escort cards?! Carissa made them herself by cutting up a tree branch, hand-writing the guest’s names and tying them with pretty blush + berry hued fabric strips.

wood slice seating card

wood slice seating card

bunting topped naked cake

barn reception

barn reception

barn reception

first dance


And be sure to take a peek at their adorable wedding video, also captured by Glass Jar Photography!

There is so much advice out there: Be yourself and be proud of it, don’t be hindered by traditions, have a clear direction, make sure you hire a great photographer (like Glass Jar Photography) and so on. The best advice we could give is to never let yourself forget that it’s about the many years of marriage to follow this big kickoff celebration, and that's what you should be most concerned with. When planning gets too stressful and too crazy (because it will), make the choice to refocus on each other and embrace the little things. This time of planning is your chance to invest in your love, and a time to form good habits for marriage. Nothing is worth more money or time than that.

photography, photo booth + videography: Glass Jar Photography // venue: The Milestone Barn Bannister, Michigan // day-of event coordination + florals: Kenley Event Design // wedding dress: Martina Liana // grooms suit: Topman // shirt: J. Crew // groom’s accessories: Tie from Etsy, boutineere + pocket square were handmade by bride of C.Leigh Creative // jewelry: Marida Jewelry // hair + make-up: The Basement Salon in Washington, MI // decor: C. Leigh Creative including: the cake topper, the ceremony backdrop, doors, the garland, escort cards, head table place cards, my bouquet (made of Ryan’s poetry written for me during our years of dating), boutineers, pocket square, etc. with some collaboration from Kenley Event Design (head table runner, parts of the centerpieces, props, etc.) // catering: Bon Appetit Catering // desserts: Stephanie Nagle of Whisk & Crumb // musicians: Kevin & Kelly Briski, friends of the bride & groom // dj: Maxwell Schuler // floral crown: Etsy // officiant: Beau McCarthy, Genesis Church // bartender: Max Kopplin

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What to Bring on your Tropical Honeymoon

What to Wear on Your Tropical Honeymoon

We’ve been talking about honeymoons + anniversary trips to Hawaii the past two weeks (check out our recap of Maui and Lanai), so I thought it would be fun to share some of my must haves – along with some fun finds for your tropical getaway! A beach vacation means lots of swimsuits, coverups, maxi dresses, sandals and sexy lingerie. Here are some of my current favorite picks for those of you planning a tropical getaway…and some of these work for a weekend date too! :)

1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8 // 9 // 10 // 11 // 12

What to Wear on Your Tropical Honeymoon What to Wear on Your Tropical Honeymoon


top left: tunic // wedge sandals // embroidered dress //  habitu dress // drawstring purse // red maxi dress // black lace bra // polka dot bra // Eberjay lace bra // scarf // tote bag // beach blanket // braided chain headband // sparkly dinner dress // beach fragrance // nars lipstick // pretty slip // swim suit

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Get Married on the Big Island of Hawaii at the Four Seasons Hualalai

Four Seasons Hualalai Wedding

We LOVE the Four Seasons Hualalai (you can check out our recap from our visit last year here). In fact, we loved it so much, that we had to visit again this year to celebrate our 5 year anniversary + Jason’s Birthday. I can’t think of a better place to celebrate!

Obviously Four Seasons Hualalai is an amazing destination for a honeymoon or anniversary trip –  even a trip with a little one (seriously such a great resort when traveling with a baby!), but it’s an absolutely magical setting for a wedding. :) During our trip last month, we spent some time talking with Brittany Arndt, one of the wedding planners at the Four Seasons Hualalai. We loved hearing about how much attention is paid to each wedding and thought it would be great to share a bit more about having a wedding at the Four Seasons Hualalai for those of you considering a Hawaiian wedding.

Julie Harmsen captured this gorgeous wedding at Hualalai just a few days after we visited, so I asked if we could share a few photos to show off how stunning the property can be as a wedding venue! Good news for those of you planning a wedding in Hawaii, Julie spends half the year in Hawaii (the other half in Seattle) and would love to capture your wedding! Even better, her husband Andy is a videographer, so they are a great duo to hire since they will capture your wedding on film + video! :)

Hawaii_Wedding_BigIsland_02

Hawaii_Wedding_BigIsland_03

Four Seasons Hualalai Wedding


Upon arriving at Hualalai, you quickly notice that the property is perfectly positioned on the beach to offer just gorgeous sunsets for all of their guests each night from almost anywhere on property.  The proximity to the beach coupled with the beautiful light of each days sunset adds a sense of peace + romance to the many locations on site at which you can choose to exchange vows. We took a stroll throughout the property to visit the popular wedding sites and the one pictured above stands out as a favorite for me. This spot sits at the far end of the property, so it’s quiet and it offers a great beach setting for cocktail hour before your reception. For a ceremony with an incredible backdrop of a lovely Hawaiian sunset, I think the spot below (photo by us from our trip) would also make for a magical spot – especially if you are eloping or have a small guest list!

Hawaii_Wedding_BigIsland_weddingtree


Love all the turtles around the resort… :)

Hawaii_Wedding_BigIsland_05

Four Seasons Hualalai Wedding


If you decide to marry here, you and your guests will be in for a treat foodwise….everything is delicious. They have three restaurants that offering very different dining experiences. While on site you can choose to dine on Italian, a steakhouse, and ‘ULU….each with a tasty Hawaiian twist.

Beach Tree offers Italian food in a setting that feels like a Hawaiian beach house. You can’t beat great Italian food with a warm Hawaiian breeze. While dining there, we learned that Chef Nick Mastrascusa lived and worked in Tuscany before his residency at Hualalai, which makes sense once you taste the delicious pasta made from scratch each day! If you’re a foodie or an aspiring chef, you can partake in some great interactive experiences at Beach Tree. You can either take a private gnocchi making class with chef (his specialty), or you can dine in the scratch kitchen and make your own dinner (and enjoy some great wines) with the chefs of Beach Tree. We ran out of time on this trip, but on our next visit we’ll be taking them up on making our own dinner in the scratch kitchen….fun + tasty! I think either of these interactive experiences would be great for you or guests of your wedding on the Big Island.

‘ULU Ocean Grill offers delicious seafood adhering to their philosophy of serving only regional, seasonal and artisanal cuisine. Last time we visited I was pregnant, so we didn’t have any of the fish….but this time we had a lot of it and loved it all! One of our favorite dishes from ‘ULU was the table side ahi poke. It was so fresh + loved the ingredients they use. This venue would be my choice for a post ceremony cocktail hour. :)

Obviously we love great food experiences when we travel. However, if you or your guests aren’t really foodies, there are tons of other fun activities on site. Take a trip to the spa, pool + beach hop to soak up the sun, play 18 holes on a course manicured against black lava and the coast, paddle board, snorkel or take a hike! No time to get bored here!

Four Seasons Hualalai Wedding

Four Seasons Hualalai Wedding


After seeing all of that, it’s not hard to imagine a lovely wedding at Hualalai, right?

After our conversation with Brittany, I love how much she emphasized that she and the team at Hualalai work hard to provide the full Four Seasons experience and ensure that each couple gets a wedding full of personal touches that satisfy their dreams of their wedding day! However, if you’re looking for something a bit easier, they also offer great elopement packages too. :) So, if you are thinking Hawaii for your wedding, check out Four Seasons Hualalai – they will take care of you! You can see more photos from weddings they’ve hosted on their Pinterest page.

If you already have your wedding location picked out, but are thinking of Hawaii for your honeymoon or next anniversary, I can’t recommend Hualalai enough! And if you book your trip through Katie of Ever After Honeymoons, all her clients receive complimentary breakfast daily, a $100 spa credit, and a room upgrade if available at check in! Can’t beat that!! Thanks again to Katie for helping us book our stay here again! We loved it and can’t wait to return.

All photos by Julie Harmsen with the exception of the wedding tree taken by GWS

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