Chag sameach! Tonight is the first night of Passover. I’m doing Seder night tonight at my in-laws. What are you guys up to? I’d love to hear all about your plans.
Today’s real wedding is our very own utterly fabulous STG blogging bride, Dara, the first of our wonderful USA crop to get married! The couple tied the knot at Tubac Golf Resort, giving their wedding a fun-filled ‘back to summer camp’ atmosphere.
Despite being in a desert environment in Arizona, Dara and Alex’s wedding still evoked a romantic, wintry vibe, thanks to chic Dara’s clever choice of colour scheme.
We have all the love for gorgeous Dara’s stunning dress (and we adore her story – it’s a fantastic lesson in how you should always try something you wouldn’t have though to try). We’re also major fans of the cactus stationery and succulent favours!
All of the magical moments and delightful details were captured by photographer Lori O’Toole, including the particularly mouth-watering naked cake. Save us a slice?
Over to Dara for the rest of her big-day tale. If you like what you see here, check out her Instagram at @daraboxer and leave her some love in the comments box!
How we met
Dara, the bride: Alex and I are a match.com success story! After a few emails back and forth, we met up for a first date, which was nothing short of fun, hilarious and wonderful. I knew very early on that I had found my husband.
Back to summer camp
A few weeks after Alex proposed, his parents threw us an engagement party in Tucson, Arizona, which is where my husband grew up and his parents still live. We could have gotten married anywhere, the world was ours, but only three locations ultimately made sense: Florida; where I grew up, Washington, DC; where Alex and I have built our lives, or Arizona; where Alex grew up.
Since we were already in Tucson for our engagement party, we figured we might as well take the time to explore venue options. As soon as we stepped foot on Tubac Golf Resort, we were sold. It encompassed everything we were looking for when it came to a venue. A gorgeous resort with little private bungalows on a small, beautifully kept property. We wanted our wedding weekend to have a summer camp feel to it, which is exactly how it turned out!
A romantic winter wedding
We had a mid-December wedding, exactly two weeks after Thanksgiving (weekend) and Christmas, smack in the middle of winter holidays. I wanted to go with bold, vibrant colours that I loved, yet had a romantic winter feel to them.
I knew a dark cranberry, accented by pale pinks, accompanied with lush greenery and with a pop of gold and cream would be just perfect. Luckily, the ballroom for the indoor reception had dark carpeting, exposed wooden beams, and a stonewalled fireplace. The colours chosen didn’t clash with the room, which I was very grateful for!
A cactus stationery suite
I always envisioned my invitations being very simple and elegant, simple being the key word. Minted seemed to be the only website Alex and I both loved. We looked at every single invitation suite at least three times.
We ordered 10 samples, and then another five, but we knew all along that the cactus suite was the winner. It was simple, fun, and so very Arizona. It was fitting, tied into our destination weekend exceptionally well, and overall, we were very pleased with the outcome.
DIY hair and makeup
I am very, very picky about hair and makeup. I’ve never had a good experience with a professional doing either for me. I always end up redoing it myself. I knew I’d end up much happier, and sans meltdown on the actual wedding day if I did it myself.
Even though I’m perfectly capable of doing my own hair, what I struggle with is volume. I got my hair blown out at the salon the morning of, and took over from there.
My girlfriends were amazing, they really pulled through helping out with final touches, and ensuring the bun was tightly secured with 897 bobby pins. They placed the hair bling, sprayed me down with hair spray, did my eyeshadow, and a few extra touches. I just wanted to feel like me, and doing my own hair/makeup (at least the bulk of it) was the only way to accomplish that.
An unexpectedly perfect dress
As soon as we set our wedding date, my mother planned a trip to Washington, DC to help me dress shop. My dress was purchased in a boutique my mother found online, on a list of Washington, DC’s ten best bridal shops.
I was dead set on finding a lacy, long-sleeved mermaid gown. We arrived bright and early for our first appointment. I eagerly tried on the first mermaid gown I could find, only to realise that style definitely didn’t work with my body type. The stylist at the boutique told me to keep an open mind, and try something on that I didn’t think would be ‘me.’
I thought that would be an exercise that would ultimately be a waste of time, but I decided to humour her. I grabbed a dress that kept catching my eye, but didn’t really seem like something I’d wear, and tried it on. It was the one. I loved so many things about it. I couldn’t imagine spending the rest of the day trying on gown after gown only to compare it to that one.
I loved the soft, yet dramatic layers, the beautiful lacy detailing on the back, the buttons, the high, yet sheer neckline in the front, the crystal and pearl belt — all of it. I loved the way it flowed when I stood still and walked around the bridal store. I didn’t cry, and neither did my mother, but we both knew this was it. It was literally the second, and last dress I tried on. I was confident that it was the right choice.
Because of how delicate the lace detailing on the back of the dress was, I knew an up ‘do was the only real choice for my bridal hair. I figured an elegant sidebun would give me the look I was going for.
Another detail I loved about my dress was the beautiful crystal belt. The bridal store had a few hairpieces that perfectly matched the belt, so I was sold.
For my veil, I knew I needed something very simple as to not try to steal the show from my dress. I had only planned on wearing my veil for the first look, the badeken, and our ceremony, so I didn’t want to put too much energy in searching for the perfect veil. The bridal shop had a very simple veil with small pearls lining the bottom. And that was that!
A serendipitous shoe discovery
Alex and I are the same height, so I didn’t want to go crazy with four-inch stilettos, as sexy as that would be! Not that he would mind, he loves that I’m a tall gal, but I figured an elegant, pointed toe, low heel in a shade of maroon or pale pink would be great.
I was mindlessly browsing DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse — do you have those in the UK? *) for a pair of leopard flats, definitely did not have wedding shoes on my mind, when my eye caught sight of a gorgeous maroon-brushed velvet shoe.
Pointed toe, check. Low heel, check. They are Aldo, which I find exceptionally comfortable. Aldo and Nine West both make heels that I could wear for 10+ hours a day with no complaints, so as soon as I saw they were Aldo, and they had my size, I scooped them up. The best part? They were on sale for $35. I wish I was exaggerating.
*Editor’s note – we don’t, but having visited when across the pond: gosh darn, we wish we did.
The handsome groom
Alex wore a three-piece grey wool suit with subtle white detailing. ‘Charcoal gray’ is how the guys at Suit Supply described it. Suit Supply is a swanky place, many of their suits are slim cut and very handsome. Alex typically buys his suits from here.
Alex wanted to go with an oxblood shoe, which I helped him pick out at Allen Edmonds. The tie was a bit of a struggle. I wanted him to go with a maroon tie, or another colour in the theme. He was looking at ties in the navy and purple family up until he caved, and agreed to go with the theme (I believe his sister was the one who gave him the final push, thank G-d!).
He settled on a pale pink tie, which definitely made me happy. He let my cousin (who officiated our wedding) wear the matching navy tie he bought, that I was praying wouldn’t be the final choice for the wedding.
A Chuppah hand sewed by the bride’s mother
We rented four eight-foot birch poles from our florist, and added some a subtle touch of greenery. The fabric for the Chuppah was something that my mother actually sewed herself. It was so beautiful and special.
Since I’m the first of her three children to marry, we’ve decided to incorporate the Chuppah fabric she sewed into my brothers’ weddings — whenever that time comes!
An intimate Jewish ceremony
I loved our ceremony so much. It was so special to us. Alex was the one who introduced me to the idea of having four people hold the four poles to our Chuppah, rather than a stationary one. I fell in love. It made the ceremony so much more intimate. We asked my brother and my cousin for my side, and Alex’s sister and his cousin for the grooms side.
We had both of our parents stand at the Chuppah with us. Lastly, we asked my other cousin, Mo, who is more like a brother to me than a cousin, if he could officiate our marriage. Alex and I decided we wanted to incorporate all of the Jewish ceremony staples into the ceremony; seven circles, wine, rings on the index fingers, seven blessings, smashing of the glass.
The blessings were read in both Hebrew and English. We kept it short and sweet. From processional to the smashed glass was under 15 minutes. We’re actually pretty proud of that! I can’t tell you how many of our guests gave us their approval on that.
Before all of this, we had a badeken, which was one of my favourite parts of the whole day. Watching our fathers, uncles, cousins, brothers, and close friends dance, Alex in was pure bliss. No one could stop laughing and it was so special.
Oh AND, the kiddish cup we used for our ceremony orginally belonged to Alex’s late grandfather, from his Bar Mitzvah. It was passed down to Alex’s father, and then Alex, for their respective Bar Mitzvahs. That was so special!
A laser-cut Ketubah
We loved our Ketubah. My mother insisted on buying it for us. We spent more time looking at Ketubahs than we did at wedding invitations. We ended up with a beautiful, circular laser-cut Ketubah in shades of blue and touches of gold.
It was important to Alex that our Ketubah was all Hebrew. It’s gorgeous, and we can’t wait to have it framed and hung in our home.
Getting the party started
Our DJ Hans Hutchison was awesome. He had set up speakers during our badeken, and then transitioned to playing the acoustic guitar during the ceremony. He played Can’t Help Falling In Love as guests took their seats, and our processional began.
Canon in D was played as I walked down the aisle, escorted by my parents, and Here Comes The Sun as the recessional. Our first dance was Hey Ho and we immediately jumped into the hora once it was done!
Our playlist was a mix of pop, ’80s, and fun songs that kept a majority of our guests on the dance floor until the very last song! We had songs like Party in the USA, some T Swift, Hey Ya, a bit of Flo Rida, Macklemore, Usher, etc.
Of course, we slowed it down a few times so the 20somethings and 30somethings could make room for our elder guests to slow dance. Hans also included uplighting in his packaging, which I would highly recommend to any bride. It made the room so much more dramatic and romantic!
I absolutely loved my florist, Katie McClain from Posh Petals. She was fantastic to work with. I don’t know how, but she somehow managed to come up with dahlias and peonies in December. She gave me the bridal bouquet of my dreams, and I’m so grateful for her hard work.
I wanted something that was very organic, with lots of greenery, dark, moody florals with pops of pale pinks and creamy whites. Our centrepieces mirrored the bridal bouquet, though they sat in gold urns to create a very natural feel.
Our fabulous photographer
Every decision was so tough, there are so many fantastic professionals to pick from, but you can only have one. To me, photos are pretty important, especially since they are the one tangible aspect of your wedding that you’ll have left after everything is said and done.
I looked through hundreds of galleries between nearly 20 photographers in the Tucson area. I kept coming back to Lori O’Toole. Something about the colour, tone, and angles really sold me. She had a different touch than the others. We spoke, she was available on my wedding day, and it was as simple as that. We did not end up hiring a videographer, and it is a regret I have.
When we first got engaged, and the planning really began, I realised that the possibilities for what you can do are endless. The only thing I was firm on going in was having a four-tiered naked cake. I had a vision in mind, and didn’t stop searching through bakers until I found one whose previous work matched that image. When I came across Sugar Song Cakes, I knew I had found who I was looking for.
I didn’t meet any of my vendors until six months prior to the wedding, when we flew out for a weekend of wedding planning. At our tasting, Sugar Songs arrived with the most unique and delicious pairings. I tried every single combination.
The orange blossom cake was to die for. We went for a sheer buttercream frosting on the outside to give it the ‘naked cake’ look. What was delivered was just perfect.
Our escort cards also served as our favours. We found gorgeous mini potted succulents in a variety of shapes and colours.
The succulents seemed pretty fitting, considering we were in Southern Arizona, and they’re our absolute favourites. I hand wrote names and table numbers on little flags, and stuck them into the pots.
Something borrowed and something old
We didn’t have a guestbook. We had photos of our late grandparents displayed, and, most importantly, my something borrowed and something old were so special to me.
My mother had sewed a piece of her wedding dress into the underside of mine. It was such a neat touch. No one knew about it but us.
My something borrowed is something that brings tears to my eyes. My grandma let me borrow the pearl earrings my late grandfather gave to her on their wedding day — December 17, 1961.
Heartwarming (and not-so-heartwarming) speeches
For speeches, Alex’s sister gave a beautiful, heartwarming toast. Then my two brothers paired up to give theirs. It was basically a Dara roast. They kept it pretty PG-13, still embarrassing! And we had a sparkler exit, which was so much fun!
Advice to brides and grooms currently planning their wedding
Eat a huge breakfast. The emotions and excitement from the moment it’s GO time are at an all time high. I was barely able (nor did I have time) to eat or drink anything for the rest of the day. It was totally fine, but yeah, eat as much as you can! Also, soak it all in. You’ve spent countless hours planning and stressing. It’s here, and it’s going to be wonderful. You’re surrounded by everyone you love and deeply care for, it’s such an incredible feeling.
Dara & Alex’s little white book
Photographer – Lori O’Toole
Venue and caterer – Tubac Golf Resort
Bride’s shoes – Aldo purchased at DSW
Groom’s attire – Suit Supply and Allen Edmonds
Flowers – Posh Petals
Cake – Sugar Song Cakes
DJ – Hans Hutchison
Invitations – Minted