Wow – that chuppah! The colors! The smiles! Looking at the fab photos of today’s colorful, laid-back wedding, you’d never guess what a bumpy wedding planning ride Dana, a product manager,, and Alex, who works in corporate strategy, had!
After a venue mishap forced the San Francisco-based couple to cancel their original wedding plans — for a large, traditional event — Dana and Alex decided to take a step back and rethink what really mattered to them on their day. Their “wedding planning reboot” inspired them to start from scratch and create an ultra-personal day reflecting their personalities and values.
Oh, and just three weeks before the wedding, Dana broke her elbow snowboarding — not that you’d be able to tell from how gorgeous she looked in her delicate petal-covered Theia dress.
The silver lining of all this drama was that it made Dana and Alex focus on what really mattered to them — which meant that their fun-filled, close-knit brunch (yes, brunch!) wedding at Sugar on the rooftop of the East Hotel in downtown Miami turned out to be such a wonderful reflection of their personalities. You can really feel the joy shining through Andrea Harborne and Diana Hogan’s vibrant photos of the day.
We love how the duo incorporated their values into the day was by authoring their own ketubah text. Dana reports that writing their own marriage contract was a great way to stay grounded during wedding planning, and what a special memento of this phase of their relationship. It doesn’t hurt that the finished product is stunning, with a lovely modern floral design courtesy of much-loved STG Recommended Vendor Ink With Intent.
And we can’t get enough of the couple’s DIY handheld chuppah. Constructed by Dana’s family (with a gorgeous, colorful tablecloth standing in as the canopy, which Dana and Alex can continue using in their home!) and held up by friends during the ceremony, it added an ultra-meaningful touch to the day. Now over to the bride…
How we met
Dana, the bride: We met around 6 years ago when we were both working at the same company in Manhattan, and we moved out to San Francisco together 3 years ago.
A Rooftop Garden Oasis
We got married at Sugar on the rooftop of the East Hotel in downtown Miami. When we toured the space we immediately loved it – it’s a lush, green garden oasis in the middle of a city. It was a very unique venue setup and allowed for a really organic feeling during the ceremony – no rows of chairs, just our family and friends gathered together in a garden. It was a really romantic setting.
A Brunch Wedding
After our “wedding planning reboot” we decided that we wanted to have a small wedding for only family and a few of our closest friends. It was going to be intimate – around 50 people – and we wanted it to last for the whole weekend so that we’d have time to spend with everyone. We also insisted that it be laid back – like the two of us.
To make it more of a weekend-long event, we did a hotel block at the Mandarin Oriental. The hotel was great to work with and a perfect home base for family and friends. Everything – including the dinner the night before the wedding and the wedding itself – was walking distance from the hotel, which made it so easy for all of our guests.
On Saturday night we had a dinner for everyone at the Surf and Turf food truck right on the bay. It was a gorgeous spot, covered in twinkle lights, and the food was excellent. We hired Helen Whitehorn of Ultimate Steel Band to play the steel drum in the background, and it really set the mood.
We decided on doing a brunch wedding – because we both love brunch. I mean, who doesn’t love mimosas, bloody marys, and benedicts?! We also thought it would be a great way to be able to continue the fun with everyone all day after the wedding.
We came up with this overall vision, but actually getting from imagination to reality was made possible by our planner, Abby Gallagher from Blue Orchid Events. Abby went to great lengths to help us plan our wedding from afar. She made sure that we filled in all of the details that we would never think of and kept great communication with all of our vendors. She was invaluable to us on Saturday and Sunday – she was the first one there and had everything completely ready to go when we arrived.
We went with Minted.
Hair + Makeup
Celina Beach Artistry and her team were great – they showed up on time (6 am – gah!) and did an excellent job with hair and makeup for me and my girls.
A Theia Dress
My petal-covered dress was designed by Theia. Believe it or not, it was ordered from ShopBop. Because of our timeline after the wedding reboot, I had just over 3 months to buy and alter a dress – which limits the options significantly.
I learned about some fun alternative dress shopping ideas – including online shopping and asking about sample dresses. The dress I went with was one of the first that I ordered; it was shipped to my house in 2 days and ended up being perfect for our Sunday morning, garden brunch wedding.
I ordered my veil and hair accessories from Amazon. We really used Amazon quite a bit for our wedding – it made a lot of things so easy, especially since we don’t live nearby.
Vince Camuto Shoes
I chose some gold Vince Camuto heels – the main focus for me was something that I’d be comfortable walking around in. With my broken elbow, tripping or falling was not an option 🙂
The handsome groom
Alex chose a light navy suit from Bonobos – perfect for our springtime morning wedding. He also insisted on a strict no ties rule at our wedding (it was even printed on the invite). I was actually with him when he picked out his suit – but it was still so exciting to see him standing there in the sunshine when I walked out, and I couldn’t wait to get down that aisle 🙂
Bridesmaids in Slate and Gray
I had 3 bridesmaids – my 2 sisters-in-law and one of my best friends. I just gave them all a color palette of slate blue through gray and let them run with it. This kept everyone from stressing (2 of them already had a dress that worked in that palette).
A DIY Chuppah
We decided to make the chuppah – and I’m so glad we did. We wanted to be able to use the ceremony area for a quick transition to the reception afterwards, so we decided to go with a chuppah held by our friends rather than a freestanding one.
My dad was in charge of construction and my mom came up with the amazing idea of using this gorgeous, colorful tablecloth that she and my dad had found on one of their trips. She wanted it to be something that I could keep after the wedding and use in our home afterwards – which I thought was such a cool idea.
The DIY, handheld chuppah ended up being such a perfect choice. It had so much meaning to us because it was made by family, it involved something that we will continue to use and gather our family around in our home for many years, and it was held up around us during the ceremony by some of our closest friends.
Fun chuppah story – during the ceremony, a gust of wind caused one of the chuppah corners to fly up. Fortunately it was the side being held by our tallest friend – Alex’s best man Ryan. He managed to catch the cloth and hang on to it for the majority of the ceremony and then discreetly fixed it midway through.
A Ketubah Written by the Bride and Groom
The ceremony and ketubah ended up being some of our greatest memories from our wedding – and we attribute that entirely to our rabbi. Rabbi Judy Kempler officiated our ceremony and guided us through wedding preparation for a few months leading up to the big day. She helped us to understand exactly what we wanted our ceremony to be like and what was important to us for the wedding.
One of the first things we discussed was language for the ketubah. She walked us through the various texts that you can choose and casually mentioned that once in a while, couples write their own ketubah. We loved that idea and jumped at the chance to write our own ketubah to highlight some of the things that were most important in our relationship and foundational for our family. This exercise in writing our own marriage contract was so meaningful to us and kept us grounded in why we were going through all of this wedding planning craziness.
Ink With Intent
Our ketubah was created by Ink With Intent. We chose them because we loved their modern designs, and our ketubah was something we’d be excited to hang in our home. They were easy to work with, quick creation and delivery, and the final product was beautiful and of great quality.
You’ve Got the Love
Fun fact – we chose all of our songs (ceremony and first dance) within 24 hours of the wedding – but they all ended up being perfect choices 🙂
Processional – Sunday Morning by Maroon 5 (because it was a Sunday morning)
Bride – Shower by Becky G (this is such fun upbeat song that I love singing around our house – got everyone, including Alex and me, smiling from ear to ear)
Recessional – You’ve Got The Love by Florence + The Machine
First Dance – XO by John Mayer
Our florist, Dalsimer Atlas, was one of the last vendors we booked. I was a little nervous about florists because our venue was filled with so much greenery that I didn’t want the florals to get lost.
Dalsimer did an amazing job creating exactly what I had pictured in my head. I asked for bright colors – oranges and reds along with some succulent accents – and they created some gorgeous airy arrangements. I also asked to see lots of ranunculus in the arrangements and on the boutonnieres because they are such a whimsical, fun flower.
Our Fabulous Photographer
Andrea Harborne was our photographer, along with her second shooter Diana Hogan. We saw her work on Instagram, and it really matched the style that we were looking for. Nothing too posed, just capturing the day as it unfolded.
I met with her over the phone and she was so easy to connect with. I needed someone laid back, but who would provide enough guidance to get some of the shots that we really wanted. Andrea did an amazing job and really worked with me along the way to come up with a timeline that would work for our early morning wedding – including a fun walk across the Brickell Key bridge with our bridal party before the ceremony.
Cake Flavors Inspired by Miami
Elegant Temptations Cakes had a GREAT tasting – so many kinds that it was tough to choose. In the end, we followed the Miami vibe (and our stomachs) and went with 2 different types in our layers: 1 guava cheesecake and 1 dulce de leche. It was sooo good and we can’t wait to dig back into that guava a year from now.
Fun fact about our cake – apparently ET doesn’t place florals on their cakes, and Dalsimer, our florist, also doesn’t do the actual placement. Our planner, Abby, came through for us though and ended up showing off her floral skills by decorating our wedding cake for us!
A Cuban Band
We went with Spanglish Band. One of the things we had said from the beginning was that we wanted our wedding to reflect the local flavor of wherever it was – what better way to do that than an awesome Cuban funk band in Miami! They ended up being exactly what we were looking for – fun but cool vibe and amazing, talented group of musicians!
Wedding planning reboot
We started planning one wedding (a large, traditional one) and ended up somewhere entirely different because of an unfortunate mishap with our first venue in Austin, TX. When we started from scratch on planning, we decided that we wanted our wedding to be mainly for those closest to us. We wanted to have time to spend with each other and with everyone who was there to celebrate with us, and we wanted our families to have the opportunity to really get to know each other.
We chose Miami because Alex grew up in Florida and my parents (and much of my family) live in Miami – so a lot of the guests were already in the area. We definitely didn’t end up with a traditional wedding – which may have raised some eyebrows along the way – but we wouldn’t change it at all.
A Pre-Wedding Injury
The other “fun” story is that I broke my elbow on a snowboarding trip in Utah 3 weeks before the wedding and had to have surgery 2 weeks out. Alex was fully taking care of me leading up to the wedding, down to putting on my socks. I really put him to the test 🙂 I relied more than ever on my vendors and family – because my focus was elsewhere – but that showed how great they all were.
I was very fortunate (I guess) to have an injury that required me to start moving it very soon after surgery. This meant that I was in a brace for my wedding, which I was lucky to be able to take off for a short time for the ceremony and some pictures. It also allowed for some hilarious photos involving my brace that will help us look back and laugh at what a crazy story this was.
Advice to couples currently planning their wedding
One of the things that we did at the beginning of wedding planning was list out the things that were truly important to us. We literally wrote these things out. That was so helpful because as we started to plan, it helped us make sure that we were prioritizing the things that were most important.
Also, as the couple getting married, it’s important, at some point, to just let go and enjoy your time. The purpose of all this crazy wedding planning is to end up with a celebration that the two of you will remember and treasure for a lifetime. We were able to do that because we had a great planner who, especially at the end, handled all of the nitty gritty details.
I was actually somewhat forced into “letting go” towards the end when I broke my elbow 3 weeks from the wedding. I literally had to give up on some of the planning that I was hoping to accomplish in the last few weeks before the wedding and focus on healing and then rehabbing my elbow. While this obviously isn’t something I’d recommend to other brides, I would say it really put into perspective what’s most important at the wedding and helped me to realize that the weekend was amazing even if I didn’t squeeze in every tiny detail.
Dana & Alex’s little white book
Photography – Andrea Harborne and Diana Hogan
Ketubah – Ink With Intent
Wedding planner – Blue Orchid Events
Venue – Sugar on the rooftop of the East Hotel
Bride’s dress – Theia purchased from ShopBop
Bride’s shoes – Vince Camuto
Groom’s attire – Bonobos
Hair + Makeup – Celina Beach Artistry
Flowers – Dalsimer Atlas
Band – Spanglish Band
Cake – Elegant Temptations Cakes
Preparation – Mandarin Oriental
Steel drummer – Ultimate Steel Band