OUTDOOR WEDDING & DEAR TKB: Peonies + Ruffles + Birch + Lace = GIMME | Cassandra Eldridge Photography

I love this wedding so much that I’ve added it to my spank bank.  For when I just need to relax with some wedding with nobody around judging me.

You think it’s by accident that I’m a wedding blogger?

Ok so this wedding you’re about to inhale – which by the way was submitted by the always on point Cassandra, of Cassandra Eldridge Photography, has been able to prove to me yet again that brides can be some of the most creative and thoughtful human beings on the planet, when it comes to honoring the loved ones who cannot be there in person.  In fact, today’s bride Cara’s approach is so stellar in my opinion, that it capably answers a recent question submitted by one of our readers.  YEAH!  I love it when that happens!!

Dear Knotty Bride:

Recently my grandmother on my mom’s side passed away.  We were very close.  I’m getting married next year and was praying she’d be with me but I’m working on adjusting to the new reality.  (I know how much she wanted to be with us on my wedding day, so it’s a tough pill to swallow.)  Ok before I start uncontrollably crying here’s what I want to ask you:

While I know my grandmother will be there in spirit I really want to figure out a way to do justice to the huge impact she’s had and continues to have, on my life.  I’m having trouble only because everything I think of seems too cheesy after I really think about it.  If that makes any sense.  I want something that speaks to the relationship we had while she was with us.

Any advice?  It would be greatly appreciated.



Dear Miss E,

I’m so sorry to hear you lost your grandmother.  I know how hard that is.  Especially with how close you two were.  It gives me joy knowing you were close though, since it probably means you spent some good quality time with her.  That’s all we can take away with us, so I’m glad you have a good chunk of it going forward. :)

I’ve been searching for the same answers you have, E – so we have that in common.  One approach we’ve taken I discussed in a post last year (click here if you’d like to read it) but beyond Honey’s maternal grandmother, I too have had trouble coming up with *just the right way* to inject the memory of other lost loved ones adequately and with grace.

So.  I hope you’ll find just the right type of inspiration in Cara’s words, below:

Andrew and I got engaged in April 2010 in a boat on the Voltave River in Prague, overlooking the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle in the Czech Republic.  Our relationship has always had an international element to it, especially since Andrew is British and I am American.  One of the things that was extremely important to us was to have a wedding in an outdoor environment. Andrew grew up in England and we thought it would be the perfect tribute to his heritage to have our wedding in an environment reflective of traditional English gardens – landscaped hedges and manicured lawns, but filled with wild beautiful flowers at the same time.  When we visited The Morton Arboretum in Lisle for the first time, there was no question where we wanted our ceremony and reception to be.

Our ceremony took place in the Hedge Garden at the Arboretum on June 1, 2012. We had the amazing Heavenly Harpists to play our ceremony, and floral arrangements of peonies at each aisle in bubble bowls done by the incredibly talented Stacey Carlton.  I specifically wanted peonies in the arrangements because some of my favorite memories as a child were of being in my Grandmother’s backyard where she grew those flowers.  She passed away the year before I got married, and it was important to me to have those as it reminded me of her.

The colors for our wedding were centered around corals and pinks.  The groomsmen wore gray tuxedo’s with coral striped ties, and the bridesmaids wore coral strapless ruffled dresses.  Our reception centerpieces stole the show.  Stacey got incredibly creative and assembled the most beautiful arrangements of Juliet roses, peonies, birch wood and so much else in peaches, corals, light pinks and greens.  Our reception was indoors, but really captured the wild beauty of the arboretum and English gardens by incorporating both woody elements and soft florals.  She also placed candles on the tables to create a soft glow and the most impressive touch was that she carved C+A into the birchwood to echo our Save-the-date’s.

I had a lot of fun planning the wedding and bringing the international element, Andrew’s heritage, and our story as a couple together. The best advice I can give to brides-to-be on the planning is get a great photographer – don’t skimp on this.  Andrew and I both felt strongly that after the food’s been eaten, the day is over and the guests are gone, there is only one thing remaining; your photos.  I talked with 6-7 different photographers and chose Cassandra Eldridge because her style was exactly what we wanted, she is so easy to work with and really spent a lot of time and effort getting to know us as a couple.  I received my wedding photos about 3 weeks after the wedding and they were absolutely beautiful!  As for more general advice, don’t sweat the small stuff.  If something is out of place that’s little, the chances are good that no one will notice but you.  And lastly, take a step back, take it all in, and breathe – it’s your day and you should enjoy it and remember it for a long time!

Congratulations to the two of you, and thank you for allowing us to share your beautiful day!

Cassandra Eldridge Photography is member of Vendor Love.  You can explore more from Cassandra Eldridge Photography in our guide.

Extra little tidbit from Cassandra on how these two brought everyone into the experience:

Their wedding day was filled with family and friends… and for those who weren’t able to make it due to the distance, Cara and Andrew set up a live stream video throughout the entire day, so that they could look on from home.  How brilliant is that?!

Such a great idea.  Love that idea!

Ok, QUESTIONS!  Tell me…

1) Do you have any thoughts or suggestions for Miss E, regarding a smart way to bring her grandmother’s memory into her wedding day details?


2) OMFG, How lovely is this wedding?

Photography: Cassandra Eldridge Photography / Dress Store: Bella Bianca Bridal Couture / Location: Ceremony – Hedge Garden/The Morton Arboretum & Reception – Gingko Room/The Morton Arboretum / Submitted via: Two Bright Lights / Flowers: Stacey Carlton / Ceremony music (harps): The Heavenly Harpists / Reception DJ: Gregg Eisell, Sounds Abound / Officiant: Father Ron Crowley-Koch / Catering: Classic Fare Catering / Cake: The Cakery

Label(s): "DEAR TKB..." Advice Column, Color, Green, Orange, Pink, {Real Weddings}

Love all of this...


  1. Leah on December 12, 2012

    I’m getting married in May, and after having recently lost my third grandparent in a very short time span, I too have been looking for ways to memorialize them in a way that isn’t too cheesy. I’ve decided to attach three tiny bouquet charms (like these: http://www.etsy.com/listing/97044534/something-blue-memorial-photo-charm) with my favorite photographs of each my Nana, my Paw, and my Poppy. That way they’ll walk down the aisle with me.

  2. Delane on December 12, 2012

    Thanks for the inspiration! I will be having an outdoor wedding next year and will use these awesome ideas.

  3. gigi on December 12, 2012

    I have been to weddings where a loved one who had passed was honored with flowers, as in the above wedding, along with a toast with the loved one’s favorite beverage. Brides also have wrapped their bouquets with a scarf that belonged to the loved one. There are many other more subtle ways to have that person represented; a bracelet, a broach, a hair comb or anything else that belonged to and was a frequently worn accessory of that loved one.
    Gorgeous wedding!!!

  4. BETH DECREDICO on December 12, 2012


    • Cara Dean on December 12, 2012

      Hi Beth – the dress is a San Patrick. I bought it at Bella Bianca Bridal Boutique in Lombard, IL. They were so fabulous to work with!

      • Alison on December 13, 2012

        Thank you, Cara! Fabulous wedding by the way, you looked stunning. :)

      • BETH DECREDICO on December 14, 2012

        Thank you !!!!!!

  5. Lena on December 12, 2012

    This wedding makes me happy in every way.

  6. Wedding Beauty on December 13, 2012

    You were a romantic stylish bride, a dress with a gorgeous design I must congratulate you for!

  7. Joanna on December 13, 2012

    This wedding is perfection. I’m having pink peonies too! I can’t wait now that I’ve seen this wedding!!! :)

  8. Michael Chansley Photography on December 13, 2012

    Nice details!

  9. Karen on December 13, 2012

    A little bit of color and a whole lot of love. I loved this post. The flowers made me smile. Lena it makes me happy too haha. Leah I am sorry to hear about your grandmother and I hope nothing but the best for you in future and on your wedding day!

  10. Anna on December 13, 2012

    Who is the designer of those adorable bridesmaids dresses! Love the flowers!!

    • Cara Dean on December 14, 2012

      Hi Anna! You’ll never belive this, but the dresses are from The Limited. Earlier this year, they had started to expand into the “special occasion” dresses online only. I’m not sure if they’re still selling bridesmaid and evening dresses, but the dresses were cute and affordable :)

  11. Priscilla on December 13, 2012

    I enjoy coming back daily to see your thoughts. I have your blog bookmarked on my must read list!

  12. Steve on December 14, 2012


  13. Cara Dean on December 14, 2012

    Thank you all for the compliments – Andrew and I really enjoyed our day and we’re so flattered by all the nice things each of you has said about our wedding :)

  14. She-Hulk on December 19, 2012

    I struggled with this exact same thing. Even though most of my family is still alive, they’re tremendously abusive, and I had to disown the ENTIRE family, even the noncombatants, to protect myself and to protect them. It took a legal name change, a cross-state move, ditching ALL of my old contact information, right on down to the social media accounts they’d hacked in the past. It was one of the hardest periods of my life, and I still have tender scabs over those injuries, years after the fact. I spent a year terrified to answer the door, or open the mail, lest it be them stalking me again. Healing from it was a long and slow process that never feels completely over.

    When I first got engaged, I wrestled with a LOT of guilt. I mourned for those relationships all over again. No loving toasts from relatives, no heirlooms. No showers or renewed connections with old friends, since most of them are still in contact with my family. If I invited anyone from my family, or the area I grew up, they would not be able to play nice. I’d end up covered with bruises, with chunks of hair torn out, with more innocent relatives being manipulated and used to hurt me and punish me. I knew I couldn’t and wouldn’t go back to who I was with their presence in my life, scared and destructive, but that I didn’t want to step into the family I’d created completely alone.

    I decided to make paper flowers to help bleed the poison out, to try to help things scab over so that I could remember the happy bits of them that made me the person I want to be in my marriage. I chose papers that symbolized that connection, rather than simply pretty colors.

    I printed out screenshots of the movies my dad raised me to love, the books he gave me as a little girl, the games he played with me. The sheet music to my grandmothers “signature” piano song, that it had taken me a year to learn and perform. Printouts of my sisters artwork, and the flower pattern she had loved. Printouts of the artwork on my grandmothers walls. Button flowers to represent my grandmother, since she had taught me to sew, and since my step-grandfather had bought her flowers every Sabbath, and every time we visited, she would let me pick out a flower from the arrangement to take home. I wrapped a little brass key from my great-grandmothers jewelry box, the only item I inherited from her, into my bouquet. Some of the flowers are made from a few stationary pages my mom gave me for my first time at summer camp.

    The flowers aren’t entirely mine. I chose to embrace my fiance’s family the same way. I created flowers from his first published writing, his first finished novels, the essays he wrote whenever one of his relatives died. I used cover art from the books he loaned me when we first started dating. They’d kept me sane while I was struggling to get through the first year after I disowned my family. I used sheet music from his dads favorite piano song, which coincidentally was my other grandmothers. Disney characters that captivated his dad’s unhappy childhood, and were the basis of every family interaction my fiance has. If we had the money, I don’t doubt we’d honeymoon in Disneyland, since the father-in-law imparted SUCH a love of it. I wanted to focus not just on mourning my family, but on accepting my new family openly.

    I created FAR more flowers than I can actually use for the wedding. We’re waiting for a spring day to go to the courthouse, rather than staging a formal event. And in the meantime, I’ve begun selling arrangements of paper flowers, offering the option for others to customize it like I did. The extra flowers sit in arrangements around the house, and every so often I still catch my fiance looking through them, trying to guess which flower came from which imagery.

    I can’t think of a more perfect way of commemorating my relatives than this. I come from a long line of craftsmen and artists, and being able to create something myself, recognizing the beautiful things I want to remember about them meant a lot to me. There’s some other memories tucked into other aspects of the day(my fiance has agreed we’ll cook each other a meal with Morel mushrooms, because my parents were married at a restaurant that specialized in serving them, as a compromise befitting their disparate religions) but the time and detail in the flowers is what I most wanted to take with me into my marriage.

  15. Love the colors!

  16. Fabio on December 31, 2012

    Beautiful wedding, love the colors. The photographer did a excellent job as well. Congrats!

  17. Gary on January 4, 2013

    The colours & tones are amazing, really nice treatment by the photographer also :)

  18. Keepsake Memories Photography on January 7, 2013

    What a beautiful wedding! I love the colors and bridal bouquet.

  19. Corinna on January 10, 2013

    This wedding, those colors, that couple = total gorge x 10! But seriously, those maids dresses are compelling me to go for another round. What’s another wedding or 5?

  20. γάμος on February 4, 2013

    Beautiful colors !!!

  21. DIY Flower Expert on February 19, 2013

    Wow! This wedding looks beautiful! We really loved the scattered colors in the flowers and how well they contributed to the color of the dresses.

  22. Jamie on March 17, 2013

    Love the colour scheme of this wedding, great shots:)

  23. Sue on March 17, 2013

    What a beautiful wedding. i love the coral pink color of bridesmaid dresses and bouquet. Awesome color choice.

  24. Robe de mariée on March 24, 2013

    Romantic vintage wedding. And the wedding details are great.

  25. Malaya on April 27, 2013

    Oh my goodness, I’m so in love with every aspect of this wedding! The bride looks flawless, her dress is amazing! The colors are fantastic — anyone happen to know the palette chosen!? Seriously AMAZING! So fresh and happy! Congratulations to the beautiful couple!

  26. Florist POS on June 28, 2013

    The peonies are amazing! Great photos.

  27. Jackie Bazata on October 29, 2013

    good app thanks for sharing

  28. Florist Website on November 21, 2013

    The colors in the wedding bouquet is just so beautiful. The photos are stunning.

  29. Classic Wedding Invitations on August 18, 2014

    Pink, Ruffles, Flowers!!! This is definitely a dream wedding, absolutely love it!!!

  30. Alizeedress on February 6, 2015

    You were a romantic stylish bride, a dress with a gorgeous design I must congratulate you for!

  31. Wedding Photographer Cebu on June 6, 2016

    That is just gorgeous. Love the theme.

  32. Felix Films on January 15, 2017

    Great photos

  33. DJ Staci on February 13, 2017

    Great BM’s dresses…and LOVE that the bottle of perfume was included in the details shots. Why don’t we see more of that?


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