It was raining the night Matthew proposed to Hollyn in a clearing just beyond the woods of Brentwood, Illinois—but the bride insists the splatter of raindrops made the moment even more special. "I love the rain," she says. "It was a lovely, perfect moment in the rain, with only the two of us and the deer."
The pair knew from the start that their September wedding wouldn't be held in a church. "We started with how we wanted the wedding to feel, which was fun, intimate and an event our friends and family would talk about for a long time," Hollyn explains. To this couple, that meant a celebration held outdoors, "surrounded by our family and closest friends."
Hollyn and Matthew chose The Grove Redfield Estate for both their ceremony and reception venue for its plentiful outdoor spaces and accommodating staff, who allowed the budget-conscious couple to bring in their own caterer and adult beverages. "Even with our fabulous wedding planner, we spent around $12,000," the bride confesses.
Hollyn may have broken a wedding record when she found her Melissa Sweet dress in less than four hours. "The month I got engaged, Priscilla of Boston announced it was going out of business," she explains. "I had always loved Melissa Sweet dresses, so I rushed over to the shop with two friends."
The bride was drawn to the trumpet-shaped gown's "timeless elegance," she said.
Hollyn hesitated when it came to her veil. "I initially wasn't going to wear one," she admits, "but Matt said he kind of liked the idea of a veil." Purchasing one also gave the bride the opportunity to shop with her mother and grandmother, "because I bought my dress without them."
The women chose a custom-made creation from The Bride Room that featured a scalloped lace edge.
Hollyn and Matthew opted for a first-look, sneaking a few moments alone before their afternoon ceremony began.
"I felt a little nervous," Hollyn says about the wedding, "but seeing him made all my nerves melt away."
The couple found a perfect pair of trees under which to host their intimate wedding ceremony. "We're a simple and practical couple that didn't want pomp and circumstance to overshadow the fact that our wedding was simply a celebration of us beginning our life together as a married couple," Hollyn says. "Simple, no fuss, but beautiful."
Stenciled wood signs encouraged the couple's 75 guests—50 of whom were family, the bride says—to choose a seat and not a side.
Hollyn constructed the couple's ceremony backdrop, a collection of purple, silver and ivory ribbons hung between two poles. The project took "a couple trips to Home Depot and buying 15 pounds of ribbon," the bride says. "It took about four hours to put together, and my wedding coordinator's huge effort to hammer it into the ground."
Hollyn and Matthew "wanted something we would actually look at again" when it came to their guest book. They asked guests to sign Jenga blocks with a silver marker.
"Now when we play Jenga," Hollyn says, "we are reminded of our wedding day and all the people who came."
The couple carried their simple ceremony aesthetic through to their outdoor reception, decorated in a color palette of purple, gray and ivory because "they were seasonal, elegant and among our favorite colors," Hollyn says.
"I cared very little about flowers," the bride admits. "I knew we wouldn't remember the center pieces or if we had white or ivory linens, but we would remember how it felt, and that is what was most important."
But the bride didn't leave tabletops bare. Hollyn ordered bulk ivory hydrangea from an online retailer, and scattered the blooms and "lots of candles," she says, down the length of their rectangle reception tables.
Hollyn also wanted to "incorporate little nods to my Southern heritage in the wedding," she says, so potted mums were also sprinkled throughout the couple's decor.
Hollyn and Matthew tied small tags to their silverware, which was tucked into ivory napkins guests could use to clean their hands after indulging in the pink cotton candy served during the couple's cocktail hour.
The couple didn't serve a wedding cake. Instead, they ordered mini tarts from Whole Foods.
Photo: The Grove Redfield Estate
Hollyn organized an iPod playlist for the couple's reception that she still listens to, she says. While the couple waltzed to Lady Antebellum's Can't Take My Eyes Off You, they closed down the party to the Black Eyed Peas. "I remember as all our friends and family danced with us and my ribbon sash came undone and my hair fell out a little that this was exactly what Matt and I wanted—for our friends and family to come celebrate with us and have a great time," Hollyn says. "This last song and dance, with everyone around, us felt surreal and wonderful and wrapped up everything we wanted the day to be just perfectly."
Wedding Planner: Kristine Aletha Weddings || Ceremony Venue: The Grove Redfield Estate || Reception Venue: The Grove Redfield Estate || Bride's Wedding Dress: Melissa Sweet || Bride's Veil: The Bride Room || Bride's Shoes: Vera Wang || Bride's Wedding Ring: The Jewelry Exchange || Groom's Tux: Men's Wearhouse || Groom's Wedding Ring: Etsy || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Coralie Beatrix || Groomsmen Attire: Men's Wearhouse || Mother of the Bride's Dress: David's Bridal || Caterer: Corky's Catering || Stationery: Target || Cake Baker: Whole Foods || Rentals: Just Press Play Productions || Entertainment: Just Press Play Productions || Photography: Emilia Jane Photography