Despite having mutual friends, Jill Buckley and John Alexander had only ever heard each other's names until 2008. "After graduating college my good friend Jen and I moved into an apartment together in center city Philadelphia," says Jill. "She was seeing a close friend of John's at the time and all of a sudden I was seeing more and more of him." Group dates quickly turned into Jill and John meeting for drinks or watching movies solo, and after both realized how much they had in common and enjoyed each other's company, John asked Jill to be his girlfriend. "I thought, 'Do people still do that?' but I also thought it was the cutest thing ever."
Five years later, John had another question for Jill, but this time it was the big one. "Every year on Christmas Eve, we have a little tradition of giving each other a small gag gift to open," Jill says. After John opened a wrench-shaped keychain bottle opener from Jill, he passed her a small box and admitted it was a silly gift. "When I opened it I was staring at a ring and all I could think to say was 'Is this real?' but when I looked up he was on one knee."
Although the biggest milestones in their relationship have happened around the holidays, the couple decided they wanted a fall wedding and booked Ash Mill Farm Bed and Breakfast in Holicong, Pennsylvania, for October 3, 2015. "We knew we didn't want a traditional wedding," says the bride. "I wanted a cozy farm wedding that felt intimate and not too big or overwhelming." Their B&B celebration was all that and more — with just 100 guests in tow, Jill and John exchanged vows on a crisp fall date that was simple, rustic, and downright cozy. Emily Wren Photography captured every woodsy detail of their autumnal wedding.
Jill and John initially had their heart set on a wedding in New Hope, Pennsylvania, but when they found Ash Mill Farm Bed and Breakfast, just a short drive from the more well-known area, the bride and groom knew this was it. "I couldn't believe I'd never heard of it before since it's just down the road from one of our favorite areas," says Jill. "We went to check it out and I fell in love with even more." With animals on-site, the property owners told the bride and groom they could even bring their own dog to stay with them for the wedding weekend.
With 10 acres of meadows and well-established trees, Jill and John felt right at home on the property. They loved the outdoor fireplace, hammocks and wooden swings hanging from trees, and the main house front porch, which is perpetually lined with rocking chairs.
When designing their invitations, the couple decided to let their venue influence their choices. April Lynn Designs created the wooden invites, complete with a vintage sheep design, and the bride wrapped each with a strip of flannel fabric and twine.
Finding her wedding dress proved surprisingly easy for Jill, who admits she really doesn't enjoy shopping. "The thought of trying on dresses definitely stressed me out since I do most of my usual shopping online," she says. But she kept a level head by using that same practice for finding her gown. "I saw my dress online and then called a nearby shop to ask if they had it. I went in to try it on and loved it right away but tried on three other gowns that day to avoid feeling like I missed out on other styles." Even after slipping into several other pretty silhouettes, Jill was confident her lace trumpet wedding dress from Alvina Valenta was the one and purchased it then and there.
She made one small customization to her wedding dress, replacing a standard sash with a vintage-inspired crystal belt. Drop earrings, a pearl bracelet from her mother, and a flower crown finished off her look.
Since Jill and John wanted to take portraits around the property, the bride wore a pair of burgundy Hunter rain boots, which she swapped for crystal-covered flats for the ceremony and reception. Just days before their wedding, the forecast indicated a hurricane would hit the area just as guests would be sitting down for the ceremony, so Jill spent the morning before her wedding finding weather-appropriate footwear for her and her 'maids to wear. Luckily, the hurricane missed the wedding, but the couple and their loved ones still had to contend with less than perfect weather. "I actually almost feel a little grateful for the rainy weather because it allowed for us to wear the adorable rain boots for photos, which I loved!" Jill says.
John chose light gray dress pants, which he paired with a matching vest and a white shirt. Instead of dress shoes, the groom chose comfortable sneakers, perfect for traversing the Inn's lawns.
The couple's bridal party looked great in a mix of formal and more relaxed attire. Jill's bridesmaids donned knee-length burgundy dresses with mismatched necklines while John's groomsmen paired dress pants with skinny suspenders and patterned ties. The bride's maid of honor stood out in a silver lace dress to match the guys.
Jill carried a bouquet of ivory, blush, and burgundy roses accented with greenery all tied together with rustic twine. Her attendants toted similar mixes, but added peach and orange-hued blooms to the mix.
"We initially planned to have the ceremony outside with the foliage as the backdrop but it turned out to be a cold day with the grounds still wet from the previous day's rain," Jill says. Instead of being upset about the change of plans, the couple excitedly moved forward with their backup plan: An indoor ceremony held in the property's beautiful barn. "Our backdrop was the fireplace with candles along the mantle. The ceiling was strung with globe lights and we had some wood picture frames, flowers, and gourds set up on some of the shelving."
Jill's father walked her down the aisle, and then she and John exchanged traditional vows in a short and sweet ceremony. "John started to choke up, which it turn caused me to do the same," the bride remembers. "Then it rippled to the bridesmaids, my mom, grandmother, aunts...I could hear a whole crowd of sniffles behind me. It was a happy moment."
The tented reception took place just across the lawn from the old barn. Tables were covered with burgundy linens and a flannel runner made from the same fabric used on the couple's invitation suite. Each table had it's own unique centerpiece, but most included a few bud vases with roses and greenery, a wood round, and mini gourds or lanterns. Jill and John's sweetheart table was arranged beneath a floral arch and decorated with a glittering "Mr. & Mrs." sign.
In addition to a full bar, the couple set up a hot apple cider station, which served as their signature cocktail. The warm drink was poured non-alcoholic, but Jill and John posted a handwritten sign, which advised guests to feel free to have their cider spiked at the bar.
In keeping with their relaxed vibe, the newlyweds chose a naked wedding cake for dessert. Layers of raspberry, pumpkin, and caramel apple cake were filled with frosting and decorated with fresh flowers. And since fall is practically synonymous with pie, Jill and John brought in seasonal selections like apple, pumpkin, pecan, and sweet potato for guests to enjoy.
Although cold and rainy weather forced the couple to change their plans, the bride and groom could not have been happier with the cozy and intimate feeling of their wedding. "Don't stress the small stuff," says Jill. "Things are going to go wrong and not everything will go as planned, but regardless of what happens you are getting married and it will be beautiful, even if in the middle of a storm."
Ceremony & Reception Venue: Ash Mill Farm Bed and Breakfast || Wedding Coordinator: Creative Eventology || Bride's Wedding Dress: Alvina Valenta || Hair & Makeup: Cheers 2 U Events || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Jim Hjelm || Groom's Attire: Men's Wearhouse || Ties: The Tie Bar || Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands: Leon's Jewelry || Flowers: Creative Eventology; Faye + Renee Florals || Invitations & Paper Products: April Lynn Designs || Music Animal House Band || Catering: The Riegelsville Inn || Cake: Pudge Cakes || Rentals: Newtown Party Rentals || Videographer: Pair of Hearts Films || Photographer: Emily Wren Photography
Want more rustic wedding ideas? Then check out another couple's laid-back nuptials in the video below.