After seven years together (the couple met in college in 2008!), wedding planner Ashley Sharf and Samuel Gardner, knew they didn't want a long engagement. So once Samuel popped the question on June 28, 2015, the twosome gave themselves just three months to plan a wedding for September 6, 2015. But as a seasoned planner, working with a quick timeline was a breeze for this bride, especially since she had round-the-clock access to the venue. "I always envisioned having a backyard wedding, and, as luck would have it, my family's home in Woodland Hills, California, ended up being the perfect venue to host the day," says Ashley. "To me, there is something so beautiful and intimate about getting married in a space that has meaning to you and your family."
With the help of her business partner, Miri Kachlon — the two own Moonmilk Event Studio — and the help of the studio's assistant, Alexis Eskenazi, the bride and groom dreamed up an ethereal and romantic backyard bash with lots of color and a boho twist. On the big day, 200 guests gathered to watch Ashley and Samuel exchange vows, and few would have guessed how quickly the day came together. Read on to see the beauty of this late summer day for yourself, as captured by Gia Canali Photography.
As an industry insider, Ashley was able to lean on other wedding pros to bring her vision to life. That all started with the invitation suite. "My dear friend Aviva drew the design for the invitations, which was loosely based off of a cover page from an antique botanical book," she says. The vine illustration hinted at the backyard celebration to come, but still felt refined and elegant, much like the bride and groom's overall vision.
Given their relatively short planning timeline, Ashley gravitated towards purchasing a vintage white dress in an eyelet fabric. "I have a distinct aesthetic and I wanted my dress to reflect my style, so I knew I never wanted the standard kind of wedding dress anyway," she says. She headed to Shareen Vintage, a Los Angeles-based company that stocks a collection of vintage dresses and new pieces. "She has a line of dresses that are her own designs, and then a number of vintage gowns in a warehouse. There was one long-sleeved lace dress that I loved, but I knew it wasn't quite right for me." She wanted to add a more romantic feel to the silhouette, so Shareen's team customized the existing piece to work with Ashley's vision.
The biggest change they made was transforming the fitted arms into bell sleeves. "Once we settled on those, the dress looked unique and different," the bride says. "We added trim on the neck and a bow in the back."
To mirror the vibe of her wedding dress, Ashley asked her florist to create a loose bouquet with a romantic, hand-gathered feel. The blush mix included garden roses, chamomile, jasmine, and dahlias, and was tied with antique velvet ribbon. "It added a touch of whimsy to the arrangement," she says.
Although she technically had eight attendants, only Ashley's two sisters wore coordinating dresses and walked down the aisle. "I didn't feel it was necessary to have bridesmaids, per say," the bride says. "I think it created a lot of pressure for the women, and I wanted them to feel like they could come as they were." Her closest friends all wore their own colorful dresses, and stood out from the rest of the wedding guests with flower crowns from the bride. Her sisters, however, wore floor-length pastel dresses and carried trailing trumpet vines that were picked from the yard that morning. The bride's mother looked equally as fantastic as her three girls!
This stylish groom picked his attire all on his own — and years before he was even engaged! While traveling in India with Ashley two years earlier, Samuel had a custom navy suit made. "When he started looking for a suit for the wedding, he realized he already had the perfect one in his closet!" the bride says. As for his hat, it was a wedding day must-have. "Sam doesn't go anywhere without an accessory."
The couple's adorable flower girl stole the show in her vintage white dress. She carried petals in a wire basket and wore the sweetest pair of moccasins we've ever seen! This little one was also responsible for bringing the rings down the aisle, which she carried in a vintage shell coin purse.
Ashley and Samuel swapped the order of events for their day by inviting guests to a pre-ceremony cocktail hour, which was held on the property's driveway. "We hired a local sitarist to play during cocktail hour," the bride says. "I'm tremendously inspired by Indian culture in general, and the sound of the sitar can put me in reflective and blissful state, which is ideal for a wedding ceremony!"
Although she didn't join the festivities, the bride was able to see friends and family mingling as they sipped cocktails from vintage champagne flutes and coupes found at nearby flea markets. Crowd favorites included the strawberry-basil gimlet and Sunday punch.
Guests then gathered in the family's backyard for the traditional Jewish ceremony, where the couple exchanged vows beneath a wooden chuppah the groom built himself. "I walked down the aisle to one of my favorite songs, "Long, Long, Long" by the Beatles. It's one of the sweetest songs I have ever heard," Ashley says.
The ceremony was officiated by the Sharf family rabbi and included a few elements the bride and groom wrote themselves. Once the couple was pronounced husband and wife, guests cheered the newlyweds on with tambourines that were placed on their seats.
Seating assignments were penned in red ink on kraft paper squares and arranged on a moss and flower covered table. Dinner was held on a patio in the backyard, where guests dined at long tables covered in custom cheesecloth linens and centerpieces of red blooms and fresh fruit, inspired by the bride's Persian heritage. "We wanted it to feel full and flourishing," Ashley says. "The reception reminded me of a scene from the Woody Allen movie Magic in the Moonlight, with a romantic backdrop and the perfect music."
Each centerpiece was different from the next, but most included mixes of dahlias, garden roses, fresh raspberries, and greenery. As a planner, Ashley understands the importance of great lighting, so each table was finished with plenty of tall candles. To amp up the romantic feeling in the backyard, she and Samuel also sprung for paper lanterns in a nearby oak tree and strung café lights across the entire space.
The reception décor was completed with two tepees borrowed from an industry pal. "We thought it would be fun to serve fresh mint tea in authentic Moroccan glasses here," Ashley says. "Guests both young and old loved going in and hanging out here."
Each place setting included a striped linen napkin and a menu that listed the evening's season offerings. The couple wanted the meal to feel communal, so they served up family style dishes like arugula and grilled peach salad and roasted brick chicken.
Dessert included a pistachio cake with rose buttercream — two traditional flavors in Persian cuisine.
The father-daughter dance was one of Ashley's favorite moments from the wedding. Since her dad is a beekeeper, the two danced to "Tupelo Honey" by Van Morrison. "It was a very emotional moment for me," she says. Then, guests hit the dance floor. The bride and her girlfriends clearly had a blast!
The party ended at 2 a.m., but Ashley and Samuel weren't quite ready to head inside. "When all the guests had gone home, Sam and I spent some time together in the tepee basking in love and recounting our favorite stories from the day," says the bride.
Venue: Private Residence || Wedding Planning & Stationery: Moonmilk Event Studio || Bride's Wedding Dress: Shareen Vintage || Hair: Page Beauty || Floral Design: Among the Wildflowers || Rentals: Town & Country Event Rentals || Lighting: The Lighter Side || Catering: Tarte Catering || Cake: Little Cakelette || Cocktail Hour Sitarist: John Stephens || Reception Music: Andrew Aidman || Videographer: Noteworthy Weddings || Photographer: Gia Canali Photography
Can't get enough of this beautiful day? Then get inspired by another couple's backyard wedding, seen below.