A Bohemian Outdoor Ceremony in California

These high school sweethearts wed on the bride's family ranch.

Updated 09/07/18

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

Catherine and Tom Rex-Goad recall different versions of their first encounters. But, long story short, the two first crossed paths at summer camp in 2008 on Catalina Island, California, and were soon high school sweethearts. Almost 10 years later, Tom proposed in March 2017—and by that time, Catherine was totally anticipating it! "We live on a sailboat and the ring had been sitting basically in the open for six months," she says. "Even though I not-so-secretly knew it was coming, I was dying to know how he would pop the question." Lo and behold, the couple stumbled upon a breathtaking set of cliffs overlooking the ocean while visiting Nusa Ceningan, an island in Bali. Tom insisted they return to the exact same spot the next day, and Catherine knew something was up, especially when he continued to frantically check his pockets "100 times." Tom finally got down on one knee at the cliff's edge. "He was so nervous—even after about 10 years together—he forgot to give a speech, but there was no need," says Catherine. "I’d marry him in a heartbeat any day."

Catherine's family ranch in North Fork, California, served as the venue for their wedding on June 2, 2018. "Everyone in my family gets married at my family’s ranch," says Catherine. "This place means everything to me—it’s where I spent much of my childhood, and where all my extended family gathers together each year." Built in the early 1960s, the sentimental venue also boasts beautiful fields and oak groves, all surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Tom and Catherine designed and planned the wedding entirely on their own, from the flowers to the ceramics, to create an event that felt true to them as a couple. "We just wanted to throw a fun party that all of our friends and family could be a part of," the bride says of their vision. "We weren’t looking to have anything too fancy, just everyone we love outdoors enjoying themselves."

Keep reading to see how Catherine and Tom brought their laid-back, bohemian outdoor ceremony to life, sans wedding planner (and thanks to a few incredibly loyal bridesmaids and groomsmen). Carmen Santorelli Photography was on hand to capture it all.

pink couch and wood decor

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

Although the pair never officially decided on a color scheme, their wedding featured a blend of blue hues, light pinks, and white. Catherine, an artist by profession, knew she wanted to create the wedding day ceramics herself. She handmade candle holders, vases, and dinnerware, including renditions of the Marbled Ocean Plate (shown below) from her online homeware collection to bring a coastal feel to their mountain venue.

However, taking wedding planning matters entirely into their own hands wasn't exactly a breeze. "It was a big project to take on without hiring any help," she says. "And the day before the wedding, both our DJ and the day-of-wedding-coordinator canceled on us!" Thankfully, the duo's bridal party helped pick up the slack with everything from making calligraphy signs to installing solar lights. "Everyone stayed late and came early the morning of the wedding to finish setting up, including pre-mixing all the cocktails and setting all the tables in a way that made me swoon," says the bride.

bride's light blue shoes

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

bride's wedding day accessories

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

The bride accessorized with her late grandmother's pearl bracelet, antique drop pearl earrings from her mother, and short blue suede heels from Anthropologie. Thanks to a little assistance from her bridesmaids (and "a lot of luck"), the self-sufficient bride also did her own hair and makeup.

bride getting ready

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

bridal bouquet

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

handmade thistle boutonnieres

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

Adding yet another DIY project to the list, Catherine tackled the wedding floral design as well. "I’ve made small arrangements to go with my ceramics, but nothing of this scale," admits the bride. She describes the experience as a "learning curve," saying she is grateful that her mother, as well as Tom's, assisted with the floral selection. The groom also put together the thistle and rosemary boutonnieres, and the couple's friends and family helped forage wildflowers from the ranch.

As for her own bridal bouquet, Catherine wanted to create an arrangement that felt both wild and boho, but had her doubts since she'd never truly compiled florals before. In fact, she and her bridal party created eight different bouquets in the hopes that at least one would be perfect on the big day. The one she chose featured a mix of wildflowers, foraged greens, and store-bought blooms.

bride wedding dress with bridesmaids

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

bride with bouquet

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

bridesmaid's bouquets

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

Planning difficulties aside, Catherine had zero doubts about her Rue De Seine off-the-shoulder lace wedding dress. "The way it twirled had me madly in love," she adds.

Catherine's bridal party had freedom to pick any blush pink gown from the Show Me Your Mumu wedding collection. "I wanted my girls to match color-wise, but be able to choose a shape that would look awesome on them," she explains. "I like these dresses because they were young, flow-y, and attractive."

bride and groom kissing ceremony

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

With Tom's uncle officiating, the couple wed in front of 130 standing guests in a ceremony they wrote themselves. Catherine's father built an altar out of fallen oak branches that the bride and groom decorated with garden roses and eucalyptus. "Behind Tom and I, there was a field of grass with grazing horses, and in the background, the Sierra Nevada mountains," says Catherine. "It was perfect."

Tom donned a dark navy Gucci suit from the SS 2018 collection, a Theory button-down, and Mexican huarache sandals. To honor Catherine's late grandfather, the architect behind her family's ranch, Tom wore one of his vintage 1960s Brooks Brothers ties, as well as a five-point Catholic military cross to pay homage to his own grandfather's service in Korea.

outdoor picnic area

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

outdoor picnic spot

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

Tom and Catherine sourced decor from local antique markets and curated a grouping of upside down crates, rugs, and hand-sewn pillows that they combined to create an intimate picnic space. They also hung antique glass globes with battery-powered string lights from tree branches overhead.

wood outdoor tables with light flowers

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

light blue table runner candles flowers

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

handmade blue and white ceramic dinnerware

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

After the ceremony, guests migrated to the ranch's deck for the reception, where Catherine had designed the tablescape to match her assortment of handmade plates. The long, rectangular tables were adorned with white tablecloths, antique silver flatware, and handmade white linen napkins. Large vases (also made by the bride!) housed low, sculptural floral arrangements that spilled over the sides. For the finishing touch, smaller bouquets were paired with tall, tapered candlesticks.

As for dinner, the couple truly let their personalities shine by serving wood-fired pizza! Grilled veggies and salad with edible flowers rounded out the menu. They also supplied "his" and "hers" signature cocktails, with the groom turning to a classic old fashioned and the bride favoring a grapefruit habanero margarita.

semi-naked wedding cake

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

Tom and Catherine resorted to a semi-naked, vegan cake with berry filling, flowers, and a Day of the Dead couples cake topper.

During the reception, the groom's brother and best man, who has autism, perfectly delivered a speech that brought Tom to tears. "His brother stopped mid-speech to tell the groom to stop crying, he has a speech to finish," adds Catherine.

bride and groom dancing

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

bride and groom dancing

Photo by Carmen Santorelli Photography

One of the groomsmen filled in as DJ after the pair's original one fell through, and the newlyweds hit the dance floor to "Can't Nobody Love You" by Solomon Burke.

Despite the added stress of planning the wedding solo, Catherine says it was well worth it. "Having it outdoors, incorporating antiques, and eating pizza are all a large part of our lives," says the bride. "Also, creating all the ceramics and the DIY decor made this wedding 100 percent ours. But, I think most importantly was that all our bridesmaids and groomsmen came together and worked their butts off to put this whole wedding together. Without them, we could never have pulled it off, and their hard work and love made it all so much more special."

Bride's Dress: Rue De Seine || Bride's Shoes: Anthropologie || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Show Me Your Mumu || Mother of the Bride Dress: Zac Posen || Groom's Attire: Gucci, Theory || Groomsmen Attire: H&M || Engagement Ring: Noon || Wedding Bands: Suzanne Kalan for Ok the Store, Worn Over Time || Ceramics & Table Design: Rex Design Co. || Catering: Mattie's Pizza || Frosted Cakery || Rentals: Walker-Lewis Rents || Accommodations: The Pines Resort, Chateau du Sureau || Videographer: Alli Marye || Photographer: Carmen Santorelli Photography

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