A Tuscan-Inspired Wedding in California Wine Country

These high school sweethearts planned the whole thing in six months!

Bride and Groom

Photo by Melissa Oholendt Photography

Though Carlyn McClure and Erik Sveen started their high school class together in January of 2007, they didn’t technically meet until that May. “Erik didn’t talk to me until we were hanging out with mutual friends toward the end of the school year,” Carlyn remembers. The pair started dating that summer, and have been going strong ever since. After eight years of dating, from high school to college and on to the real world, Carlyn and Erik were driving from her parents’ home to his on Christmas Day of 2015 when Erik stopped at a town park. “That park is where we had our first date,” Carlyn remembers. They wandered around and talked until Erik suddenly stopped and got down on one knee. “I said yes, of course!” says the bride.

“Erik and I knew we wanted to get married in the summer, and didn’t want a long engagement, which meant choosing a wedding date less than six months after we got engaged,” says the bride. Thankfully, eight years together meant they had a good idea of what they wanted, and a great wedding planner made it happen. Carlyn had dreamt of a vineyard wedding since a family trip to Tuscany in high school, and a trip to Healdsburg, California shortly before they got engaged proved it could be done without a passport. The couple is based in Minneapolis, so hiring a planner (namely Minneapolis-based Style-Architects Weddings & Events) was key to take care of the details in record time. “We only flew out once before the wedding, a month prior to meet with vendors and make final decisions,” says Carlyn. But when she and Erik arrived in California for their wedding weekend, she wasn’t worried about a thing: They knew their planner had everything under control—plus, Sunstone Winery, in Santa Ynez, was everything you could ever want in an Italian wedding (wine, architecture, rolling hills of vineyards, and more.)

It's safe to say that Erik and Carlyn made the most of the gorgeous setting, celebrating in the California sun with 65 guests on June 20, 2016. Photographed by Melissa Oholendt, this wine country wedding is fresh, light, and totally sweet!

Sunstone Winery
Photo by Melissa Oholendt Photography

“Erik and I loved the Italian feel that came from the warm California sun, the rustic details, and the property’s vines and stone wine cave,” says Carlyn.

Invitation Suite
Photo by Melissa Oholendt Photography

A muted gray invitation suite gave guests a peek into Sunstone Winery’s relaxed atmosphere and the couple's color palette.

Bridal Portrait
Photo by Melissa Oholendt Photography
Bride at Sunstone Winery
Photo by Melissa Oholendt Photography

Carlyn never expected to have an “aha moment” when shopping for her wedding dress—until she put on an ivory silk gown by Kate McDonald Bridal. “I’d been waffling between two gowns at another salon, but had one more appointment," she remembers."When I put this dress on, I completely forgot about the other ones. I couldn’t stop smiling, and my mom couldn’t stop crying!”

She paired the full skirt and delicate straps with a cathedral-length veil and a bouquet of white dahlias, astilbe, ranunculus, and Norma Jean garden roses, as well as honeysuckle vine and olive branches.

Ceremony Site
Photo by Melissa Oholendt Photography

A rustic wooden door, leading into a cave beneath hills of vines, was the perfect backdrop for Erik and Carlyn’s outdoor ceremony.

Flowers and Greenery
Photo by Melissa Oholendt Photography
Chair with Greenery
Photo by Melissa Oholendt Photography

The couple's talented florist used eucalyptus and magnolia branches, accented with fresh white blooms, to highlight the space. Clusters of olive branches added a pop of greenery to worn white chairs.

Bride and Groom Exit Ceremony
Photo by Melissa Oholendt Photography

“Walking down the aisle, I was overwhelmed by every good emotion possible,” says Carlyn. “Seeing everything set up as we’d imagined, the chairs full of our favorite people, and Erik at the end of the altar, looking happier than I’d ever seen him, was incredible!”

Cocktail Hour Lounge
Photo by Melissa Oholendt Photography
Cheese Table
Photo by Melissa Oholendt Photography

The reception took place by the winery’s stone cave, with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails on the patio and dinner inside. Guests nibbled on cheese and charcuterie boards (displayed on wine barrels!) as they sipped local wines.

Escort Card Display
Photo by Melissa Oholendt Photography
Escort Cards
Photo by Melissa Oholendt Photography

The escort cards were Erik and Carlyn’s only DIY project. “We had our calligrapher write each guest’s name and table assignment on an envelope, then we wrote notes to every person and put them inside the envelopes,” Carlyn explains. “We wanted our family and friends to know how happy and appreciative we were that they made the trip to celebrate with us.”

Reception Setting at Sunstone Winery
Photo by Melissa Oholendt Photography

A bare wooden farm table served as the head table, surrounded by round tables draped in gray linens. Iron chandeliers and clusters of taper candles cast a warm glow over the space.

Table Garlands
Photo by Melissa Oholendt Photography
Photo by Melissa Oholendt Photography

Simple table décor combined eucalyptus branches, apples, berries, and white flowers. Each place was set with a square charger, topped with fresh bread tied with olive leaves.

First Dance
Photo by Melissa Oholendt Photography

After Carlyn and Erik shared their first dance to Ellie Goulding’s cover of “Your Song,” guests headed outside to dance under the stars. “We had so much fun at our wedding,” says the bride. “We were exhausted and hungry by the time we left, so we made a pit-stop at In-and-Out on the way to our hotel!” And of course, they capped it all off with a honeymoon through Europe.

“Decide what aspects are most important, then be flexible with the rest,” says Carlyn of planning a wedding on a tight timeline. “Your vision will evolve through the process, so don’t get too stuck on any one thing. Be open-minded to creative alternatives and new ideas!”

Wedding Team

Wedding Planner: Style-Architects Weddings & Events

Venue: Sunstone Winery

Bride's Dress: Kate McDonald Bridal

Bride's Veil: A Stitch Above the Rest

Hair: Love Laura Rocha

Makeup: 805 Makeup

Bridesmaids' Dresses: ASOS

Groom's Attire: Bonobos

Groomsmen's Attire: Bonobos

Engagement Ring: Diamonds Direct

Wedding Bands: JB Hudson

Floral Design: Forage Florals

Paper Products: Rosann Konieczny Calligraphy

Catering: Field to Table Events

Cupcakes: Enjoy Cupcakes

Entertainment: Kramer Events

Rentals: Barn Relic, Town & Country Event Rentals, Apres Party and Tent Rental, Kramer Events

Photography: Melissa Oholendt Photography

Related Stories