Jen & Michael’s Colorful Rustic DIY Wedding at The Barn at Valhalla
Before we hit the weekend, I’m delighted to share a super sweet celebration in a lovely rustic setting filled with just so. much. love. and colorful handmade details that the bride lovingly crafted herself! What’s even more special about this wedding is that Jen and Michael made sure that they knew each and every one of their handpicked vendors personally, making their union all the more meaningful.
We are witnessing this lovely couple’s equally gorgeous wedding courtesy of the talents of Blest Photography‘s Cole Gorman — yup, a familiar name whose beautiful work you’ve previously seen via Jessie & Brad’s Black and Purple DIY Wedding and Liz & Philip’s Funky CAM Raleigh Wedding. The newly engaged Cole (congratulations!) only had the nicest things to say about Jen & Michael:
So often I find myself sitting down to write about a couple that I’ve photographed and I am floored by how kind, hospitable, and loving they are, not just to me, but the community around them. No matter how hard I try to love and serve them, they end up outdoing me every time! Jen and Michael are no different. In fact, since the day we set out on their Engagement Adventure, I’ve felt like part of the relationship. Jen and Michael were actually the very first couple to purchase and book a wedding with me. They took a big risk, and made a big investment, and God used them in a big way to confirm what He wanted me to be doing with my life. They’ve been so gracious, so laid back, and so much fun!
Their special day was a true testament to who they are as a couple. Everything (and when I say “everything”, I mean “everything”) went off without a hitch! It was the smoothest wedding I have been a part of, with much of the success attributed to the incredible staff of vendors. But Jen thought through every aspect of the day. From the schedule and itinerary, to the bunting banners, to the snacks and goodies, and even designed the invites, programs, and menus! I found myself hustling around all day, without enough time to capture all of the detail that Jen had thought through to make this day so special.
I thought he did a marvelous job of capturing the love and joy in this celebration though, as you will see below…
Apple cufflinks! There is a reason for them which you will find out in a bit.
Such a lovely couple… and isn’t Michael’s excited-to-see-Jen look just precious? Well here’s the pretty bride to tell us a bit about the two of them:
Michael and I are literally two peas in a pod. We enjoy the same hobbies; cycling, the outdoors, adventure, the company of good friends, delicious food and more. We formally met at Elon University when I was a Multimedia Developer (a fresh out of college grad) and Michael was an Apple Systems Engineer. (I say formally met, because I was a student for 4 years while he was on staff, so we coexisted for quite some time). He came to fix my computer on my first day at work
Michael comes from a Cuban background — so lots of enthusiastic, happy and high energy surrounding us. We’re best friends, share every moment together and balance out each other in the best ways. I’m more emotional, he’s more logical, haha. Michael proposed while on a hike at Stone Mountain in the Fall — the leaves were gorgeous as was the weather and our love must have been contagious for the rest of the hike we were constantly being approached by strangers sharing their love stories.
Are you loving how BEAUTIFUL everything — from the couple to the sweet moments to the photos — is so far? I sure am! Here’s Jen again for the story behind their celebration:
Michael and I chose The Barn at Valhalla nestled in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for its romantic yet festive charm. Named after the mythical world “Valhalla” in which warriors feast and dance after an exhausting day, we wanted to embrace this sense of celebration by enhancing the Barn’s rustic allure and reflecting nature’s glorious harvest bounty through our floral, color and menu choices. It was important to us to give a nod to tradition while incorporating unique items to make our guests feel the fun yet deep love between us. Our ceremony set among towering, yet sheltering trees, integrated our favorite Quaker rituals of silence and a marriage certificate (designed by Michael and I) signed by all witnesses present – allowing everyone a chance to participate in our union.
The artistic Jen DIY-ed almost everything, from the bunting to the centerpieces to the invitation and stationery design (wait ’til you see them!)
Embracing my Mother’s love of antiques I crafted and used vintage decorations, my favorite being the delightful bunting banner hung in the tent for dinner. Our herbs on the centerpieces were organic from a local farmer — the experience of seeing their farm was unforgettable and I now have a new love for Pineapple Sage – Yum!
You probably can’t see it in the photo but there’s a little tandem bike and lyrics to the Beatles’ “Love Me Do” on their unique invitation suite that was lovingly designed by the bride! Shares Jen:
I even made the Save the Dates, Invitations, Menu Cards and Programs… which really allowed us to personalize things and pull in our creativity from start to finish.
The adorable tandem bike topper is actually a nod to their engagement session (also photographed by Cole)
LOVE their funky entrance dance!
I asked Jen for her parting insights…
This was the absolute best time of my life (to date) we loved every minute. I would just say it makes such a difference when you can craft the details and use local vendors. So many people noticed the personal detail that went into everything and I think it made the mood more personal and more emotional. We had fun with the whole process and I think that showed. I would also say, Etsy is AWESOME!
As for advice, we even bartered with some vendors, for example with our transportation company we offered to do some graphic design work for him in trade for some cost of his services, and it worked! So I would say don’t be afraid to get creative with cost ideas.
What also made our day so special though, was knowing each and every vendor personally. From the bagpiper being Michael’s college math professor to our talented photographer, a former student and friend of mine, I truly felt we were surrounded by love and support, a feeling which enveloped the whole evening.
I thought this GORGEOUS shot was a fitting end to this wonderful feature. Before I leave though, please allow me to share with you a snippet from the lovely note Jen sent me —
Michael and I took some time to look through your blog and could not be more thrilled to be a part of such an awesome collection. So many of the weddings on the blog seem to be more about the couple and the experience more than the “Big Budget” so we’re honored our day looks this way as well. We must admit — that day was SO FUN, so full of love and Cole did such a rockin’ job capturing every moment — I’m glad it shows.
It certainly does. Huge, huge thanks to Cole for sharing his awesome photos with us as always, and thank you Jen and Michael for sharing your beautiful and inspiring day with us — showcasing it here is my complete pleasure and I couldn’t be happier to have it within these humble pages!
Photographer: Cole Gorman of Blest Photography
Ceremony and Reception Venue: The Barn at Valhalla
Dress: Wtoo Brides at Watters
Hair: Alexis Nance from Funky Monkey Hair Studio
Make-Up: Elaine Harrison Make-up Artistry
Caterer: Durham Catering
Officiant: Pastor Deborah Suess from First Friends Meeting in Greensboro, NC
Ceremony Musician: Stuart Davidson (bagpiper)
DJ: Ross Merle with Just Music!
Wedding Coordinator: Premier Party Planners with Nicole McMillen
Florist: Tre Bella
Desserts: Tyler Lee (personal friend)
Stationery: The Bride
Transportation: Greenway Transit