2018 was our fullest photography year yet. We witnessed many beautiful love stories and photographed moments that are now memories. We met all kinds of people at all types of weddings. At the end of each celebration, our hope was two-fold: for photos they love, and for love that always lasts. At the end of every wedding and every love story ever told, the latter is the hope: forever love. Plan the wedding of your dreams with the one you’ll love and who will love you through whatever each day brings. Make the day as true to yourself and to your love as possible, enjoying each other most of all. At the end of our 9th year of photographing weddings, this is our best advice.
Caleb and Ashley are one of the most inspiring couples we are privileged to know. Previous to their wedding day, our final one of 2018, we had the honor of photographing their proposal (view photos here) and engagement (view photos here). From the moment we met, Caleb and Ashley’s thoughtfulness and passion were clearly seen. Nowhere did these qualities shine brighter than on their wedding day. On a day when some tend to be anxious and stressed as each event unfolds, Caleb and Ashley were able to sit back and seize every moment. Enjoying their wedding day together among family and friends was what mattered the most.
This is of course a testament to their character, but it didn’t take away from how much effort and thought they put into every detail. From the decorations to the structure of the day, we can honestly say we have never photographed or attended a wedding like theirs. Intricately tailored to who they are as a couple, it would be impossible to replicate. But it can certainly inspire others to make their wedding day as unique to themselves as possible.
Because of how special Caleb and Ashley’s wedding was, we have put this blog post together differently than others. Rather than attempt to describe everything up front, various stories and details are included throughout. We hope this couple and this day inspires you like it inspires us.
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Caleb and Ashley’s wedding venue was Organic Harvest Gardens in Long Beach. Surrounded by a freeway, an urban river, a horse stable and an apartment complex, this garden is a secret sanctuary tucked away in the busyness of Los Angeles. The owners, Bill and Lynette, were incredibly helpful to Caleb and Ashley and made everything simple and low-key. “It never felt like a business transaction,” said Caleb, “but like a community rallying around a celebration.”
It was important to Caleb and Ashley to have some time alone together before the ceremony to share personal vows they had written to each other. Caleb said, “We love being around people but not always in front of them. Our relationship, outwardly, has been a balance of knowing when to share and when to keep things private, because that just feels better. Keeping our vows between us, our deepest and most sincere declarations of love, felt like the best way to honor each other and who we are together.”
Almost everything for the wedding was personally done by Caleb and Ashley and their family and friends. They wanted everyone to be involved and to feel like a part of the celebration. “Our biggest fear in the planning process was that things would start to get away from us, and eventually the day wouldn't feel like something we'd made together,” said Caleb. “Every piece and person fit together in the grand design and it was simple perfection.” Ashley’s mom and sister collected many of the bottles, vases, candles and trinkets from various thrift stores over a six month period. Caleb’s mother did all of the signs and calligraphy. Caleb’s friend, Mell Randolph, was their coordinator. For affordable flowers and greenery, Ashley and others drove to the LA Flower District at 5:00am on their wedding day.
Caleb’s brother, Gabriel Wheeler, a musician based out of Seattle, did all the music. Caleb and Ashley gave him two songs that are special to them and asked him to play them with his own spin. “No Woman, No Cry” by Bob Marley and “To Build a Home” by Cinematic Orchestra will never be heard or played the same way again.
In addition to having Caleb’s brother play music, Caleb’s dad, Doug Wheeler, officiated the wedding. At the beginning of the ceremony, Doug had everyone pass around a rock to unify them and allow them to be fully present. The rock being sent around was to symbolically pass anything that may be burdening the guests onto the rock. Caleb and Ashley gave Caleb’s dad permission to do whatever he wanted for the ceremony to make it his own contribution to their day. What a gift of honor, trust and love from a son to his dad.
After Caleb and Ashley’s first kiss, Doug tied what looked like a rope around their hands. Before their wedding day, he asked them to each find a long strand of something that represented them, be it a rope, piece of yarn, etc. Ashley got an interwoven, multicolored piece of crochet thread, and Caleb got a thick piece of white yarn. Caleb said, “We gave him each piece and didn't hear anything else about it. By the time he brought it out at the end of the ceremony wrapped together we just lost it, probably because we'd forgotten about it and it was so pure and simple. A lot of built-up joy and emotion broke at that moment. The rope is currently on display in our bedroom.”
Caleb and Ashley wanted to be as thrifty as possible for their wedding. They bought Ashley’s wedding dress for $6 from a thrift store and pieced together their outfits one garment at a time to make sure they didn't break the bank. Caleb wore rare ostrich skin shoes given to him by his uncle who passed away in 2016.
Their wedding day was during the Woolsey fire in LA and Ventura counties, which caused a hazy sky, orange sun and orange-tinted light. Another reminder to hold on to and invest most in what lasts.
The food was made by the parents of one of Ashley’s best friends, and the sangria was made by Caleb’s cousin. Wanting to be as eco-conscious as possible, the garden had large compost bins. Caleb and Ashley made all the plates, forks, spoons, knives, cups and napkins bio-degradable so they could be used as compost, or for burning waste in the bonfire, along with food scraps, which is good for the earth and made for less cleanup.
The dancing was nonstop, only breaking for a special song played by Caleb’s brother and dad.
When the wedding ended, Caleb and Ashley gave all the leftover food, horchata, sangria bottles, wine glasses, table decoration and blankets to their guests. The rest was given back to thrift stores. They tried their best not to waste anything and to give things a chance to be used again by someone else. It was truly a day where love was the focus. Everything and everyone was considered, the truest definition of love.
Caleb and Ashley, thank you for showing us love in action in so many ways. How you love each other and others is something we hope to see more of in 2019 and beyond. Thank you.
Venue: Organic Harvest Gardens
Coordinator: Mell Randolph
Flowers: LA Flower District
Bride’s Dress: Thrift store in Fullerton, CA
Groom’s suit: ASOS
Groom’s shoes: Uncle’s shoes
Groom’s ring: Something Silver
Bride’s ring: Caleb’s grandmother’s pearl ring
Calligraphy and signs: Caleb’s mother, Lori
Table design: Ashley’s mother, Cyndi and sister, Beth
Music: Gabriel Wheeler
Food: Casa Del Comida Mexicana
Cupcakes: Frosted Cupcakery
Sangria: Caleb’s cousin, Ana
Coffee: Rose Park Roasters
Bamboo plates and utensils, compassable cups: Eco Party Time