Melissa and Michaels’s incredible family focused day was photographed by the very talented Katherine Elizabeth Photography. A stunning woodland ceremony, filled to the brim with DIY elements created by their friends and family. There was even a nod to my favourite book, Little Women! Katherine tells us a little bit about her thoughts on the day… 

“From our first phone call, I fell in love with Melissa and Michael’s vision for their wedding – a ceremony in the forest surrounded by family and friends followed by dancing under the stars in a tent amidst a meadow. Every decision was made so consciously to encompass their love for each other, their family & friends, along with their immense love of nature.

Before the wedding, Melissa shared with me that her favorite wedding scene in a movie was the 1994 version of Little Women where Meg gets married outside among her family and everyone dances in a circle wearing flower crowns. I photographed a picture of Melissa and Michael’s bridal party encircling them in honor of the Little Women inspiration!

This nature inspiration and family tradition of visiting the arboretum made Adkin’s the perfect setting for Michael and Melissa’s special day! Michael and Melissa actually went for a hike there as well on their first overnight trip together in March of 2016.”

Read on to find out more about Michael and Melissa’s incredible day…

Tell us a little bit about your proposal story…

Michael and I met during our senior year at Gaithersburg High School. He claims it was love at first sight for him, but I took some convincing. We dated for a few months that year, then parted ways when I moved out of state to attend college. Seven years later, we reconnected on our shared birthday at Meridian Hill Park in Washington, DC to catch up – and ended up talking for hours. We met again the next day on the steps behind the Lincoln Memorial, talked for hours again, and shared our first kiss (for this time around). We then dated long distance for two years while I attended graduate school, and finally moved in together in Washington DC. Michael proposed eight months later: at first at home in pajamas with a family heirloom diamond pin he had gotten from my parents when he asked their permission to marry me. After designing the ring together using the diamond from the pin, he proposed again at our neighborhood pizza restaurant, Menomale, with a surprise champagne toast and dessert.

Tell us about your wedding! What was the inspiration behind your special day?

The theme was naturalistic, attuned to the natural environment we love on the Eastern Shore of Maryland: meadows and woodlands and water. We chose September for the golden light and the mild weather: “To say it was a beautiful day would not begin to explain it. It was that day when the end of the summer intersects perfectly with the start of fall”. Ann Patchet, Truth & Beauty. Our colour palette was navy blue, pale blue and blush pink, with metallic copper accents – all surrounded by the natural greens and golds of the forests and fields. We incorporated both the Christian spirituality of our families and our own more nature-based spirituality into the ceremony. It was important for us that our wedding party participate in the words being said, so the bridesmaids read a hymn of gratitude together and the groomsmen read a Dalai Lama quote together. The mother of the groom prayed with everyone from her heart, and the mother of the bride read a prayer she had selected. The audience was also asked to affirm their participation in our marriage. Finally, we wrote our own vows together- it was important for us to promise the same things to each other! My sister was the officiant, which was really special for us since we don’t currently attend a place of worship. She is a family and marriage counselor, so she was well-equipped to write a beautiful ceremony that fit our relationship perfectly.

What were the florals like in your wedding?

We purchased mixed buckets of blooms, grasses and greenery from a local flower farmer just a few minutes away from the venue. It was important to us to have some naturalistic flowers form the surrounding environment, like goldenrod and asters, while also having more colorful and fanciful blooms. And it was important to us to support a local farmer! The day before the wedding, the bridesmaids and I spent the afternoon creating bouquets, boutonnieres, table arrangements and other decorations. My friend Sarah made a beautiful flower crown for me to wear – I dried it to keep forever. My favorite floral item we created was the floral wreath that hung from the ceremony arbor – I had purchased a simple green metal frame at a craft store, and we used floral wire to attach blooms all around.

How did you decorate the ceremony and reception spaces for your big day?

We did all DIY decor, using borrowed, recycled and thrifted items. The reception was held in a clearing in a meadow. My mom, sister and I pooled all our tea light votives, mason jars and vases for table decorations and flowers. I made the table numbers and various signs myself using navy blue craft paper and a copper metallic paint pen. Michael and his groomsmen built a beautiful wooden bar from recycled pallets for the cocktail hour, and another friend decorated borrowed chalkboards for the menu and schedule of events. For the gift table, we used wooden crates and baskets from my farm and tree cookies from the Arboretum to decorate, along with photos of my parents and grandparents on their wedding days. I also brought some thrifted copper accents like an antique watering can, small flower pots and a wash tub. The ceremony was held in a clearing in the forest. We borrowed a wooden arbor our friends had built for their wedding, and hung a floral wreath we had made with local flowers (and then we gifted it to the Arboretum to pass it on to the next couple!) We delineated the aisle with twine strung between borrowed shepherds hooks, with mason jars of flowers dangling from them. All the guests stood in a semi-circle shape around us, with one row of chairs in the front for elderly guests. We also decorated the clearing with a collection of decorated fabric flags the guests had brought, strung up on twine with clothespins (we sent a flag to each guest along with their invitation, and they brought them to the wedding decorated with well-wishes to hang around the ceremony clearing in the woods. I had cut all the flags myself from recycled fabric). The wedding party put together all the flowers, hung all the twinkly lights and candles, and decorated the ceremony site the afternoon before the wedding. It was really fun to hang out together and share a picnic while decorating before the rehearsal!

Tell us a little bit about what you both wore for your wedding…

“She looked very like a rose herself, for all that was best and sweetest in heart and soul seemed to bloom into her face that day, making it fair and tender, with a charm more beautiful than beauty… I don’t want a fashionable wedding, but only those about me whom I love, and to them I wish to look and be my familiar self.” ~Louisa May Alcott, Little Women.

I wanted a simple gown with a botanical, natural feel that would fit the informal outdoor setting. BHLDN is great for those sorts of dresses – but to abate the cost, I choose to buy a recycled, pre-owned dress from The dress was a simple A-line with a partially open back detail. I had the neckline altered from a boat neck to a scoop neck to accommodate a family heirloom peridot necklace. The lace was vines, leaves and flowers, in an ivory/champagne color. My sister found a copper headband at H&M with a leaf motif that we re- purposed as a belt by adding a white satin ribbon. I wore borrowed jewelry and inexpensive shoes from a department store, then my own denim jacket later on when it got cold. The bridesmaids chose their own floral dresses from our colour pallet. The groom chose a simple light grey three piece suit from Indochino, which he customized with his own surprises like maroon thread on the button holes, a monogram on the inside pocket, and a colorful interior lining. He and his groomsmen all wore Maryland flag socks and flower ties – they didn’t match, but whatever. The groomsmen wore their own white shirt, navy slacks and navy suspenders. This way no one had to buy anything they didn’t actually want to own, and it kept costs down too.

What were some of your favourite moments from your day?

Having the audience all bring something to contribute was important to us. I would have loved to have a potluck wedding, but for logistics, we decided to go with a caterer… so we decided on collaborative decoration projects instead! From the handmade pallet bar, to group flower arranging, to having all the guests bring a decorated fabric flag – bringing our guests into the creation of the day also brought all of their love and wishes – and we had so much fun with everyone in the process. We kept all the flags to make a big cozy quilt with after, and we’re looking forward to cozying up to those memories this winter and with our kids in years to come. Doing the first look on the Chester River was also special, since we couldn’t logistically incorporate the creek and lake on the arboretum property into our wedding.

Do you have any advice for other couples planning their own weddings?

Do premarital counseling together. The wedding planning and the festivities themselves are wonderful and fun, but when it’s all over, you have the rest of your lives to navigate changes and growth together – and it won’t always be wonderful and fun. Premarital counseling can help give you a strong foundation in clear, open, honest and direct communication that will serve you the rest of your lives. We did 6 sessions of the secular Prepare & Enrich curriculum with a trained marriage therapist, and it was reassuring, challenging, and affirming for us.

We absolutely loved how incredibly personal and family focused Melissa and Michaels wedding was. In particular I think that the use of the personalised flags to make a quilt was inspired. How amazing to create another family heirloom to be enjoyed for years to come!

Much Love

Emily xx

P.S. Have you incorporated any special DIY moments into your own outdoor wedding? If so we’d love to hear from you and see your pictures! Contact us here.



Photographer Katherine Elizabeth Photography

Venue Adkins Arboretum

Florals Honeybee Flower Farm

Caterer Magnolia Caterers

DJ House Monsters DJ

Beauty #Nofilter Glam

Tent Dover tents and events

Stationery Minted

Stationery Paperless Post

Mens attire Indochino

Dress store Still White

Dress Designer BHLDN

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