Laurel + Derek’s Art Nouveau Wedding at Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia

Laurel & Derek share their art nouveau wedding with low-key Star Wars inspiration at the Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia. 

Tell us a little about you and your partner!

Laurel: Derek and I met as coworkers at the Apple Store, and recognized each other's deep nerdiness right away. We connected over a shared love of Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings... but beyond overlapping interests, we fell hard for each other's minds and hearts. We support each other and challenge each other, especially on the podcast we produce together, the Midnight Myth, on which we celebrate our favorite stories. We got engaged after seeing Hamilton in NYC.

Tell us all about your event!

We got married at Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia, which is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. And the venue does a lot of the heavy lifting on the day, so it helped our vision come into focus. We knew we wanted to incorporate our love for Star Wars, and Morris Arboretum has a cocktail hour location that looks a lot like the Forest Moon of Endor, home of the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi. We put a few touches into our ceremony and reception (Ewoks hiding in the centerpieces!), and even walked into the tent to the Main Title from Star Wars, but it never felt like we were having a "Star Wars wedding," if that makes sense.

I always took it for granted that I would have a DIY wedding, and I toned down my ambitions as we started to plan. However, I did all the flowers, the centerpieces, and the reception decor--just a simplified version of the glorious Pinterest fantasy in my head.

What was totally worth it?

I have zero regrets about DIY. I saved a butt ton of money (the entire wedding was decorated for less than $1K, including the flowers I did from Bloominous). It helped to have an inherently gorgeous venue that didn't need much extra. YES it was a ton of work. But sitting down to do the work was extremely relaxing, made me feel in control, and helped me gain a sense of productivity. It is important to assess the value of your time and money and to plan accordingly when deciding whether to DIY your wedding--and I'm totally here for putting that stuff in the FIB--but I'm personally really glad I put in the work, and extremely proud of myself.

I looked around a few times to soak it all in, when my guests were snuggling in hammocks at cocktail hour, or when they were surrounding us singing the Na-na-na's from Hey Jude, and I thought, 'damn, this is the best wedding I've ever been to.'

The biggest (and best) surprise was that after all the hard work and daydreaming, my vision--which had felt like an impossible dream--was real. I had hoped beyond hope that my guests would feel cozy, held, and cared for at my wedding, but would also feel moved to dance and shake and scream. In the midst of planning and stress, it's hard to see any of this being fully realized, and it's easy to get pessimistic. But in the end, the most important thing was that I invited the RIGHT PEOPLE who created that atmosphere for themselves, for each other, and for my husband and me. I looked around a few times to soak it all in, when my guests were snuggling in hammocks at cocktail hour, or when they were surrounding us singing the Na-na-na's from Hey Jude, and I thought, 'damn, this is the best wedding I've ever been to.'

What did you throw in the Fuck-It Bucket?

I not only threw a lot of decor things in the Fuck it Bucket (favors? paper invites? girl, bye) and only stuck with what really mattered to me, but I also threw in a lot of expectations and opinions. There are big things that I caved on (like spending a billion dollars on shuttles when the venue was five minutes from the hotel) but I stuck to my guns on: buying the dress I loved even after some lukewarm reactions, not having a rehearsal, not doing bouquet or garter tosses, staying in the same hotel room as my husband the night before the wedding, not radically changing my body, having both my parents walk me down the aisle, and doing as much as I could to smash the patriarchy while having my dream princess day.

What wedding planning advice do you have for other couples?

'Pretty is not an emotion': this valuable tidbit came from the podcast, I think Aleisha was interviewing a wedding pro (forgive me, I can't remember who!), but the guest said, 'You can't feel pretty.' I lost a lot of sleep over what people would think of me if I didn't have enough decor on my cake table, or chair covers, or tulle draped from the ceiling, when in the end, the stuff you remember is EMOTIONAL. Not PRETTY. Pretty things are great, and my wedding was full of them, but my memories will linger on kisses, favorite songs, toddlers hitting the dance floor in pjs, and the way my husband smells.

For introverted chillas especially: I wish I had set better boundaries. Being the center of attention is sometimes exciting in theory for me (my Leo nature comes out), but in reality feels scary, inescapable, and high-pressure. With family in town and helping with projects, I had precious little time alone or even with my FS the week of the wedding. I managed to get about three hours alone on the morning-of to do yoga, take a bath, and breathe. I'm grateful for those hours, because it allowed me to recharge for the main event, but I wish I'd built in more and prioritized my self-care.

For chillas with anxiety: Again, I could have benefited from better boundaries. A lot of people involved brought last-minute concerns and questions to me in the weeks leading up to the wedding, or expected me to support their own insecurities all the way up to the day of. I wish I had made it clearer, earlier, that someone else would be the point person for all issues, but I had difficulty letting go and trusting others to take care of things for me. This balance is difficult to strike. In the end, the wedding went off as well as it did BECAUSE I agonized, obsessed, and panicked over every little thing, and that's not great. I got a few 'I told you so's' from people who saw me at peak wedstress--as in 'I told you it would be fine, so there was no need to get so stressed'--and that sucks, because there's no off switch for anxiety. It's hard to give advice here, but I think this observation is valuable for me moving forward. Take care of yourself, know who will respect and understand your feelings and who will dismiss them, and choose your advocates accordingly. Lean on your FS when you need to--mine was sharp enough to recognize when I needed to be insulated from issues and when I was actually needed to resolve something, and took really good care of me during wedding week.

And finally, it's okay to feel heartache, but make space for the love coming your way. There will be disappointments. A lot of people I loved weren't able to be there on the day. I had to mourn that absence and find a way to accept it without judgment. But on the day, when I felt the powerful love of those who did join me, when my sister gave a toast invoking those we've lost and a lifetime of memories... the love is pretty intense y'all. Let it out and let it in. You deserve it.

How did Bridechilla help you plan your wedding?

I'm so grateful to Aleisha for the Bridechilla Podcast. She cuts through the BS to get to what's meaningful, injects some sanity into an objectively INSANE process, and offers an alternative. The wedding pro guests are invaluable, opening up resources I never would have found on my own, so I don't have to wade through styled shoot after styled shoot to find sincerity, unconventional styles, and feminism.

The Bridechilla Community is a bounty of support that I couldn't have done this without. Every day there's a bright new idea, or someone asking a question I've held onto, thinking I was the only one. It's a rare safe and inclusive space that leaves us richer for its existence on the internet.

Laurel & Derek's Rockstar Vendors

Photographer: Plate 3

Caterer & Day-of-Coordination: Company's Coming Catering

Bridal Salon: Lovely Bride Philadelphia

Bride's Dress: Layla by Theia Couture

Cake: Night Kitchen Bakery

Flowers: ​Bloominous

DJ: Emcee Elroy

Hair & Makeup: ONLO Beauty

Tux: Men's Wearhouse

Veil: Blossom & Bluebird

Accommodations: Chubb Hotel & Conference Center

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