A Sweet and Romantic Forest Wedding at the Adkins Arboretum

This utterly romantic wedding from Katherine Elizabeth Photography was a complete fairytale from start to finish.

Set at the Adkins Arboretum in Ridgely, MD, Michael and Melissa exchanged their vows in the forest surrounded by family and friends, and spent the rest of the evening dancing under the stars in a meadow.

“From our first phone call, I fell in love with Melissa and Michael’s vision for their wedding,” said their photographer, Katherine Callahan of Katherine Elizabeth Photography. “Every decision was made so consciously to encompass their love for each other, their family and friends, along with their immense love of nature.”

The couple gave guests fabric squares to decorate and hang amidst the trees, surrounding the ceremony space to symbolize community unity. “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,” said bride Melissa, who also incorporated a special memento for her mother.

“Melissa’s mother had a very old family heirloom necklace that she wore in her wedding, and Melissa’s sister wore at her wedding as well,” said Callahan. “Originally Melissa wasn’t going to wear it because of the neckline of her gown, but she decided to have her dress altered in secret to make the necklace work and as a special gift to her mother. When the necklace was put on, it took a few moments and a little explaining for Melissa’s mother to realize the thought and effort that had gone into making sure this heirloom was a part of the wedding. The happiness was palpable!”

Another happy moment? When the wedding party circled Melissa and Michael before the wedding in honor of Melissa’s favorite movie, the 1994 version of Little Women, where Meg gets married outside among her family and everyone dances in a circle wearing flower crowns.

“I also think [Little Women author] Louisa May Alcott’s description of Meg fits perfectly for Melissa and for the heart and soul of their wedding day,” noted Callahan, citing the quote.

“Meg 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.”

See the beautiful pictures below, and read more from bride Melissa about how the couple met, and their inspiration behind their beautiful day.

Maryland real wedding

Maryland real wedding

How did you two meet? Tell us about the proposal:

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.

Maryland real wedding

Maryland real wedding

Maryland real wedding

Maryland real wedding

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Adkins Arboretum wedding

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.

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Maryland real wedding

Maryland real wedding

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Maryland real wedding

Maryland real wedding

Let’s talk wedding decor. How did you decorate your space for the ceremony and the reception? Was any part of the decor DIY?

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!

Maryland real wedding

Maryland real wedding

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Maryland real wedding

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Tell us more about the inspiration behind the beautiful day.

Our color 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.

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Maryland real wedding

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Adkins Arboretum wedding

Dress Store: Still White//Dress Designer: BHLDN//Tuxedo and Mens Attire: Indochino//Invitation Designer: Minted//Invitation Designer: Paperless Post//Linens and Coverings: Dover Tents and Events//Beauty: #NoFilter Glam//DJ: House Monsters DJ//Caterer: Magnolia Caterers//Floral Designer: Honeybee Flower Farm//Reception Venue: Adkins Arboretum//Photographer: Katherine Elizabeth Photography//


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