lauren + james // Ellicottville Backyard Wedding

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It’s so special when couples choose to get married in a location that has sentimental value to them. Maybe I’m biased because that’s exactly what Ben and I did. We got married in our house that we had just purchased. It was huge (to us) and very empty because we couldn’t afford to buy furniture right away, but it was such a special place for us; the place where we would build a life together. And so we have. :)

Lauren and James chose to get married in Lauren’s parents’ backyard, in the very same spot where they were married 20+ years prior. It’s a place with history and family roots, and as beautiful as this wedding was, I think the story behind the location makes it all the more beautiful.

Lauren and James’ love story is also the absolute sweetest and lucky for you, they were kind enough to share it! Be sure to read their comments as you scroll and I have no doubt you’ll just adore them as much as I do.

Lauren: “Our story begins like any other; we met through mutual friends. Except instead of love at first sight and a ride into the sunset in each other’s arms, we began our friendship with regular Monday evenings at the Salamanca Bowling Alley with our friends. As is typical in the beginning of any relationship, we acted like we were not interested in each other, and were also convinced that the other was not interested either. Now fast-forward to St. Patrick’s Day. Enter Jim and Robin Holtz (my parents).

I happened to have spent the weekend in Erie, PA with my friends from college to celebrate the holiday. In typical Gannon Alumni fashion, I awoke at 5am that day for Kegs and Eggs at The Cellblock. Sometime that evening, my parents stumbled into The Gin Mill and were tended to by James. After several St. Patrick’s Day cocktails, and having no knowledge of mine and James’ friendship, my mom assured James that he should ‘date her daughter’ (seriously, when does that ever work?).

Soon after, James and I exchanged phone numbers, and shared our first kiss on the roof (yes, the roof) of Balloons in Ellicottville after a prom-themed party.

Lauren: “The dress I chose was actually not at all what I had in mind prior to shopping, but I had to have it after trying it on at Dalia’s. My dress was full length and all lace. After the work that my rock-star seamstress (Jill Monroe) did, the dress fit me like a dream and I felt amazing in it.

Lauren: “One of my favorite parts of our wedding day was seeing James for the first time. We decided to do a First Look to ease our nerves and have a special moment to ourselves before the excitement started.

James: “Seeing Lauren for the first time in her dress was moving and very special. Lauren definitely cried… maybe I cried too; it’s hard to recall!

Lauren: “The first moment of our wedding day that stands out to me is when our florist came to my suite to drop off my bouquet. Prior to that moment, I’d spent the entire morning feeling like it was any other, normal day. Being handed my wedding bouquet made me cry my first happy tears of the day and made everything feel so real and amazing.

Lauren: “James proposed on December 24th, 2016 at the final Bills game of the season. James happens to have a lot of friends within the Bills organization who were a huge help in planning the surprise. After tailgating with our friends, we arrived at the field early, as we had on-field passes. James was able to get us on the field during warm-ups, where he proposed. After the proposal when I realized what was happening, I looked up and all of our friends and some of our families were there cheering us on.”

James: “Having an outdoor wedding is very rewarding and yet very challenging. We had 3 days straight of the heaviest rainfall that I can remember in recent history. The tent company got their truck stuck in my in-laws’ lawn and we couldn’t set tables and chairs up until the day of the ceremony because the grass underneath the tent was soaked. But both of our families and close friends came together to make our very special day happen, regardless of mother nature’s actions.

Lauren: “Saying my vows and hearing James’ vows during our ceremony was another favorite moment for me. I’d put off writing my vows until just before I put my dress on that day and by that time, I was so full of love, gratitude and excitement that the perfect words came to me right away. During the ceremony, James’ vows made me so emotional and full of happy tears that I could barely get my own vows out.

James: “My favorite part about our wedding was seeing how many special people we both have in our lives, I really feel that these feelings get taken for granted sometimes and seeing that in action was truly special.

Lauren: “In planning our wedding, we decided on a ‘theme’ that felt authentically US. James and I have a collection of vintage cake stands, Pyrex and milk glass items in our home, so it was only fitting that we incorporated that into our wedding decor. The tables at our reception were decorated with mismatched vintage glassware, candlestick holders and milk glass vases. Our desserts (Paula’s Donuts) were displayed on various mismatched cake stands as well.

Lauren: “The speeches that were given during our reception are something that I will never forget. It was incredible to hear our best friends Connor and Kristy deliver speeches that spoke of family, friendship and support of our marriage. Those speeches really made us feel even more loved. In addition to those speeches, we asked my brother, Matt, to give a toast before dinner. Matt’s toast spoke of love and history. The property where James and I were married was mine and Matt’s childhood home and also the same property where our parents were married more than 30 years prior. The speech was beautiful and incredibly meaningful not only to us as newlyweds, but for my whole family.

Lauren: “The song we danced to was the San Francisco Symphony version of Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’. Being big Metallica fans, we’ve always joked about it being ‘a Metallica love song’, so it only seemed fitting. After the ceremony was finished, I surprised James by telling him that his wedding band had been engraved with the name of the song.

Lauren: “Halfway through our first dance, we invited my Dad and James’ Mom to come up and dance with us.

James: “I was a HUGE fan of Lauren’s decision to bring in Paula’s Donuts instead of doing a traditional cake, it was very unique and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Lauren: “The portion of the evening when our DJ started playing songs still gives me butterflies when I look back on it. Anyone who knows me well knows that I don’t particularly love dancing at all, let alone in public. Our DJ played mostly 90’s hip hop after dark and James and I spent the entire night singing and dancing with our friends and family. I can honestly say that I don’t know if I’ve ever had more fun that I did that night.

A few words of advice from Lauren and James to those currently planning: “Everyone tells you this when you get engaged, but having been there, our best advice to anyone in the planning process is to delegate. There are so many things that need to be done, appointments that need to be scheduled and decisions (big and small) that need to be made. There’s a good chance that your wedding party and families are dying to help, so let them! There is no reason to take on all of the planning, DIY’ing and coordinating yourselves. Also, if things don’t go as planned, don’t sweat it. We promise you won’t care by the time your ceremony starts.

Lauren: “Jenn was seriously amazing and we are so happy with how our wedding photos came out. Her documentary style of photography was exactly what we were looking for, and she caught so many great candid photos from our wedding day that we will cherish forever. She did an excellent job making us comfortable in front of the camera and captured photos from all aspects of the day.

Want to see another amazing backyard wedding?? Click here!

Wedding Vendors Include:

Getting Ready Location: Brickstone Suites
Venue: Private Residence
Dress Shop: Dalia’s Bridal
Dress Designer: Enzoani
Make-up Artist: Kelsey Koebel
Groom’s Look: Jos. A Bank
Florist: Flowers off the Farm
Dessert: Paula’s Donuts
Tent/Linens/Lighting: Cayas Canopies
Furniture Rental: Flowers off the Farm