A Rustic, Santa Barbara Wedding Inspired by the Harvest Moon

“We wanted to make the wedding less about us marrying as a couple and more as a marriage of family,” says Elise Walden of exchanging vows with Chad Hurley, co-founder of YouTube, along with their children and Australian labradoodle. The couple shares a toddler and the pup, and Chad has two older children from a previous relationship. “Our toddler kicked his shoes off and played in the sand in front of the altar during the ceremony, which made the moment so special and complete," she recalls.

For the celebration, the California-based couple picked the Santa Barbara area on the central coast, the perfect meeting point for their friends in San Francisco and Los Angeles. There, they threw a “sexy dinner party” in a rustic barn, with dark accents and natural elements all inspired by the harvest moon that lit the night sky.

"We decided to get married on a harvest moon (full moon) weekend since we met during the fall and it’s a lovely time of year in Santa Barbara," Elise says. "It became a theme throughout the wedding weekend and we played different versions throughout the weekend of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon. It set the tone for a magical weekend. "

To pull it off, the couple collaborated with planners extraordinaire Alison Events and floral and design studio Moon Canyon. “Teaming up with them was the best decision ever made,” Elise says. 

This is a celebration of you—you don’t need to adhere to every single wedding tradition.

The night included a ceremony in the sand with a circular backdrop covered in flowers and a reception at Dos Pueblos Ranch that featured a tequila station, a family-style meal of the couple’s favorite foods, live music, and a poet who wrote personalized haikus for guests. Near the end of the night, guests piled into a vintage school bus painted black to be whisked away to the after-party. One thing they didn’t include? A first dance. “This is a celebration of you—you don’t need to adhere to every single wedding tradition,” the bride adds. “Guests won’t ever think about what they missed.” 

Read on for all the details of the harvest moon-inspired wedding, planned by Alison Events and photographed by Norman & Blake.  

Yonder Design created the couple’s invitation suite, which featured a detailed itinerary of the wedding weekend, a custom logo, and bird-related iconography as a nod to the couple’s nicknames for one another.  

Elise and Chad personalized beach bags for their guests that they filled with some favorite items like handmade chocolates, truffle potato chips, cans of wine, and nips of bourbon.

For the ceremony, Elise wore a Lian Rokman lace dress with floral details and a low back. “It felt whimsical yet worthy of the big day,” she says.

She added embellished Jimmy Choo shoes with feathers—another nod to their bird motif. 

Guests were greeted with an outdoor lounge overlooking the Pacific and a tequila bar when they arrived at the venue.  

The wedding took place at Dos Pueblos Ranch in a 100-year-old barn, but the ceremony was set on the sand. Guests sat on long wooden benches as the couple would exchange vows in front of a circular backdrop.  

Moon Canyon handled the couple’s floral design, which included white king proteas adorning the ceremony backdrop and urns filled with wild grasses dotting the ceremony space.  

Guests watched as Elise made her entrance escorted by her father. Chad met them at the altar wearing a Tom Ford suit, sans necktie.  

Elise’s brother-in-law presided over the ceremony, during which, the couple invited their closest friends to share some words with the guests. When it came to the vows, however, Elise and Chad removed their microphones to share their personal words only with one another.  

“The waves from the ocean meant that the guests could see us saying words but couldn't hear them,” Elise says. “That ended up being one of the most special moments. It was such an intimate touch.” 

Dark wood and jewel-toned velvet furniture adorned the cocktail hour area, where guests sipped signature cocktails right after the ceremony. Elise says they named their cocktails with playful sayings to keep the mood light and reflect who they are.  

Décor included feathers, birdcages, and other ornithological details to further the bird symbolism of the celebration. 

The couple also printed inside jokes on paper napkins, from cocktail napkins that were served at the bar to hand towels that were in the restrooms.  

Lanterns lined the pathway to the entrance of the 100-year-old barn. Inside, Alison Events and Moon Canyon had created a “sexy dinner party” in the rustic setting.  

Custom cookies served as escort cards for the 140 guests.  

Elise loved the emphasis on black for the reception, including the wishbone chairs, matte back ceramic plates, and the black-and-gold flatware. Charcuterie boards were laid out so guests could nibble as they took their seats.  

“Mains were a choice of all things we love: red wine-braised short ribs with herbed chimichurri, nori and white miso black cod with quick-pickled vegetables, or cacio e pepe,” Elise says of the menu. It also included green beans with crispy shallots, mashed potatoes, and Elise’s favorite salad of romaine, avocado, and cornbread croutons.  

A live band performed for the reception, but the couple never did the first dance. Despite taking choreography lessons, Elise says, it just "didn’t feel like them," so they decided to forgo the tradition. They did, however, opt for other entertainment, including a poet writing haiku poems for guests and the ever-hilarious photo booth.  

Elise and Chad’s son joined them for the cake cutting, which included a petite white cake covered in edible flowers. “We wanted our friends and family to feel comfortable,” Elise adds. “We kept things fun and light through unexpected moments, a nod to our sense of humor.” 

Elise changed into a sleek Alexander McQueen gown for the after-party, held at a local restaurant. They all got there via the black vintage school bus, which turned out to be one of the couple’s favorite memories of the day: “The sense of relief that things were a success mixed with the let-loose vibe of our friends dancing to the music in the bus aisle [was a special memory],” Elise recalls. “Everyone was having the time of their lives.” 

Wedding Team

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