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Catherine and Gillian's Intimate Red Barn Wedding at Hampshire College

Ryan Williams

How did you two meet? Nearly three years ago, we were both convinced that we needed a hiatus from serious relationships. After our respective breakups, we both logged into OKCupid thinking that we could set up one or two casual dates during the holiday season. I (Catherine) was visiting a college friend in what happened to be Gillian's hometown on my way back to England, where I'm from. Gillian was about to return from a term abroad and spend the vacation at home. We exchanged a few short messages online, not initially realizing that we went to partner schools on the opposite side of the state. In hindsight, both of us knew within a few hours of talking that something different was happening, and within a few days of nearly nonstop Skype calls, I was almost certain that she was the one for me. We met, finally, on a cold January evening in our small college town where we both went to school (Northampton), just hours after I returned to the USA.

  • How did they pop the question? Over the three years we spent together, we both knew we wanted to get married, but that timing our engagement was vital to making it work. About a year in, Gillian moved to NYC for work, and I was finishing up my PhD and driving every weekend to see her. We developed some traditions early on that made us feel connected and joyful. For instance, whenever we had spare time, we would return to Northampton to hike to an outcrop that overlooked the ox-bow river and the whole town. In autumn the New England foliage was stunning, and snow hikes were arduous but wonderful. After each hike, we would climb back down and get food from a small burger place called LOCAL Burger that has AMAZING fried pickles. Six months after we met, I bought an engagement ring for Gillian and squirreled it away. A year later, she did the same. This summer, three years after meeting we were able to move in together, as we finally converged upon the same city again. The time was right, and we could both feel it. I asked Gillian to "think about something she might want to say to me in the next few months," took both rings, and put them deep in a hiking bag to wait. On Sunday, August 13th, we were in our college town, and decided to go for a hike. Anticipating this, I had purchased a nice bottle of champagne and given it to LOCAL burger to hold for us, and we hiked up to the outcrop overlooking the town where we met, a beautiful ox-bow (that looked like a ring), and the quiet of rustling leaves and birdsong. While I (Catherine) may have chosen the moment, we both proposed to one another and spent a wonderful, warm afternoon in the woods and in our favorite places in town. Not only did we have champagne, but many of the vendors in town, who remember us from college, gave us celebratory tea, food, and wine. What’s best is that we can always return to that spot and see both the town where our love began and the great expanse of what locals call the "happy valley." It couldn't have been more perfect.

  • What was your favorite moment(s) from the wedding? One of Gillian's favorite moments from the wedding was the recessional after we were officially married, and the huge bubble of joy that led her to raise her arms in triumph! The ceremony was such a whirlwind that walking past the faces of all of our friends and family as a married couple felt like a strange moment of realization and excitement that really hit home. Gillian really loved being able to show her excitement and hear the cheer from the crowd at her pose (that Catherine mirrored)! Catherine's favorite moments took place on the dance floor and with the getaway car! The first dance and a few of the subsequent dances were so fun and intimate. Dancing with friends, family, and Gillian all wove together and organically morphed into some wonderful moments like dipping Gillian at the end of "Lady Marmalade," slow dancing to "New Year's Day," and spinning her mother during the mother-daughter dance. Another fun moment for Catherine was taking photos with the getaway car, a 1955 Chevy! It was such a stunning color and a dream of Catherine's to have a vintage car sweep us away for the honeymoon!

  • How long have you been together? Four and a half years (five in December).

  • How would you describe your overall wedding experience? Our wedding experience was both peaceful and overwhelming. There were so many moments of romance, of wild fun, and of complete exhaustion that having great vendors and friends around you is vital.

  • What advice would you offer to other couples planning a wedding? Be deliberate and thoughtful about your vendors and your bridespeople (consider who will help you set the tone and be reliable on the big day). We were so glad we planned far enough out that we were able to surround ourselves with the best of the best. Also, let your photographers pull you away for a few brief moments together on the day--it goes so quickly!

  • What photography-related advice would you offer to a couple? On your first sweep or two of the Knot and Wedding Wire vendors, go for skill with the camera, and style, and when you start doing in-person interviews (we narrowed it down to three), go with your gut about who will make you feel most comfortable, and who will be most capable on the day. We were not at all disappointed with our choice, the team we had (Ryan and Leslie) were quirky, funny, sweet, creative, and capable). 100% the right choice for us!

  • Tell us about your dress! Where did you find it, how did you choose it, how did you know it was the one? Gillian: I found my dress at BHLDN in Chestnut Hill (MA), I had already looked in NYC and at other traditional and smaller stores in Boston, but the BHLDN dress worked best in terms of fit, elegance, and style. I didn't want a big floaty mass of fabric or anything too grand, I wanted something natural and flowy, that was off-white but not a vibrant color. In short: I wanted something that felt like me. I also got a dress topper for after the ceremony in the evening to change my lookup and add an extra touch of fun. Catherine: I opted for a suit instead of a dress. I tend to dress in a more masculine-of-center style, and it felt most comfortable and true to me. Rather than try to get a woman's suit (which is often too tight or weirdly cut), or a men's suit (which would be too boxy and the wrong size), I went to Bindle & Keep in NYC to get a bespoke suit made for my stature, and according to my personal style. Bindle & Keep are an amazing team of expert tailors and I got to choose the fabric, the lining, the piping, the style, the cut, and everything else you can imagine. It was an incredible experience and I couldn't recommend them enough. They work with all people and body types and have a series featured on HBO for their work with the LGBTQ community called "Suited."

  • Did you see each other before the wedding? If not, did you like waiting or would you have rather done it differently? Tell us why or why not! We did the first look while was sweltering outside, but it was worth it! The moment I turned and saw Gillian, I didn't get overwhelmed like many marriers do. I wasn't in the least surprised by how radiant and beautiful she looked, but I loved having a private moment to see the details of her dress, her hair, and see how she was looking at me, too.

  • What was the first song you danced to as husband and wife? Father-daughter dance? Mother-son dance? We danced to Kina Grannis's "Valentine." We have loved the song for years, and it worked well for the first dance as a married couple because it is under three minutes long, and it had an easy beat to choreograph a few steps to.

  • What kind of food was served at your reception? We did a buffet with salmon, chicken, and vegetarian options, a vegetable medley, summer salad, and stuffed baked potatoes! The dessert was simply our wedding cake, which was from La Fiorentina Bakery and was DELICIOUS!

  • What were you most anxious/nervous/fearful about regarding your wedding day? What was the outcome? We were both nervous about managing our mass amount of family members during the photographs and the wedding itself because so many were coming from far away (Athens, London, the west coast) and there were young children. Luckily, our photographer (Ryan) and our wedding coordinator at the Red Barn were excellent at people management and we had no problems whatsoever.