Emma & Johan's Fall Wedding with Custom Watercolor Illustrations
Updated: Mar 23
with love & embers photography
Emma and Johan were married on Keller Farm, the home of her Aunt & Uncle. It is a beautiful, natural setting for an outdoor wedding on a perfect fall day. Fall is Emma's favorite season, She shares, The inspiration for our wedding day details started with our mutual love of autumn and my favorite color, dark red, and evolved from there.
No detail was left unconsidered including the entrance of the farm's historic, stone, three-story farmhouse that was transformed by an abundance of florals and fall pumpkins. Speaking of pumpkins, scroll down to the sweetest proposal ever which included a last-minute trip to the craft store, lots of yarn, glitter, and plastic pumpkins! Gorgeous photography by With Love & Embers unless noted.
Emma and Johan’s invitation suite is a unique combination of all the things we love about a classic letterpress wedding invitation with personalized watercolor details that add depth, family history, moody fall vibes, and so much romance!
It’s paramount for me to get to know couples during the planning process. At the consultation, we discuss the overall wedding vision, venue, color palette, etiquette, and personal styles. Looking through samples often gets the creativity flowing, bringing new ideas to the table. For Emma and Johan it sparked the topic of Johan’s German family coat of arms which features an esquire’s or gentleman’s helmet. Their eyes lit up with the possibility of using this as the design foundation for their suite.
Johan's surname, Helmel, originally, Helmlien, is centuries old and has a strong place in recent family tradition giving the suite a layer of meaning as well as visual interest.
On the origins of Johan's family coat of arms: The surname Helmel originates from the German word helm, meaning helmet... between the 5th and 14th centuries, distant ancestors were masters of forging helmets. Before the name became Helmel, the lineage was known by Helmlien, which indicated the family craft much like Smith or Baker...The family motto, “spiritus ac labor omnia vincunt,” which translates to “hard work and determination conquers all,” embodies the tenacity of the bloodline through the centuries to thrive by personal conviction and sheer power of will.
After deconstructing the crest, separating the helmet from the shield, and mantling, I created three watercolor illustrations for a completely personalized suite. The shield and mantling became the basis for the couple's new monogram, the helmet in profile was printed on the vellum belly wrap, and a bit of the mantling finishes at the bottom.
The color palette was a bevy of deep, rich fall colors including Emma’s favorite, burgundy. We used a bitter chocolate letterpress on soft cotton stock for the main invitation and enclosures which completely elevated the suite. The bitter chocolate main envelope and response envelope were addressed with white calligraphy and finished with vintage stamps!
Emma already had her floral vision worked out. She wanted to create a vibe that was moody, ethereal, elegant, vintage, and romantic. Working with Kim Bakke of The Cottage Gardener, Emma knew her florals were going to be out of this world so we decided the envelope liner was the perfect spot to add large, lush florals with subtle variations on velvety purple, taupe, toffee, and umber. The small floral pieces on the main invitation were a seamless tie in with the liner.
The outdoor reception took place in a large open-air tent draped with cafe lights and hanging florals. The tent ceiling was clear which allowed the natural glow of diffuse autumn light to make all the colors pop. Natural stone vessels flanked the sides and entrances, long wooden family-style tables were set with floral garlands of rose, dahlia, and fall foliage. Linens with loose weaves, black taper candles, and votives in hurricane glass created the rich, lush ambiance Emma was dreaming of!
We asked Emma and Johan to take us back through the planning process and their gorgeous wedding day.
How did you meet?
Johan: Our maid of honor, Taylor, and her sister, Mariah, had started to bring Emma to my church youth group. Although we had several mutual friends and had maybe heard of one another here and there, I didn't actually meet her for months. The first day I saw her in person she was actually sitting alone. Having no idea who she was nor the mutual connections we shared, I very unceremoniously introduced myself and attempted to make small talk about the Legend of Zelda wallpaper I noticed on her phone. I really have no idea why she even bothered to humor my poor attempt at conversation, but 10 years later I'm sure glad she did.
Tell us about the proposal.
Johan: Before I start on the proposal story, I need to mention that Emma and I had spent a few months in the late summer of 2015 designing her engagement ring together using elements from a family heirloom. We had finally decided on a design together mid September and so she knew the ring would be done soon. Because of this, I knew I wanted to propose soon after picking up the ring, so when I got the call that it was ready a few weeks later I ran to the jeweler as soon as I could. To make sure I had as much of the element of surprise as possible I settled on proposing later that same week.
Since Emma loves the fall, I had planned to take her pumpkin picking after her college classes Thursday that week and propose there, but unfortunately, it rained all day. Knowing that she would be home shortly, I scrambled with only about 2 hours left to come up with an alternative plan. I ran to the local craft store and picked up synthetic pumpkins, tea lights, glue, glitter, autumn-themed branch decor, and red yarn.
Once I got back home I took the yarn and unwound it so it was one long strand. I worked my way through the house from where I would be proposing out to the garage where she would enter. I spelled out her name with the yarn in the garage and used the rest of the strand to lead her through the house to the back porch where I was waiting. I had written the words "Will You Marry Me?" across 4 pumpkins with red glitter and surrounded them with tea lights and autumn decor. I finished setting up just minutes before Emma walked in...I don't even think the glue was dry on the pumpkins yet!
photos: with love & embers photography
What surprised you most about planning your wedding?
Emma: How quickly we went from having infinite time to plan and iron out all the details to zero time and soooo many details left! Planning our wedding during COVID was incredibly challenging and required a lot of last-minute adjustments. Fortunately, we are blessed to have such amazing family and friends who helped pitch in the week of to help us fill in the little gaps.
Best resources for wedding planning?
Emma: Our vendors! Having a great group that was fully invested in making our day as great as it can be was invaluable. Working with amazing people and having open lines of communication made all the difference. Being that we did not work with a venue, our vendors provided us with a guideline of what they know works and/or looks best and from there we were able to fill in the gaps. Everyone was also very honest with what was worth spending resources on and what would be overlooked. I also used Pinterest for inspiration as well as Etsy for some of our smaller goods such as our ring bearer pillow and card box.
Lauren of Ren & Ink creating the mirrored seating chart (photo: Stonehill Paperie)
with love & embers photography
What was your inspiration for your wedding day details?
Emma: Looking back, it's really interesting to see that our inspiration actually developed through our planning process and in collaboration with our vendors! The inspiration for our wedding day details started with our mutual love of autumn and my favorite color, dark red, and evolved from there.
We worked with our florist to get our color palette really locked in and after that, I realized that we had this classic, romantic, and moody theme so we ran with it! Originally, I had wanted to put my girls in dark red dresses, but Johan and I fell in love with a dark burgundy tuxedo jacket from Ike Behar, so to let him stand out I pivoted from that idea. Initially, I was worried I wouldn't find anything in another color that I loved, but I ended up stumbling on a gorgeous black Sorella Vita gown for them instead which had a stain skirt that matched the black satin lapels on the groomsmen's jackets perfectly!
Next, when it was time to work with Amy for our invitations, we decided on using elements from Johan's family crest and she suggested tieing in some chocolate brown, which was probably my favorite addition to the color palette! The colors we chose as we went along became the inspiration for our decor and rentals, such as the farm tables and black and white dance floor. I really think that evolving the color palette over time gave us a guideline of sorts that helped us create a day full of memorable details.
photos by Stonehill Paperie
What was your favorite thing about your wedding?
Emma & Johan: Besides *finally* getting married after a 5-year engagement, we really loved the overall ambiance of our day. From the colors to the lighting, and the setting, everything was so cohesive and so "us". Having so many of our guests show up despite the pandemic with so much love and support for us was such an amazing and humbling experience. We made sure to take some time to savor the memories we were making with most of our families under the same roof as it is something that will likely never happen again.
Best part of the wedding planning?
Emma: After being together for 10 years and engaged for 5, finally seeing our vision start to come to life was super exciting! While planning, it was important to me that we made sure we picked things out together. Although challenging at times, it really made the day a combination of us that we, as well as our guests, noticed and felt.
What advice will you give your friends getting married?
Emma: Plan early and stay on top of things. The more you can get done now is less you need to do later and there will be SO MANY things that pop up as you get close to your wedding day, so you will be thankful that you have less on your plate because you planned ahead. Also, it is important to start booking vendors as soon as you can. Things book faster than you think so if you love a venue or someone's work, get in touch ASAP and put a deposit down. You can always hone your vision of your big day as you go so don't worry about having it all figured out before looking for vendors.
The most valuable piece of advice I can give to anyone planning a wedding is to be flexible and try not to stress! Things will go wrong along the way and on the day of, it's unavoidable (this is life and as well all know things never go perfectly!). Sometimes it's best for your mental health to just let those little last-minute details go - I promise that you will be the ONLY person who notices they're missing. Lastly, remember that this is your wedding day!
After painstakingly planning this awesome day for months on end make sure you savor every moment of it with your spouse and loved ones. Your guests won't remember (or care!) if you lost that last 5 pounds, how the napkins were folded, or if the DJ forgot to play that one song. However, they WILL remember how amazing your wedding was and all the fun they had and the memories they made with you that day.
Relax, don't stress - you got this!
with love & embers photography. RSVP photo by Stonehill Paperie
Wedding Planning: 99% Emma, 1% Johan (as per Johan ) w/ Design Coordination from A Cottage Gardener (Kimberly Bakke) | Photography: With Love & Embers (Jill & Ryan McGrath) | Videographer: Apple Pie Wedding (Matthew Valentin) | Florist: A Cottage Gardner (Kimberly Bakke) | Guitarist: Nicky Fabbz, DJ: Diamond Event Entertainment (Rick Rodriguez) | Dress: Designer: Martina Liana, Store: Le Bella Donna Bridal Boutique | Hair/Makeup: Hair: Claire Parrish, Makeup: Hannah Price | Calligraphy: Paper Love Me | Mirror Seating Chart: Ren & Ink
INTERESTED IN A WATERCOLOR WEDDING INVITATION?