As an interior designer, Heather Dewberry Stoller makes decisions all day, so the idea of a destination wedding where someone else takes care of all the details was rather appealing — especially at one of her favorite places: Santa Barbara, California.
She and Steve Stoller had both been married before, and this time around, they each had children to include. “We actually thought about having a wedding and party in Atlanta, but we had so much on our plates to figure out with combining families, shopping for houses, moving out of my previous house and all the busy projects at my firm,” says Heather. “We just decided that it would be easier to go away and have a smaller ceremony. I think with kids in tow, the keywords are flexibility, ease and having fun.”
Talk about no drama? The Stollers decided to hold a simple 9 a.m. ceremony on the beach this past June, which meant that by 11 a.m. that morning, they were out of their fancy clothes and splashing around in the resort swimming pool together.
Flashback to four years ago, when Heather and Steve were each navigating the world of single parenting (Steve is father to daughter Millie Burke, 12; Heather has a son, Preston, 13, and twins Mary Mobley and Brooks, both 11). They first met at the Swan Coach House’s Flea Market at the Atlanta History Center, and they talked for a few minutes. “I thought he was cute, but he didn’t get my number,” Heather recalls. Two months later her dog, Chase, got loose in the neighborhood. When she answered the neighbor who had found Chase from a local email chain, it turned out to be Steve. He emailed Heather: “Is it possible you are the girl that I met at the Flea Market?” As another coincidence, he lived four streets over from Heather. Their first date was a few weeks later, and they dated three years before deciding to merge families.
Steve proposed at Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara. “He asked me during a stunning sunset on Thanksgiving Day last year,” says Heather. “We were relaxing having a bottle of our favorite Santa Barbara Pinot Noir and walked over to the cliff overlooking the pier.”
Both Steve and Heather are big fans of this coastal city an hour or so north of Los Angeles. “The Mediterranean architecture is stunning, the mountains are beautiful and the beaches are amazing,” says Heather. “It really looks like you are in Europe, but no passport is needed.” Since Steve is from Los Angeles, the couple had visited Santa Barbara once before, and Heather immediately felt a kinship with the area. “It’s a relatively small city with very friendly people and beautiful design shops that feel like what we have in the South,” she adds. “I would equate it to a Charleston, Savannah or New Orleans-type town — great for a getaway, wedding or girls’ weekend.”
She soon discovered that it’s also a popular wedding destination, and particularly works well for small ceremonies. Shauna Timmons with Santa Barbara Elopement knew just how to handle the long-distance wedding prep, sending Heather potential venues and vendors to choose from, then coordinating all the details. “If Steve and I were getting married by ourselves, we probably would have chosen one of Santa Barbara’s gorgeous vineyard locations,” she says, “but having children with us changed the dynamic, so we wanted to do something easy and relaxed. We decided to head back to Bacara Resort since it is right on the beach and has a lot for families to do.”
Following her mantra of “keeping it simple,” Heather and the rest of the family bought wedding clothes off-the-rack, choosing items they can wear again. She found a Ted Baker dress from his bridal collection with a gorgeous brocade bodice that reminded her of something she’d choose as a textile for one of her beautiful interior design projects. To make the dress a better fit for a casual morning ceremony, she had it altered from tea-length to a more fun above-the-knee. Earrings by Kendra Scott and gold shoes from M. Gemi rounded out the look. After Millie Burke found a Vineyard Vines dress in aqua and cornflower blue, the rest of the family’s outfits fell into place easily with a similar color scheme. Blue thistle used in the wedding flowers picked up the color palette in a casually rustic way.
Heather made sure to pack a few well-chosen items with meaning for the special day. “I only took a few things with me: a silver cake comb my grandmother gave me and that we use for all the kids’ birthday parties, Stoller Vineyards (no relation, but we love their wine!) rose for a toast, monogrammed napkins and a shell that the kids deposited rocks they found on the beach into to symbolize our new family,” she says.
When their photographer Anna J suggested that outdoor photos look best either early morning or late afternoon, Heather and Steve came up with the idea to check “get married” off their to-do list right off the bat the day of their wedding. The couple’s reasoning: it’s harder to pull kids out of the pool or other activities as the day goes on. This meant that Heather’s make-up artist (coincidentally from Marietta, Georgia) arrived at 6 a.m., but the early start was a small price to pay for a relaxed day.
After a brief ceremony with a local Presbyterian minister, Heather and Steve said their vows, and then had a quick unity ceremony to involve the children. “We wanted the children to have some sort of ceremony involvement since we were blending families,” she explains. “I bought a ceramic hinged clamshell on Etsy with a pretty golden painted interior. My plan was that each of the children would find a shell on the beach and deposit it into our new ‘family shell’. Of course, I forgot that there were no shells on that beach so we ended up finding really neat beach rocks/pebbles and used those instead. The clamshell and pebbles are now very pretty in our bookcases back in Atlanta and serve as a nice memory from that day.”
Afterwards, the new family cut the cake right on the beach and enjoyed a nice glass of rose, took a few more photos and then hit the pool around 11 a.m. For this new blended family, keeping it fun and being together seems like a perfect start to chapter two.
We wish Heather and Steve a life filled with happiness and love! Thank you for sharing your special day!
Venue: Haskell Beach at Bacara Resort, Santa Barbara
Wedding coordinator: Shauna Timmons with Santa Barbara Elopement
Flowers: Ella & Louie
Photography: Anna J
Bride’s dress: Ted Baker
Bride’s earrings: Kendra Scott bridal collection
Bride’s shoes: M. Gemi
Grab your tissues. We have lots more beautiful Atlanta brides and Southern weddings in our “Weddings” section. Prepare to be moved …