Laura & Cameron
Minneapolis-based designer Laura Nelli of Nelle Handbags and her interactive-designer husband Cameron High only know one way of doing things: big. So when it came time to plan their June 2011 nuptials, it only made sense that the two combined their creative know-how to handcraft a one-of-a-kind, jaw-dropping event.
Love by design
With mutual artistic sensibilities, Laura and Cameron first met while studying design in 2000. But it wasn’t until the first day of class two years later that sparks began to fly. “Our professor had us interview the person next to us,” says Laura. “I bombarded Cameron with questions, and that was it. We just started spending time together.”
Eight years later, Cameron popped the question by drawing from the couple’s tradition of telling stories to brighten a bad day. “I made her a children’s book about two bears that told the story of how we met,” says Cameron. Culminating in a marriage proposal, Laura responded with tears, hugs and a single, significant “yes.”
Girls gone glamorous
Thanks to the right-brain power of both bride and groom, Laura and Cameron’s wedding was destined from the beginning to be a study in creativity. And they didn’t wait long to put their originality on full display.
“I approached my bridal shower in a nontraditional way,” says Laura. “I looked at this as the chance to plan my own ultimate girly party.”
Along with her maid of honor, Laura scoured local thrift shops for unique and intriguing random items. The pieces were spraypainted white and placed throughout the party room in Laura’s condo building where the shower was held. In an effort to soften the room’s industrial feel, the bride also created light-diffusing panels from white paper doilies. Their handmade creations were punctuated with additional décor from Lime Canary Vintage Rentals, flowers by Jackie Just of Minneapolis florist Just Bloomed and paper pieces designed by Antoinette Ramos of Edina’s Paperista. Guided by Laura’s wish to showcase the food, Cocoa & Fig treated guests to a sweet and salty brunch highlighted by a delicate crêpe cake.
Checks and balances
Laura and Cameron knew from the beginning that compromise would be essential. “We based a lot of our decisions on the talents we both have,” says Laura. “But we have opposing design aesthetics—I’m whimsical and feminine, and he tends toward a more refined and industrial look—so we also needed to find a balance.”
Inspired by New York event designer David Stark’s approach to the 2008 Met Ball using old Metropolitan Museum of Art posters as the primary décor, Laura and Cameron landed on the idea of using black and white typography.
“Cameron has an interest in typographical design and I’ve always loved old music and musicals,” says Laura. “So we used old songs to pull fun, quirky phrases for all the different type elements.”
A lifelong fan of the 1964 movie My Fair Lady, Laura also knew she wanted to let elements of the movie subtly influence the event. “We pulled a lot from the songs of My Fair Lady, but the movie guided a lot of the general feel of the wedding as well.”
A little help from their friends
If it takes a couple to make a marriage, Laura and Cameron will tell you it takes a village to pull off a wedding. While Cameron designed all the type for the event—from the invitations and ceremony programs to their table décor and wedding website, idoinjune.com—both bride and groom knew they needed more hands to execute their vision.
Laura enlisted the skills of long-time friend and local fashion designer Tara LaTour to create a couture wedding gown perfectly tailored to her tastes and physique. After determining the right silhouette, LaTour created a number of sketches for Laura to consider, then launched a months-long process of creating the tiered silk faille gown.
“It was so fun to watch as Tara was fitting the muslin and sewing every stitch herself,” says Laura. “She held my hand through the entire process, and the fit was amazing!” The bride accented her gown with a handmade off-white ribbon belt studded with gold foil-brushed leaves beaded by her mother.
With the help of Luci Kandler and Miles Mendenhall of Faux Poco, a St. Paul-based studio and artist workspace, Laura and Cameron spent a morning creating large silkscreen panels that would serve as the ceremony backdrop and ceiling décor at their venue, Spill the Wine, in downtown Minneapolis.
The couple also hosted two pre-wedding crafting sessions to tackle some of the bigger décor items. With 10,000 feet of art wire, beach balls and a group of dexterous friends, they created a gallery of metal orbs ranging from 4 inches to 3 feet in diameter to hang amid the silk panels and accent the reception’s multi-hued hydrangea centerpieces, designed by Just Bloomed.
Once the pieces were all crafted, the couple handed off the execution to their day-of coordinator and decorator, Laura Mullen of Laura Mullen Event Design.
After a morning of pampering by hair and makeup pro Julie Swenson, formerly of Minneapolis’ Smart & Chic Bride, Laura headed to her now transformed venue, flanked by four bridesmaids clad in silk/linen J.Crew dresses, carrying Nelle clutches of Petersham ribbon and designed by the bride especially for the event.
Laura and Cameron invited a bit of tradition into their non-traditional event by opting not to see one another prior to the ceremony, which was officiated by Laura’s 86-year old grandfather. As Cameron and his four groomsmen, attired in shirts from J. Hilburn Co. and suiting from St. Paul’s Heimie’s Haberdashery, looked on, Laura wowed her husband-to-be as she walked down the aisle to My Fair Lady’s “On the Street Where You Live.”
The party of a lifetime
If guests expected a routine reception, Cameron and Laura made sure to dispel those notions from the very first bite.
Inspired by Mediterranean flavors and the bride’s Italian heritage, guests feasted family-style on a menu featuring items like panzanella salad, chicken spiedini and creamy polenta with gorgonzola, made by Spill the Wine. After dinner, they enjoyed a lemon torte with white-chocolate cream cheese frosting, decorated with metallic orbs and hydrangeas evoking the event’s handmade décor, by chef Sarah Herr of 3 Tiers. The cake was delicious—and another of the couple’s many creative compromises.
“Cameron had wanted to have a pie instead of a wedding cake,” says Laura. “But I come from an Italian family, and we needed to have a cake.”
Enter the post-reception dessert lounge. Spurred by Cameron’s love of pie, Cocoa & Fig created a lavish selection of miniature pies, artisan cheeses and more sweet and savory treats. The lounge area also got the bride’s special treatment with a “Sweetie Pie” recipe display and three silk and ribbon chandeliers constructed of hand-dyed silk habotai and black ribbon.
During the reception, guests were treated to favors of playful fabric bowties, made during one of the couple’s pre-wedding crafting sessions, and one last creative twist. After returning from a honeymoon in Georgia, the couple embarked on a new adventure together: fulfilling their pledge to volunteer one hour of their time in honor of each wedding guest at the Minnesota Literacy Council—a fitting final word from such a creative pair.