Dominic and amanda Ricciardi at Amanda's family farm in Galloway Township.  Photo by Kella MacPhee.

Elegant yet down to earth, rustic weddings are trending

When Dominic Ricciardi swept Amanda Ward to the Bahamas for her 30th birthday, he couldn’t know the dreams he was unlocking. Three years later early in 2014 after the couple married on a 105-foot sailboat in Key West, FL, Amanda was already planning how to share their newfound joy with a reception for as many family and friends as possible.  But it wouldn’t be the traditional, fancy sort of event one might expect.  A rustic style reception back home on Amanda’s family farm in Galloway was really the only way to go.

Their event is part of a popular trend in wedding celebrations.  The rustic theme uses some natural elements to stand in for the more traditional ones, from burlap favors to do-it-yourself centerpieces.

“It’s still elegant but more down to earth in decoration and accessories,” says Linda LeConey of, an online wedding planning service.

Maggie Lord, founder and editor of and author of three books on rustic weddings, says her blog averages more than 1.5 million page views each month. With more than 73,000 followers on Pinterest her website has a “pin view” rate of 4 million each month.

With numbers like those, it’s clear “rustic” is becoming more than a passing trend. 

“An interesting resource might be to take a look at our sister site, the Rustic Wedding Guide,” says Lord’s representative Kristen Elworthy.  “Check out all the New Jersey venues that are now classifying themselves as rustic.”

The couple who aims for a rustic wedding is often concerned with being “green.” But many brides think that maybe their fairy-tale wedding isn’t exactly the place to cut back. True, a rustic wedding can keep down costs, but for many brides that’s a happy side effect.The more important thing is being hands-on in the design of their wedding day and getting the chance to make decisions that will put their guests at ease.

For Amanda and Dominic, who owns Ricciardi Construction Company, choosing a rustic theme was a practical and stylish option.

Amanda, 33, a hairstylist, already had a design goal in mind – relaxed and refined with healthy country flair.  She’s the daughter of local artist Kathy English of Sweetwater so she comes by her artistic side naturally. 

“I’ve always loved shabby chic,” Amanda says, “along with some glam.”

Shenkel’s farm, in Amanda’s family for generations, served as the perfect backdrop.  All she needed to do was, well, everything.  But she was prepared for that. She had lots of ideas. She ordered a tent big enough to fit the nearly 300 guests and enough chairs to keep everyone comfortable and a dance floor for when comfort wasn’t a guest’s priority.  She and her friend made tall glass centerpieces with fresh lemons inside topped with flowers for each table.  And she brought in armloads of fresh flowers so she could make the bridesmaids bouquets.

She painted hearts on drinking glasses for guests to write their names, displayed a blackboard with their love story in chalk and used one of her nana’s old windows to provide a drink menu.

At each guest’s place lay a neatly folded burlap and lace envelop with a note reminding them to fill it with provided seeds, plant it, watch it grow and think of their happy hosts.

Behind the tent hidden by bales of hay was a series of generators providing power to the whole event.

Amanda and Dominic, 30, arrived in a 1962 Corvette that Amanda’s dad restored and the bridal party pulled up in vintage cars and trucks belonging to her dad’s friends.

The evening began with cocktails at 6:30 and danced on well into the night, leaving their rustic, May 31, 2014, event a happy memory in their minds and those of their guests.

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On the other side of Galloway Township and a little more than a month earlier, Smithville Inn bride Erica Lamond was planning a rustic event of her own.

“We wanted to keep our wedding laid back and comfy,” Erica, then of Bridgeton, says.

So when attorney Matthew Ritter popped the question with an emerald engagement ring, Erica knew just where to go to put on the perfect day. When she was a child, her mom would often take her to the Historic Smithville Inn.  Erica would drink in the atmosphere and weave dreams of her big day. She knew this was where she would begin her “happily ever after.”

Almost immediately after their Christmas Eve 2013 engagement, Erica, 33, and Matthew, 37, went to Smithville and spoke to operators about booking a date for their wedding. They agreed on a Friday evening in April. Thrilled, the couple nearly floated out of the restaurant.

Considering themselves blessed, Erica and Matthew, who had known each other for a long time but dated for only a year, found all of their vendors that day in Smithville’s Village Green. But now the race was on.  With the date set for less than four months away, they had to switch from head-in-the-clouds lovers to determined and organized planners.

“I wasn’t worried,” says Erica, a stay-at-home mom. “I had a vision.”

That vision included a touch of the rustic. So she put her artistic sensibility to work. Erica’s favorite color is green, so her plan included green striped bow ties, a baby’s breath boutonniere wrapped with a smooth reed, and a green cake with burlap trim.

She picked up boards at the hardware store, wrapped them in burlap and used them to elevate candles and flowers as centerpieces.  The bride’s bouquet - flowers woven with sparkling broaches and a faux butterfly – is captured on film along the property’s railroad tracks, and the couple laughed, kissed and strolled rustic paths around the property as their photographer snapped.

Erica and Matthew were married at 5 p.m. April 18, 2014, with a lakeside view in front of nearly 100 guests on the lawn behind the Inn. There’s no second guessing about choosing a rustic theme for her event.  All Erica’s choices were the correct ones, she says, thanks to her “visual OCD.”

“Everything came out just as I had planned,” she says. “I am so happy.”

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