The Soul of the Country
Elizabeth and Austin Create Their Rancho Wedding with Help from Their Friends
Thursday, February 25, 2010
The largest wedding I’ve ever been to was here in Santa Barbara — 450 guests, and completely homemade. That is to say, the bride and groom — Elizabeth Poett and Austin Campbell — their families, and their friends all pitched in throughout the months leading up to the big day to build, grow, make, scavenge, and create nearly every aspect of the wedding.
“It began with the guest list,” Elizabeth laughed. “Austin and I put together a list of who we wanted and asked our parents to do the same. Luckily, I was drinking tequila when we got the final count. Austin and I went online immediately and looked for trips to Mexico. Eloping sounded romantic suddenly.”
In the end, they didn’t elope, but opted to get married at Rancho San Julian, Elizabeth’s family ranch, which provided the space needed for such a large gathering. It didn’t take the couple long to realize that putting on such a large wedding with a limited budget would mean utilizing the natural resources of their land and handling the majority of the preparations themselves. “We decided on the date of September 5 because we knew that was when the freshest foods would be available to us,” explained Elizabeth. Still, 450 guests is a heady number, and getting enough edibles from the Farmers Market would have been quite the challenge. “My parents and I began to really think: We have a garden, let’s plant what we want to eat. That was the beginning of our do-it-yourself wedding.”
Together, the family planted a variety of tomatoes, green beans, peppers, corn, lettuce, lima beans, and cilantro. “We figured then, that if we were planting all this food, why not grow our own flowers as well,” said Elizabeth. Flower choices were made based on what would be in bloom in the late summer season — zinnias, roses, and other naturally growing flora. In addition, family friends Walt and Patty Lewis donated a box of dahlias and tuber roses from their garden to add to the planting mix.
With the veggies and blooms sorted, deciding what to provide for the main course was next. Once again, the land provided the couple with everything they would need. “I had just started my business, Rancho San Julian Beef,” Elizabeth said, “so we would use our own cattle for tri-tip. Austin and his friend also caught three wild pigs from which we made carnitas.”
As word of the wedding plans got out, folks began offering their services. “We began to have ‘work weekends’ and that is where all the amazing help from friends came in,” she explained. The reception was to take place at the almost 200-year-old main Casa on the ranch, dinner would be held outside under a grove of pine trees, and dessert and dancing under the grape arbor. To make it wedding-ready, an overhaul of the grounds was required. “Friends and family from all over came to help and get dirty,” Elizabeth recalled. Austin, his dad, her dad, and some friends installed an entirely new lawn; scores of zinnias were planted to provide color; lights were hung; a barn was cleaned out.