Ashly Hilst

Every month, The Wedding Boutique shares a story of a bride who had an intimate and personal wedding. These brides are sharing how they made their wedding fit their personality, they are sharing their struggles and they are sharing their most beautiful moments. I hope you will walk away feeling strengthened by these stories in the knowledge that you are not in this alone.

Each of these stories are written by the bride herself and I did not alter them in any way.

Photo credits: Solorzano Photography

Photo credits: Solorzano Photography



Ashly: "I am a bit of an introvert; I love reading books, cooking, and drinking wine. I sometimes try to do all three of those at the same time. When it comes to love and weddings, I'm a very shy romantic hiding under a completely sensible exterior. 

My wedding was small (only 60 people). We got married in a beautiful, three-story Victorian house in Ventura with ocean views. I had red roses everywhere, my sisters wore brown dresses and my dress was cream. I walked down the aisle to Tom Petty's "Hope On Board," still to this day one of my favorite instrumental pieces. Our food was catered - delicious appetizers and plenty of wine. The cake was not what I wanted and it started melting even though it was November. 

But it didn't really matter. Most of the wedding passed in a blur, but a few moments stand out: the moment my husband saw me in my dress; the toasts from our maid of honor and best man; slow dancing with my new husband to "Sweet Thing" by Van Morrison; the moment when our officiant (also my father-in-law) forgot where everyone was supposed to go and took them into the completely wrong room; the amazing feeling relaxing in our hotel room with room service after it was all over."

What was your biggest struggle when creating a small & personal wedding?

Ashly: "We had a short engagement (4 months) so everything I tried to do was met with either a lot of disbelief or people flat out saying they couldn't help me. The wedding industry is built around the idea that weddings are enormous and take years to plan, so when I came to it wanting something small and something soon, I got a lot of confused stares and head shakes. 4 months is plenty of time to throw a really great party, but apparently not a wedding.

To be honest I also really struggled because I didn't know what I was doing - I'd never hosted a wedding before, after all. So not only was I trying to host a wedding but I was also trying to host a unique wedding that broke the mold and wasn't exactly like every other wedding - or even like most weddings. So a lot of the time I had to improvise. I really struggled with even knowing what options I had - I knew I didn't want the traditional wedding, but felt a bit lost about what to do instead."

Which part of your wedding are you most proud of now? 

Ashly: "I LOVE the house we got married in; it was so beautiful and the perfect setting for an intimate wedding. It really felt more like a party than a traditional wedding. Also, since we didn't incorporate a lot of wedding traditions, there was space for the unexpected - and it was SO special because of that. For example, at the house we rented there was a gorgeous grand piano, which we weren't planning on using. But my dad asked my (very talented) Aunt Jodi to play "If I Ain't Got You" so he could dance with me and it was all the more special because it was unexpected; it kind of takes my breath away to think of the love that went into that, from both my Aunt and my dad.

Another thing I'm proud of is that we spent so much time with our guests - and it didn't feel like a chore because all of the people who were there were really close to us. We weren't having to make small talk with random relatives that we'd never met before."

What aspect of your wedding day had the biggest impact on you? 

Ashly: "I know I sound like a Hallmark card, but my interactions with my husband had the most impact. Not the vows really (I know that sounds terrible to say) because I was just nervous and it felt surreal. But the slow dance, the stolen conversations alone, the pictures we took together, driving away from the wedding with his hand in mine.

He was my solid ground on what was admittedly a bit of a crazy day. That is a great way to begin the rest of your life together."

What advice would you give to yourself if you were to do it all over again?

Ashly: "1. Hire a wedding planner/coordinator. It will be worth the money. It doesn't have to be a major expense, you don't necessarily need someone planning every second of your day, but get help, unless you really know what you are doing. If I'd hired someone, I know I would have been able to enjoy our wedding even more because it would have been just a little more organized and less stressful.

2. The day is all about you and your husband. So pamper yourself. This doesn't mean that you have to spend tons of money; just don't be afraid to splurge on yourself at least a little bit for one of the most special days of your life.

3. For better or worse, weddings are like big parties. So even though the day is really about you, you are still a host - make your guests feel welcome, plan and be organized so they can enjoy themselves. Try to make it a celebration for everyone and as relaxing as possible for all concerned. When I was first planning my wedding, I asked my mom to bake my cake (seriously, what was I thinking? 22, remember). She makes really delicious cakes and is an excellent cake decorator. Also, hello, saving money! She initially said she would but then she told me she couldn't; it would have been too difficult for her with all the other responsibilities she had for the wedding as my mother. I'm so glad she said no. It would have made the day so much more stressful for her.

4. Take the time to think about what you REALLY want, not what you think you are supposed to want. If you really want a traditional wedding, that's fantastic. If you really want some traditions and not others, great. Just take some time to imagine your day the way you truly want it to be - and then go make it happen, no matter what Brides magazine, your mom, or the florist says."

Our bride of the month • Ashly Hilst • The Wedding Boutique • Destination Wedding Planner & Designer •

About the bride

"Ashly Hilst is a writer, editor, and copywriter who believes your words are important and unique - and the world needs to hear them. Ashly enjoys finding hope, wonder, and romance in everyday experiences: a glass of red wine from Tolo Cellars, a walk to the farmer's market for flowers, delicious burrata from Salt Air, or a perfectly phrased sentiment by G.K. Chesterton. Her obsession with all things literary has unofficially been diagnosed as a mild disorder which only interferes with daily life once every few hours. She lives in Venice, California with her husband, daughter, and an ever-growing collection of books."

Visit her on her website