Elevated Zoo Is The Wedding Aesthetic You Never Knew You Needed

Elevated Zoo Is The Wedding Aesthetic You Never Knew You Needed

wedding train ride

Alison and Connor got engaged at the blooming flower fields in Carlsbad, a few hours from where they lived at the time, and ultimately chose a stand-out venue with the Santa Barbara Zoo. The main reason Alison and Connor got married at the zoo, as opposed to a more traditional venue, was because Connor’s grandfather actually helped build the zoo! Specifically, he built the train that the guests got to ride during cocktail hour. He even still had signage from the original train that they incorporated into to the wedding. Keep scrolling to see how Wild Whim Photography captured this day planned to perfection with the help of LuckEleven Events.

tile-inspired stationery

feather-trimmed pajama set

late summer bridal bouquetlight pink bridesmaid dresses

pearl collar for dog

Bronze: A bold, beautiful choice for bridesmaid dresses

Alison was so excited when she got engaged that she got a dress at a sample sale, and then changed her mind after she realized the extent of the alterations that she was going to have to do to it to make it ‘the dress.’ She ended up coming across a photo of another dress and decided to look again. When she put on that second dress from BHLDN by Wtoo by Watters, she knew it was the one the second she put it on. Selecting the bridesmaid dresses was a labor of love. With so many bridesmaids, Melanie and Alison wanted to add some texture so it wasn’t a sea of one bright color. After multiple trips to the Show Me Your Mumu showroom in Venice, they decided to dress the ladies in two shades of pink and the maid/matron of honor in bronze. The men were dressed in classic black tuxes to complement the bright bridesmaid dresses, all while maintaining the formality of the evening.

v-back wedding dress

black tuxedo with bowtieclassic black tuxedo


leaf embroidered wedding dress

Repurposing meaningful elopement elements

Because Alison and Connor had postponed their wedding that was originally set for the summer of 2020, they decided to elope that fall on the cliffs of Santa Barbara. Alison’s dad custom-made a triangle arch for the ceremony, and they used that as the backdrop of their sweetheart table for their zoo wedding, along with a neon sign they purchased for the small family dinner post-elopement. It was a truly touching tribute to their original “I do’s!”


draped wedding arch

peach mother of the bride dresssunset-inspired floral installation

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leaf-embellished wedding dresslarge sunset-inspired bouquet

princess-inspired wedding dress

Florals and decor to match the couple’s personalities

Alison’s mentor and planner, Melanie from LuckEleven Events, designed the event knowing Alison and Connor’s personalities from many years of friendship. The two are always smiling and telling jokes, so she knew the colors had to be fun and bright, but also feel down to earth. Their wedding colors were based on the sunset because Santa Barbara has some of the most vibrant sunsets in California, especially in the winter! Melanie started the design working with bougainvillea and expanded the palette to sunset tones then mixed in bohemian decor to give guests a full Santa Barbara coastal vibe. The florals by Morgan at Wild Muse Florals could not have been more perfect, despite the hurdles of postponing the wedding, low flower supplies, and added items along the way! Melanie also wanted to make sure that guests did not feel like they were at your typical zoo with animals and snack foods, so she wove in small animal touches, but made the more elevated design elements pop.

zoo-themed wedding signs

zoo-themed seating chartgold animal statues

Incorporating your favorite fur baby

Although good food was always a must, Alison and Connor spent much more time and effort planning incredible activities for the guests at the wedding. They did, however, create signature cocktails that highlighted Santa Barbara summertime, offering a margarita and a Mai Tai, both adorned with drink stirrers that featured their fur baby, Lucky Penny. For dessert, the bride and groom decided to have mini desserts and a small cake for cutting. They couldn’t resist an inside joke, though! Alison included a ghost figurine behind the cake with a chunk of cake missing in a nod to a moment from her childhood when she told her mom that she definitely did not eat the cake on the counter, and a ghost must have done it.

custom pet drink stirrers

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A special train ride

Of course, Alison and Connor couldn’t resist adding some zoo attractions to the day. Guests got to feed giraffes and ride the train around the zoo as they enjoyed cocktails and appetizers. Alison shared that one of her favorite parts of the day was riding the train with Connor post-ceremony because they got some time alone to reflect on the day and ceremony without interruption. Melanie’s favorite detail was the sprinkling of animals in the decor. She designed a watercolor seating chart with different animals woven into the numbers, and Alison found the accompanying figurine of the animal in gold to place next to the table numbers that she made herself. It gave the tables some character without overpowering the sunset theme. The kids at the wedding loved the animal figurines and even got to play with them after dinner!

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