• {Real Wedding} Nathalie & JJ: Modern & Quirky DIY Wedding at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum

    modern natural history museum wedding | jennifer roper There is so much I love about today’s incredibly unique wedding.  It’s the perfect blend of quirky and elegant: the venue, the bride’s gorgeous emerald gown, the personality infused in every detail.  But what I love most are the bride’s own words about how the couple made their day THEM.

    modern natural history museum wedding | jennifer roper modern natural history museum wedding | jennifer roper modern natural history museum wedding | jennifer roper

    modern natural history museum wedding | jennifer roper modern natural history museum wedding | jennifer roper

    J.J.’s family is Quaker, and we borrowed a couple Quaker traditions while planning our ceremony. What that came down to was, no processional, no recessional, and, most importantly, no officiant. Instead, we began with a twenty-minute period of unprogrammed silence, during which friends and family were encouraged to offer thoughts and stories and advice. In hindsight, that decision was the single best one we made during the planning process. J.J. and I are usually bundles of nervous energy and queasy self-consciousness, but during those twenty minutes, as we listened to our uncles and aunts and friends and brothers-in-law speak, we felt glowingly happy. We felt loved and grateful and at peace. Far and away, the day’s high point. 

    modern natural history museum wedding | jennifer roper modern natural history museum wedding | jennifer roper

    modern natural history museum wedding | jennifer roper

    That YES moment brides get when they’ve found the perfect dress? We felt it walking through L.A. County’s Natural History Museum. Its dark, wood-paneled walls reminded us of an Edwardian parlor—but then, in between those wooden panels were windows overlooking impossible vistas: deserts, mountains, rain forests. The contrast felt as magical and as unlikely as a wardrobe opening onto Narnia. In college and since then, J.J. and I have both had a taste for weird, teetering on unnerving, reading topics: anatomical theater, fake museums, psychoanalytic theories of puppetry… The Natural History Museum felt just wrong enough to be right. Inside its walls, dead animals looked alive; the indoors become outdoors and the outdoors became indoors again.  Eventually, that line of thought—that interest in the museum’s trickery and inversions—led us to our theme: turn-of-the-century entertainment, with an emphasis on optical toys and visual illusions.

    modern natural history museum wedding | jennifer roper

    modern natural history museum wedding | jennifer roper modern natural history museum wedding | jennifer roper

    My advice for planning brides?  If you’re a) someone who cries easily, and b) someone who gets puffy-faced or vaguely crazy-looking after crying, DO NOT schedule your “cute couple photos” directly after your ceremony. I cried before, during, and after my vows, and the result of all that love was not—as one might hope—a beaming, beautiful face, but, instead, a beaming, swollen one. So, to brides like me: keep that in mind when devising your day-of schedule!

    modern natural history museum wedding | jennifer roper

    modern natural history museum wedding | jennifer roper

    modern natural history museum wedding | jennifer roper modern natural history museum wedding | jennifer roper

    There are so many wonderful touches and interesting details to this wedding that I’ve added a gallery of photos so you can see even more and I asked the bride to share about all of her personal DIY touches below.  You can tell so much thought, effort, and love was put into every aspect of this wedding and Jennifer Roper captured it perfectly.  It’s such a breath of fresh air from the typical “DIY wedding” don’t you think?

    More from the bride, Nathalie:

    Our theme was vintage entertainment, and, given our venue, we put a special emphasis on turn-of-the-century optical toys and visual illusions. Most of our DIY projects touched on that theme in some way. They included:

    -save the dates, which we modeled on the thaumatrope, a popular 19th century parlor toy. Spin the disc, and the images on both sides merge; a bird and a cage, for example, become a caged bird. For our version, we drew simple traffic-sign-ish silhouettes decked out in vintage garb. A man (J.J.) stands on one side, and a woman (me) stands on the other. Spin the disc, and the figures are suddenly next to each other, like they’re meeting at the altar. The text from each side combines to invite guests to “join us” on 6/16/2012.

    -invites, which we based on flip books like these, which were in turn inspired by the old parlor game, “exquisite corpse” (also known as “picture consequences”). For our version, I drew six characters to mix and match: a kangaroo and an onyx; a cheetah and a llama; and J.J. and me. It was definitely an unusual invite (the guy at the copy shop couldn’t stop shaking his head at us), but, hey: if you’re getting married at a Natural History Museum, why not do something different?

    -escort cards, which used illustrations from a 1859 book on shadow puppetry by Henry Bursill. While the book’s in the public domain, the best reproductions I could find of it were high-res digital scans on Circus Board’s etsy store. I colored in the shadows using Photoshop, and designed the cards with PageMaker. We used the French names for animals because 1) my father’s family is French, 2) J.J.’s father is a French literature professor, and 3) we’re a little pretentious.

    -dioramas, which we assembled with figurines and props from peoplescale.com. I wanted to riff off the museum’s nature dioramas with little human scenes that were also behind glass.

    -zoetropes, which we used as cocktail table centerpieces. Some were made by our friend Danny; others were purchased from Ancient Optics on ebay. Inside the largest zoetrope, we placed a hand-drawn animation strip of me and J.J. dancing.

    -fake family photos: J.J. and I both have a thing for anthropomorphic animals, and we couldn’t resist these vintage-styled prints from etsy’s GrandOleBestiary. We displayed them on our gift table, just like some couples display family photos. Consider them our spiritual, if not biological, forerunners.

    -ferret display: J.J. proposed to me with a ferret puppet (long story). For our wedding’s cocktail hour, we put the puppet in a museum-provided display case, along with a placard explaining the puppet’s importance. Apparently, though, the placard got lost along the way, and the kids at the party decided the ferret was real—and very scary. Only Ilan, the youngest, was brave enough to investigate.

    -reception masks: J.J. and I made our grand entrance in custom-made paper masks by Phillip Valdez. We also flanked the entrance to our reception hall with signs asking guests to wear camouflage (“out of respect” for the native wildlife). Next to each sign, we put out a spread of colorful paper masks (of owls, raccoons, and foxes). Our younger guests were also greeted with furry-eared headbands at their seats.

    -shuffleboard: We lured several of J.J.’s friends across the country with the promise of shuffleboard at our reception. We bought a used indoor court off eBay, and spent several days writing the game’s rules in prose so simple, even drunk partygoers should have been able to follow it. In the end, though, none of our friends got a chance to play. The court was immediately taken over by kids, who played throughout the night—and followed no rules but their own.

    {vendors} Venue: The Los Angeles Natural History Museum / Photography: Jennifer Roper / Day-of Coordinators: All You Need is Love Events / Rentals: A V Party Rentals / Catering: Heirloom LA / Pastry: Maison Richard / Paper goods & stationery: the bride (Nathalie Chicha) / Flowers (ceremony and cocktails): Gisele Simmons / Flowers (reception): Holly Flora / DJ: Eva Kim / Makeup & Hair: Kat Laskey / Gown: Selia Yang / Hair clips: Jennifer Behr / Shoes (bride): Theory by Theyskens / Groom’s Suit: Michael Andrews Bespoke  / Groom’s Tie: Rag & Bone via Odin / Shoes (groom): Ted Baker / Paper masks (bride and groom): Phillip Valdez / Paper masks (guests): Caitlin Keegan / Children’s animal headbands: Amazon / Zoetropes: ancient-optics on ebay /  Diorama figurines: People Scale / Opera glasses: Amazon / Gramophone: Ryan Boase / Fake family photos: GrandOleBestiary / His ring: Hava Lazar / Her ring: family heirloom / Paper & cardstock: Paper Presentation

    Jennifer Roper is a member of the Lovely Vendor Guide.  If you’d like to be considered for the Vendor Guide, apply here.

    leave a comment.


    1. Posted Feb 26 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      I love this wedding! The venue is amazing, and I love the bride’s dress…it’s so beautifully unique!

    2. Posted Feb 26 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      love how different this is!

    3. Posted Feb 26 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      What a quirky and unique wedding concept! I love when brides show their true personality like this! Thanks for sharing!

    4. Jessica Smith
      Posted Feb 26 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      LOVE this wedding…so unique and refreshing. Especially love the reception room, decor and lighting. So cool!

    5. Posted Feb 27 at 7:06 am | Permalink

      This makes me want to go back in time and change everything I did. I love this! I would have never thought to do a ceremony like that. Thanks for sharing!

    6. shell
      Posted Mar 2 at 1:08 am | Permalink

      This wedding is amazing in that it is both visually and intellectually stimulating- there is so much thought behind everything – I love the idea of the 19th century toys especially the diorama and zoetropes . I actually learnt so much just by reading this feature. The bride and groom also looks amazing – I love the green ! Congrats !

    7. Posted Mar 26 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      Love this! And SO cool to see my friend’s masks featured! I had heard about him making them and what a very unique addition to the wedding.

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