A Rustic Summer Wedding at Hill Farm Inn in Sunderland, Vermont

Inspired by a summer picnic in the rolling hills of Vermont, Jess Paulus (38 and a professor) and Todd Thompson (41 and a research scientist) planned

Inspired by a summer picnic in the rolling hills of Vermont, Jess Paulus (38 and a professor) and Todd Thompson (41 and a research scientist) planned a personalized, fun-filled soiree that paid tribute to Vermont's beauty. “The Green Mountains of Vermont are stunning in the summertime, and we really wanted to introduce our friends and family to this magical corner of the world,” Jess says. “We infused the event with as much Vermont as we could: Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, locally grown flowers and a focus on local products for the menu.” Hill Farm Inn in Sunderland, Vermont, provided the perfect backdrop, with its white farmhouse, picture-perfect barn and panoramic views of the Green Mountains and expansive valley. And with room for 35 guests to stay, the couple’s closest friends and family members were able to spend the entire weekend with the newlyweds. The couple said “I do” in a heartfelt ceremony in Hill Farm Inn’s charming barn. A close friend officiated, and the pair shared vows they’d written themselves. “At one point in the ceremony Taylor invited us to turn around and face our loved ones," Jess says. "He had them stand in groups and state their intent to affirm our marriage and support us along the way. It was incredibly moving to take time to look out at the sea of smiling—and teary—faces who were beaming at us.” The newlyweds then ushered guests to the porch for cocktail hour, where they sipped on local craft beers while taking in the striking views. But the couple’s vision truly came to life at the reception, with loose arrangements of vibrant flowers, burlap table runners, French country chairs and vintage lace accents striking the ultimate balance of Green Mountain chic and homespun vibes. Incredible food was a top priority for the pair, who tapped Village Roots to pull together an unforgettable meal that spotlighted fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. For a sweet finish to dinner, Jess and Todd offered almond cake and a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cart. When guests needed a break from the dance floor, a temporary-tattoo parlor—complete with custom tattoos of the couple’s rescue pups, Echo and Claudine—provided plenty of Pinterest-worthy entertainment. A tip from Jess: “It’s true what they say: Rainy skies create the most gorgeous wedding photos.” —Libby MacCarthy

Jess and Todd tapped Ontario-based Karli Strohschein to create a suite of custom watercolor save-the-dates and wedding invitations for their Sunderland, Vermont, affair. For the save-the-dates, the she created a crest with the couple’s initials and two dogs paddling in a canoe. The invitations featured an illustration of the rehearsal and wedding venues, as well as a scene of Jess and Todd’s dogs hanging out by the split-rail fence; the couple had planned to say their “I dos” in front of them. “All of her designs perfectly matched the spirit of the event we wanted to create—joyful, fun, colorful and relaxed,” Jess says. “Our crest ended up on beer koozies and a huge canvas that our family had made for us as a surprise.”
“The setting was spectacular: a gorgeous centuries-old white farmhouse with a barn—which was full of pigs and goats for great photo ops—and stunning views of the Green Mountains and a valley,” Jess says of the wedding’s Sunderland, Vermont, locale. Beyond providing the perfect backdrop for their picnic-inspired fete, Hill Farm Inn allowed 35 of the couple’s closest family members and friends to stay on-site for the entire weekend.
Wanting to feature local flowers in the decor, Jess and Todd called on Melissa of Fast Pony Flowers to bring their vision to life. “We chose Melissa both for her aesthetic and for the fact that she is a farmer and a flower artist. She grows all her own blooms,” Jess says. “And even without having wedding colors to set the theme, she read our minds about what we were looking for in arrangements.” For Jess’s bouquet, the florist created a wild, textured mix of garden roses, stock, snapdragons, peonies, scabiosa, foliage, cedar, baptista and forsythia.
Jess spent months combing the Internet for the perfect dress and was adamant that she didn’t want a traditional wedding dress. But with just a few months to go before the wedding and no viable options in her closet, she hit up a sample sale at Ceremony in Boston, Massachusetts, knowing that the salon carried up-and-coming designers with a decidedly nonbridal feel. “I found my dream dress there, which perfectly matched the ambiance of the wedding—a guipure lace V-neck gown from Rosa Clara with lace patterns that resembled floral motifs, echoing the wildflowers that filled the wedding and grounds of Hill Farm Inn,” Jess says. She also spotted a shimmery gold ball gown by Sarah Seven, which she snagged for the rehearsal dinner.
Though Jess and Todd had planned to get married outdoors, the weather had other plans. The rain moved the celebration indoors to the barn at the last minute, but the couple’s family members came to the rescue, collecting armfuls of ferns and greenery to create a garland to hang over the barn’s makeshift altar. “The riot of greenery and flowers totally surprised me as I walked down the aisle,” Jess says.
Jess and Todd met on OkCupid after Jess was charmed by Todd’s explicit passion for data, P values and error bars. While this had seemed to inspire limited enthusiasm in most women, it was a certain kind of nerdy aphrodisiac for Jess, an epidemiologist who also spends a significant amount of time thinking about data. It was no surprise then that the couple paid tribute to this shared love of science with table names inspired by famous scientists.
The reception had a decidedly natural, vintage feel. The tables overflowed with vibrant, loose arrangements of colorful flowers, which popped against crisp white and burlap linens. Place settings featured vintage lace and green napkins, a nod to Hill Farm Inn's rustic setting Sunderland, Vermont.
Jess and Todd did things differently when it came to their wedding favors, surprising guests with a temporary-tattoo parlor complete with love-themed tattoos from Tattly and custom-designed tattoos of their dogs, Echo and Claudine, from Etsy designer Buttonhead.
Borrowing from their invitation suite, Jess and Todd created beer koozy favors for guests featuring the floral Vermont-inspired crest created by stationery designer Karli Strohschein.
In lieu of a traditional photo booth, Jess and Todd hired Photo Booth Planet’s funky Volkswagen Photo Booth Bus for the reception, providing guests with a fun, old-school way to capture the memorable event.
Vermont institution Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was an obvious choice for the reception. In addition to almond cake with pistachio, espresso and pear-buttercream filling, Jess and Todd treated guests to an ice cream cart featuring four of the creamery’s iconic flavors.
Inspired by the Vermont-focused fete, Irene’s Cakes by Design created a one-of-a-kind confection for Jess and Todd’s groom’s cake. The maple-flavored cheesecake displayed a typical Green Mountain scene—the couple’s dogs, Echo and Claudine, paddling down the Batten Kill River in a canoe.