Never say never to an ex—even after starring on a national franchise. Six years ago, Britt Nilsson went on a blind date with a hairstylist and aspiring actor named Jeremy Byrne. “A girl who went to cosmetology school with Jer ended up doing my hair and makeup for a shoot,” she tells The Knot. “And she said I had to meet him.”
Initially, she hesitated. “I prayed about it,” the bride, a devout Christian, recalls. “And after we talked for a few weeks, we went out for the first time.” Byrne and Nilsson briefly dated before going their separate ways—she went on to star on The Bachelor followed by a disappointing and fleeting stint on season 11 of The Bachelorette—but the exes kept in touch. Hence, why their first dance choice was so meaningful.
“We chose ‘Koln’ by Brolin, and it’s also in our wedding video,” Nilsson, 30, says. “During the years we weren’t dating, we would keep in contact by sending each other songs on Spotify. One of them was this one. It’s become very romantic to us and the lyrics are very sweet… We’ve danced to this song under Christmas lights. And he makes it a tradition that we have to slow dance once a month—yes, he’s the best—so it felt like a no-brainer.”
In May, 34-year-old Byrne proposed with his great-grandmother’s ring from the ‘20s. The couple married a little over three months later on September 9, at his family’s ranch in Vista, California. “We were ready,” Nilsson jokes. However, the two were faced with a few large dilemmas right from the onset of planning. “We knew we had a small budget and a very small window of time,” Nilsson explains.
It was then that the couple turned to L.A.-based wedding planner Erica Spencer of Erica Marie Events. “I knew her through a mutual friend,” Nilsson says. “We wanted our wedding to feel inviting, outdoorsy, and organic, but still—elegant and chic. Erica helped to make this a reality in ways we could have never done ourselves. She planned and designed it all within 60 days.”
The reason behind the timeline was simple for the couple, who wanted to be husband and wife. “Watching the [wedding] video after, I saw that I was actually jumping up and down as our pastor pronounced us ‘man and wife,’ Nilsson recalls. “I felt joy, excitement, peace, happiness, tears… I finally get to do life with my best friend in the world.”
That best friend, according to Nilsson, has a range of quality characteristics. “I love Jeremy for his honesty, his patience, his transparency, his silliness, his generosity…” she pauses. “His sense of adventure, his joyful spirit, his humor, his intelligence, his compassion, his loyalty, and his integrity. He is truly one of a kind.” The Knot goes through the full wedding album below with Nilsson.
The bride and groom’s wedding site, the Green Oak Ranch in Vista, just happened to be in the family. “It’s a 140-acre ranch with big oak trees and beautiful fields,” the bride says of the sober-living facility. “It’s sentimental because Jeremy’s grandfather started the ranch many years ago, and his family spent tons of time there growing up. The venue, though, was exactly what we wanted: outdoors, nostalgic and naturally gorgeous.” The price point also fell in line perfectly with the couple’s budget. “They let us wed there for free since the ranch is in the family,” she says. “So sweet.”
“We opened with two Christian hymns,” Nilsson says. The songs, “Be Thou My Vision” and “How Great Thou Art,” were set to the tune of a harpist, the couple’s friend Ann Marie, who flew out to perform as a gift to the couple. The couple passed out a booklet in lieu of programs drafted by EG Letters, which included lyrics to the hymns. “This was very important to us, as we wanted our marriage to be predicated on our gratitude to God, before our family and friends,” says Nilsson. “Another tradition we chose was to incorporate the old-fashioned traditional vows—but we said them after saying our personalized vows.”
Nilsson says the vows were her favorite portion of the wedding. “We both cried through them along with our family and closest friends,” she jokes. “Also significant was the fact that Jeremy’s grandfather officiated the wedding. We are all very close and it meant the world to have this wise man that we respect so much speaking life over us and affirming this huge decision. We were so grateful and honored.”
The couple chose Erica Marie Events to execute everything from the day of coordinating to the event design. “She made our wedding planning so stress-free and fun,” says Nilsson. “She let us give tons of input but did all the heavy lifting and was so detail-oriented. We were grateful.”
In retrospect, the couple couldn’t have achieved their wedding day aesthetic without Spencer. “We would’ve ended up having chicken nuggets on blankets with our budget,” Nilsson jokes. “And instead, she created a beautiful, inviting, magical and modern wedding that totally blew our minds.”
Nilsson was flown out to Atlanta for TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress, where she found her perfect gown—a strapless piece by Matthew Christopher featuring a sweetheart neckline—at Bridals by Lori. “I knew it was ‘the one’ because when I came out, my mom and my best friend all started crying,” she says. “It’s gorgeous and covered in hand beading with designs that look like leaves and flowers.”
Nilsson accompanied her outfit with a long, intricate veil. “I felt like an elf out of Lord of the Rings,” she says. For something old, the bride chose her grandmother’s earrings, and for something new, the bride went with custom kicks. “My best friend hand-glued about a million sequins and pearls to a pair of Converse sneakers, since that’s what I wear the most. They turned out amazing.” Nilsson says her footwear choice was “super practical” since the whole wedding was outdoors.
The Groom’s Look
Byrne was a beau in a black suit offset elegantly by a crisp white shirt by Zara paired with a navy tie. Rather than traditional shoes, the groom threw on black boots by Redwing Iron Rangers, which perfectly fit into the ranch aesthetic.
Along with Nilsson’s engagement ring, the couple also kept their wedding bands in the family. “Jeremy designed a wedding ring for me that I never got to see until the day of,” says Nilsson, who saw it for the first time when he placed it onto her hand during the vows. “It’s a yellow sapphire with 16 diamonds around it. His wedding band is his great grandfathers ring as well, so it’s all in the family.”
Uniformity but not conformity was the message Nilsson had for her bridesmaids. “I wanted all 10 to look and feel comfortable,” she says. “I told them all to simply choose a black dress that they already had, and one that they felt pretty in. I also let them pick their own shoes and accessories and hairstyles. I know every one of the 10 has a different body, personality, style, budget and circumstance, so I just wanted to let them choose. This way they all could feel their personal best. I loved how it turned out—everyone matched and looked gorgeous, in 10 varying styles that flattered each different woman head to toe. It totally fit the vibe of our wedding and of my girlfriends.”
Nilsson’s bouquets were a mix of white garden roses, ranunculus with a touch of lavender and greenery. “I wanted to stick with our minimal and organic atheistic,” she says. “I honestly just trusted my florist Laura from Bluebell Florals. She’s incredibly talented and played a huge role in our wedding décor.”
The boutonnieres were a sentimental nod to the groom’s family ranch. The couple used a mix of flowers grown organically at Green Oak Ranch, and came up with olive, willow and seeded eucalyptus.
“Our signage and escort cards were made by Fontine Letterie,” says the bride, who describes its founder Nicole Bergner as “so talented.” Adds Nilsson, “She allowed us to have nicknames for all of our guests on the seating chart.”
The pair, who wanted an interactive and fun wedding, placed lawn games right by the reception site and encouraged guests to swing by the petting zoo before dinner started. “Since the ranch houses a sober living facility, no alcohol was allowed on premises,” Nilsson says. “But that didn’t mean we couldn’t have delicious mocktails for our thirsty game-playing guests.” The couple enlisted the help of Coastal Cocktails, which set up delicious specialty drinks and parked their vehicle on the grounds of the property. “The caravan was a huge hit,” Nilsson says.
“We decided to choose food that we actually like eating. We’ve both been to weddings with cold chicken and mashed potatoes, so we decided to have a buffet of catered Mediterranean food instead,” says Nilsson. The couple asked Maan restaurant to cater the affair. “We had spicy hummus, baba ghanoush, tzatziki sauce, lamb and beef gyros, tabouli, salads, chicken and beef shawarma, and chicken tekah, as well as veggie kabobs and falafel for our veggie-lovers. It was delicious,” she adds. “We love food, so it was important to let people choose what, how much, how spicy, and how many seconds.”
The couple opted for a four-tier, naked vanilla cake topped by salted buttercream. “Our cake topper was simple with our last name displayed,” she says. “We actually fed each other s’mores [from Mallow Mallow] instead of the traditional cake. This was accidental, but totally cute.”
Presence is something Nilsson, like many brides and grooms, emphasize. “There’s so much happening with bridesmaids, family members, vendors, timing… emotions,” she says. “The day can go by like a whirlwind. I would tell my friends getting married to find ways to savor the sweet moments and slow down to be grateful.”
Nilsson and her husband opted for 15 minutes alone, which they mapped into their schedule with their planner. “We wanted to take it all in and enjoy each other,” she says, “without family, friends, photographers or any distractions.”