Though Circle S Ranch and Country Inn is just twenty minutes from Lawrence, it affords its visitors a profound sense of seclusion and peace. A real working ranch, complete with cattle and horses roaming in pastures, serene rolling hills, and an endless expanse of tall grass prairies, the silent, bucolic landscape seemed ideal for the wedding of Staci Sill and Craig Richards. The two native Midwesterners were drawn to the serenity of the Kansas plains, and instantly seduced by the ranch's simple beauty.
They met in 1999, at Pachamamas, a restaurant in Lawrence where Staci waited tables and Craig cooked. Later that year, Staci went to Europe for six months to study graphic design in England, and to travel. Just before New Year's Eve, Craig joined Staci so that they could tour Portugal and Spain together. They'll always remember Madrid: One romantic night, while enjoying music and singing in a picturesque flamenco bar, Craig pulled out a ring and proposed.
THE BRIDE Staci Sill, 27, graphic designer
THE GROOM Craig Richards, 27, chef
THE DATE October 28
THE SCENE Ceremony and reception at Circle S. Ranch and Country Inn; Lawrence, KS
THE WEDDING GOWN Staci wore her mother's wedding dress, revamped by a Jefferson City seamstress. The too-retro high collar was replaced with a simple jewel neckline, and they did away with the long sleeves altogether. "It needed to look simpler, cleaner, and I was kind of nervous," says Staci, "but in the end I was so happy." Mrs. Sill had originally purchased the gown in 1969, at Neiman Marcus in Dallas. Following tradition, the department store had sewn Mrs. Sill's first name into the gown on a monogrammed tag. In its new form, the wedding gown now bears a tag reading "Staci" beneath her mom's "Jeanne." There was also a veil, specially designed to replicate the one that Mrs. Sill had worn on her wedding day. Mrs. Sill also lent Staci an heirloom strand of pearls, a gift she'd received on her sixteenth birthday.
THE CEREMONY Staci and Craig married late in the fall, as the leaves were just beginning to turn colors, but at the ranch the grass remained a vibrant, summery shade of green. During the ceremony in the inn's rustic parlour, guests could glimpse the still-lush scenery through the room's many windows and glass doors. The ceremony lasted just fifteen minutes, officiated by two long-time family friends. "Craig and I managed not to cry during the service," remembers the bride. "But as soon as we walked down the aisle together, we both lost it. We just started crying and laughing."
THE CELEBRATION There's a barn on the property, equipped with exposed beams, earthy wood smells, and whimsical, knick-knacky artifacts like rusty field tools, hats on pegs, and antique bicycles affixed to the wall. When Staci and Craig arrived at the barn after post-ceremony photos, the walkway was lit with candles and lined with friends waiting to greet them. The rest of the guests were already partying inside, listening to live Latin jazz, and dipping into the exotic food: empanadas, spring rolls, skewered shrimp, and Spanish tapas shared the spotlight with traditional treats in a colorful buffet spread. "I wanted the look of an outdoor wedding, beneath a tent, with lights and candles sparkling everywhere," explains Staci.
There were at least 10-15 toasts throughout the evening, with many hysterical stories shared. "The best part was being surrounded by our family and friends," says the bride. The couple had arranged for a DJ to play for the latter part of the evening, but unfortunately he got lost en route to the ranch. Refusing to let the party end, a friend drove his car up close to the barn and played CDs from the stereo, cranking up the volume so that everyone could keep dancing. "He ran his battery out for us," says Staci.
THE FLOWERS & DECOR Tables dressed with white linens brightened the barn's interior, shining with light from candles in blue votives. Mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, and bridesmaids chipped in to create the centerpieces. Earlier that day, they'd gathered white roses, irises, delphinium, daisies and other country blooms in blues and whites, arranging them in brushed aluminum decanters or in glass vases Mrs. Sill had brought from home. A local farmer produced a passel of white pumpkins for the occasion, too, bringing an autumnal dimension to the reception decor. "I wasn't so sure about how orange pumpkins would look, but the white ones worked well," says Staci.
THE WEDDING CAKE Staci and Craig chose a four-tiered, almond-flavored cake with buttercream icing and accented with peeled almonds in floral patterns.
THE FAVORS Photos of the ranch were reproduced, framed, and fashioned into magnets for guests to take home.
THE FINAL MOMENTS After midnight, the newlyweds capped off the night with a handful of friends, sitting on the wraparound porch of the inn, and talking till two in the morning. When they finally headed upstairs to one of the inn's luxurious suites, Staci and Craig were met with one last surprise: A friend had left them a romantic stash of champagne, strawberries, and chocolate.
Photographs © John Gladman
For the ingredients that made up this wedding, see the right-hand column of this page.
Real Weddings: Fall