Leanne Ford Planned Her Wedding in Just 4 Days

The designer even took a step back from planning the decor.
Lydia Geisel Avatar
woman and man holding hands at their wedding

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Interior designer Leanne Ford and Buck Mason founder Erik Allen agreed on two things when they first met: They weren’t getting married and they weren’t having kids. “And here we are,” says Ford, laughing. It is a little funny, considering the couple’s effortless elopement at New York’s Bowery Hotel and the arrival of their now-8-month-old daughter, Ever, are now their most cherished life moments. 

It all started on a Wednesday night in November 2017. The pair had already decided to take the leap and get engaged, but they hadn’t figured out the where or when. They were sitting in their room at the Bowery in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood, and Ford started scribbling down a guest list when it came to her. She recalls in her new book, Work in Progress: “Why were we going to wait a year to get married?” So she told Allen that evening, “We could just, you and me…get married.” They called down to the front desk and decided that on that coming Sunday they would say “I do” in front of 17 guests. Here, Ford shares what it was really like to plan a wedding in four days, and she gives us her five tips for pulling it off in style.

Pick a Venue With an Aesthetic That Speaks to You

man and woman kissing at end of table
Photography by lowfield

Surprisingly, Ford wanted nothing to do with the decor on the big day. “I didn’t want it to be work,” she says. At the same time, the L.A.-based designer wasn’t going to settle on something less than beautiful. Part of what attracted Ford and Allen to the Bowery (other than the fact that they were staying upstairs) was its Moroccan-tiled floors, wood-beam ceilings, antique tapestries, and classic old-world ambience. The loved it as is. 

Put Feelers Out for Family

family standing together
Photography by lowfield

Ford and Allen agreed that if neither of their mothers could make it to the ceremony, they’d have to come up with a plan B. Before jumping into the arrangements, they called up everyone in their immediate family to share the news and invite them to New York. “It unfolded so naturally,” recalls Ford. “Everyone was available.” 

Find Your Point Person 

On that Thursday (the day after they came up with the idea to elope), Ford had to fly to Knoxville, Tennessee, for a shoot for HGTV. While she was on set, Allen texted her: “Call me. It’s all planned.” Yes, the groom coordinated the entire wedding. “We weren’t worried about pleasing anyone or getting details right,” says Allen.

So how did he do it? Allen sat down with the hotel’s events director, Amanda Len, first thing in the morning and kept an open mind. He said yes to a 5 p.m. ceremony; he said yes to having the ballroom for two hours; he said yes to an existing menu and a few bottles of wine at the hotel’s restaurant, Gemma. “Being flexible with the constraints actually helped our budget,” says Ford. Plus, the couple didn’t have to bear the extra expense of holding a private room for months in advance. 

Make the Most of Local Resources

woman getting hair done
Photography by Lowfield

Just because the couple was doing everything on the fly didn’t mean they didn’t want all the fixings of a traditional after-party. The pair put in an order for two cakes (one chocolate, one vanilla) at Little Cupcake Bakeshop, a bakery just down the block from Allen’s Buck Mason store on Elizabeth Street. They found their floral arrangements around the corner (an eight-minute walk) at Flower Girl, where they requested three crowns and a few bouquets. The only direction they gave the florist was to match the blooms to the Bowery’s decor scheme. 

As far as wardrobe went, Allen found an Italian three-piece tuxedo down the street at a resale shop. “She didn’t know I was going to wear a tux until she walked down the aisle. She probably thought I’d be wearing jeans,” shares Allen. Ford, on the other hand, already owned what she wanted to wear. The only problem was that it was in her closet in California. Being coy about the whole thing, she texted her assistant and asked her to overnight the dusty rose gown and red suede heels to New York.

Add a Preplanned Touch 

The night before the big day, Ford mocked up an invitation and asked her friend Victoria Macey Koehn, who happens to be a talented calligrapher, to make copies of the letter using the room’s stationery. Meanwhile, Allen borrowed the hotel’s typewriter to emblazon each guest’s name on envelopes. The couple slipped the handmade invites under each guest’s bedroom door that night so they would wake up to them in the morning. As far as telling all their friends back home, the pair waited a few days before sending pictures in the mail with the sweetest sentiment: “Surprise!”

“People get so caught up in the event that they don’t get to enjoy it,” shares Ford. “We really got around that. I was present every second.” Two years later (the pair just celebrated their anniversary) and Ford still says she wouldn’t change a thing. One of the original invitations—a reminder of that magical evening—now hangs in baby Ever’s nursery.

See more stories like this:  We Pulled Off Our NYC Wedding for $7K—No Crafty DIYs Involved Inside Roxanne Fequiere’s ’70s-Inspired After-Party The Founder of Lrnce Said “I Do” in an Enchanting Moroccan Garden

Lydia Geisel Avatar

Lydia Geisel

Home Editor

Lydia Geisel has been on the editorial team at Domino since 2017. Today, she writes and edits home and renovation stories, including house tours, before and afters, and DIYs, and leads our design news coverage. She lives in New York City.