Traditionally Elegant California Garden Wedding

From the beautiful Bride… John and I met soon after the 2008 election at a launch party of a civic engagement organization called Citizen Hope. We were friends for over a year before we started dating, and we were together through my time in the Peace Corps in Ukraine. John proposed inside the clock tower of the Ferry Building in San Francisco, in part to remind me of all the great times we shared in the city that we both love and call home.

When we started looking at venues and found Beaulieu Garden, we knew it was the perfect place for our wedding. With its manicured gardens, fountains, cherub statues, sweeping vineyards, sparkling pool, tree-lined drive, and sycamore arbor, it had just the right look and feel that we were going for – elegant, romantic, beautiful, and full of history. We also have many wonderful memories of our time together in wine country. The decision to get married at the gorgeous, European-inspired Beaulieu Garden helped guide our vision for the wedding. Since I’m a huge Francophile, and we were going to travel to Paris for our honeymoon, there were many French-inspired design and style elements that fit seamlessly with the setting. We decided on a soft palette of mainly ivory, blush, pale gray, silver, and hints of black. The invitations were letterpress with gray ink on white card stock, and included a custom design of our monogram over a picture of the iconic tree-lined drive of Beaulieu Garden, which we used on other elements throughout the wedding. The florals included blush and ivory French garden roses, café au lait dahlias, eucalyptus, and olive leaves. My dress was a drop-waist ball gown with a Chantilly lace and beaded bodice fitted to the hip that cascaded into a full French tulle skirt. I also wore diamond and pearl drop earrings that my mother wore at her wedding and that she gave me as an engagement gift. My “something borrowed” was a pearl bracelet of my mother’s that was my grandmother’s before that. I gifted my bridesmaids and myself matching bracelets inscribed with a delicate “love.”

For the ceremony, we decided to incorporate some Jewish and Irish elements to celebrate parts of our heritages. Atelier Joya created our beautiful chuppah using a wrought-iron frame, an ivory silk canopy, and ivory roses, hydrangeas, and greenery in an asymmetrical style. We incorporated other Jewish elements, including the breaking of the glass and the reading of a variation of the Seven Blessings. We had a family friend of John’s sing the Irish song, “The Banks of My Own Lovely Lee,” which was his late mother’s favorite song, with his family priest introducing the singer. Our readings also included an excerpt from the Irish book Anam Cara, as well as a favorite Shakespeare sonnet. John and I crafted our vows together, weaving traditional vows with our own ideas. My uncle officiated the wedding, and we decided to have the wedding party be mostly family to keep the wedding feeling intimate and special.

There were so many other details that made our wedding feel like ours. We decided to include some signs, including a few DIY chalkboard signs and an amazing custom antique French mirror welcome sign that ended up being one of my favorite elements. The escort card display consisted of cards set on a bed of dried lavender within mirrored trays, which echoed the sprig of lavender on top of each guest’s dinner menu. We had three different cocktail napkins made with our names and different symbols that each meant something to us – one with the Golden Gate Bridge, for our home, another of the Eiffel Tower, for our upcoming honeymoon to Paris and the inspiration for the look and feel of the wedding, and the last was a Claddagh symbol, an Irish symbol combining love, loyalty, and friendship.

After a year of intensive planning of every detail, witnessing our vision come together was breathtaking. Seeing the sparkling lights, chandeliers, votives, and gorgeous centerpieces, enjoying Paula LeDuc’s steak frites and our favorite wine, Failla Pinot Noir, and listening to the heartfelt and funny speeches, the guests’ laughter, and French jazz in the background – it was a dream. At the end of the night, after lots of dancing and chatting, the guests picked up mini bottles of Napa Valley sparkling wine, and a white 1947 Packard took John and me to the after-party. It truly was the most magical and special day of our lives, and we are so happy to have gorgeous images photographed by Larissa Cleveland to look back on to remember each moment of the day.

My advice to future brides would include choosing vendors who not only understand your vision for your day and know how to do what they do well, but also whose company you enjoy, because you’ll be spending a lot of time with them, and this will make the whole process a delightful experience. It is also important to know what matters to you going into the day, because it will fly by, and you want to make sure you’ve done everything you want to, whether it’s tasting all the food that you chose, dancing, getting the photographs you want, visiting with various friends and relatives, or otherwise. And, most importantly, and what many others advised me before our day, is to try to take a moment for just the two of you and gaze at each other, to take in all the love, joy, and beauty that surrounds you, and to make a conscious effort to be present during each and every moment, because you will want to remember them forever.

Photography: Larissa Cleveland Photography | Videography: Thomas Hughes Films | Coordination: JBD Events | Floral Design: Atelier Joya | Wedding Dress: Monique Lhuillier | Cake: Sweet On Cake | Stationery: A Day In May Design | Shoes: Jimmy Choo | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Amsale | Catering: Paula LeDuc Fine Catering | Lighting: Got Light? | Groom’s Attire: Hugo Boss | Ceremony Music: An Elegant Touch Of Strings | Venue: Beaulieu Gardens | Dance Lessons: The Dance Loft | Flower Girls Dresses: Joan Calabrese | Linens: La Tavola | Makeup And Hair: Meaganne McCandess | Mirror: Bee Curious Designs | Rentals: Classic Party Rentals | Vintage Car: Classic Convertible Wine Tours

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