A Relaxed Outdoor Wedding in Rancho Santa Fe, California
A chance meeting at a neighborhood restaurant in 2017 led to Sarah Tolboe and Joey Sabella's first date. "I ended up staying for a drink and we hit it off immediately, made plans to get together for dinner later in the week, and the rest is history," says Sarah. On a trip to Buenos Aires to spend the holidays with his family, Joey surprised Sarah with a proposal on a private terrace at the Park Hyatt garden. "The day he ended up proposing happens to be my parents' wedding anniversary, which was a total coincidence, but meant the world to me and felt like kismet," says Sarah.
As the owner of Park & Grove Event Studio in Santa Monica, California, Sarah took the lead on planning the big day. Looking for a venue "felt like looking for a needle in a haystack," she says, since they had very specific needs: on-site accommodations for their many out-of-town guests, space for an outdoor ceremony and reception, and several unique requests. "We had to be able to go late—weddings in Argentina traditionally end at 6 am. or 7 a.m., so my in-laws would have died with a 10 p.m. noise curfew, and I wanted to get married somewhere I'd never worked, which after 10 years of event planning seemed like a pipe dream!" says Sarah. But Rancho Valencia in Rancho Santa Fe, California, checked every box. "It's lush, charming, and quintessential Southern California," says Sarah.
Sarah and Joey filled their day with personal touches: handwritten save-the-dates, a rehearsal dinner with traditional Argentinian food and games; welcome boxes packed with Joey's favorite Argentinian cookies and Sarah's grandmother's homemade party mix; translators hired to make sure Joey's family could understand the speeches and vows; and a relaxed, cozy atmosphere. "I grew up on a ranch in Utah, where I always thought I'd get married, so I wanted to sort of recreate the backyard garden party I'd always imagined having," says Sarah.
The details came together on August 10, 2019, when the couple said "I do" in front of 115 guests. "When we started planning our wedding, we considered having two celebrations, one here and one in Argentina, but ultimately we decided that we wanted to do it once as it was probably the only time in our lives all our loved ones would be together in one room," says the bride. "There aren't enough words to describe how overwhelming and extraordinary it was to have that, and it is something we will both treasure for the rest of our lives."
As a firm believer in the tone-setting importance of a wedding's paper goods, Sarah focused on making a warm and welcoming first impression with the save-the-dates. "We very much wanted to communicate that our wedding was to be a celebration of all the people in our lives and a way to show them how much they mean to us," says Sarah. The couple ordered custom letterpress notecards—which included a silhouette of their beloved pup—and hand-wrote a message to each guest. "Not only did this allow us to truly welcome people to our wedding, but they also allowed us to clear up a very confusing detail: Joey goes by two completely different names," notes Sarah, adding that he's Joey to friends and family in the United States, and Augusto to his relatives in Argentina. "It was great to be able to sign the note as 'Sarah and Augusto (Joey!).'"
All in the Details
A custom paper suite from Papel Paper & Press began with a handwritten invitation printed in dark gray letterpress on light gray paper and adorned with gold edging and gold leaf engraving in the corners. Gray ribbon with the same stamped pattern bound the cards, while a pocket, letterpressed with a custom floral design and engraved in gold with the couple's monogram, held the entire suite.
Long days of trying on wedding dresses at bridal boutiques weren't a natural fit for this low-key bride. "I did not love wedding-dress shopping because I just felt very out of my element," says Sarah. "As much as I love beading, lace, and tulle, every time I put on a very elaborate or traditional bridal-looking gown, I felt like a little girl playing dress-up instead of like myself." That changed when she found her ivory silk V-neck dress from Rita Vinieris. "I actually knew the minute I put it on," says Sarah. "It was super simple and timeless and to me, just felt like a beautiful dress I'd love to wear to a formal event, not just a wedding."
Borrowed, Blue, and New
Something Green—and Old
Her textural green-and-white bouquet included hellebore and lisianthus, and was hand-tied with two very special old fabrics: "I wrapped my bouquet with one of my great-grandmother's embroidered handkerchiefs and a piece of my baby blanket, 'Bubbah,'" she says.
In the Navy
On the Bench
Instead of chairs—which Sarah says "felt a bit formal for us"—the couple set up their ceremony space with long wooden benches. "I love, love, love a petal toss, but instead of traditional cones or pouches we scattered small bowls filled with petals and little signs that said 'Toss Me After I Do' throughout the benches."
The bride asked both her mother and father to escort her down the aisle. "It was very nontraditional for a non-Jewish wedding," she says, "but I wouldn't have had it any other way." A string quartet and keyboard performed "Climb Every Mountain" from The Sound of Music—Sarah's favorite movie—as she and her parents made their way to the altar.
She Said, He Said
Sarah's aunt Lizzie officiated the couple's ceremony, during which they exchanged their own vows, under an existing pergola that Carla Keyes Floral Design accented with a thick arch filled with white delphinium. "Both of us spoke about how, despite meeting well into our 30s, we've felt like we've always been a part of one another," says Sarah. They also asked a few close family members and friends to recite readings about "love, love of family, love of friends, what love means to us, [and] how falling in love is like having a dog."
"One central theme to our wedding was our dog, Oliver," says Sarah. His silhouette appeared on the save-the-dates, RSVP card, and cocktail napkins and he inspired the signature drink—but he also made an in-person appearance, too, donning a blue floral bow tie to participate in the ceremony. "He walked down the aisle with our niece, and was included in the program as our Best Dog of Honor," says the bride.
At the cocktail hour, guests sipped two signature cocktails: the Oliver, a spicy margarita named after said pup, and a Moscow mule dubbed the Sabella after the couple's new shared last name. But the bride and groom took their chance to spend some quiet time together in the middle of their event. "We skipped to take portraits and then went back to our room to have some Champagne and eat some appetizers just the two of us," says Sarah. "It was my favorite part of the whole night!"
Blue and White
Small cocktail tables, covered in blue floral linens, offered guests a place to rest during the interlude.
A Place for Everyone
Attendees found their seating assignments on individual escort cards in shades of taupe, beige, cream, and blue. Sarah and Joey laid the cards out out a wide, rustic wooden table decorated with herbs and flowers in small terra-cotta pots.
Dinner Al Fresco
For dinner on the hotel's croquet lawn, the couple seated guests at four long wooden tables matched with curved wooden chairs.
"[Florist] Carla created the most stunning tablescapes of white, caramel, and blue-toned florals with lots and lots of greens and texture along with a sea of candles to create the most timeless, stunning, and magical garden party," says Sarah. "It absolutely glowed."
Delicate blooms in white and tan with hints of mauve and green sat in low vessels on the bare wooden tables, while place cards in antique silver napkin rings helped guests find their seats.
The detailed place settings included blue ceramic plates and wide-handled silverware. Hand calligraphed menus, engraved with the couple's monogram, were tied with blue hand-dyed ribbon. "We used my absolute favorite Czech crystal glassware for wine, water, and Champagne, which we served in coupes instead of flutes—another personal must!" says Sarah.
A three-tier cake from Hey There, Cupcake! offered guests their choice of pecan praline cake with salted caramel buttercream or funfetti cake with vanilla buttercream. "I worked with the most extraordinary cake designer who specializes in this amazing, ethereal handmade wafer paper technique that matched perfectly with our wedding," says Sarah of the confection's details.
Instead of a tent, the couple set up a wooden structure draped in white lights, which created a starry, twinkling space as the sun set. Guests from both families shared stories, heard speeches translated into both languages, and celebrated with the bride and groom. "The only times everyone you know and love will be in one room are your wedding and your funeral, and you only get to be there for one of them," says Sarah. "Enjoy every single moment. You will feel more love than you ever thought possible."
The newlyweds' first dance, to Fleetwood Mac's "Everywhere" became one of their most cherished moments. "It's one of my parents' favorite songs that my mom always told me they listened to when they were first married and it's always reminded me of happy, wonderful memories growing up," says Sarah. "We completely butchered our first dance—truly, we missed every step, couldn't remember the choreography, our timing was off, it was a mess—but it's one of my favorite memories of the whole night because we couldn't stop laughing the whole time. I got to marry my best friend and my favorite person in the world, and even in what, in hindsight, was a horribly embarrassing moment in front of everyone we know, I couldn't have had more fun if I tried."
Photography, Kurt Boomer
Venue, Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa
Event Planning, Park & Grove Event Studio
Flowers, Carla Kayes Floral Design
Videography, Amari Productions
Stationery, Papel Paper & Press
Cake, Hey There, Cupcake!
Music, West Coast Music
Rentals, Casa De Perrin; Theoni Collection; Town and Country Event Rentals
Bride's Gown, Rita Vinieris
Bride's Accessories, Homa Bridal veil; Tabitha Simmons shoes
Hair and Makeup, Kissed by Alma Mae Lott
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Self-Portrait
Flower Girl Dresses, Love Shack Fancy
Groom's Attire, Prada
Menswear, The Black Tux
Groom's Cuff Links, Cartier
Lighting, LightenUp, Inc.