A Formal, Cozy Winter Wedding in San Juan Capistrano, California

wedding couple walking through garden hand in hand
Brett Loie

Raihni and Zac still don't agree on who saw the other first when they met at a restaurant while celebrating New Year's Eve in December 2013—"Zac says I was staring at him, I think he was staring at me," explains Raihni—but when she finally struck up a conversation, Zac charmed her. "I admired his good looks, aspiration, and kindness the more we talked," she says. "We shared a kiss at midnight and major sparks flew!"

After a little more than three years of dating, Zac popped the question on a hike in San Francisco. "Usually I am the one who initiates hikes, and this time he made sure to remind me a few times that week, so I kind of had an idea he was planning something," says Raihni. As the fog cleared to reveal a beautiful sunset, Zac dropped to one knee and proposed with a diamond that Raihni calls "the most beautiful ring I'd ever seen."

As the couple began planning their wedding, they quickly decided on Orange County, which felt like a destination for her family in Los Angeles and his in the Midwest. "Initially we wanted a beach wedding, but found San Juan Capistrano to have a more intimate and charming feel than the beach venues we visited," says Raihni. They found the perfect spot in Franciscan Gardens, where a hedge-walled ceremony area and exposed brick reception room gave their January 17, 2020, wedding for 80 guests a cozy feel. The couple organized most of the details themselves, bringing on a coordinator to tie up loose ends during the final 90 days. "We both picked what we wanted to take charge of, so we each had our personal stamp on the details that we were excited about," says Raihni. "Knowing that we were getting married and all the work was part of something even bigger and more important than our celebration—that always helped ground us."

01 of 18

Classic and Chic

mauve and berry tones elegant wedding invitations
Brett Loie

Elegant invitations from Tamori Designs featured black printing and a gold frame on classic ivory cards. Gold foil liners in the envelopes and the frame element repeated on the map and reply cards created a cohesive—and classic—aesthetic. "I added the envelope liner, vellum jacket, and wax seal touches to make it a little more elevated," says Raihni.

02 of 18

Star Power

wedding bride in white sweetheart dress
Brett Loie

Raihni knew exactly what she wanted when she began shopping for her wedding dress, but it wasn't easy to find. "Lace, embroidered, and nude or ivory dresses were really in, but I wanted a timeless, classic look," she says. "It was honestly hard to find a simple satin dress that wasn't a ball gown." When she spotted her Justin Alexander fit-and-flare gown in a shop window, she says, "I knew it was the one!" The tulle and organza apron skirt satisfied her modern taste—and a lifelong dream. "The only wedding vision I had growing up was from Stephanie Seymour in the Guns n' Roses 'November Rain' music video," she says. "I remember being obsessed with the video and drawing the dress many times. Her dress was definitely risqué with the extreme high-low in the front and back, now that I think about it! But I was thrilled to have the high-low ode to my original dream dress, unexpectedly. I got everything I wanted!"

03 of 18

Glitter Girl

glittering pink bride's wedding shoes
Brett Loie

She added a little extra sparkle to the flawless satin of her gown by wearing a crystal and pearl belt, rose gold and diamond earrings from Zac, and a few new accessories she chose herself: A custom veil from Modern Bride DTLA, a diamond necklace, sparkling rose gold Jimmy Choo heels for the ceremony, and blush-and-rhinestone Jimmy Choo flats for the reception. "It was nice to treat myself to the exact accessories I wanted," she says.

04 of 18

Sole Man

groom sitting in white shirt and black suspenders
Brett Loie

Raihni gave Zac the tuxedo studs and cuff links he wore for the wedding, while Zac's father bought the groom a Rado watch. Zac also ordered a custom velvet and satin bow tie to match the colors on his Christian Louboutin loafers. "The watch from his dad was a special gift that will always mean a lot, and he was so excited to wear the Loubs, which he wanted so badly for the big day!" says Raihni. "No socks, of course."

05 of 18

Black Velvet

groom in black tux with bowtie with red accents
Brett Loie

Zac upgraded his black tuxedo with a velvet jacket and suspenders. He ordered similar tuxedoes for his groomsmen from The Black Tux, but opted for long ties for the other men to distinguish their looks from his.

06 of 18

Case Study

bride and groom posing under elegant stairway
Brett Loie

The couple planned their first look under a dramatic spiral staircase at their hotel, Monarch Beach. "Just before I saw Zac for the first time I was overwhelmed with emotion—I started crying non-stop," says Raihni. "Luckily my maid of honor arrived to help me pull it together and take some deep breaths. That was my only cry of the day!"

07 of 18

A Private Moment

bride and groom posing for portraits with pink floral bouquet
Brett Loie

During their first look, says Raihni, "I could tell we were both a little nervous, but I could feel the special energy when we hugged and kissed for the first time—it still felt intimate. We felt so excited, calm and ready to start our day." Raihni's bouquet from Lily Roden Floral Studio, a mix of ivory-and-blush tones accented by mauve-and-burgundy shades, included roses, peony, and lisianthus, and coordinated with Zac's boutonnière.

08 of 18

Family Matters

bride hugging family at wedding
Brett Loie

After their first look and portraits, the couple rode together in a Tesla to the ceremony space, where they had a first look with their wedding party and immediate family. "Our coordinator pulled back the gates for a fun reveal. When we saw them for the first time as (almost) husband and wife, it was so exciting and full of energy," says Raihni. "The perfect kick-off leading up to our ceremony!

09 of 18

In the Black

bride and bridesmaids in black against greenery wall
Brett Loie

Raihni's bridesmaids wore black gowns in varying styles (and one 'maid wore pants!). "All my girls have a great sense of fashion," she says. "I wanted their style to shine through and for them to feel comfortable in their own skin. Everyone picked their own shoes and accessories; I was so pleased with the overall look. They were so fab!"

10 of 18


ring bearers in black suits under floral arch
Brett Loie

Zac's nephews participated in the wedding party as ring bearers, wearing black suits that coordinated with their uncle's tuxedo. "They made it down the aisle like champs," says Raihni. A friend's daughter walked down the aisle as the flower girl in an ivory tulle dress with satin rosettes. "She also made it down the aisle all by herself like a big girl," says Raihni. "She forgot to toss her petals but dumped them all out right when she got to her seat. Well done!"

11 of 18

In the Garden

outdoor ceremony location with greenery wall and wooden chairs
Brett Loie

The secluded ceremony space made a big impression. "Two asymmetrical floral structures framed our altar area," says Raihni. "The hedge walls in the courtyard had a lot of impact so we didn't need to add a lot. The venue offered fruitwood bentwood chairs and ivy cushions, which went perfectly with our look."

12 of 18

Parental Guidance

wedding ceremony outdoors with guests in wooden chairs
Brett Loie

Raihni and Zac each walked down the aisle with both their parents, "which fit us," she says. Twinkling lights framed the bride and her mother and father as they entered the space, coordinating with other strings of lights above the seating area.

During their Christian ceremony, Raihni and Zac exchanged traditional vows—an idea suggested by their mentors during pre-marital counseling. "They said [writing your own vows] typically ends up being a love letter about how you met, what you love about the person, and why you picked each other versus actual vows," says Raihni. "We took that to heart, and it honestly took a lot of pressure off!" They did add a very personal moment, though: "Our pastor had our guests take part in our first wedding vow, when they vowed to be there for us as a support system during our marriage," says Raihni. "We felt the love as they shouted, 'We do!'"

13 of 18

Happily Married

bride and groom recessing after ceremony with petals thrown on them
Brett Loie

The newlyweds beamed as they left the ceremony as husband and wife to "At Last" by Etta James. "I especially loved hearing that timeless melody as we exited the ceremony while our friends and family tossed petals on us," says Raihni.

As guests continued on to the cocktail reception for small bites like mini grilled cheese, petite prime beef with bleu cheese, and bacon, lettuce, and tomato on crostini, Raihni and Zac stole a few moments alone to enjoy their first moments as husband and wife.

14 of 18

Light Speed

bride and groom sitting at sweetheart table with floral arch
Brett Loie

Wood floors and exposed brick walls complemented glimmering chandeliers in the couple's reception space, where the couple sat at a sweetheart table.

Raihni and Zac added a lighting package with blush-and-champagne tones to create a warm glow. "I love the photos and memories of the room set before the reception started where you can really feel the impact of the lighting and how all the décor came together," says Raihni. "Lighting makes such a difference."

15 of 18

Going for Gold

berry tone floral centerpieces with gold accents
Brett Loie

The room's round tables were dressed with gold footed vases holding low arrangements of mauve, blush, and burgundy flowers, surrounded by votive candles in varying glass holders. Gold table numbers added understated elegance.

16 of 18

Fire Places

elegant white and gold place setting with berry tone decorations
Brett Loie

Pillar candles in a variety of heights ran down the length of the rectangular tables; flowers and greenery were dispersed between the glass holders. Golden accents on the plates coordinated with the couple's menu card, which detailed the meal of burrata cheese salad and thyme-scented chicken.

17 of 18

Ready to Party

bride and groom embracing during first dance
Brett Loie

After entering the reception to "God's Plan" by Jay-Z (which the couple calls "one of our most exciting moments of the night—so fun and energy-filled"), Raihni and Zac shared their first dance to Sade's "Kiss of Life." "We love Sade's angelic voice and the song has a more upbeat tempo, the lyrics were meaningful, and it felt natural when we danced to it," says Raihni.

18 of 18


bride in white mermaid wedding dress and groom in black posing for portrait in front of floral arch
Brett Loie

Photography, Brett Loie
Venue, Franciscan Gardens
Event Planning, Intertwined Events
Catering, 24 Carrots
Flowers, Lily Roden
Videography, Adam Michael Wedding Films
Officiant, Gary Barmore, Great Officiants
Cal Printing; Tamori Designs
Cake, SusieCakes
Music, Joe Vinyl
Rentals, BBJ Linen
Bride's gown, Justin Alexander
Bride's accessories, Modern Bride DTLA veil; Jimmy Choo shoes; Oscar's Design Jewelry
Hair, Jennifer Whitlow,Salon Laurent
Makeup, Beauty by Melina
Menswear, The Black Tux
Groom's accessories, Christian Louboutin shoes; Rado watch
Lighting, Amber Event Production

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