This Couple's English Garden-Inspired Wedding in Montecito, California, Was 20 Years in the Making

bride and groom standing under tree surrounded by flowers
Clary Pfeiffer

Helen and Huu's romance was two decades in the making. The couple first met 20 years ago, when Helen was a student at the University of Nevada in Los Vegas. Huu was immediately smitten and wanted to propose to her after just three months. Helen, on the other hand, felt her age: She wanted to get a little more out of life before settling down. To show his commitment, Huu offered Helen a diamond promise ring for her 22nd birthday.

Years came and went—the two decided to buy a house and start a life together but chose not to become formally "engaged." Finally, on their 20th relationship anniversary, Helen felt it was time. Huu proposed (again!) in New York City's Central Park, this time with the cushion-cut diamond his future bride had always envisioned (she'd admired this particular stone online for months). The bauble's pear-shaped side stones actually reminded her of another piece of jewelry he'd gifted to her earlier on in their relationship. "It was all very serendipitous," she says.

After more of life's twists and turns—Helen endured an ovarian cancer scare and lost her grandmother—the couple married on March 30, 2019, in an intimate garden-inspired wedding with a touch of whimsy. They were joined by 55 guests and their dogs in Montecito, California, to celebrate their dream nuptials at San Ysidro Ranch. When looking back on the ups and downs of her life and wedding, Helen says that she wouldn't change a thing. "We always believed in serendipity, good karma, and riding the waves of life—our wedding was no different," she recalls.

Watch Helen and Huu's wedding video by T&C Studios.

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Invites to Montecito

beige and blue gray stationery suite
Clary Pfeiffer

For their invitations, created by Annie Brooks of The Wells Makery, Helen and Huu commissioned an illustration of their two dogs, Gingersnap and Rocky Road, which was featured alongside their custom monogram. Both were designed by Lisa Woodard of Custom Crafted.

  • More Invitations with Illustrated Crests and Monograms
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The Perfect Spot

wedding ceremony arch
Clary Pfeiffer

Deciding on a wedding venue was difficult for Helen and Huu, but when they got the opportunity to marry at the celebrity-approved San Ysidro Ranch, the couple immediately booked it. After all, the locale held meaning for the bride. "It was the last place I went to before going through surgery," she explains.

03 of 19

Liquid Courage

groom pouring a drink
Clary Pfeiffer

On the big day, the groom enjoyed a glass of Remy Martin XO Excellence Cognac—the perfect antidote to any pre-wedding nerves.

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The Handsome Couple

bride and groom wedding portrait
Clary Pfeiffer

Helen donned a delicate Judd Waddell wedding dress for the ceremony, which she paired with a belt she'd found at Erin Cole years prior. She posed for portraits in a lace sheath gown from Vera Wang, pictured here.

Huu chose a Hugo Boss tuxedo; he paired his ensemble with a crisp white shirt from the same brand.

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Meaningful Accessories

wedding rings in vintage boxes
Clary Pfeiffer

As for the bride's accessories? She completed her look with pieces of jewelry Huu had gifted her over the years; she also wore a vintage pearl ring, an heirloom that once belonged to her late grandmother.

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Whimsical Elements

white and green wedding bouquet
Clary Pfeiffer

Helen's favorite florals, including fringed tulips, bleeding heart, and lily of the valley, filled her bouquet by Intertwine Flowers.

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The Added Touch

groom wedding accessories
Clary Pfeiffer

To polish off his look, Huu chose a Burberry bow tie, Magnanni shoes, and a watch from A. Langhe Sohn Saxonia.

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The First Look

bride and groom holding hands in field of flowers
Clary Pfeiffer

Just before the ceremony, the couple took a few moments to themselves. Helen "loved being able to twirl in my dress" during their first look, she recalls.

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A Familiar Wedding

wedding dog welcome sign
Clary Pfeiffer

The same watercolor illustration seen on the invitation suite was translated onto a piece of signage placed near the entryway, welcoming guests to the celebration. The sign also foreshadowed two VIP attendees: Gingersnap and Rocky Road.

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The Ceremony

wedding welcome ceremony
Clary Pfeiffer

Helen wanted the ceremony to feel like it was unfolding inside of a terrarium. "It was my interpretation of a Garden of Eden with some of my favorite flowers," she explains. Those flowers included, hellebore, lilac, fritillaria, ranunculus, fringed tulips, sweet pea, allium, narcissus paperwhites, spirea, pieris, roses, spray roses, orlaya, delphinium, bleeding heart, and lily of the valley—many of which adorned the green-and-white arch that anchored the space.

After becoming particularly close to her brother during the wedding-planning process, Helen asked him to give her away. The two walked down the aisle to "You've Got a Way" by Shania Twain.

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The Lounge

outdoor wedding lounge with greenery decor
Clary Pfeiffer

The cocktail hour, which took place on the patio, had a Restoration Hardware vibe of "modern femininity and masculinity," says Helen. "The color palette was a nice contrast against the white in the cottage, [where the reception was held]."

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A Touch of Purple

wedding cocktails with garnish
Clary Pfeiffer

In line with the English garden theme, guests enjoyed their Prosecco di Valdobbiadene with a lavender garnish.

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A Bite to Eat

wedding appetizer serving tray
Clary Pfeiffer

Guests noshed on coconut tiger prawns, whipped goat cheese and honey-marinated fig crostini, and pecan-crusted brie during cocktail hour.

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In the Clouds

wedding reception table display
Clary Pfeiffer

If the ceremony was designed to mimic a terrarium, the reception was ideated around a snow globe. "I designed the space as if the guests were floating in the clouds," she says of the all-white color palette. Seven different types of creamy La Tavola linen added texture to the tablescapes throughout the celebration.

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Neutral Settings

place setting table card
Clary Pfeiffer

Modern stone-hued plates were topped with folded menus—emblazoned with the couple's monogram—that also doubled as place cards. Silver cutlery and crystal goblets completed each setting.

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A Touch of Salt

floral sea salt wedding favors
Clary Pfeiffer

Guests took home valves of floral sea salts as favors.

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The First Dance

bride and groom dancing at reception
Clary Pfeiffer

The couple shared a romantic first dance to "Every Time I Close My Eyes" by Kenny G. and Babyface.

Another highlight came later on in the evening, when Helen surprised Huu was another dance—in private. "It was to 'You Are the Reason' by Calum Scott and Leona Lewis—it was just us, by ourselves," says says.

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Floral Desserts

three tiered white wedding cake
Clary Pfeiffer

Lele Patisseri designed the couple's honey-lavender cake, complete with elderflower meringue buttercream filling.

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bride and groom smiling at each other standing in flowers
Clary Pfeiffer

Photography, Clary Pfeiffer

Venue and Catering, San Ysidro Ranch

Event planning, Helen Wei; HHV Designs

Flowers, Intertwine Flowers by Kelly Lenard

Videography, T&C Studios

Stationery, The Wells Makery

Calligraphy, Custom Crafted

Cake, Lele Patisserie

Music, Chris Wooley

Bride's gown, Judd Waddell (ceremony), Vera Wang (portraits and reception)

Hair, Christin Brown of Luna Bella Makeup & Hair

Makeup, Ashley Kelly of Luna Bella Makeup & Hair

DJ, Zeke Monarrez and Jerry Rodriguez

Lighting, Bellavista Designs

Rentals, Party Pleasers; Adorefolklore; Found Rentals; Just 4 Fun Party Rentals

Linens, La Tavola

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