Summer and Bryan's California Vineyard Wedding

Photo: Jen Huang

These two wedding-industry insiders celebrated with their friends, family, and a bevy of symbolic swans.

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The Couple

Jen Huang

When you're a wedding blogger, true love is your day job. Which can be kind of ironic if you're single. Just ask Summer Watkins. In 2005, Summer, who lived in Orange County, California, was in an always-a-bridesmaid funk after the nuptials of one of her best friends. She couldn't lose herself in her work, because she's the founder and stylist of Grey Likes Weddings (her nom de plume is Lady Grey), a website with a click-crazy array of smiling couples and Pinterest-ready inspiration. Just a week post–best friend's wedding, Summer accepted a pal's invitation to a rooftop cookout in downtown San Diego.

When she arrived and met Bryan Ball, who was manning the grill, her first move was to start playfully "making fun of his barbecue skills," she says. Meanwhile, his buddy began talking to Summer, and Bryan admits, "I wasn't paying that much attention to her." But the thing about true love is that it can't be stopped by prickly maidens or clueless dudes. Somehow, as the fire died down and the sun set, "we started chatting and ended up talking late into the night," says Bryan. The pair realized that they were both O.C.-based, and beyond that, practically neighbors. They became a couple, and soon Bryan, a professional poker player who was looking for a career change, got on board her blog as the business manager.

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The Location

Jen Huang

Given their day jobs, when Bryan proposed on Summer's birthday in the fall of 2012 and it was time to plan a bash of their own, they had an all-star team of high-powered wedding-vendor friends, everyone wanting to help. (Proof: Honeymoon planner Katie Frederick and paper designer Megan Gonzalez were bridesmaids.) The first step was to pick a venue, and the duo decided on Sunstone Vineyards & Winery, whose limestone buildings and rolling vineyards reflected the French countryside feel they wanted. The couple decided on the Santa Ynez, California, location the minute they saw it and set out to plan the rest of their July 11, 2013, wedding.

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The Invitation

Jen Huang

To start, they chose a mascot: swans, a symbol of lasting love. The pair incorporated a flock of them into all the details, starting with the stationery. The invites (designed by MaeMae & Co. and letterpressed by Gus & Ruby Letterpress) displayed a custom crest as well as lions, swans, olives, and green stripes. They were mailed in envelopes calligraphed by Victoria Hoke Lane.

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The Bridal Bouquet

Jen Huang

Peonies, Summer's favorite flowers, were out of season, so her florist, Lauryl Lane, concentrated on roses, poppies, tulips, ranunculus, and sweet peas bunched with olive branches for her bouquet. At the last minute, Lane flew in some peonies, and upon the presentation of the arrangement, both women burst into tears.

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The Bridal Party

Jen Huang

When you have three sisters, two sisters-in-law, and five besties, here's the math: you need 10 bridesmaids!

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Sisterly Love

Jen Huang

Summer's sisters, each in a blush-tone dress of their own choosing, shared matron-of-honor duties.

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A Gift of Thanks

Jen Huang

As a token of appreciation for her bridesmaids, Summer had tote bags custom-sewn in the wedding's signature green-and-white stripes and stuffed them with yummy-smelling homemade sugar scrub.

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A Pop of Color

Jen Huang

There were green-and-white stripes everywhere you looked at the celebration, even in Summer's Badgley Mischka shoes!

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The Little Ladies

Jen Huang

The flower girls were garlanded in roses, olive branches, and, on the younger one here, a ginormous peony.

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Tie One On

Jen Huang

A poster presented all of the groomsmen's color-coordinated bow ties from The Tie Bar on faux crests. The ties were theirs to keep; they also received copper tankards since as a group they're known for their fondness for Irish Mules.

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The Best Crest

Jen Huang

Embroidered crests that referenced the coat of arms from Bryan's family were repurposed as boutonnieres.

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The Ceremony Program

Jen Huang

The wedding programs asked guests to choose from a "Celebration Station" containing a buffet of noisemakers—and to hoot and holler when Summer and Bryan were pronounced husband and wife.

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A Sweet Ride

Jen Huang

The bride's niece rode into her flower girl duties on a vintage swan toy that the event planner found online and had imported from France.

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The Ceremony

Jen Huang

Summer and Bryan made things official in a Christian ceremony officiated by her uncle before 130 black-tie-clad guests. Preceding the vows, the rings were passed along a few yards of green-striped ribbon so that everyone assembled could touch and bless them before they reached the bride and groom. "Our guests really loved it and said it made them feel like part of the ceremony," Summer says. "And it meant so much to us to feel their support and love."

For their I do's, the couple borrowed from royal pair Will and Kate, reciting their Old English declarations and adding this Bible verse, which the two spoke in unison: "Entreat me not to leave you, or to return from following after you, for where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. And where you die, I will die and there I will be buried. May the Lord do so with me and more if anything but death parts you from me."

The ring bearers doubled as little drummer boys, ushering the newlyweds back up the aisle.

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Mr. and Mrs.

Jen Huang

To get to the villa, guests strolled along a walkway of olive trees and then through a dramatic, billowing curtain. "It created a bit of a theatrical moment," says Summer. "I sort of loved the ridiculous romance of it!"

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Specialty Drinks

Jen Huang

The night before the ceremony, loved ones rolled up their sleeves to juice hundreds of cucumbers and melons for the signature drinks enjoyed at cocktail hour.

The hands-down—or paws-down—favorite drink of the day was the Curtykin's Tonic, named after Bryan and Summer's cat. It combined plenty of muddled cucumber, gin, mint, lime, and habanero.

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Swan Mimosas

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Mango-, grapefruit-, and cranberry-juice ice cubes, molded in swan-shaped trays, floated in glasses of sparkling wine.

OneHope, the sparkling wine that was sipped throughout the night, provided 100 meals for hungry children as a matching gift for the four cases of bubbly purchased for the soirée.

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The Cocktail Hour

Jen Huang

Parasols shaded guests from the July sun during the cocktail hour. A 15-foot chandelier, made from nearly 400 tissue-paper bells and 1,200 twinkle lights, hung in the background.

As a stylist, Summer says, "I saw how much pressure brides feel to have everything be perfect and lovely and beautiful—the best wedding ever. But at the end of the day, it always exceeds that."

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Flock to It

Jen Huang

More swans, these brimming with multicolored roses and olive branches, glided on tables.

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The Fashions

Jen Huang

Bryan chose a Hugo Boss tuxedo, and Summer wore a custom strapless Kirstie Kelly gown.

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Dinner Time

Jen Huang

Guests RSVP'd for the wedding dinner with an embossed disc: the picture of the chicken suggested a meat entrée, while a head of lettuce signaled a vegetarian one.

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With Bells On

Jen Huang

Escort cards were tied to tiny bells that echoed the similar motif in the chandelier. Guests were encouraged to ring the bells as they greeted the bride and groom on the receiving line.

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Made in the Shade

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Summer's hair jewel and bracelet were new, but she hopes to hand them down as future heirlooms.

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A Pinch of Salt

Jen Huang

Attached to each menu was an olive branch sprig and a vial of pink Himalayan sea salt, "an inside joke for our friends and family because they all know I love salt," says Summer.

Guests dined on Bibb lettuce salad, Jidori chicken confit with vegetables, ravioli, and ratatouille.

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Pillow Talk

Jen Huang

The custom wedding crest was printed onto fabric and transformed into pillows for guests to lounge against.

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Pipe Dreams

Jen Huang

For favors, women went home with assorted teas. The men at the party received wooden pipes.

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Custom Containers

Jen Huang

To complement the pipes, an assortment of tobacco was on display.

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Everybody Dance Now

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The music never stopped, even during the ceremony. Selections ranged from "Blurred Lines" and "Get Lucky" to a song written by Summer's brother-in-law.

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A Twirl With Dad

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"During the father-daughter dance, I almost tripped on my dress, but my dad made it look like a dip," recalls Summer of her father's swift moves as they swayed to Ray Charles's "Ain't That Love."

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Advice for the Love Birds

Jen Huang

Instead of signing a guest book, revelers filled out Mad Libs-style cards printed with such prompts as "In 15 years, the Balls will likely be ..."

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A Sweet Solution

Jen Huang

So with a team of event-savvy friends around her, what could go wrong? The cake, that's what. Three days before the I do's, their baker fell through, and it was too late to contact a new one. Instead of panicking, the couple thought outside the cake box: "I said, 'I like doughnuts better, anyway,'" Summer recalls. They ended up ordering 260 of the hole-in-the-center pastries from their favorite local hole-in-the-wall bakery. The doughnut dessert came in three flavors: chocolate, red velvet, and—the bride and groom's personal addiction—blueberry.

"The only bad thing was that 260 doughnuts weren't enough," Summer says. "Why didn't I think to order more?" Lesson learned: Everyone loves doughnuts. But surviving the Colossal Cake Crisis also made Summer realize that bridal anxiety is easily alleviated by the presence of loved ones—and feathered friends. "Something like not having a cake, you'll get over," she says. "All in all, it was a great party."

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Jen Huang

Location: Sunstone Vineyards & Winery

Event Design: Courtnie Purdy Fausner

Event Coordination: LVL Weddings & Events

Catering: Roomforty [food]; Straight Up Cocktail Service [cocktail service]

Flowers: Lauryl Lane

Photography: Jen Huang

Videography: Elysium Productions

Stationery: MaeMae & Co. [design]; Gus & Ruby Letterpress [letterpress printing]

Calligraphy: Victoria Hoke Lane

Rentals: Borrowed Blu; Found Vintage Rentals; Napa Valley Linens; Signature Party Rentals

Music: Bobbito The Chef

Hair: Amy Clarke; Beauty by Melina

Makeup: Lady Dianna; Beauty-Full by Molly

Donuts: The Donuttery (714-847-7000)

Groom's Accessories: David Donahue [tie]; AllSaints [shoes]

Flowergirls' Dresses: Le Petit Tom; Stella McCartney; Nordstrom

Honeymoon: Ever After Honeymoons

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