A Cliffside Elopement in Ibiza, Spain
Erica Lafredes and Alberto Johnson were high school sweethearts in California—she was drawn to his smile, he liked her curly ponytail—who shared a love of sports and movies. Though he graduated two years before she did, they both ended up with sports scholarships to Shaw University in North Carolina, where he later served as an assistant coach for her softball team after he graduated. In 2017, Alberto proposed at home and the couple began planning their big day with what Erica calls "the Disney fairy tale wedding mindset."
After nearly a year of preparing with their family's help—while simultaneously trying to save up to buy a house—the couple decided to take a second look at what they really wanted. "[It felt] almost as if we'd lost sight of why and who we were throwing this wedding for," says Erica. "And if we ever did get there, it'd be something we'd have no say in choosing." They shifted their focus toward planning a private elopement with absolutely no guests in Ibiza, Spain, followed by a party once they returned home. "It's easy to get distracted in the hoopla of what a traditional wedding should be," says Erica. "We both quickly learned that it's okay to be flexible. There's no one way of how to have a wedding in order to make it special."
The duo didn't need a lavish affair to make their big-day feel monumental. From Erica's ornate bridal accessories and elaborate bouquet to the pair's private island ceremony, their elopement was truly one-of-a-kind—and felt entirely like them.
Capturing Their Day
With plenty of time before their sunset ceremony, Erica and Alberto joined their photographer, Aljosa Petric of El Momento Perfecto, for portrait sessions around Ibiza. "We asked our planner to find locations where we could just be ourselves through the streets and beaches of Ibiza wearing our favorite Major League Baseball team's gear, along with capturing us all dressed up to celebrate on the town," says Erica. "These were all things that we love to do as a couple."
They chose simple matching outfits for the pre-wedding photos: Monogrammed dress shirts from Banana Republic that Erica's dad designed and Levi's denim. "The monogram is our initials, A and E, separated by two baseball seams with 18 stitches," says Erica. The seams honored the couple's love of the sport and "18" represented their wedding year; green Oakland Athletics caps were a shoutout to their favorite team.
A One-of-a-Kind Dress
Erica skipped the ritual of dress shopping in favor of a stress-free custom gown from Bluethread Bridal
. "All I had to do was send them pictures of what I was looking for and they made my vision come to life," she says. She chose a spaghetti strap wedding dress with a plunging neckline in champagne and ivory tulle, accented with beads, sequins, and pearls that matched the detailing on her headpiece. "What I loved most was that I was able to have a custom dress made just for me with designer details at a fraction of the price."
Erica bought her gold, pearl-trimmed headpiece from Lelet NY even before Alberto proposed and used it to inspire the rest of her look. "When I saw it, I knew I had to have it and that I'd save it for my wedding day," she says. "It's such a beautiful piece that can be worn in so many ways and something that I hope to pass down to future generations."
Something Borrowed, Something New
Erica also ordered her custom veil from Bluethread Bridal, choosing a straight, chapel-length section of tulle that created a drop-veil look; she did her hair and makeup on her own. The pearl earrings, on loan from Erica's mother, served as her something borrowed.
Head to Toe Pearls
Open-toe Gracie stilettos from Jewel Badgley Mischka
were adorned with faux pearls in another nod to the headpiece.
The dark blue jacket on Alberto's BAR III suit was a no-brainer for the couple, who chose it as an homage to their shared love of the movie I Love You, Man, in which Paul Rudd wears a blue suit to his wedding. "At the time that was a little out of the norm for weddings, so we'd always said since college that he'd wear a blue suit to ours," says Erica.
Erica credits Pinterest for helping them figure out the rest of the color scheme for Alberto's look: "We knew it'd be warm in Ibiza, so we wanted to go with a summer suit with a mix of light colors that would also complement my dress," she says. "That's how we came up with the blue, brown, and off-white combo." Alberto's Cole Haan shoes, a combination sneaker-meets-dress shoe, were ideal for traversing the rocky dirt path that led to the cliffside ceremony site.
With This Ring
The couple chose 18-karat rose gold rings for two reasons: to match Erica's morganite and diamond engagement ring and because 18 is Alberto's favorite number. "It was also cool to us that we didn't see many men out there sporting rose gold," says Erica. Like the engagement ring, Alberto's Stream
Natalie Marie Jewelry
Surprised and Happy
Erica's bouquet, a mix of pink and red blooms accented with dark foliage, wasn't quite what she imagined—though she had sent the florist a photo for inspiration—but in the end, it didn't matter. "I learned through this entire process to just go with the flow and not to stress over the small things," she says. "It wasn't like the picture I sent, but still came out very beautiful."
A Private Oasis
Erica and Alberto relied on planner Leila Guillaume from MC2 Mon Amour
to choose their ceremony location—but had a few requests. "We wanted to be close to the water," says Erica. "Somewhere we could really capture the scenery of Ibiza." The winning location: A surprisingly secluded spot overlooking the island of Es Vedrà. "Es Vedrà was so popular, so we were lucky to have been able to find a private location to have our ceremony that wasn't too overcrowded with tourists," says Erica. Alberto agrees: "My favorite moment was seeing the ceremony location for the first time—and seeing the beautiful sunset."
One traditional element the couple didn't want to miss out on: "I knew I wanted to walk down an aisle," Erica says. "We were not going to skimp out on all the special moments of a full-blown ceremony just because it was just the two of us." Guillaume and florist Antonio Rodriguez
designed a walkway lined with tiki torches, flowers, and natural stones, which Erica walked down alone as the song "Forever Ain't Enough" by J. Holiday—a high school favorite of the couple—played in the background. "I loved it because it stayed true to the modern bohemian theme that I love," says Erica of the ceremony décor.
A Statement Backdrop
The floral arch, a focal point of the ceremony, was another Pinterest find that Erica sent to her florist, who recreated it almost exactly. "The triangle pyramid was also a little hidden homage to my sorority," says Erica. "Almost everything in our wedding has little pieces of meaning for us as a couple."
"I Now Pronounce You"
Guillaume performed the ceremony as the couple exchanged vows they wrote themselves. They'd had their legal ceremony before arriving in Spain, at the courthouse in their county. "I bawled my eyes out that day in the courthouse, which I was not expecting to do," says Erica. "But I wouldn't change a thing about our decision to go by ourselves for anything. It definitely gave us the chance to really experience the moment with each other with no distractions. Plus I was able to get all my ugly cry out before our official ceremony in Spain when we'd have the camera on us!"
A Toast to the Newlyweds
After the ceremony, Guillaume surprised the couple with a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the start of their new life together. "It was a lovely surprise, because that's exactly what my husband did after proposing," says Erica. White paper hearts from confetti poppers—also a surprise—were scattered on the ground, creating a festive atmosphere.
Though Erica and Alberto had to navigate some hurt feelings when they announced their elopement, in the end, it was the right decision for them. "We celebrated it the way we wanted to," she says. "Even though we didn't have the long guest list right away, we still were able to experience a lot of special moments. It being just my husband and I opened up the possibility of experiencing a very special, tailored, intimate moment just for the two of us."
Later, the couple changed into their third outfits for a night out in Ibiza. "One of the reasons we wanted to go to Ibiza was for the night life," says Erica. "We wanted to show our party side!" She chose a silver Zara blazer dress with gleaming silver stacked heels. Alberto wore a black, collarless button-down shirt with black jeans and sneakers.
Though Ibiza hadn't been the couple's original plan, it didn't disappoint. "It had everything we were looking for," says Erica. "Warm weather, nightlife, great red wine, and a language we were familiar with since it was our first time traveling out of the country together." Next, the duo ventured off on their honeymoon which consisted of another week in Ibiza to experience the island as newlyweds.
Photography, El Momento Perfecto Fotografo
Event planning, Leila Guillaume, MC2 Mon Amour
Flowers, Antonio Rodriguez
Videography, Fragments Collection
Bride's gown, Bluethread Bridal
Bride's accessories, Bluethread Bridal veil; Lelet NY headpiece; Jewel Badgley Mischka shoes
Groom's suit, BAR III
Groom's shoes, Cole Haan
Bride's Wedding Ring, Natalie Marie Jewellry
Groom's Wedding Ring, Rebecca Overman
Monogrammed shirts, Banana Republic
Party Dress, Zara
Share the Gallery
- Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Might Name Their Daughter After Princess Diana
- This Couple's Intimate Hotel Reception in Washington, D.C., Hinted at Their Future Wedding in Cancun
- Six Women Explain How They Decided to (or Not to) Change Their Last Names After Marriage
- "Queer Eye" Star Tan France and His Husband Rob Are Expecting Their First Child!