This Couple Threw a Chic and Modern Wedding Weekend in Coastal California

whitney zach wedding reception on bluff
Photo: Jose Villa

Sleek white flowers, gold accents, and a few taxidermied animals added to the décor and style of this black-tie, fun-filled wedding.

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whitney zach wedding couple embracing in field
Jose Villa

There's nothing small about the California coastal community of Half Moon Bay. Forty-five minutes south of San Francisco, it's a natural wonderland, with sweeping views of the Pacific; sheer, rocky cliffs; and giant redwoods a few miles inland. It's no wonder, then, that when Zach Jones proposed to Whitney Wildrick on his family ranch there, he went big. Zach, who works in private equity, designed a "Will You Marry Me?" sign 12 feet tall and 100 feet long. He lit up the letters and installed them on a cliff. Then he lured Whitney to the beach. "He said, 'Oh—you think that's for you?'" she says of spotting the sign. "But then he got down on one knee. Obviously, I said yes."

Whitney, who works in fashion merchandising, met Zach in 2011. She was visiting Las Vegas with family, including a cousin who ran into Zach, a friend from college. The two felt an immediate connection. Afterward, he left for a work trip, but "I couldn't wait two weeks to see her," he says. "I flew back after three days for a date." Six years later, the San Francisco–based pair married on the same property where he'd popped the question. The setting was incomparable, and it fit the desired vibe: "We didn't want a really traditional, feminine wedding," she says. "One of my favorite aesthetics is a great old Scotch bar. It was grounded in that warmth." Planner and designer Laurie Arons and floral and event designer Mindy Rice helped set the mood for the elaborate gathering.

Nearly every guest stayed in Half Moon Bay, even those who lived nearby. The weekend began with a toga-party rehearsal dinner in the woods. A costumed rehearsal celebration is a tradition in Whitney's family, and it suited the couple's personality. "Zach and I will show up to a dinner party in costume, just for fun," says Whitney. The dress code wasn't optional, so to underscore it they added a "toga inspiration" tab on their website and included an emergency toga kit in each welcome bag. At the party, the nearly 200 guests received "welcome shooters" and laurel crowns. Dinner included turkey legs (which the couple insisted guests eat with their hands), plus pita bread and vegetables served family-style. "We didn't want it to feel fancy," says Whitney.

The wedding itself, the next day, was held a few miles away (via a meandering coastal road), on a bluff over-looking the water—at least, it overlooks the water when the sky is clear. Zach had warned his fiancée about the unpredictable weather along the coast, but she wasn't concerned. "I said, 'It won't be foggy, I know it won't,'" recalls Whitney. The dense fog as the day began tested her optimism—but not for long. The bride made her entrance at the ceremony site standing in a vintage Model A fire truck, her grandfather in the passenger seat, future father-in-law at the wheel. As they made their way across the field, then parked and walked the long, winding wooden path to the waiting guests, the fog began to lift. "It burned off faster than I've ever seen it," says Zach. Right on cue, Mother Nature delivered—in a big way.

Watch Whitney and Zach's wedding film by Forward Motion Production.

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Save the Date

whitney zach wedding save the dates
Jose Villa

The couple's save-the-date was created by Amber Moon Design and calligraphed by Barbara Callow and featured photographs of Zach's cliff-top proposal sign. Zach has an engineering background, so designing the giant proposal was in his wheelhouse. He sent plans to a Silicon Valley fabrication shop and, four months later, trucked the letters to the ranch. When installing them, he found himself in a race against time. "I realized that once I got them up, this could show up on social media," he said. So he worked as quickly as he could (it took him 36 hours), then surprised Whitney with a midweek proposal.

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The Stationery Suite

whitney zach wedding stationery suite hawk motif
Jose Villa

Amber Moon Design created the stationery suite, too, and used a hawk motif—inspired by the family property, Seahawk Ranch—which appeared on the bags as well as other details throughout the celebration. Calligraphy by Curlique Designs softened it up a bit.

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Welcome to the Wedding Weekend

whitney zach wedding welcome bag gin tonic cookies pashminas
Jose Villa

Welcome tote bags held "survival" supplies like gin and tonic and hors d'oeuvres kits, Zach's mom's walnut–chocolate chip cookies, and cozy pashminas.

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Setting the Scene

whitney zach rehearsal dinner sunset in forest lake
Jose Villa

The rehearsal dinner took place among the redwoods on the wooded property.

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Into the Woods

whitney zach rehearsal dinner toga party couple
Jose Villa

Whitney and Zach greeted their guests in full toga regalia for the rehearsal dinner. The hands-on toga-party meal was just the start of a memorable weekend of eating.

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Double Duty

whitney zach rehearsal dinner bar hut
Jose Villa

A small guardhouse was lined with candles and repurposed as a bar.

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Party Prep

whitney zach rehearsal dinner bar tables on bridge
Jose Villa

Cocktail tables and a bar were set up at on a wooded bridge at the rehearsal dinner venue. Although it was held in a wooded area, the roads, bridges, and clearings in this location made for easy access and convenient gathering spaces. "It was a perfect setting for a toga party," says planner Laurie Arons.

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Find Your Seat

whitney zach rehearsal dinner greenery crowns
Jose Villa

Crowns of laurel, with paper tags inscribed for each guest, took the place of escort cards.

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Ready to Dine

whitney zach rehearsal dinner place setting greens
Jose Villa

Rustic wooden dinner tables were adorned with olive and bay-leaf garlands; napkins weredyed a mossy green with plant extracts.

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Natural Touches

whitney zach rehearsal dinner long tables woods
Jose Villa

Goblets and sheepskin-lined benches added to the authentic mood of the evening.

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Guests in Character

whitney zach rehearsal dinner toga guests
Jose Villa

Friends of the bride and groom, John Flinn and Maura Burk, got into the spirit of the party.

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Staying Warm

whitney zach rehearsal dinner toga party guests woods
Jose Villa

Zach, aware that the temperature drops in the evening, made it a priority to keep guests warm with heaters and cloaks at the woodland dinner party.

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A Grand Entrance

whitney zach rehearsal dinner wooded arch
Jose Villa

An arch between two towering trees formed the entrance to the clearing where guests were greeted at the start of the party. "The setting is so magical," says Whitney. "You drive down the coast, then up a hill and into private property that's in the middle of a redwood forest. Everyone loved it."

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The Bride and Groom

whitney zach wedding couple embracing in field bride laughing
Jose Villa

On the big day, Whitney and Zach shared a laugh on the walkway that led to their ceremony site. The bride loved her Mira Zwillinger gown for its sparkle and the ease of its silhouette. ("I could actually move and dance!" she says.) The groom wore a tux from Brioni.

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A Winding Path

whitney zach wedding guests walking down wooden path in field
Jose Villa

The groomsmen walked honored guests down the long wooden walkway to the ceremony site. Here, Tyler Moore accompanies Eve Wildrick, mother of the bride.

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The Ceremony Programs

whitney zach wedding programs in wooden box
Jose Villa

Programs set out in trays bore the couple's signature hawk motif.

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Tying the Knot

whitney zach wedding ceremony in field
Jose Villa

A 250-foot walkway and a platform were built for the ceremony by Zach's dad, in a field overlooking the water. Native wildflower seeds were sowed over the ten acres of field just for the occasion.

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Dressed to Impress

whitney zach wedding bridesmaids black strapless dresses
Jose Villa

Whitney's sister Remy (to the right of the bride) was her maid of honor; a cousin and good friends made up the rest of her party.

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The Bridal Bouquet

whitney zach wedding bride bouquet white peonies
Jose Villa

The bride carried a bouquet of white peonies and sweet peas by Mindy Rice. Of her Mira Zwillinger dress, Whitney said, "I am definitely not a blingy person, but the shine of this dress felt sophisticated, and classic in its own right."

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A Tent with a View

whitney zach wedding reception on bluff
Jose Villa

Guests were shuttled from the ceremony to the reception site, where a tent was set up on a bluff. The decking and tent were placed to maximize views. "We lit up Shark Tooth Rock [bottom left]," says Zach. "Once the sun went down, you could hear waves and see a little of the beach, but the lights on the rock gave a focal point."

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Signature Sips

whitney zach wedding cocktails gin and creme de violette
Jose Villa

"Aviation"—a classic cocktail made with gin and crème de violette—was one of the two signature drinks.

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Small Bites

whitney zach wedding appetizer blini with caviar
Jose Villa

Blini with caviar were among the passed hors d'oeuvres at cocktail hour.

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Wild Décor

whitney zach wedding escort card wall taxidermy zebra
Jose Villa

Besides old-school Scotch bars, Whitney also referenced Out of Africa for décor inspiration. Mindy Rice sourced taxidermied wildlife, like this zebra on the escort-card wall, from a vintage collection originally used in 1920s Hollywood films.

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Escort Keepsakes

whitney zach wedding couple escort cards vintage keychains
Jose Villa

Vintage brass keychains, with round brass tags attached noting table numbers, were mounted on calligraphed cards and attached to the doors of the barn at the reception site. "We loved the idea of not only incorporating brass," says Whitney, "but using an escort card that people could actually take home with them as a memento."

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Please Be Seated

whitney zach wedding dinner round tables gold chairs
Jose Villa

After cocktail hour on the deck, everyone was invited into the tent for dinner. "Honestly, Paula LeDuc is the greatest caterer," gushes Whitney. "They made every vision we had come to life!" Wedding-food highlights included cocktail-hour nibbles such as ahi tuna cones; a hearty chicken Milanese for dinner—which was an homage to the couple's favorite San Francisco restaurant, Garibaldis; and multiple rounds of late-night snacks, such as fiery chicken bites (Zach's favorite), ice cream cones, and—in a nod to Whitney's family roots in Philadelphia—mini Schmitter sandwiches, the specialty of a bar called McNally's Tavern. "They even shipped in Amoroso's rolls from Philly to ensure they were right."

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Quite the Setup

whitney zach wedding menu on plate gold flatware
Jose Villa

Dinner tables were set in black with gold accents and white blooms. Centerpieces of varying sizes featured arabacum, duchess peonies, fringed tulips, and gardenias.

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Song and Dance

whitney zach wedding band singing
Jose Villa

"We just wanted it to be rockin'… . We started slow, with the first dance, and pivoted to Earth, Wind & Fire's 'September.' That got everyone going," says Whitney of choosing the music for the reception.

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Animal House

whitney zach wedding taxidermy moose
Jose Villa

This moose was just one of the 12 taxidermied animals sourced for the reception.

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Party Time

whitney zach wedding guests dancing confetti
Jose Villa

Dinner and dancing morphed into a full-on party. The bride, in a shorter second dress by Zimmermann and a jean jacket with "Mrs. Jones" embroidered on the back, had a blast as confetti flew.

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Sweet Endings

whitney zach wedding cake gold with birds
Jose Villa

A simple vanilla wedding cake was cut at 11 p.m., just before the late-night revelry began.

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whitney zach wedding couple holding hands in field
Jose Villa

Rehearsal-dinner location, The Island Farm

Event planning and design, Laurie Arons Special Events

Catering, Paula LeDuc Fine Catering & Events

Floral and event design, Mindy Rice Design

Photography, Jose Villa

Videography, Forward Motion Production

Officiant, Saral Burdette

Stationery, Amber Moon Design

Calligraphy, Curlicue Designs Calligraphy; Barbara Callow Calligraphy (save-the-dates)

Cake, Perfect Endings

Music, Erica Messer (rehearsal-dinner harpist); Synchronicity Strings (ceremony); JB Project (reception); DJ Damage (late night)

Tent and dance floor, Hensley Event Resources

Rentals, Bright Event Rentals; La Tavola Fine Linen; Theoni Collection

Bride's gown and veil, Mira Zwillinger

Bride's accessories, David Birnbaum engagement ring, wedding band, and rehearsal-dinner necklace; Tiffany & Co. bracelet; Yves Saint Laurent shoes

Hair, Alex Talon

Makeup, Liza Zaretsky

Hair and makeup, Rebecca & Veronica for Artists by Sherrie Long

Bridesmaids' dresses, Alfred Sung

Groom's tuxedo, bow tie, shirt, and shoes, Brioni

Lighting, Illusions Lighting Design

Transportation, Bauer's Intelligent Transportation

Day-of clothing specialist, Heidi and Violet Johnson of the Wedding DeTailor

Bride's rehearsal-dinner dress, J. Mendel

Groom's rehearsal-dinner outfit (authentic centurion cuirass costume), La Wren's Nest

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