This Couple—Who Threw a Whimsical Tented Event in California—Wins for Most Creative Seating Chart
Plenty of couples meet for the first time over a drink, but for second year UCLA law students Caroline and Drew, the story had an unexpected twist: A mutual friend introduced them for the first time at a school water fountain. "We were friends for a while until Caroline got the courage to ask Drew out to tacos in February," says the couple. "A four-hour meal later and the rest is history."
A little more than two years later, Drew planned a trip to an off-the-grid yurt resort in Big Sur as Caroline's Christmas gift. During an eight-mile-long hike in the redwood forest, he offered up one more surprise: a proposal. "It was so personal, intimate, and perfectly us," says Caroline. "We were able to enjoy the first 24 hours of our engagement as just the two of us before heading back into civilization and cell service."
Caroline and Drew chose the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe in Rancho Santa Fe, California, as the site of their weekend-long celebration for 165 guests, the highlight of which was their wedding ceremony on April 13, 2019. "We wanted our wedding to be a relaxing and enjoyable vacation for all of our family friends, most of whom had to travel all the way from the east coast and Nashville," says the couple. "The Inn was the perfect place—it's very intimate, quintessentially Southern Californian and gave our guests the opportunity to bond throughout the weekend." As for the most poignant, true-to-them touch? Their water pipe seating chart, which paid homage to that fateful first meeting near the fountain.
Drew and Caroline's invitation suite from The Idea Emporium brought together their pastel color scheme with blue letterpress text on a white cotton paper card, a yellow chinois floral liner, and a custom-designed blush envelope. "We incorporated cherry blossoms throughout our invitations and day of paper," says Caroline. "They played along with the spring color palette in shades of blush, sage, and touches of gold."
A Pop of Color
Caroline's mother and 94-year-old grandmother joined her for a "whirlwind few days" of wedding dress shopping in New York and Connecticut. "It was so important to have both of them there with me during this experience," she says. Though she tried on a variety of gowns from multiple designers, she found herself especially drawn to designs from Mira Zwillinger—like the lace fit-and-flare with hand-embroidered flowers that she ultimately chose. "I fell in love with Mira Zwillinger's feminine and ethereal style and I loved the hand-embroidered detailing," Caroline says. She finished her look with diamond-and-pearl earrings from Loren Stewart and red open-toe heels from Stuart Weitzman. "We kept it very simple," she says.
Beauty in Blooms
Caroline requested a "loose and organic bouquet" from florist Plenty of Petals, who chose delicate blooms in shades of white, cream, blush, and yellow.
Each of Caroline's bridesmaids chose her own gown in shades of sage green to complement the pink, blue, and yellow color scheme. "They were able to pick whatever dress they wanted," says Caroline. "I wanted them all to feel comfortable and remain true to themselves."
After dressing with her bridesmaids and family, Caroline's grandmother came in for a private first look with her granddaughter. "I'm the first of her six grandchildren to get married so it was such an important moment," says Caroline. Ahma—the family's name for their grandmother—also walked down the aisle with Caroline's two brothers at the beginning of the ceremony. "Ahma was beaming as she walked down the aisle," says Caroline. "The videos and the pictures are so important to us and it was such an honor to have her so prominent during our day."
Their First Look
Caroline and Drew met before the ceremony for portraits and a few moments alone. "We were both nervous before the first look but so excited to see each other," says Caroline. "The moment I saw Drew, I felt immediately at ease and all of my nerves went away. It was a great reminder that the day was our day and we were in it together."
A mild case of kennel cough meant the couple's goldendoodle puppy, Barry, couldn't keep his boarding appointment for the wedding weekend—so he joined the couple for photos before the festivities began. "We're so thankful he was there," says Caroline. "Turns out, he knows how to find the camera! It was so wonderful and important to us to spend a few minutes just the two of us—and Barry!—before the day began."
Drew chose a blue, two-button suit from SuitSupply, and requested that the men—and woman—in his party wear similar gray suits. White shirts, brown leather shoes, and matching ties and pocket squares created a cohesive look that still allowed the groom to stand out.
Back Up Backdrops created a gold, birdcage-inspired structure that acted as a focal point for the couple's ceremony. Loosely draped garlands of leaves and flowers surrounded the couple as they exchanged vows.
In the Garden
Pastel floral arrangements—meant to mimic flowers growing naturally up from the ground—lined the aisle created by rows of white bentwood chairs.
He Said, She Said
Caroline's twin brothers wrote and officiated the ceremony, which included vows that Caroline and Drew penned themselves. "The vows were completely original and very true to us," says Caroline. "We didn't talk about what each of us would be saying beforehand, but it was incredible just how similar the tone and sentiment were. It showed how much we had come to know each other in our relationship and both of us cried while the other read their vows. Such a highlight!"
So Happy Together
As guests continued on to the cocktail hour, Caroline and Drew changed their mind about attending, choosing instead to extend their portrait session. "We're glad we did, as those are some of the best photos we have and it was so wonderful to spend a few moments together before the party began," says Caroline.
A custom escort wall offered a cheeky nod to the couple's meeting spot by incorporating the idea of "running water."
Follow the Pipe
Throughout the display, pieces of copper piping included guests' names and table numbers, while a colorful arrangement of flowers and greenery softened the industrial vibe.
Up in the Air
A large sailcloth tent created a cozy, elegant atmosphere for the couple's dinner reception, where fringed chandeliers decorated with leaves and vines hung overhead. Caroline and Drew opted to seat their guests at a mix of long and round tables paired with a variety of different chairs.
Mix and Match
Round tables were dressed with pale ivory velvet linens, while yellow chiffon runners added a luxurious element to the wooden tables. Chair fabrics included sage-colored velvet, blush, and white.
The couple chose two different place settings for their tables: Lilac plates with gold flatware and blush-colored glassware, and sage plates with gold flatware and gold-edged glassware. Napkins in coral or gold were set under custom gold-foiled menus.
Warm and Cozy
To one side of the dance floor, comfortable lounge furniture gave guests a spot to sit and recharge during the reception. "To commemorate Caroline's Chinese roots, we had blankets made to keep people warm during the cool spring evening that were embroidered with the Chinese symbol of luck and good fortune," says the couple.
Having Their Cake
A black tie and mixed almond berry cake from Hey There, Cupcake stood on a marble and brass table, while a colorful chinoiserie background incorporated the pastels of the couple's color palette.
Bite-sized sweets on the dessert table—including mini cheesecakes, cream puffs, and panna cotta—helped guests keep their energy up for a night of celebrating.
After taking their first married spin to "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" by Diana Ross & The Supremes and The Temptations, Caroline and Drew chose a shared parent dance, asking The Half Moons to play Barry White's "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" for the sweet moment. "They were an exceptional funk band and kept the dance floor packed all night," says the couple.
Photography, Feather & Stone
Venue and Catering, Inn at Rancho Santa Fe
Wedding Planning and Event Design, Amorology
Flowers, Plenty of Petals
Videography, Quixotic Pictures
Stationery, Idea Emporium
Calligraphy, Miss Multee
Cake, Hey There, Cupcake
Music, Dart Collective
Rentals, Folklore; Backup Backdrops; BBJ Linens; Casa De Perrin; Hostess Haven
Bride's Gown, Mira Zwillinger
Bride's Accessories, Stuart Weitzman (shoes); Loren Stewart (earrings)
Hair, 901 Salon
Makeup, Ashley Fierro
Groom's Attire, Suit Supply
Lighting and Tent, Bright Event Rentals