A Christmas Wedding Sans the Clichés in San Diego, California

wedding couple kiss in front of giant christmas tree
Cavin Elizabeth

Almost seven years after Bonny and James met in medical school, he proposed during a chilly morning walk in the Boston Public Gardens. "I remember there were random things around that day like people passed out under the bridge, a guy practicing mime, squirrels fighting," says Bonny. "James kept making me wander around the gardens and I didn't realize why until he found the right spot to kneel and propose."

As the couple began to envision their dream wedding, they landed on two key elements: a location near the water—they both grew up in California and love the beach—and an atmosphere that incorporated the feeling of the Christmas season without the clichés. "I love Christmas!" says Bonny. "It's the happiest holiday for me and I love all the joy, memories, and warmth surrounding it. So when we decided on a December wedding, I was playing with the idea of a holiday-inspired theme. I wanted the charm of the season, but I didn't want it to be kitschy or overplayed."

With help from their planners at Amorology, Bonny and James saw their vision come to life at their 100-guest wedding on December 7, 2019, at L'Auberge Del Mar in San Diego, California. A frosty color palette of icy blue, snowy white, and blue-toned greens—accented by juniper berries and woodland deer figures—created a sophisticated winter wonderland ambience, while a "Past, Present, Future" theme incorporated iconic elements from A Christmas Carol. Victorian-costumed carolers, gingerbread house table numbers, and escort card tags attached to wrapped gifts allowed the season to inspire the event without overwhelming it. "I also wanted to emphasize the culmination of our journey as a couple over the last seven years," says Bonny, "as we went from students to doctors, from friends to lovers, to become life partners."

01 of 22

Extending an Olive Branch

elegant simple wedding invitations
Cavin Elizabeth

An invitation suite from Color and Creation mixed a casual script font with a more formal block text. "We had an olive leaf motif in our wax seals, just because we liked the symbolism," says Bonny.

02 of 22

All for One

bride holding elegant white floral bouquet
Cavin Elizabeth

Bonny chose her Viero wedding dress with off-the-shoulder lace straps and an illusion back after several rounds of virtual shopping with the women in her family. "I wasn't able to take my mom and sister with me for dress shopping since we lived on opposite coasts at the time, so we would Facetime each other during my dress shopping and this was the dress that we could all agree on," she says. Though she planned to add a veil that she had borrowed from one of her bridesmaids, she ended up going without it: "With the last-minute rain and everything going on, we all completely forgot to put it on me during the actual ceremony!" she says. "While I wish I would have gotten the chance to wear it, I was very honored that she wanted to let me borrow her veil in the first place."

Her loosely-gathered bouquet from Siren Floral Co. included white ranunculus, ivory majolica spray roses, white stock, Queen Anne's lace, white anemone, and white lisianthus, all set off by blue-green vines and leaves.

03 of 22

'Maids in the Mist

bridesmaids in pastel blue dresses
Cavin Elizabeth

Her five bridesmaids wore icy blue gowns—a color called Morning Mist—by Jenny Yoo from BHLDN. "My sister fell in love with the dress and chose the style and color," says Bonny.

04 of 22

Perfectly On-Palette

close up of white and blue wedding bouquets
Cavin Elizabeth

Lamb's ear in the bridesmaids' bouquets perfectly matched their frosty gowns.

05 of 22

Black and Blue

groomsmen in black with bowties
Cavin Elizabeth

James chose a classic black Armani tuxedo, which he wore with a black bow tie and black shoes. His groomsmen also wore black, but added a festive touch with bright bow ties that coordinated with the day's color scheme.

06 of 22

Under the Christmas Tree

bride tapping groom's shoulder for first look in front of christmas tree
Cavin Elizabeth

The couple met for their first look outside the venue, where a massive Christmas tree decorated with red, blue, silver, and gold ornaments created an on-theme backdrop. "When I saw James, he looked at me with this happy smile and I felt grounded knowing that we'd been looking forward to this for so long and that day was actually here," says Bonny.

07 of 22

Weather (or Not)

wedding ceremony circular floral arch
Cavin Elizabeth

Bonny and James planned for an outdoor ceremony, but the weather forced them inside at the last minute—after their team had already set up the white cross-back chairs, towering aisle arrangements, and oversized circle arch outside. "We felt so lucky Amorology and Siren Floral Co. were able to get the ceremony all set up and ready for James and I to take photos in front of before having to move inside for the actual ceremony," says Bonny.

08 of 22

Grounded Florals

white floral arrangements at base of ceremony chairs
Cavin Elizabeth

Grounded delphinium and hydrangea arrangements flanked the final row of chairs, a look that was recreated when the ceremony shifted inside.

09 of 22

Ring Masters

wedding couple kiss in front of circular floral arch
Cavin Elizabeth

Bonny's father walked her to the altar, where the couple exchanged vows in front of a gold circle backdrop wrapped with green-and-white floral arrangements. "We didn't want it to be religious, but the officiant—picked out by my dad—went off on an unscripted, very religious, meandering tangent," says Bonny. "The lesson here is this: Make sure to vet your officiant personally. They are more important than you might think, even if you're writing your own vows."

10 of 22

In Their Own Words

vow books with torn edges and festive greenery
Cavin Elizabeth

The couple wrote their own vows, but nearly missed their chance to read them after their officiant began improvising. "He had pretty much finished up the entire ceremony, declared us man and wife, and even made some family introductions before my mom gestured to us bewilderedly holding our notes to remind him we still had not read our vows," says Bonny. "[It was] horrific at the time, but now we can laugh about it. And I still get jokes about it from my friends and family, so it's definitely a memory we'll never forget."

11 of 22

A Novel Idea

a christmas carol wedding guest book
Cavin Elizabeth

A copy of the novel that inspired the wedding's theme served as a guest book, while small woodland deer figures paired with evergreen boughs gave the reception décor a wintry feel. "We also had a small sign that invited guests to share a memory of the past, a love for the present or a wish for the future," says Bonny.

12 of 22

Present Company

wedding seating chart tiny gift boxes
Cavin Elizabeth

Back Up Backdrops built an escort wall that read, "No time like the present," adding colorful wrapped gifts around the text.

13 of 22

Find Your Gift

gift wrapped wedding seating chart boxes
Cavin Elizabeth

Small boxes wrapped in brown or white paper were tagged with guest's names to serve as escort cards. "[They] held gingerbread cookies iced with their table number seating assignments," says Bonny. "It was a fun, unexpected way to have guests eat their way to their tables!"

14 of 22

Musical Notes

wedding carolers in christmas garb
Cavin Elizabeth

An unexpected dash of holiday cheer came from a group of Victorian-costumed carolers, who performed at the end of the cocktail hour. "It was such a sweet moment and gave our guests a fun element of surprise!" says Bonny.

15 of 22

Blue Mood

long blue wedding tables with matching velvet chairs
Cavin Elizabeth

Textural blue cloths and chairs set the scene for a winter wonderland inside the reception room, where guests dined on a salad of field greens with cranberries and spiced pecans; blood orange sorbet; and Burgundy-marinated short ribs, fennel-glazed salmon, or butternut squash ravioli.

16 of 22

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

elegant white floral bouquets on blue wedding reception table
Cavin Elizabeth

White flowers, winter greenery, and juniper berries sat in low vessels along the pale blue cloths, with simple taupe plates, gold flatware, and fringed napkins at each place setting. "The menu said 'A Joyful Feast'—which was a nod to 'A Christmas Carol'—with a quote on the backside that read, 'A feast is a wonderful thing, but only if one has loved ones with whom to share,' from Charles Dickens."

17 of 22

Winter Woodland

little fawn figurine on reception table
Cavin Elizabeth

Tiny woodland creatures brought intrigue to each station.

18 of 22

Home Sweet Home

elegant blue table setting with decorative gingerbread houses and candles
Cavin Elizabeth

Hey There, Cupcake iced scripted table numbers onto tiny gingerbread houses, surrounded by berries and branches.

19 of 22

Blue and White Delight

elegant wedding cake with blue base layer and modern decor
Cavin Elizabeth

A three-tier almond raspberry cake from Hey There, Cupcake featured a blue-gray, velvet-textured finish on the bottom layer, and snowy white frosting accented by branches and florals on the top.

20 of 22

A Nod to Tradition

wedding paebaek ceremony with red and blue table and cushions
Cavin Elizabeth

Bonny and James incorporated a traditional paebaek ceremony into their reception in honor of their Korean culture.

21 of 22

Piggyback Ride

bride and groom during paebaek ceremony
Cavin Elizabeth

"Our parents gave us advice for marriage and at the end, James had to piggyback carry me out of the room," says Bonny. "Our costumes were surprisingly weighty, each with multiple layers of fabric, and I'm no Tinkerbell, so I was concerned that he wouldn't be able to pull it off."

After the ceremony, the couple's DJ from Valentine Entertainment took over, incorporating interactive games into the night. "We had bought a bunch of prizes ranging from gift cards to air fryers to Nespresso machines for the DJ/MC to pass out during his games," says Bonny. "It's a Korean thing, we need dinner and a show." But one of the couple's favorite memories of the reception was simply hitting the dance floor together. "Believe it or not we've never gone dancing together," says Bonny. "This was our first time just dancing with each other."

22 of 22


couple posing with bride's white buttoned wedding dress displayed
Cavin Elizabeth

Photography, Cavin Elizabeth
Venue and Catering, L'auberge Del Mar
Wedding Planning and Event Design, Amorology
Flowers, Siren Floral Co.
Stationery, Color & Creation
Cake, Hey There, Cupcake
Music, Valentine Entertainment
Rentals, BBJ Linen; Borrowed Blu; Bright Event Rentals; Folkore; Hostess Haven
Bride's Gown, Viero Bridal
Makeup, Eva Kim
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Jenny Yoo for BHLDN
Groom's Tuxedo, Armani
Backdrops, Back Up Backdrops
Paper Goods, Four Things Paper

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles