On Their Big Day, This Couple Traded a Sit-Down Meal for Gourmet Take-Home Bento Boxes

Bride and groom holding hands
Donna Lam Photography

Though Lillian and Ken grew up and went to college on opposite sides of the country—she is from California, while he calls New Jersey home—the two pharmacists met several times as "a friend of a friend of a friend" at industry conferences. Lillian always thought of Ken as "that good-looking guy," but could never remember his name—until a 2016 networking event, when she finally struck up a conversation with him. "This time, we really hit it off, chatting away for the entire night, talking about everything from music to movies, industry trends, and our career aspirations," she says. At the end of the evening, he put his details in her phone. "That's when I finally knew—and remembered—what his name was." Two years later, on a hike to a mountain shrine while on vacation in Japan, Ken asked another hiker to take a picture of him and Lillian. As she held up the camera, he pulled an engagement ring out of his backpack. "I started crying immediately and don't remember his next words, but I will always remember that beautiful moment," recalls Lillian.

The couple took their time planning a destination event in Los Angeles, choosing a date over 2020's Memorial Day Weekend based on its "lucky" spot on the lunar calendar. In March, however, with the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world, they postponed their big day to September 26. "What we weren't ready for was surge number two," says Lillian. "Because we didn't want to risk the health of our friends and family, Ken and I made the decision to cancel at the end of July." They hoped to hold a smaller celebration at their original venue, but in mid-August, found out that the property wouldn't be able to accommodate them. So, with help from their planner, Candice Yen of Milk Events, they reimagined their entire day—starting with a new venue, The Shakespeare Club of Pasadena. "Rather than chic, modern, contemporary, and 'very L.A.,' this venue was rustic, classically European, and romantic," says Lillian.

On their rescheduled date, Lillian and Ken exchanged vows in front of nine guests during an intimate ceremony, while more than 100 friends and family—including Ken's mother and the bride's maid of honor—watched via Zoom. In-person guests took home bento boxes prepared by a gourmet chef and individually-packaged slices of cake, and sipped single-serving drinks while virtual attendees shared speeches and toasts. "The vision was to have a beautiful wedding for our guests and great food and drink," says Lillian. "We wanted to make it as much of a 'wedding' as possible. Driving home, we honestly felt that it was the most intimate, beautiful experience that we never knew we wanted."

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Her Dream Dress

Bride getting ready in dress
Donna Lam Photography

Lilian's search for the perfect wedding dress took her to multiple cities and through dozens of frocks. "I had tried on 47 dresses at eight different locations, from San Francisco to Fresno to Los Angeles," she says. "I had visited high-end boutiques, set on trying to find something as 'the one'—hopefully at a reasonable price." Shopping with a group of friends and family who couldn't agree on a style left Lillian gown-less, until she stopped into David's Bridal on a whim—alone—and tried on a discontinued sample gown with a lace top, crepe bottom, and high illusion neckline. "I put it on, and without anyone else to contradict me, I bought it," she says.

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Back in Action

Bride and groom walking away
Donna Lam Photography

But when Lillian tried on her gown for alterations, she and the consultant realized the lace back and its line of buttons needed a major makeover. "The back of the dress was a complete mess," says Lillian. "The buttons were not centered down my spine. After weighing the options at two additional fittings, we decided to just cut a keyhole back into the dress, removing the button and lace details that I had so wanted. The dress ended up costing less than what I spent on the alternations, but I was so delighted, since it was truly one-of-a-kind." She added an embellished belt, a borrowed veil, and pearl earrings to the final look.

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Pretty Woman

Bride holding bouquet
Donna Lam Photography

Hair and makeup artist Veronica Lau created Lillian's romantic updo and natural makeup, which, she says, was one of the most seamless parts of the big day. "I had selected Veronica pretty early, simply because I love her hair artistry. On the day of, my makeup was exactly as I wanted and my hair was on point! Loved every second of being dolled up!" she adds

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Their First Look

Bride walking towards groom for first look
Donna Lam Photography

The bride and groom met for their first look in front of the venue's dramatic entrance. "I think we were pretty nervous, mainly because we hadn't choreographed anything special," says Lillian. "I did tap him on the opposite-side shoulder, which did trick him into turning around in the wrong direction. That was cute."

As for the groom's look? Ken chose a timeless black tuxedo with a vest and bow tie from The Black Tux, and wore velvet slip-on loafers.

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Party People

Bridal party posing in greenery
Donna Lam Photography

When Lillian and Ken decided to move forward with their smaller wedding, they invited their bridal party to join them. "Although we had cancelled our big day, we had decided that having at least our best friends attend would be a level of risk that we were ready to take on," says Lillian. Ken's best man wore a gray suit from The Black Tux as planned, and Lillian's bridesmaids wore pink gowns from Birdy Grey and Adrianna Papell. "Originally I was supposed to have five bridesmaids with mix-and-match dresses in various shades of pink, all from different designers," she says. "Only two of the bridesmaids were able to make it, and they both happened to wear the darker shades of pink."

Their bouquets coordinated with Lillian's collection of white-and-blush dahlias, ranunculus, astilbe, bombastic spray roses, and silver dollar eucalyptus from Jasmine Rose.

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06 of 15

Ring Master

Archway with flowers and fountain
Donna Lam Photography

Lillian and Ken wanted a circular floral installation to be the main focus of their ceremony space; it framed a traditional carved fountain and was flanked by smaller arrangements of foliage and grounded blooms.

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Words of Love

Bride and groom exchanging vowes
Donna Lam Photography

The couple had invited one of the bride's close friends to officiate their ceremony, but a last-minute family emergency prevented him from attending. Their wedding planner helped them find Pastor Norman, whose wife had coincidentally officiated Lillian's brother's wedding a few years prior—he led the couple through a personalized service. "We wrote our own vows," says Lillian. "It was more of a reflection upon our time together and what characteristics we loved about each other."

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08 of 15

Tea for Two

Bride and groom tea ceremony with family
Donna Lam Photography

Lillian and Ken also found ways to honor their parents on the big day. "Our tea ceremony was truly unique, because it had a mini unity ceremony in it, as well," says Lillian. "Ken's mom gave us tea from China, while my parents gave us tea from Taiwan. These were to represent where our families were originally from. Then, we mixed the two types of leaves together and steeped the tea together, resembling the unity of our families. We then poured the tea for our parents to enjoy as a sign of respect to our elders."

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The New Mr. and Mrs.

Bride and groom recessional
Donna Lam Photography

Guests tossed flower petals as the jubilant newlyweds left the ceremony as husband and wife.

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Near and Far

TV screen with Zoom participants
Donna Lam Photography

About 100 of the couple's friends and family joined them for the service and speeches on Zoom. "As we got more and more excited about how everything was going as planned, we sent out our Zoom link to our original wedding guest list," says the couple. "With only less than a week notice, we didn't want to pressure our guests into attending. However, we were absolutely surprised and delighted to see so many friends and family dial-in and join us for our special day."

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Bucket of ice with champagne bottles
Donna Lam Photography

A gilded bar cart offered individual servings of Champagne, beer, wine, and sparkling water. "Due to COVID-19, we opted not to have mixed drinks," they say.

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Table for Two

Brie and groom at dinner table
Donna Lam Photography

After the ceremony, Lillian and Ken sat at a sweetheart table in front of their guests for speeches and toasts. Arrangements of roses, dahlias, and eucalyptus decorated the table and area around it, while tall taper candles in gold holders and gold-rimmed glassware added an elegant accent.

Ken's mother and Lillian's maid of honor weren't able to travel to the wedding, so they both gave their speeches over Zoom. "We also asked our guests to share their videos, dress up, and drink to celebrate," says the couple. "Some even went out of their way to get balloons to decorate the background, put up photos of us as their Zoom background, or joined us as they outdoor dined on the East Coast."

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Boxed Up

Bento boxes for guests
Donna Lam Photography

Though they didn't host a full reception, Lillian and Ken sent guests home with custom bento boxes from Chef Hiroo Nagahara, which included grilled Peking duck breast, misoyaki dry aged salmon, striped sea bass nanbanzuke, and jidori tamagoyaki. "It was purposeful to minimize time at the wedding and minimize exposure, and it really turned out to be a special treat because not only was the presentation beautiful, the food was super delicious, as well," says the duo.

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Sweet Stuff

Two-tier white frosted cake
Donna Lam Photography

The couple cut a single-tier buttermilk cake with yuzu and blueberries from Mr. and Mrs. Creamery, and sent guests home with pre-boxed slices to enjoy after their bento meals. "We hear of so many weddings where the bride and groom were constantly on a schedule and never got a chance to sit down to rest," says Lillian and Ken. "However, because we created take-home bento boxes, we actually were able to enjoy our food at home, and actually taste it!"

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Bride and groom cutting the cake
Donna Lam Photography

Photography, Donna Lam Photography
Venue, The Shakespeare Club of Pasadena
Event Planning, Milk Events
Catering, Chef Hiroo Nagahara
Flowers, Jasmine Rose
Pastor Norman Alexander
Mr. and Mrs. Creamery
Jack Hou for TMM Pro
MTB Event Rentals
Bride's Gown,
David's Bridal
Hair and Makeup, Veronica Lau
Bridesmaids' Dresses,
Adrianna Papell; Birdy Grey
The Black Tux
Engagement Ring,

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