A French-Inspired Wedding for Two at a Private California Estate
Hanna and James grew up together in a small town in rural northern Michigan; they met in grade school and dated on and off throughout the years before going their separate ways for college. But they kept in touch—and when Hanna, who was based in Chicago at the time, visited James in Hawaii come 2017, they picked up exactly where they left off. Two years later, when they were back home visiting family in Michigan, James asked Hanna's parents for her hand in marriage. A few months after that, on March 17, 2020, the couple took a scenic weekend drive along La Jolla's shoreline in California. They were relaxing in the back of their Jeep and taking in the ocean views when James proposed with his grandmother's engagement ring.
Just days after the proposal, the world turned upside-down: California began implementing stay-at-home orders and restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And while Hanna and James initially envisioned inviting up to 100 guests to their home in Southern California or to their favorite vacation spot in Vancouver for a larger celebration in the not-too-distant future, they quickly realized those dreams weren't possible given the current climate. By June, they decided to to shift their expectations, acknowledging that guests simply would not be able to travel from Hawaii or the East Coast to attend their wedding—not any time soon, at least.
Instead, they eloped. A friend connected them with wedding planner Dani Blasena of HauteFêtes and, together, they quickly made their preparations. Hanna and James toured Bastide de Bonheur, a French-inspired private estate in Rancho Santa Fe, California, and loved the fact that they could get married outside. "It was so beautiful and elevated—the setting felt perfect for a wedding," Hanna says.
"We did not want to overcomplicate the day," the bride says. "It was important for us to not feel rushed on the day and to create an atmosphere where we felt relaxed so we could appreciate and take everything in!"
The duo still wanted their big day to feel like a wedding—even one sans guests—so the location was key. Bastide de Bonheur, a private estate in Rancho Santa Fe, offered separate wings for the bride and groom (so they could get ready separately); ultimately, its European-inspired design inspired the majority of the big-day décor, too. "We didn't deliberately set a theme, but rather allowed the European feel of the property to dictate the color palette and overall sensibility of the day," says planner Dani Blasena of HauteFêtes.
The Perfect Fit
Effortless with feminine details: that is what Hanna had in mind while she shopped for wedding dresses. When she tried on the ivory lace "Hart" gown by Grace Loves Lace—featuring thin straps, a fitted silhouette, and a mermaid skirt—it met those expectations and made sense within the context of their venue. "I remember the song 'You Are the Best Thing' by Ray LaMontagne was playing while I was trying on dresses—which ultimately was the song we chose to listen to while we enjoyed cake on our wedding day!" Hanna says.
Hanna accessorized her gown with large pearl hoop earrings and anklets, also from Grace Loves Lace. She brought along a tailored white blazer to wear over her dress in the evening, when the weather got cooler.
Hanna held an unstructured bouquet filled with distant drum, koko loko, and bolero garden roses, ranunculus, antique hydrangea, and jasmine vine in shades of mauve, dusty rose, ivory, and green. The arrangement was created by Plenty of Petals.
The groom got ready in his wing of the estate, in a room filled with intricate crown molding and antiques.
James went with a classic look: a black suit with a white shirt, accented with a crisp bow tie. A boutonnière, composed of a taupe rose bud with seasonal foliage and pieris wrapped together in a mauve ribbon, later completed his ensemble.
Under the Arch
Their intimate ceremony took place on the property's lawn, where a wooden platform served as an altar. A lush floral arch, embellished with garden roses, antique hydrangea, ranunculus, ruscus, and olive branches, marked the spot of their vow exchange.
At the Ready
The couple wanted a service that incorporated religious elements and honored their relationship. "We chose an officiant that we felt would create a ceremony that reflected our spiritual and Christian beliefs," the couple says. "Our parents submitted readings and blessings to be read during the ceremony, as well."
Hanna and James' Custom Crafted vow books were tied with a soft blush ribbon that matched the one wrapped around the bride's bouquet.
Tying the Knot
After Hanna made her way down the aisle to the tune of "The Ludlows" by James Horner from Legends of the Fall, the couple exchanged personal vows in front of just their photographer, planner, and officiant. Though family couldn't be present, Hanna kept her loved ones close: She carried a locket from her mother and her grandmother's heirloom pendant. "While COVID kept our family from being there in person, it was meaningful to have our parents' contributions and reminders of them throughout the day," Hanna says.
Cocktail Hour for Two
Dani set up a silver tray and a vintage French Champagne bucket so the newlyweds could share a toast after their nuptials.
James' mother continued a family tradition by gifting the couple Champagne flutes and a cake serving set for them to use on their wedding day.
Their five inch lemon-lavender cake by Hey There, Cupcake was frosted with buttercream and embellished with fresh flowers. The confection was placed on top of a custom silk fringed tablecloth and served on blue-and-white French china plates.
The cake cutting took place inside the main house against the backdrop of a silk painting—and just as the couple made the first cut, confetti exploded overhead (another surprise courtesy of Dani).
A First Dance
By the pool, illuminated by bistro lights overhead and candlelit wooden lanterns on the patio, Hanna and James shared their first dance to "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Elvis Presley. "We wanted a timeless song," Hanna says. "Something that had a New York-classic feel, and a song that we can dance to throughout our lives and be reminded of our wedding day." She considers the tune her "something borrowed," too, since her friend—who had eloped the week prior—spun to the same one after her own ceremony.
After the newlyweds left their venue, they returned to their hotel for dinner and ultimately decided to stay dressed in their big-day attire. The guitarist at the restaurant noticed them and asked them to share their first dance song: They were able to sway to it again, in front of a small audience this time.
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