This Couple Won an Elopement Giveaway and Tied the Knot Cliffside in Big Sur, California
Jessica and Brian met in October 2007, when she was visiting his high school on a school exchange trip for the day. When she first laid eyes on Brian, she mentioned to her friend that she thought the guy in the red shirt was cute. But when her friend dragged her over to him and introduced her with, "This is my friend Jess and she thinks you're cute," the embarrassing moment turned into what they both consider love at first sight. The pair rang in the new year with their first kiss, and later that year Brian moved away for college. The two spent six years in a long-distance relationship they finished their studies, and were thrilled to finally move to the Bay Area together in 2017.
After 11 years of dating, Brian decided to plan a special proposal while the couple was vacationing in Barcelona; he popped the question on an early morning hike as the couple watched the sunrise. The high school sweethearts immediately began preparing for a semi-formal countryside wedding with 150 guests (Jessica even started checking out venues while still on vacation!). But when COVID-19 hit the States, the couple knew they needed to come up with a Plan B, and postponed their big day a year.
That didn't, however, stop the couple from wanting to get married sooner rather than later. So in August, Jessica entered them into the Unveiled Bliss and Paige Vaughn Photo elopement giveaway—and a week later, they found out that they won. "This amazing vendor team did (quick!) magic, and eight short weeks later, Brian and I were standing cliffside in Carmel-by-the-Sea saying 'I do' to forever!" the bride shares. The all-women team surprised the duo with a celebration deviated entirely from their big wedding's design scheme—a welcome change of pace. And with just their parents in attendance, the couple knew their tiny event was incredibly special.
"As California natives, this was exactly what we pictured a dreamy elopement to be like—with the Pacific Ocean as the most breathtaking backdrop," Jessica and Brian say of the Carmel-by-the-Sea locale.
Though virtually all of their big-day design details were a surprise, the duo told their team that they wanted their elopement to feel more whimsical than the big, classic wedding they are planning down the line. So, Ashley Duhon of Model Paper created a custom-sized suite featuring modern typography and bold colors, while maintaining a minimal aesthetic. "Keeping with the theme of unconventionality, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to spice up the envelope with a fun geometric shape!" Ashley says. Envelope liners, dressed up with a watercolor Japanese tile pattern, were the finishing touch—and she also created a map of the Northern California coast to serve as a keepsake for the couple.
A Simple Frock
Jessica's original wedding dress is heavy with intricate details, so she wanted to wear a lighter ensemble for the elopement. Her choice? A simple spaghetti strap gown from Lulus that allowed her to show off her accessories; keeping the wind in mind, she went with a pearl-studded cape from PRIM + PRAIRIE in lieu of a veil. As part of the gifted elopement, Jessica was loaned a bezel-set diamond bracelet, diamond earrings, and a baguette diamond ring for the big day.
She chose blue Jimmy Choo shoes, playing off the day's ocean-inspired color palette.
Jessica held a lush bouquet featuring French lace and honey dijon garden roses, white ranunculus, pale yellow scabiosa, and bunny tails. Allie Loy, the florist at Bloomwell & CO. decided not to use any greenery—she let the garden roses and surrounding scenery take center stage.
Groom in Blue
Brian wore a muted blue tuxedo from The Black Tux, paired with velvet loafers and a black bow tie. He finished his look with a watch that Jessica gave him on their first dating anniversary in 2009.
His boutonnière featured a white garden rose, bunny tails, and dried pepperweed.
Jessica and Brian shared a first look overlooking the Pacific Ocean. "We both couldn't believe this was finally happening after such an up-and-down year," Jessica says. "It was super special to experience, even though we were eloping!" The couple shared a moment of laughter and a big hug and kiss before heading back up the pathway to their ceremony site.
Cliffside, Like Cabo
Their ceremony took place on the cliffside, so the overall design was inspired by the beauty and laid-back vibe of the locale. The duo spends a lot of time in Cabo, Mexico, so the vendor team thought the rock formations at the service site were the ultimate nod to the destination.
The Half-Moon Arch
A floral half-moon arch served as the focal point of the seaside ceremony. Allie constructed the piece on-site, using Californian pampas grass and local blooms.
The Sentimental Vows
The bride's father walked her down the pathway to the cliff—a moment Brian will always remember. "Anticipating the ceremony to begin was nerve-wracking and I remember feeling so excited seeing Jessica walk down with her dad," he says. With nothing but the sound of waves crashing in the distance, Jessica and Brian became husband and wife. "To help reduce the number of people on site, one of the planners also officiated the ceremony," says the couple's photographer, Paige Vaughn.
The Vow Books
Jessica and Brian penned their vows in hand-torn vow booklets. "We both included lots of inside jokes, as we love to make each other laugh, and also made meaningful promises to each other to celebrate our new chapter together," the bride shares.
The Vows in Two Languages
The couple translated their promises into Chinese and gave copies to their parents, so they could follow along and appreciate their nuptials.
Post-ceremony, the newlyweds posed with their parents on the beach.
A Surprise Picnic
After they snapped a few portraits, the couple was surprised with a beach picnic for two. They found a blanket with a charcuterie board and Dom Perignon and Veuve Clicquot Champagne to celebrate.
Jessica and Brian popped their bubbly and shared a private toast in the sand. They were so thankful to their vendor team for setting up the picnic, in lieu of a traditional reception. "Ending the elopement with a surprise on the beach gave us a private moment to just sit down together and soak in all of our fresh newly-married jitters!" Jessica says.
Soaking It All In
To duos currently in the planning phase, Jessie and Brian offer this advice: "All the typical norms and traditions are out the window. Do what makes you and your better half happy. Whether that's one big wedding, two small celebrations, or even none, in the end, you'll be together and that's all that really matters."
The couple does plan to celebrate again in September 2021—this time, with those who have watched their relationship progress—but they wholeheartedly agree that an elopement was the correct choice for them. "As much as we absolutely love our friends and family, we have realized that our union should, and will be, first and foremost about us and our love story," Jessica says. "I can't imagine anything more beautiful and true to us than standing alongside each other on the coast taking on this next chapter side by side, just like we have since we were teenagers."
Photography, Paige Vaughn Photo
Wedding Planning and Event Design, Unveiled Bliss
Flowers, Bloomwell & Co
Hair and Makeup, Status Salon
Invitation Suite, Model Paper Design
Bride's Jewelry, Lindsey Leigh Jewelry
Ring Boxes, Esselle SF
Bride's Gown, Lulus
Bride's Cape, PRIM + PRAIRIE
Bride's Shoes, Jimmy Choo
Groom's Attire, The Black Tux
Welcome Bag, Nordstrom
Engagement Ring, Yadav Diamonds & Jewelry
Wedding Bands, Derco Diamonds
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