Pacific Ocean Waves Crashed Behind This Duo as They Exchanged Vows at a Private Estate in Malibu
"This is Dr. Pam," Pamela's friend and Zumba instructor announced to a group at the Honolulu Museum of Art, during an art-after-dark event. In that crowd was Michael—also a physician. "This is Dr. Michael!" one of his pals quipped up. "We ended up talking for several hours and, by the end of the conversation, Michael asked for my phone number," says the bride. "It was about two weeks later—after I vetted him with my work colleagues—that we went on our first date."
Pamela, an internal medicine hospitalist, and Michael, an obstetrician and gynecologist, dated for three years before they started talking about marriage. "And then, one day I came home from work and Michael—always a practical person—handed me a printed list of potential wedding dates and asked me which one I liked," shares Pamela. Together, they decided on January 21, 2021 (a palindrome!), and, shortly after, agreed that Northern California—a halfway point between Hawaii, where they live, and the mainland, where several of their loved ones reside—would make the most sense for their eventual celebration. "However, after finding our planner, Aimée Newlander of Weddings by Aimée, we extended our search and decided upon Malibu," says the duo. "Aimée found Casa di Pietra, where Amy Schumer was married. It was perfect for the event—and large enough to house several of our family members."
They had begun the planning process long before COVID-19 changed the world; even over the course of 2020, the pair held fast to their already-small original vision (a gathering with just 25 guests!) assuming the country would have the pandemic under control long before their wedding date. The year came and went—and since the already-tiny guest list had naturally dwindled down to five, the pair decided to keep their plan. This was, in part, a sacrifice, they say: Due to travel restrictions, their parents wouldn't be able to attend. They did, however, find ways to include them: "We were not too keen on live-streaming, so our plan 'pivoted' to include a videographer to capture the story of the day, for our parents and other guests who could not attend," they say, adding that they mailed their parents gift boxes, ordered them special food for the big day, and kept them in the loop with a series of text messages.
Surrounded by a handful of loved ones (who all received pre-travel COVID-19 tests within 72 hours of the celebration and then another when they arrived on-site), and with the help of a stellar team, Pamela and Michael put together a small celebration with great impact—and unparalleled details—in sunny Malibu, says the groom: "One detail stands out in my memory: Perched on the Pacific Ocean, the wedding participants and crew constantly enjoyed the warm breeze—we watched the waves wash in, the cloudless sky, a pod of dolphins swim by, and pelicans on the rocks."
Designed by Kelly Zeller of Look Good on Paper Co, the couple's main invitation card featured a blind debossed outline of the Malibu coast, with Casa di Pietra tucked into the cliffside. Inserts had a custom cut-top edge and were printed on shades of sand, teal, and blue; a custom wave-shaped pocket in navy held all of the pieces together. The abstract seen on their save-the-dates made a reappearance on the envelope liner—and each set was addressed with blue-and-teal watercolor calligraphy. Ahead of the event, Kelly curated a cohesive collection of modern and vintage stamps for a personal touch.
"I knew that I would have to get a wedding dress outside of Hawaii," explains Pamela. "I had been searching online when I found a short cocktail style that I liked—as well as a Temperley London dress that I didn't think I could afford. I ended up going to Miami for a quick getaway and found Couture Bridal Miami; they carried the short number I saw online. While in the store, I noticed that they also carried several Temperley dresses, including the Beatrix." With some help from the store assistant, Gaby—who made Pamela's day when she told her that the garment was included in the store's current sample sale—she stepped into the bohemian gown with a high neckline, long sleeves, and Victorian lace motifs, fell in love, and promptly sent a photo to her mother. And when she called Michael? "He simply said, "Just say yes to the dress, my love,'" the bride reflects. "When I got back to Honolulu, I was able to find the perfect seamstress, Yee Mei, to take in the dress a bit."
Flowers in Her Hair
Davida Buggs of Flowers by Lady Buggs put together a fresh hairpiece for the bride; the flowers included referenced those seen in her bouquet.
Her loose, hand-tied arrangement was an explosion of color and featured a broad assortment of blooms, including Juliet garden roses, quicksand roses, majolica spray roses, peach ranunculus, locally-grown white sweet peas, white lilac, blush butterfly ranunculus, seeded eucalyptus, and acacia foliage.
Ready to Wed
The bride was surrounded by loved ones on the morning of the wedding. "I was up for hours getting my hair and makeup done before our first look," she shares. "My sisters, Rana and Paula, and my friend from college, Cathy, kept checking in on me, taking pictures, and, at times, bringing a phone in for me to chat with my parents."
Groom in Green
Michael's look was inspired by two unique details: Green-painted British racing automobiles ("I have always liked them," he says) and the custom Gucci suit that Ryan Gosling wore to the movie premier of Ides of March. He was able to find an option that melded the two at Morigi Milano.
Both the couple's ceremony and reception were held on-site at a private Malibu home, Casa di Pietra—and the Pacific Ocean was the backdrop of it all. "The ocean is a big part of our life and was included in the inspiration for our design," says the duo. "Our wedding planner Aimée of Weddings by Aimée created independent spaces for ceremony, cocktails, and dining so everyone was able to take in all the views."
"During hair and makeup, I watched through the bedroom window as Davida and her team brought in buckets of flowers and—piece by piece—constructed the most beautiful ceremony arch," says Pamela of the broken arrangement, featuring a myriad of garden rose varieties, olive leaf, and pepper berry foliage. "She turned my floral vision into the most beautiful romantic, artistic masterpiece that I could have ever imagined."
Lanterns Lead the Way
White-washed rattan square-back chairs were amply spaced with the pandemic in mind. Turkish towels—a wedding favor—were displayed diagonally across the seats, adding clean lines and texture to the space. Gleaming antique glass lanterns were the finishing touch.
Pamela and Michael walked down the aisle—and towards their officiant, their dear friend, Aaron—together. They wrote their own vows, during which Michael shared a funny anecdote about losing a contact lens right before their first date ("From what I could see, Pamela was gorgeous, smart, kind, generous, and strong," he said). Pamela also honored Michael's first wife, Sheila, who passed away in 2016: "I am thankful that you were able to open your heart to me and love again. I feel so blessed that we get to continue our amazing journey together."
Marsha Meyers—the creative behind The Natural Mixologist—hooked the couple on her cocktails during a food tasting. "We knew that alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails would be an important element," they say, "and Marsha created delicious custom drinks to pair with the menu items." She kicked off the festivities with an aptly-named cocktail hour offering, the "Married in Malibu" (a smoked tequila). "Our guests kept going back to the bar for more," say Pamela and Michael.
The newlyweds requested a European-style dining experience—something they wanted right from the start. A country table with curved legs set the tone, but the dramatic floral runner was the focal point; the arrangement's light, whimsical color scheme kept the lush piece California-appropriate.
At Each Setting
Stone dinnerware kept place settings natural, not glam, to speak to the afternoon meal. Gold-and-teal flatware added a touch of drama, as did the wavy-edged menus that complemented the hand-calligraphed agate stone place card (another keepsake for guests). A navy ribbon, laced with a dehydrated orange slice, held simple white napkins together.
"I cherish the many surprises arranged by my sisters," says Pamela, "from reading a letter of advice from my mother to the unexpected heartfelt toasts welcoming Michael into our family."
Following the sit-down meal catered by Blood Sweat + Butter, Pamela and Michael offered to-go pizzas made in the property's free-standing outdoor oven.
Sunset on the Beach
"Be flexible," advises Pamela, if you find yourself putting together a micro celebration during these trying times. "If you have the means to work with a planner, hire one that will work as your advocate and find vendors that get your vision. As a woman and a woman of color, I often feel that women are not valued enough. It was important to me to support the work of wonderful artists and artisans of small woman-owned businesses and businesses owned by women of color. The other piece is to recognize how hard these small businesses work. When it's a (baby) small business, I feel they give you their all and you get their very best."
Venue, Casa di Pietra Malibu
Photography, Larissa Cleveland Photography
Wedding Planning and Event Design, Weddings by Aimée
Videography, Mary Omel Film
Floral Design, Flowers by Lady Buggs
Music, Pitstop Musicians
Catering and Dessert, Blood Sweat + Butter
Mixology, The Natural Mixologist
Rentals, Papillon Rentals, Casa de Perrin
Transportation, Black Diamond Valet Services
Save-the-Dates, Invitations, Custom Menus, Masks, and Agate Stones, Look Good on Paper Co
Bride's Gown, Alice Temperley
Atelier, Couture Bridal Miami
Seamstress, Yee Mei Seamstress
Engagement Ring and Earrings, Blue Nile
Wedding Bands, Bulgari
Bride's Shoes, Badgley Mischka
Bride's Clutch, Salvatore Ferragamo
Bride's Nails, Ayumi at Miki'ao Nail Bar, Honolulu
Makeup, Nyrie, Symmetry Beauty
Hair, Tilde by Matilde
Groom's Suit, Isaia Napoli via Morigi Milano
Groom's Accessories, Kiton (shirt); Burberry (tie); Tod's (shoes); Paul Smith (socks); Ted Baker (belt)
Favors, The True Olive Connection (olive oil); The Loomia (Turkish towels)
Hotel for Guests, Malibu Beach Inn
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