This Couple's Elopement in California Had All the Elements of a Larger Celebration

couple portrait in grassy field
Jacqui Cole Photography

One year after Farhan proposed on the rooftop of his Dallas apartment building—"This was also where he first told me that he loved me, so it's a special spot," says his bride—he and Maria were staring the COVID-19 pandemic directly in the face. They had originally planned a large multi-day soirée over Labor Day Weekend at the Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, California, but planner Ashley Thompson of Ashley Creative Events knew that it was time to have a "real conversation about making changes," she shares.

There was just one main requirement for their "pivoted" nuptials: that they happened. "Maria and Farhan voiced to me that they didn't want to put their life on hold and were ready to make this commitment to each other," shares Ashley, who recommended an elopement as a preface to a future party. The other nonnegotiable? "They wanted the elopement to be just as special as the large celebration and filled with memorable moments," she adds.

Personal, unforgettable moments abounded when their intimate big day, which unfolded at San Ysidro Ranch, arrived. There was a beauty in their nuptials' low-key vibe, they say; they started their morning with bagels and fresh juice; shared an impromptu first dance to a family-favorite song after they were pronounced husband and wife; and spontaneously jetted down to the beach, Champagne in tow, to watch the sun set post-ceremony. And while "letting go of those original plans" was difficult, admits the couple, they know that they will manifest down the road. "Once travel restrictions start to ease into Europe, we are looking to plan a large celebration either in Italy or in Russia, where Maria is originally from," they say.

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On the Ranch

carriage house wedding venue
Jacqui Cole Photography

Though the couple considered hosting a small event in Chicago, where they live, they decided on a destination locale; they wanted to elope somewhere in California, where they could vacation in the years to come. Enter San Ysidro Ranch, right in the heart of Santa Barbara. "We are absolutely in love with that part of California," notes the duo; Farhan attended UCLA for college, which makes the state that much more special.

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Sweet Details

pastel wedding bouquet of roses and peonies with accessories
Jacqui Cole Photography

Maria's traditional bouquet, curated by Camellia Floral Design, was filled with ivory blooms and trailing greenery; a blue-and-pink ribbon tied the arrangement together. Her Jimmy Choo shoes offered a touch of sparkle.

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Beautiful Bride

bride in off the shoulder floral wedding dress
Jacqui Cole Photography

The bride took a "targeted" approach to wedding-dress shopping, pre-pandemic; she knew what she wanted before she stepped into Bella Bianca, a bridal salon in Chicago. With the help of their staff, she landed on a Lazaro gown—complete with floral appliqués and draped sleeves—and stuck with the number even when she was forced to pivot her big-day plans.

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Dapper Groom

groom in black tux with bowtie
Jacqui Cole Photography

Farhan looked handsome in a tailored tuxedo from The Black Tux, complete with slip-on shoes and a black satin bow tie.

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A First Look and a Twirl

groom twirling bride during first look
Jacqui Cole Photography

"We kept things pretty relaxed and started our morning with juices and bagels," notes Maria. "We got ready in the same room—but Farhan left before I dressed up, so he could be surprised for our first look." When the groom finally got a glimpse of his bride in her regalia, he couldn't help but give her a twirl.

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Pre-Ceremony Portraits

wedding portrait kiss on stone street with floral walled houses
Jacqui Cole Photography

Prior to the ceremony, the pair posed around the property, where vibrant florals were in full bloom.

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An Arch of Flowers

floral wedding ceremony arch with mountains behind
Jacqui Cole Photography

The service took place on the ranch's gardens; the site of their vow exchange was marked by a lush arch, filled with roses and hydrangeas.

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Strumming the Guitar

man playing guitar for wedding ceremony
Jacqui Cole Photography

An acoustic guitarist from DeBoise Entertainment strummed the strings at the start of Maria's processional.

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Patiently Waiting

groom and wedding officiant at garden ceremony
Jacqui Cole Photography

The groom took his place to the left of the arch, as he patiently waited—alongside their officiant, Reverend Miriam Lindbeck—for his bride to make her debut.

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Down the Aisle

bride processing through greenery arch at wedding
Jacqui Cole Photography

Maria entered the garden through the garden's flower-covered archway, which was native to the property, towards the lusher one that marked the altar.

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Forever Promises

white vow books with pink bows tied on the side
Jacqui Cole Photography

The day before the ceremony, the pair wrote their personalized vows together while sitting beside the pool at San Ysidro.

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Vow Exchange

bride and groom exchanging vows at elopement garden ceremony
Jacqui Cole Photography

Maria and Farhan maintain that eloping was "the best decision we ever made"—and encourage other couples facing similar realities to go for it. "We got to spend some quality one-on-one time together, which doesn't happen at a bigger wedding. And there was zero stress!"

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Beachin' It

couple portrait with champagne on the beach
Jacqui Cole Photography

Post-ceremony (and after an impromptu first dance to a Russian song that is important to the bride's family), Farhan suggested taking their rented convertible for a drive to the beach, where they could enjoy a celebratory glass of Champagne and the sunset. It was unplanned, but a big-day highlight—and afforded the groom an opportunity to wear one of the two fedoras his bride had graciously ran out to purchase him earlier that morning (he'd fallen in love with the hat on a shopping trip during their stay in Santa Barbara).

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Back at the Ranch

elegant sweetheart table in front of fireplace for wedding reception
Jacqui Cole Photography

When they returned to the ranch, the newlyweds found a petite table for two set against the fireplace of the wine cellar and tucked away under the trees, shares their planner, Ashley Thompson of Ashley Creative Events. "The fireplace was covered in flowers and candles and a little cake was displayed against the wall covered in growing vines."

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Simple Settings

elegant white and pastel pink wedding place setting
Jacqui Cole Photography

Traditional ceramic dinner plates were draped with cream-hued linens and flanked by silver flatware. Gold-rimmed glassware caught the light thrown by lit votive candles; fluffy garden rose-centric arrangements brought texture and a sweet fragrance to the tablescape.

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Cute Cake

small wedding cake with florals and candles
Jacqui Cole Photography

Their petite six-inch Valrhona chocolate cake was filled with mousse and Feuilletine crunch filling and topped with vanilla buttercream.

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Here's to Us

bride in short sun dress with groom at wedding reception
Jacqui Cole Photography

After ordering another round of caviar ("Because it was so good and you only get married once," says the pair), the newlyweds cut their confection and raised a glass of Champagne. Before the evening was done, however, they went and found their big-day team, who they now consider friends. "They did such an amazing job making our day fun and special and we wanted to get one last hang out in with them before they left," shares the bride, who cites finding vendors who feel like family as the key to any celebration's success.

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bride and groom kissing during wedding cake cutting
Jacqui Cole Photography

Photographer, Jacqui Cole Photography
Venue, Catering, and Cake, San Ysidro Ranch
Wedding Planning and Event Design, Ashley Creative Events
Flowers, Camellia Floral Design
Day-of Paper Products, Ciarra Clare
Officiant, Reverend Miriam Lindbeck
Bride's Gown and Veil, Lazaro Bridal
Jewelry, Oak Park Jewelers
Shoes, Jimmy Choo
Hair and Makeup, El Wynn & Cass
Groom's Attire, The Black Tux
Music, DeBoise Entertainment
Rentals, The Tent Merchant
Linen, La Tavola Linen

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