The Couple Prioritized Timeless Sophistication at Their 11-Person Ceremony in Montecito
Desiree Flores and James Kearney met as co-workers at United Talent Agency, and began dating after a company volunteer event where they served a Thanksgiving meal to veterans. In 2019, three years after that first holiday together, James planned a proposal on the beach, followed by a celebratory getaway at the Malibu Beach Inn.
A few months after their engagement, the couple sent save-the-dates for their August 2020 wedding to 300 guests—only to realize shortly after that COVID-19 travel restrictions would prevent many of their family members from getting to the United States. "I come from a large Mexican-American family with most family in California, and a few family members in Mexico. James has a large Irish-Catholic family with loved ones in Canada, Ireland, England, Italy, and Portugal," says the bride. "Instead of rescheduling for a date in 2021, we decided to wait it out. When the new year hit, we decided we didn't want to wait any longer! We set out to plan an intimate wedding and invited only our parents and siblings."
The couple hosted an intimate ceremony at Old Mission Santa Ines Catholic church in Santa Ynez, California, followed by dinner for 11 adults—plus their two nephews, the ring bearers—at San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, where Desiree and James had stayed to mark their original wedding weekend. "We thought it was a magical place," says Desiree, "and we knew that James' Irish family would love that the Kennedys honeymooned there!"
With the idea of an elevated, al fresco dinner party taking shape, the couple worked with their original vendors to try to scale back their initial plan. The hardest part, they say, was "making the decision to go from a very large wedding to an intimate one, knowing that many of our close friends and family would not be there to celebrate with us"—though Desiree's far-away friends organized a surprise Zoom toast for the bride while she got ready that morning. Of course, cutting the guest list by 287 people did turn one potentially complicated task into the easiest part of the planning process, says the couple: "The seating chart for 13 people!"
To Have and to Hold
With only a few invitations to distribute, Desiree and James had each one hand-calligraphed by Calligraphy Katrina to create a cherished memento for their family members.
Practice Makes Perfect
Before the ceremony, the couple hosted their guests for a rehearsal dinner at Roblar Farm. Desiree donned a white lace V-neck dress from Jonathan Simkhai, Dolce Vita crystal embellished block heels, and geometric turquoise earrings, while James wore a pale pink shirt and a deep blue jacket that matched his sneakers.
Sweet and Tart
Desiree and James chose an "Italian farmhouse" theme for their rehearsal dinner.
The décor focused on a palette of bright yellow with cheerful blue, green, and pink accents; fresh lemons; and natural textures.
On the Menu
A clean, simple menu, calligraphed in baby-blue ink, told of the meal to come.
The family-style dinner from New West Catering included Bistecca alla Fiorentina, wood oven-fired pizza, and pappardelle with chicken, spinach, black truffle, and shaved parmesan.
But the true highlight of the event, says the couple, was the speech section, during which James' sister whipped out a prop, a homemade Irish wedding fruitcake, which she brought all the way from Toronto. "The custom is to save the top tier of the Irish whiskey-soaked cake for your one year anniversary or the birth of your first child," explains Desiree. "My brother also gave a nice speech and told a cute story about a time we tried to capture the Tooth Fairy as kids. As he moved on with the toast, our five-year-old nephew interrupted to exclaim, 'Well, did you catch the tooth fairy?!' It was so sweet."
Love at First Sight
For the big day, Desiree chose a trumpet wedding dress with hand-appliquéd lace and embroidery from Monique Lhuillier. "I found the wedding dress shopping experience challenging!" she says. "I had such high expectations and thought I would find the one instantly, but it took longer than I expected."
Desiree's mother had joined her for most of the shopping trips—except the final session. "As soon as I put it on, I knew it was the one," says Desiree. "I sent a few photos to my mom and she instantly approved! I loved the style, the colors, the lace, and most importantly, I felt confident and beautiful." She added a cathedral-length veil from Julie Harris Designs and a bouquet of white, cream, and mauve roses, ranunculus, and sweet peas.
In the Navy
Boys in Blue
Their five- and six-year-old nephews donned contrasting blue sport coats and Sperry Topsiders for their walk down the aisle. "James loved how intensely focused they were on getting him the rings!" says Desiree—although it didn't quite go as practiced. "Both of them were supposed to hand the rings to James, but when five-year-old Quinn made it to the altar, he had his own plan and delivered his ring to me instead."
Their First Look
The bride's father escorted her to the altar while an acoustic guitarist performed; this marked the first time the bride and groom saw each other that day. "We love the formal tradition of not seeing each other until walking down the aisle," says Desiree. "When James finally saw me, he burst into tears—he blames Pachelbel's 'Canon in D!'"
Wrapped in Love
Desiree and James planned a traditional ceremony that incorporated all 13 of their guests. "We had a Catholic ceremony with godparents for La Biblia, las Arras, y el Lazo, a Hispanic tradition we honor in all our family's Mexican weddings," says Desiree. "We used the original Lazo from my parents' wedding in 1987, which symbolizes our everlasting union and status as one in the eyes of the Lord. The Lazo was placed around our shoulders during the ceremony by my parents, who will celebrate 34 years of marriage in November."
Meant to Be
The couple knew they wanted a Catholic ceremony, and the Old Mission Santa Ines was the perfect fit. "When Desiree randomly found an old photo of her and her late grandmother taken in front of the Mission while on a family trip when she was eight, we knew we made the right decision," says the groom.
A Moment Alone
They asked James' mother to read Seamus Heaney's poem "Scaffolding" at their ceremony, taking to heart his words on creating a strong foundation for their relationship—the words continued to resonate as they posed for portraits after the service was over. "Focus on each other," they note. "As Seamus Heaney says, 'We may let the scaffolds fall confident that we have built our wall.'"
The couple asked all the men at their wedding to wear navy suits, and sent inspiration photos of the wedding's aesthetic to the women, who chose their own attire. "They all looked lovely and matched the colors nicely," says the couple. "Their looks were perfect!"
On the ranch's wine cellar patio, the couple hosted their loved ones at a single table under loquat trees hung with twinkle lights. "We love the traditional elements of a wedding combined with a modern al fresco touch," says the couple. "We wanted it to feel timeless and elegant in Southern California."
Centerpieces stuffed with garden roses, sweet peas, and ranunculus from TOAST Santa Barbara—who also handled event planning—lined the table.
At Each Spot
Delicate floral plates added to the springtime aesthetic.
Acoustic guitarist Christopher Wooley performed the couple's favorite songs during dinner; the meal included entrées of parmesan-crusted halibut with gnocchi and grilled prime filet with mashed potatoes, followed by a Meyer lemon tart with lavender Chantilly.
Twice as Sweet
A two-tier Mexican vanilla cake from Lele Patisserie was frosted with vanilla meringue buttercream and topped with fresh flowers.
Their First (and Only) Dance
Safety requirements at the venue prohibited amplified music and a dance floor, but "we pivoted to a cellist instrumental of 'Perfect Symphony' and snuck in a first dance," says the couple. "We had taken a dance lesson in Los Angeles, so we were feeling excited and ready."
Photography, Kristina Adams
Venue, Old Mission Santa Ines (ceremony); San Ysidro Ranch (reception)
Wedding Planning, Event Design, and Flowers, TOAST Santa Barbara
Videography, Lola Video
Calligraphy, Calligraphy Kristina
Cake, Lele Patisserie
Music, Thomas Lovasz; Christopher Wooley
Rentals, Theoni Collection; Town & Country Event Rentals
Bride's Gown, Monique Lhuillier
Bride's Accessories, Julie Harris Designs veil; Jimmy Choo shoes
Hair and Makeup, TEAM Hair and Makeup
Rings, C. Gonshor Fine Jewelry
Groom's Attire, Corneliani
Transportation, LL Transportation
Rehearsal Dinner Venue, Roblar Farm
Rehearsal Dinner Catering, New West Catering
Rehearsal Dinner Bar Catering, Simply Cocktails SB
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