Love and Joy Were at the Forefront During This Intimate, Family-Focused Celebration in Occidental, California
"We actually got engaged twice," says Michelle Felder, the founder and CEO of Parenting Pathfinders. Her now-husband, Arthur Felder, a youth sports and fitness consultant, first proposed in Zaragoza, Spain, while the pair was visiting the Alhama de Aragón, a thermal lake; they had met three months prior at an event in New York City. His second proposal, which came six months later, couldn't have been more different—it was a Sunday afternoon, and the duo had just returned home after taking Michelle's daughters, Zoë and Noa, to dance class. Arthur convinced Michelle to rest for a while, noting that the girls were working on a surprise; she was asked not to come downstairs until her children called for her. When the call came, she headed back down, and was promptly presented with two handmade cards. "Zoë gave me hers first—it was a picture she had drawn of me in a flowing gown, with tears streaming down my face, and Arthur on one knee giving me a ring," she says.
Life soon imitated art—Noa's card spelled out that question with check boxes that read yes, no, and maybe—and Michelle spun around to find Arthur kneeling on the ground with a ring in his hands. "He told me how deep his love was for me and how he was committing his life to me and the girls," reflects Michelle. "I told him that I couldn't wait to be his wife." Arthur then turned to the girls, and conveyed that his proposal applied to them, as well. He told them that he was also making a commitment to them—to love them, to protect them, to encourage them, and to be there for them every single day," says the bride. "Our sweet Noa said 'I'm so happy, I just have to cry!' We all hugged and had a happy cry together. It was a moment I'll never forget—they were so excited that we were getting married!"
Just as the pair began thinking about where they wanted to get married, the country experienced the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic—and while the New York City duo originally decided to wait it out, they ultimately realized that they wanted to tie the knot sooner rather than later. When restrictions showed no signs of easing, they made the call: They would plan an ultra-intimate celebration for the following year in California, where Michelle's father, aunt, and uncle reside. "We weren't going to ask them to fly across the country during a pandemic, so we decided to go to them," she explains, noting that her aunt and uncle graciously allowed them to host their wedding at their home in Occidental, California, flanked by massive redwood trees.
They hired Chanda Daniels for a Monique Affair to help them tackle the challenge of planning their celebration from across the country, which took the pressure off. "Chanda made the process of designing our wedding as fun and easy as it could be. She was fantastic!" says the bride. Shortly after, the rest of their big-day team came together. "We were intentional about choosing creatives that are BIPOC," explains the bride; the groom adds, "What was incredibly important to us was supporting Black-owned businesses in the area, and Chanda did a great job of connecting us with a variety of vendors and talents." They saw their celebration come to fruition seamlessly on June 27, 2021, starting with a meaningful ceremony that celebrated their melded family unit and ending with a next-level vegan meal and dance party.
"I wanted our wedding to be as special and memorable for Zoë and Noa as it was for me and Arthur," says Michelle. "This was a huge day in their life, too, and I wanted to be sure that they felt like an important part of it all." The girls were involved in virtually every element of the celebration, from start to finish.
A First Look
Michelle notes that the pair's first look, which took place in the front yard, was the moment when "it all came together." "Everything that we had planned and waited for and had been so excited about was finally happening," says the bride. "When I tapped his shoulder and he turned around, I was just blown away. He looked amazing in his suit and the smile on his face was priceless." Arthur was eager to debut his big-day look to his bride, but was equally excited to show the girls "how well their mama and I can clean up!"
"You never really know how you're going to feel in a suit until you put it on," explains Arthur, "and once I had this suit on, I knew that I had made the right pick." He chose a navy jacket from BLACK by Vera Wang, noting that he appreciated the contrast of the black lapels; his ink-hued Calvin Klein pants were the ultimate complement. To grooms shopping for their own big-day looks, he says to "trust your instincts—and don't underestimate the importance of being comfortable in whatever you wear."
Michelle knew—from the moment she was zipped in—that this was her wedding dress. The flowing, pleated Aqua number, which she sourced from Bloomingdales, made her feel beautiful. She accessorized with a gold-and-pearl drop pendant necklace from Na Hoku, a fine jeweler in Hawaii; the piece was a gift from her Aunt Monique and Uncle Morgan, who also opened their home to the duo for their big day. A gold snake chain bracelet, made by her friend Nikki Ladopoulos-Sturk of Lado a Lado and diamond hoop earrings from Macy's completed her look.
The bride chose a single bloom type for her petite bouquet from Esscents of Flowers: peach-hued garden roses.
A Ceremony with a View
Zoë and Noa kicked off the processional, scattering rose petals along the way; Michelle and Arthur, who walked down the aisle together, were right behind them. The ceremony took place under a pergola lined with bistro lights and twisted with floral-studded greenery swags; the epic view of the surrounding redwood forests served as the backdrop.
The pair hired Olivia King to oversee their ceremony, which wasn't religious, but "reflected our deep spirituality and connection with our higher power." They also wrote their own vows, which was particularly meaningful to both the bride and groom. "One line that meant the most to me to say was, 'You have breathed new life into pieces of me that I thought were gone forever,'" says Michelle. "It was amazing to be able to share the depths of our love and connection with the people closest to us, especially after so much of our relationship had bloomed in quarantine." Arthur agrees, noting that penning his own promises allowed him to "express the things that are most important to me out loud to Michelle, our family, and friends. It was a very emotional, vulnerable, and peaceful moment for me."
Ahead of their big day, Michelle and Arthur met with Olivia on Zoom to brainstorm ways to include Zoë and Noa in the service. "She suggested that we perform a sand ceremony," Michelle explains, which represented the melding of their love and the formation of their family unit. "It was an opportunity for Arthur and me to honor that our union isn't just about us. There are children who will share in this marriage, so we wanted to signify the blending of our family and the connection that the four of us share."
Arthur agrees, noting that this part of the ceremony felt life defining: "It felt like a true soul-binding moment for us as a family. It was so real—all the emotions, the tears, the laughter, Noa accidentally spilling her sand and Michelle not missing a beat and scooping it back into her container so she could add more. It captured so much of who we are."
Back Up the Aisle
"Jeremy Green, an incredible violinist, played before and during the ceremony," says Michelle. "Zoë and Noa walked down to 'Thinking Out Loud' by Ed Sheeran, and Arthur and I chose 'Perfect'—if you can't tell, our family loves Ed Sheeran!" The newlyweds chose Beyoncé's celebratory song, "Love on Top," for their joyful recessional.
Some Time Alone
They skipped the cocktail hour to pose for portraits in the Grove of Old Trees, a spectacular forest of 2,000-year-old redwoods. Back at the party, guests sipped on mocktails, fresh juices, and ginger beer and enjoyed a variety of vegan bites, from stuffed mushroom to samosas.
An Intimate Table
Dinner took place at a long farm table, which easily facilitated the family-style meal. Rose-hued velvet napkins were placed atop ivory plates, adding color and texture; a floral runner, consisting of Italian Ruscus, garden roses, and ranunculus, ran down the station's center.
"We had a few non-vegans that were eating an entirely vegan meal for the first time, and they all went back for more," explains Arthur of the dinner, made by Laurel's Catering, that included a summer salad, truffle mushroom ravioli, and stuffed acorn squash.
"Everyone kept saying that the wedding was going to be over before I knew it and that it would fly by, but I felt like I was able to savor it all," says the groom of spending precious time with the pair's nearest and dearest. "My piece of wisdom would be to try to be present and soak up every moment."
Cutting the Cake
Arthur and Michelle dined on a delicious vegan chocolate raspberry cake during a past trip to Madrid, and wanted to recreate the confection for their big day. "Laurel's Catering nailed it," says Arthur. The two-tier dessert was covered in white frosting and draped with peach garden roses and ranunculus.
Spin Me Around
"Dancing with Michelle to 'Falling for You' felt like being home, dancing in the kitchen," says the groom.
The groom also shared a spin with Zoë and Noa to Train's "Play That Song." "It was a song we heard during the first time we met—we went roller skating at Brooklyn Bridge Park and it was playing over the loudspeaker," says Arthur, who cites this moment as a highlight. "It has held a special meaning for our family ever since."
Photography, Vivian Chen Photography
Wedding Planning, Chanda Daniels for A Monique Affair
Videography, Shutter and Sound
Flowers, Esscents of Flowers
Officiant, Olivia King
Bride's Attire, Aqua via Bloomingdales
Bride's Shoes, Sam Edelman
Bride's Accessories, Lado a Lado (bracelet); Macy's (earrings); Na Hoku (necklace)
Groom's Attire, BLACK by Vera Wang; Calvin Klein
Groom's Shoes, Stacy Adams
Groom's Accessories, Ryan Seacrest Distinction (cuff links)
Barber, Charles Blades Barber Spa
Engagement Ring and Wedding Bands, Sweet Olive Jewelry
Music, Jeremy Green (ceremony and cocktail hour); JustIntertainment (reception)
Catering and Cake, Laurels Catering
Rentals, Encore Events Rentals
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