There's Nothing Like Golden Hour on the Sonoma Coast—This Oceanside Wedding Is Proof

bride and groom smiling holding black pug dog
Melia Lucida

While on vacation in Kauai, Hawaii, Charles Finkel planned the hike of all hikes. "We make outdoor adventures a staple of each of our vacations, and Kauai was no different," explains Lauren Thomas, his now-wife. "As is typical, Charles had planned for us to take a hike along the cliffs and pinnacles of the beautiful Na Pali Coast. Also as is typical, Charles described this eight-mile trek as 'moderate.'" As time went on, however, and the couple traversed "slippery, near vertical rocks" and were forced to "hang onto tree branches to avoid falling to our dooms," Lauren announced that if they didn't reach their destination—a 300-foot waterfall—imminently, she would be turning back. Suddenly, there it was. "I considered complaining aloud that it hadn't been worth risking our lives—then Charles got down on one knee," says Lauren, "and it was the best hike I've ever been on."

The pair planned to return to Hawaii—this time, Maui—for their 130-guest nuptials in March 2021, but with the lingering pandemic and travel restrictions, they changed course a few months prior. With the help of their wedding planner, Danielle Sabbag of Taryn Stark Wyant Event Planning and Design, they cancelled their celebration and began the process of curating a smaller event (just 60 guests!) in Jenner, California, for May 22, 2021, instead. "It was incredibly difficult to let most of our friends and family know that we were cancelling our wedding. Cutting the guest list down was one of the most excruciating processes we could have imagined," says Lauren, noting that their more intimate nuptials were attended by just 68 attendees.

With the breathtaking Sonoma Coast as their backdrop, the pair's celebration, held at Timber Cove Resort, put their favorite parts of California on display; the close-to-home locale also allowed them to bring their pug, Frank, thanks to dog-friendly lodgings. The party itself honored their ethos as a couple. "We wanted the wedding to be romantic, intimate, and most importantly, fun!" says the bride. "We definitely wanted to incorporate both our East Coast and unique cultural backgrounds—I am Black Panamanian and Charles is Chinese and Jewish," says Lauren. To do so, they incorporated personalized touches—a Chinese symbol was pressed onto the ribbons of the bride's bouquet and the pair kicked off the dancing portion of the evening with a traditional Panamanian routine, courtesy of House of Panama—which resulted in an event better than they could have envisioned. "In the end, our wedding was so perfect, I could not have imagined it any other way," Lauren shares.

Watch Lauren and Charles' wedding video by Anna Lord.

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Sonoma Coast

beach cliffside view
Melia Lucida

"As soon as we realized that our Maui wedding couldn't happen as planned, we knew we wanted to get married at Timber Cove Resort," says Lauren. "Charles and I love taking drives down Highway 1 and had stayed at Timber Cove several times before—it perfectly combines California's rustic beauty (and Charles' love of outdoor adventures) with coastal refinement (and my love of drinking wine while looking out at the ocean)."

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All in the Details

bride smiling holding pink and green floral wedding bouquet
Melia Lucida

Lauren's organic bouquet had lots of movement; it was filled with local spring blooms—belle epoque tulips, Sally Holmes roses, sweet peas, lilac, fritillaria, koko loko roses, hellebores, and Thai silk poppies—from farmers in Northern, California. "We went with a neutral color story of mauve, taupe, nude, white, and muted pinks," adds floral designer Brooke Haffey of Rise Floral.

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Good Fortune

bride holding floral wedding bouquet with ribbons
Melia Lucida

As nod to Charles' background, the Chinese symbol for good fortune was printed on the ribbons that held Lauren's arrangement together.

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Pearls and Wings

bride wearing pearl drop earrings
Melia Lucida

"One huge benefit of moving our wedding to the Bay Area was that we got to include more Black-owned vendors," explains Lauren, including her hair and makeup teams. Professionals from Ritual Salon swept her hair into a high bun (allowing her drop pearl earrings from Sophie Buhai to shine) and gave her natural smoky eye.

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Pre-Ceremony Cheers

groom with groomsmen cheersing
Melia Lucida

"We listened to Jay-Z's 'Tom Ford' at least five times in a row on our way home after buying Charles' tuxedo," laughs Lauren. The groom complemented his designer ensemble with black shoes and a plum bow tie, also by Tom Ford, and finished off his look with a pair of cuff links; his groomsmen matched him in classic black ensembles.

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Flower Girls

two young flower girls holding hands
Melia Lucida

Charles' nieces stepped in as the pair's flower girls. "We bought them matching dresses, sashes, and shoes from BHLDN," says Lauren. "The girls were a little bit shy about walking down the aisle by themselves, so Charles' younger sister (one of my bridesmaids) held their hands."

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Ceremony with a View

outdoor wedding ceremony seating
Melia Lucida

Woven chairs and raw wooden benches in natural hues of sand, taupe, and ivory catered to the coastal vibe of the ceremony. An open arch filled with mock orange, lilac, and bearded iris anchored the site of the vow exchange.

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Organic Florals

queen annes lace wedding florals
Melia Lucida

The aisle was marked with lush arrangements of Queen Anne's lace for a minimalistic, "grew here" feel, notes Danielle Sabbag of Taryn Stark Wyant Event Planning and Design.

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On Dad's Arm

father of the bride smiling at bride walking down processional aisle
Melia Lucida

"There were so many things that made our ceremony incredibly special," says Lauren. "The 10 or so minutes I had with my dad, looking down at all our guests and the incredible cliffs over the Pacific Ocean, were some of the most special moments of the day—and the only solo time I had with my dad, on a day and a moment we'd both been thinking about since I was a little girl."

Ahead of the processional, she shared a sweet first look with her father, during which she debuted her silk Oscar de la Renta wedding dress, complete with a halter neckline. Her veil, also sourced from the designer, was the highlight of her look: "It was so ethereal and beautiful, that I'm pretty sure it was made of magic, rather than silk."

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Vow Exchange

groom looking at bride smiling holding hands during ceremony
Melia Lucida

Lauren has attended Bethany Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York, ever since she was born, and was so honored when Reverend Pittman—"He was always my grandmother's favorite pastor; he even performed her eulogy when she passed," says Lauren—agreed to officiate her California nuptials. "He was also incredibly sensitive to the fact that Charles and I aren't particularly religious and put together a service that felt inclusive and truly reflected us as a couple," she adds.

Before the pair exchanged hand-written vows, Davone Tines, one of Lauren's best friends from college who has since become a lauded opera singer, performed "The Lord's Prayer." "It was incredible. My pastor even started to choke up!" says the bride. Her cousin, Kira, also read a quote from Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, "because who said a wedding can't also be a feminist statement?"

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Top of the Aisle

bride and groom kiss during wedding ceremony surrounded by guests
Melia Lucida

"I've been telling everyone since I was a kid that I would play the Star Wars theme at my wedding. That wish came true at the end of the ceremony. It was so perfect," says Lauren.

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What a Party

bride and groom stand outside with wedding party
Melia Lucida

The newlyweds and their wedding party posed for a few photos post-ceremony. "I asked my bridesmaids to pick a gown that matched our wedding palette and offered them bonus points for dresses with texture," says Lauren of her attendants' ensembles. "They all met the assignment beautifully while finding dresses that they (hopefully!) loved and fit their own sense of style."

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Purple Tones

bridesmaid wearing purple dress holding small white and purple bouquet
Melia Lucida

Petite and simple, the bridesmaids' bouquets spoke to Lauren's own, color-wise, but featured less variety. "We let hellebores, fritillaria, and sweet peas take the spotlight to create airy texture and softness," says Danielle.

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Sucker for You

sucker display escort cards
Melia Lucida

An interactive seating chart defined by pressed flower lollipops guided attendees to their seats as the cocktail hour drew to a close.

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Climbing Up the Mountain

bride and groom walking on rocky cliffside near water
Melia Lucida

The couple snuck away from the interlude to pose for portraits on the sun-lit cliffs.

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Sage Tabletops

purple and neutral hued reception place settings
Melia Lucida

At the reception—which was hosted on an open-air patio atop cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean—a combination of family-style and circular tables defined the space. The former was covered in a neutral braided raw silk runner, while the latter featured muted evergreen linens. Wooden seating surrounded the stations, which were capped by upholstered rose king chairs.

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Dainty Compotes

low purple and white floral centerpieces
Melia Lucida

Local sweet peas, belle epoque tulips, lilac, mock orange, and hellebores defined the centerpieces, which were placed in both pedestal vessels and planter boxes.

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Cheers to Us!

bride and groom toasting with guest during speeches
Melia Lucida

A curated gallery of chandeliers hung above the reception space; the lighting set the mood for a series of heartfelt speeches from the pair's best friends and fathers. "A planner's side note: The father of the groom's speech was one of the best we have ever heard in our careers—and we have heard many!" says Danielle.

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Dance with Dad

father daughter dance during outdoor reception
Melia Lucida

The bride gave her father a hug after they took a spin to "Isn't She Lovely?" by Stevie Wonder.

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Two-Tier Cake

two tier pink frosted cake with floral decor
Melia Lucida

Two Chicks in the Mix baked the pair's lemon olive oil cake, which was finished with lilac-hued fondant, multi-hued florals, and a personalized topper.

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At Last

wind blowing brides veil smiling with groom
Melia Lucida

"To pay homage to my roots, we started the evening with a traditional Panamanian dance, performed by the amazing House of Panama," says Lauren. "After that, we asked our DJ to play songs that traversed the cultural and age gap of our wedding guests and he delivered—all of our loved ones were on the dance floor all night. Of course, this may also have had to do with the fact that none of our guests had been on a dance floor for about two years by that point. There was a lot to celebrate!"

As for her and Charles' first dance? They chose "At Last" by Etta James, "because it is a gorgeous, classic song that also happens to be what the Obamas danced to at their first inauguration," notes Lauren.

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Together Forever

groom embraces bride from behind looking at the sunset
Melia Lucida

"The best part of our wedding was just seeing our closest family and friends gathered in one place after a-year-and-a-half of being separated from each other," shares the bride. "I'm incredibly close with my extended family and this was the longest I had ever gone without seeing them all together. I'm getting emotional just thinking about it!"

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bride and groom walking toward the sunset
Melia Lucida

Photography, Melia Lucida
Venue, Catering, and Bar Service, Timber Cove Resort
Event Planning and Wedding Design, Danielle Sabbag of Taryn Stark Wyant Event Planning and Design
Videography, Anna Lord
Flowers, Rise Floral
Invitations, Lana Dreams
Calligraphy, Pirouette Paper Company
Officiant, Rev E. Tyrone Pittman
Bride's Gown and Veil, Oscar de la Renta
Jewelry, Sophie Buhai (earrings)
Shoes, Gianvito Rossi
Hair and Makeup, Ritual Salon
Groom's Attire, Tom Ford
Groomsmen's Attire, Otaa (bow ties)
Engagement Ring and Wedding Bands, Derco Fine Jewelers
Guest Book, Blush Printables
Entertainment, House of Panama
Music, KCK Entertainment (ceremony and reception)
Cake, Two Chicks in the Mix
Rentals, Reve, Bright
Linens, La Tavola

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