This Couple's Wedding Reception Was Inspired by a Particularly Opulent Scene in Marie Antoinette
When Tim first spotted Bryan on a dating app in April 2017, he recognized him from mutual friends' photos. "The app confirmed that we had a whole friend group in common," they say. "We each scouted the other out before our first date, and our friends were surprised we had never met; they each told us separately that they thought we'd be a great match, and they were right!"
The couple moved in together less than a year later, and in August 2019, bought their first home. "It felt like we were doing things organically but a little bit out of the traditional order," they say. A week after Thanksgiving that year, as they ate dinner at home, Tim pulled a small red box out of Bryan's Christmas stocking. After Bryan realized Tim wasn't joking, he happily accepted his proposal—only for Tim to share another surprise: They were leaving for an engagement trip that night. As Bryan frantically packed, asking where they were going and what to do about work, Tim assured him that he only needed a few things, and that work was in on it. (Tim conspired with Bryan's team to get that time off and fill his calendar with fake meetings!)
Tim and Bryan spent four days in Belize before returning home, and in April 2020, they began planning their wedding. They put their plans on hold to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions, and then cut their guest list from 90 to 30 for their September 10, 2021, event at Kestral Park in Santa Ynez, Calif. "Kestrel Park was a dream with its romantic gardens, breathtaking sycamore-lined path and enchanting tower and stables," say the grooms. "It feels like you are in a fairy tale with so much to discover."
After years of limited social activities, Bryan and Tim wanted to pack their weekend with events for their guests, including a welcome reception and a day-after picnic. They chose the wines served at dinner after tasting a variety of offerings from local vineyards, modeled their flower-filled, opulent dining table after a scene in one of their favorite films (Marie Antoinette!), and chose day-of papers that included a subtle nod to their future family. "We wanted an event that was romantic and that felt like a fabulous weekend getaway, as that is an extension of us and the experiences we like for ourselves and when we host friends and family," they say. "Both of our families made big deals of holidays, birthdays, and special events growing up, and we wanted to blend our celebration with a sense of an over-the-top version of what we'd throw on our own."
A Dream Come True
The men—and their photographer Anya Kernes—took full advantage of their venue's lush grounds and dramatic architectural backdrops. "Kestral Park is a dream venue for us," they say. "From the moment you enter its gates you are swept away by its beauty. When you are in the garden, the tower appears over its steep hedges, and when you walk down the sycamore-lined path, it's the most breathtaking experience."
A Perfect Pair
Bryan and Tim dressed for their pre-ceremony portraits together on the morning of their wedding. "It created a lot of special moments for us to be giddy before our guests arrived," they say. Both men donned custom shirts and three-piece suits—Tim in a slightly deeper hue—and finished their outfits with Ted Baker wing-tips. "We chose to match both the styles of our suits, as well as our shoes, but chose different shades of blue that complemented our skin tones, each other, and the ceremony space," they add.
After sending digital invitations, Bryan and Tim added personal elements to each part of their day-of signage and paper. A banner reading, "Welcome to my parents' wedding" included a custom illustration of the couple's golden retriever (sporting a festive bow tie).
"Our overall vision was to host a wedding that felt like a romantic European weekend getaway," says Bryan. Floral designers from Heavenly Blooms reinforced that vision by turning the ceremony space into a "European garden" with lush arrangements of ivory, purple, pink, and mauve; they were placed in dramatic urns on pedestals that anchored the site of the pair's vow exchange.
Lush and Lavish
Similar arrangements, studded with roses, hydrangeas, delphinium, and lush greens, lined the last row of ceremony chairs.
Paper fans tied with a pale ribbon were placed on each woven seat, offering guests the chance to cool off during the service.
Ready to Wed
After spending the morning together, Bryan and Tim waited—hidden behind a tall hedge—to watch their guests arrive before walking down the aisle hand-in-hand. "We were really calm before the ceremony," they say. "We both got a final rush of excitement and a lot of nerves when our planner, Kayla Vie Events, told us it was time to come around the corner and start walking down the aisle—the road from the staging area to the ceremony was long, and it made for quite a dramatic entrance."
Stepping out to see their ceremony site adorned with flowers and filled with friends and family left them in awe. "It was everything we'd hoped for," they say. "It felt very natural for us to be married under the sunshine and tree branches in such a breathtaking place."
So Happy Together
Bryan and Tim wrote their own vows, which they opted to share privately during their wedding weekend instead of during the ceremony. "In the end, we decided to simplify and keep those vows personal, as it honestly felt a bit overwhelming to try to find the perfect words while we were working hard to finalize overall wedding details," says Bryan. "Our officiant led us through some beautiful vows that he had designed for us; he interviewed us at length a month before the ceremony and crafted a narrative that was both lighthearted and meaningful. He did an incredible job. [The ceremony was] just full of laughter and joy."
Acoustic guitarist and singer Matt Commerce provided the music for the day's events, which included playing a set of 20 songs—chosen by the grooms—during the celebration. Gold-framed lanterns and growing florals surrounded the performance area.
The newlyweds poured a Champagne tower for their guests before taking some alone time ahead of the reception. "We spent the first half enjoying cocktail hour and then we stepped away for golden hour photos," says the couple.
Station for the Sips
Pharmacie's cocktail bar was nestled into the property's lush, colorful marigold and sunflower garden.
In addition to serving wine during cocktail hour, guests had the choice between three signature drinks: "The Bee's Pajamas" (gin, mint, yellow chartreuse, lemon, and angostura bitters), "Margarita Botanica" (mezcal, cilantro, lime, and jalapeño), and "Figueroa Mule" (vodka, hibiscus, lime, and ginger beer).
Hors d'oeuvres such as a wild mushroom dumplings with sesame chili oil, ponzu, peanuts, and scallions, tuna taco tartar with napa cabbage and purple cabbage, yuzu ponzu, and toasted sesame seeds, and steak frites, beef fillet, bernaise, and potato crisp were passed during the cocktail hour.
A Nod to the Future
The couple's day-of papers also included an olive branch motif—a sweet reference to the name Bryan and Tim had chosen for their first child. "We have been working through a long surrogacy process since January of 2020 with various setbacks. We knew we wanted our first child to be a girl and had chosen the name Olive, so olive branches and leaves are woven through décor and stationery elements of the wedding, as we wanted the vision of our family to be present with us on our special day," they say. "We are also happy to announce that we are finally expecting a daughter in February of 2023!"
A Cinematic Moment
The overall atmosphere of the couple's seated dinner reception in the sycamore-lined space was inspired by the lavish, opulent air of one of their favorite films: Marie Antionette. "The one with Kirsten Dunst—I can't believe I'm admitting this," says Bryan. "There is a scene in the movie where Marie plans a pretty extraordinary outdoor party that is adorned with an array of candles, flowers, amazing food, and outdoor chandeliers." The pair found the moment to be "incredibly romantic" in the movie and a "dream come true" when they brought their own version of it to life during their outdoor dinner.
Fit for the Kings
Each of the 8-foot tables included a "lush and textured" arrangement surrounded by bud vases, with additional florals displayed where the tops came together to create an extended kings' table. Loosely gathered linens running down the center allowed the rustic wood tables to stand out, providing a natural backdrop for ceramic plates, white-handled flatware, and torn-edge menus.
Vintage holders displayed custom table numbers, which included the olive branch motif in the top corner.
Dinner Al Fresco
As night fell, overhead chandeliers provided an elegant glow to the outdoor space. Roomforty provided the newlyweds and their guests with a menu that included artisan breads, a field greens salad with pickled stone fruit and sourdough croutons. sweet corn ravioli with smoked burrata, roasted sea bass, and braised short ribs.
Raise a Glass
Bryan and Tim sourced wines from vineyards local to their venue and set up an at-home tasting with a group of friends to choose the blends that would best complement their menu. "We had some surprise winners, and it was a ton of fun to be able to involve our guests in crafting our experience," they say. The winners: Peake Ranch rosé, Stolpman sauvignon blanc, Lioco "Estero" chardonnay, Copain "Tous Ensemble" pinot noir, and Ridge "Three Valleys" zinfandel blend.
Bottega Louie provided the pair with a pistachio joconde cake with almond mousse, pistachio mousse, and cherry marmalade. It needed no extra decorating, says the couple: "Perfect as is!"
Savor the Favor
At the end of the evening, guests took home treats from Bottega Louie, which were surrounded by lush florals.
Unplanned and Unforgettable
Although they had live music playing throughout their celebration, Bryan and Tim weren't sure if they wanted to encourage dancing during their reception. "We went back and forth on this so much, and in the end, we decided to let any dancing happen organically," they say. "With only 30 people, it would be easy for the dance floor to look empty and be an odd focal point."
The duo's choice to let dancing happen naturally "worked out perfectly" when their friends and family took matters into their own hands. "When they learned that we hadn't planned for a special dance, our guests intervened and asked Matt to play the song that we'd walked down the aisle to— Shania Twain's 'You're Still the One'—and got us out on the dance floor," they say. "It was so organic and fun, and everyone was really happy to dance together for a couple of songs."
Photography, Anya Kernes Photography
Venue, Kestrel Park
Wedding Planning and Event Design, Kayla Vie Events
Flowers, Heavenly Blooms Floral Design
Stationery, Owl Post Calligraphy
Cake and Favors, Bottega Louie
Music, Matt Commerce
Rentals, BBJ La Tavola; La Pinata Party Rentals; Major Event Trailers; Theoni Collection
Grooms' Shoes, Ted Baker
Lighting, Spark Creative Events
Transportation, Gold Coast Limos
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