Now that the year is coming to a close, we thought it would be fun to share our top fifteen weddings of the year with you! We’re so grateful for our sweet brides & grooms who shared their stories with us. Our BEST OF 2016…
There are times where we come across a couple who’s love is so big we can feel it filling up our hearts through the screen. M’daya and Shawn’s genuine love shines through these beautiful images from their bohemian wedding at the Botanic Garden in San Diego. We love the bright and cheerful colors, the traditional Hawaiian leis, and most of all the big smiles across the couple’s faces!
Photography by Rad + In Love.
What was the best advice you received as a bride? Be present. These pearls of wisdom were especially useful for the day of the wedding. Whenever I caught myself getting stressed about details, I tried to ground myself with those words and just enjoy the moment. Also, be selfish and honor your vision as a couple.
Did you include any other traditions in your wedding? We created a hodge-podge of our own traditions, but all were deeply meaningful. My mom gave me her wedding shoes to wear, which went wonderfully with my dress. My cousin, Hina, lei’d us with traditional Hawaiian leis that she brought with her (not to mention they smelled heavenly!). And a good friend from the east coast who couldn’t make it lent me the tote from her own wedding day. I felt so loved. Shawn and I exchanged gifts before the wedding to open alone as we got ready which was fun and exciting. He gifted me with my garter belt and I gave him a personalized hanky.
The bride’s bright and cheerful bouquet was made up of a colorful mix of blooming peonies, garden roses, white Veronica, and eucalyptus.
Floral Design and Floral Crown by Plenty of Petals.
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? Savor every minute. Even if there is stress or drama (which there always seems to be), remember to refocus on what matters and what this wedding truly means to your couple. At one time I didn’t even think I would ever get married, so during difficult moments I reminded myself to be grateful to even be planning such a celebration. It really does go by in the blink of an eye and you don’t want to regret missing a minute of it. As for the day of, my husband would definitely advise taking a minute to yourselves to eat and reconnect amongst the chaos. And most importantly, have fun!
“When we first met, Shawn was living in Encinitas. Six months later he quit his job and moved to LA so that we could be together. But to this day, Encinitas pretty much remains his favorite place in the world! So it was a wonderful surprise when we stumbled upon the hidden treasure that is the San Diego Botanic Garden. It’s a magical place full of natural beauty and an overriding feeling of peacefulness. We knew immediately that it was perfect for us. Encinitas also served as an awesome destination for all of our guests, in particular my family and friends traveling from as far as Europe and the east coast. Everyone mellowed out in this chill surf town and we were able to really spread out the festivities over a few days and spend as much quality time as we could with everyone.”
Your ceremony in three words. Intimate, unconventional, relaxed
How did you go about planning your ceremony? We knew from the start that we didn’t want a traditional ceremony and that the most important thing to us was that it feel personal. We also knew that we wanted to involve our loved ones. One of the things that was wonderful about our officiant, Jason Nathan, was the large selection of ideas (ranging from vows to blessings) that he provided us with for inspiration. We integrated a few non-conventional ideas that came from him. He had also asked us to fill out individual questionnaires to get to know us better as a couple, which I of course didn’t realize he would be using for the ceremony. Let’s just say there were some hilarious and embarrassing moments when he read out loud some of our answers! Ironically, many of our guests commented on how much they loved how personal and unique this made our ceremony feel.
“We included a shell blessing to incorporate all of our guests and highlight how important each of them is in our life. Our ring bearer, who is also my godson, handed out shells as guests were seated and towards the end of the ceremony, the officiant asked them for a moment of silence to bless their shell for our union. The shells were collected at the end of the ceremony and now sit in a pretty container in our living room as a lovely reminder of how much love surrounded us that day.”
What was your ceremony music? We were really excited to have my cousin (who is really like my little sister), Hina, and her boyfriend, Devon, serenade us for the ceremony. They are Hawaiian, so they definitely brought some island sunshine to the celebration. Hina sang “Sea of Love” while her boyfriend played the ukulele for the groom and flower girl procession. And as I walked down the aisle with my step-father, they performed “La vie en Rose” in French!! She practiced for months beforehand since she doesn’t speak French, which meant so much to me since I am originally from France. It was one of the best moments of the day, though it went by too fast.
Who officiated your ceremony? Jason Nathan of Ceremonies by Bethel. We were looking for a non-traditional officiant and we knew from the moment we skyped with Jason that he was the right fit for us.
What were your ceremony readings? Pablo Neruda, Sonnet XVII, and in place of our second reading, Shawn’s mom, who is an incredible opera singer, sang “O Sole Mio”.
Did you include any traditions in your ceremony? We wanted to honor our parents and so we included a parents blessing where we thanked them and lei’d them with fresh leis my cousin and her boyfriend brought us specially from Hawaii. Our parents were really surprised, but it was a very touching moment that allowed us to connect with them during our ceremony.
What were your vows like? We came up with our own vows—short and sweet—to keep it personal.
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? It was such a surreal experience. I thought I would be an emotional mess throughout it, but oddly I just felt ecstatic. My step-father walked me down the aisle and that was one of the moments I felt the closest and most grateful to him in my life. Then seeing the love in Shawn’s face and looking out at our parents, family and friends in a sea of emotion and love was an incredible feeling—just pure joy.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share about your wedding ceremony? I was in love with the hanging flower garlands our florist used to decorate the ceremony arch. She took my vision and elevated it with her talent. It added such a magical touch to the setting.
“The beauty of the San Diego Botanic Garden is that it has several locations throughout the venue that you can use, which allows for guests to really enjoy the incredible natural beauty of the gardens. From ceremony to cocktail hour to the reception, we used three different sites on location and guests were able to walk around the gardens and explore.”
“Shawn created beautiful wooden signs for the venue. I even had my Italian cousin designing table signs while reeling from jet lag. My mom came a week early from Boston and was an incredible help in getting us through the last push—while we struggled with the table seating, she labeled all of the Morocan tea glasses we used as favors and hand wrote the escort cards.”
How would you describe your reception? Dreamy, magical, vibrant
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? Most importantly we wanted it to be a big party! We both grew up with huge families and those moments spent together were the highlights of our childhoods, so we really wanted to recreate that feeling with delicious food, kids running around and everyone dancing to great music.
Our backgrounds are very diverse and we wanted our celebration to incorporate some of those cultural details, so I set out early on to imagine and create all of the decor with the help of Shawn, family and friends. The inspiration was a bit whimsical ranging from Algerian and Lebanese elements, to Oriental poppies, to poetry and all round bohemian dreaminess.
“We made paper poppies as part of the wedding favors (never trust a Martha Stewart tutorial, she makes it look too easy!), petal cones, and hanging lace hamsas for the wishing tree. Everyone who volunteered to help had their work cut out for them!”
Do you have any budget tips for other brides? If you have the desire and the time, I would definitely recommend doing as many DIY details as you can—just be sure to start early! Also don’t be afraid to negotiate with vendors on ways to lower costs, most of the time they will try to meet you half way.
Did you have a signature cocktail? Shawn designed two signature cocktails with a wink to our love story. One we named the Mermaid’s Elixir—fresh Watermelon juice + lime + tequila. The other one named The Splendor of the Seven Seas—orange blossom + bourbon + fresh squeezed lemon. We also served prosecco and local artisan beer during the cocktail hour.
Please tell us about any other special details or moments from your reception. Poetry played a big role in the details of our celebration, since we began our long-distance courtship exchanging poems. Tables were named after our favorite poets and writers. My father, who is a writer and actor, came to California for the first time for our wedding all the way from France with my brother. I had asked him to write a poem for the occasion. As a toast, he read his poem dedicated to me in French and my brother translated. It was a powerful and touching moment that had me and many of the guests in tears.
“I was definitely that crazy bride who started collecting jars from friends and family six months before the wedding. I hand painted them with Mehndi designs to use as candle votives during the reception and, to save money, I painted the largest recycled jars in turquoise for the florist to use for centerpieces. We shibori dyed table runners for the reception- luckily Shawn’s aunt saved the day by hemming all of them!”
What was your wedding menu? The Wild Thyme Company helped us create a personalized Meditterenean inspired menu—they even managed to master a Lebanese salad I grew up eating. The food was out of this world.
Rosemary And Garlic Grilled Shrimp Skewer, Chicken Souvlaki Skewer, Mushroom Arancini, Fattoush Salad, Spiced Chicken Tagine, Rosemary & Garlic Lollipop Lamb Chops, Stuffed Peppers, Orzo Salad, Grilled Asparagus And Yellow Squash Platter, Kalamata Dinner Rolls, And Rustic Fig And Raspberry Mini Crostatas.
Catering by The Wild Thyme Company.
What type of cake or dessert did you serve? My aunt Vicky is my favorite pastry chef in the world. Her baking is to die for and she must really love us, because as our wedding gift she traveled from South Carolina with six chocolate ganache cakes in her suitcases for our wedding (which, incredibly, survived the trip!). She also made a plethora of her signature cookies to add to the traditional Lebanese baklava we had on the dessert bar. We also had a buttercream passion fruit cutting cake from a local bakery.
Passion Fruit Cake by Twiggs Bakery.
What was your first dance song? Father/daughter or mother/son dance? We made our grand entrance to Bob Marley’s “Could this Be Love”which was the first song we danced to on the night we first met.
First dance song: “Loving You” by Charles Bradley
Mother/son dance: “Play Me” by Neil Diamond
Reception Music by DJ Glenn Red.
What was your favorite moment or part of the reception? The entire experience was magical, in fact it felt like everyone was on a “love high”. It was the first time our families were meeting and also the first time my entire family was reunited since everyone is dispersed all over the world. Friends also came from all over the country and were also meeting for the first time. But everyone blended together wonderfully; it was like a big United Nations party set to the amazing worldly beats of our awesome DJ Glenn Red. Everyone danced like crazy and the best moments were when we would catch glimpses of our parents just beaming ear to ear. Those moments were precious. Afterwards, we danced til the wee hours at the after party Shawn’s cousins threw for us at their house.
If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently? It was perfect. We were incredibly grateful to have an amazing team of vendors who made it all come together.
“The most fun part of the night was the garter toss. Shawn had perhaps been looking forward to that his entire life and really milked the moment in a risqué performance that had us all in hysterics.”