A year before their wedding, Erica & Alex took a trip to Patagonia, and loved it so much they considered getting married there! After deciding it was just a little far to ask their guests to travel to, with the help of their planner To La Lune Events they brought Patagonia’s laid back feel and dreamy colors home with them – from the moody pastels of the bridesmaid dresses and reception decor to the trailing, organic florals. Not everything about this wedding is laid back though – just wait until you see the lovely bride’s long sleeved lace gown, her handsome groom in full military dress, and his friends honoring the newlyweds with a Naval and Marine Corp Sword Arch!
Why did you choose this location for your ceremony? At the recommendation of a friend we went and visited Darlington House in La Jolla, California. We knew that we wanted to have our wedding in a beautiful backyard or estate environment instead of a hotel, because we envisioned having an intimate and relaxed atmosphere and a location all to ourselves. When we saw historical Darlington House and its brick courtyard surrounded by gorgeous landscaping it immediately felt like the right place for us to celebrate!
Your ceremony in three words. Personal, joyous, family-oriented.
How did you go about planning your ceremony? Our friend Melissa is an amazing woman and a pastor at a local church in San Diego. We both felt it was important to have a pastor that we knew well to officiate our wedding. Melissa sat down with us twice before the wedding for dinner and planning sessions; it was so much fun and such an important time for us. Melissa asked us to describe the values that we wanted in our marriage and the type of language, tone, and structure we envisioned for our ceremony. Together we incorporated those values, several personal stories from our relationship, and a message from Melissa. We were so glad that we chose Melissa to officiate because she far surpassed our requests and did a phenomenal job in celebrating and honoring the beginning of our marriage. Our ceremony kept everyone smiling; it was wonderful.
You can see the full script of Erica & Alex’s ceremony right here!
Did you include any traditions in your ceremony? Giving Away: One of our marriage values is equality and we wanted to express that value in our ceremony. Together we decided that instead of just having the bride “given away,” we wanted to express that our ceremony was the celebration of two families and two people coming together. We did this by having all of our parents get up and join us at the altar when my father and I had finished walking down the aisle. With our parents on each side of us we held hands and Melissa offered a prayer. It was an incredibly special moment and produced some of our favorite photographs. // Opening Greeting: After this prayer Melissa invited the guests and bridal party to say hello to the people in the seats around them, whether it meant saying hi to old friends or meeting someone new for the first time. I think our guests enjoyed the greeting time because it set a more relaxed tone for the ceremony. The last thing we wanted was a stuffy environment as we celebrated the start to our marriage. Plus, it also gave Alex and I the chance to take a breath, hug our parents, wave to guests, and take in that special moment together before our ceremony began.
What was your ceremony music? While our guests were being seated, The Piano Guys played Bring Him Home, Home, Beethoven’s 5 Secrets, One Republic’s Titanium, Begin Again, Hello, Love Story/Viva La Vida, A Sky Full of Stars, Can’t Help Falling in Love. // Family and bridal party entrance: Reign of Love (Extended Version by Coldplay), which then faded into Photograph Instrumental (by Simply Three). // Bridal Processional: A Thousand Years.
What were your ceremony readings? Romans 12:10 and John 13.
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? Alex: Seeing Erica come down the aisle and holding her hand throughout the ceremony. // Erica: Turning the corner and seeing Alex, then our family and everyone we loved gathered together to celebrate. I was overwhelmed with how loved I felt.
How would you describe your reception? We wanted our reception to feel like the best party our friends and family had ever been too. We focused on having great music, great food, and creating a beautiful but comfortable ambience. Our wedding planner Christy from To La Lune guided us towards some of the most incredible vendors and helped us to bring our ideas to life. Christy was unbelievably talented and hiring her was the best decision we made.
After the ceremony our guests were treated to delicious passed tray appetizers with everything from tuna tartar to meatballs and grilled cheese during the cocktail hour. We had set up two separate lounge areas in the courtyards of the Darlington House with gorgeous vintage couches, chairs, and accent pieces. Dinner was held in the larger courtyard space on gorgeous white and dark wood tables set with gold chargers, gold rimmed vintage glasses, and gold plated utensils.
With our guests full of amazing food and drink the mood was already set for a great dance party. We hired the amazing band Soulville California, who played everything from The Weekend to an Earth Wind and Fire medley, and kept people dancing from start to finish. At one point the dance floor was absolutely packed, the band’s vocalist was singing from on top of a table, and the guitar player was playing out among guests on the floor—it couldn’t have been more fun.
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? A little less than a year before our wedding Alex and I took a life-changing trip to the Chilean side of Patagonia. We fell in love with the people, food, and the unreal natural beauty. We stayed at one of the few hotels in the park, hiked all day, and then enjoyed Chilean food and wine in the evenings. We feel in love with Patagonia, and if we had an unlimited budget we would have loved to go back and get married there. Alas, it is also the southern most point of the world (right before you get to Antarctica!) and so this was never a realistic option for us. But, what was an option was to recreate some of our favorite elements, colors, and memories of Patagonia into the wedding. Our planner Christy helped inspire so many amazing ways for us to bring the colors, accents, and an atmosphere reminiscent of the Patagonian landscape into the details of our Southern Californian wedding.
What was your wedding menu? Tray Passed Appetizers: Spicy Tuna Tartare Cones, Grilled Cheese Bites, Mini Lobster Rolls, Turkey Meatball Lollipops, Local Watermelon Bon Bons, and Seared Kobe Beef on Yorkshire Pudding / Plated Dinner – Salad: Spring Strawberry Stack Salad / Main Course: Sea Bass, Short Rib, or Vegetarian Mushroom and Cheese Ravioli.
What was the best advice you received as a bride? Relax and have fun, your wedding will fly by so soak it in as best you can—and make sure to eat (we did)!
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? I would tell couples to remember first and foremost that your wedding is a day of celebration—so remember that everything you are planning is adding towards an event that’s main purpose is to lift up and celebrate you, your spouse, and those you love. Gratefulness for having a wedding in general ended up being our most positive asset throughout the whole planning process. Even better, the funny things that don’t go exactly as you planned often end up being different but fun, and even more no one will know that anything has changed from the original plan. For example, we didn’t expect to need a tent, but the threat of rain meant we had to erect one in the smaller courtyard space of the Darlington House squishing our tables closer together and making the dance floor a bit smaller. Despite that, one of the biggest compliments we received was how intimate the tent made the wedding feel and we even had guests using the hastag #besttentever on Facebook!
What type of cake or dessert did you serve? We had a small cake and half of it was faux because we had a huge array of different desserts and didn’t plan on serving cake to guests. However, we still wanted to have the tradition of cutting the cake with the Navy sword so we came to this resolution with Christy’s help to save money and include the cake cutting tradition. Our cake was hand painted by the baker and was an absolutely gorgeous element of the overall décor – it was both art and food!
How dramatic is Erica & Alex’s Naval and Marine Corp Sword Arch? Read more about it right here!
What was your first dance song? Father/daughter or mother/son dance?
First dance: Stay With You by John Legend
Father/daughter: Unforgettable by Nat King Cole
Mother/son: Oceans by Hillsong
What was your favorite moment or part of the reception? Our favorite moment occurred when the band began playing the very last song of the night, and one that we had requested, Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond. All of our guests, and I truthfully mean all, formed a big dance circle around Alex and I. At the top of our lungs everyone was singing along and Alex and I were dancing with each other in the middle looking at people we love having the time of their lives. Sweet Caroline was a song near and dear to Alex’s Naval Academy friends, and so each of them knew every word, but so did most of the other guests! With glasses raised and total joy we brought our dance party and wedding celebration to an unforgettable end.