California soul…Susan and Ryan’s wedding has oodles of the stuff. As a native Californian (sixth-generation!) and music lover, our delightful bride wanted to capture the timeless, lighthearted spirit of SoCal and fill every moment with song. Girlfriend hit exactly the right note. Gorgeous, warm, and playful, Susan and Ryan’s wedding day was a California dream, as was Susan in her Camille wedding dress!
Susan’s office happens to be close to The White Flower in San Diego, and she’d always admired the gowns in the window. So, when it came time to find the dress, she knew exactly where to start.
She shares the details of her one-and-done dress search, Ryan’s sweet proposal, their Solana Beach celebration and how she rapped to The Pharcyde during the reception (true story) below!
How did your sweetie propose?
“Ryan proposed on the two-year anniversary of our first date. He made reservations at the same restaurant where we had our first date – The Venetian, in the Pt. Loma neighborhood of San Diego. Unbeknownst to me, he had asked for my dad’s blessing at my cousin’s baby shower a couple weeks prior. He told my friends and family that we were going to dinner at 7 pm but they should not show up until 8 pm. My family knew that he planned to propose, but my friends did not. About twenty minutes into dinner, he proposed. He got down on one knee and busted out a velvet-covered box with a small light inside and a beautiful princess cut solo ring. Even though I suspected it, I was shocked. I said, “Oh my god, are you serious?” About twenty minutes later, my parents and brother arrived – not yet knowing my response, they had questioning looks on their faces. Ryan said “She said yes!” and they joined us for dinner. About ten minutes later, some of my closest friends and Ryan’s best friend (and later our best man) arrived. We all shared dessert, wine, and champagne. After the restaurant, our friends joined us at The Harp, the Irish dive bar where Ryan and I first met.”
How did you choose your gown?
“I chose my gown quickly! For six years, I had worked several blocks from The White Flower, one of San Diego’s best bridal boutiques. The White Flower has display windows showing about five different gowns at one time. I had frequently looked at the gowns during lunchtime walks. My mom and sister had also seen the store, and agreed that the gowns in the store were gorgeous. At one point before I even met my husband, my mom noticed a beautiful gown in the window, and called to ask who the designer was. It was Lea-Ann Belter!
After we got engaged (November 24, 2015), my mom and sister knew that The White Flower was my first choice for gown shopping. Since my fiancé wanted to get married about eight months after the proposal in the Summer of 2016, I was spending most of my time trying to find a suitable venue and hadn’t yet gone wedding dress shopping. My sister found out online that The White Flower was having a sample sale on December 19. I asked my mom if she wanted to go with me, and she eagerly replied “Yes!” I asked her what time, and she said “Anytime!” I made an appointment.
We arrived at The White Flower with only one hour allotted to us. I had always known that I wanted an ivory lace gown. I also knew that an A-line design would be most flattering on me. I asked Kathy, my consultant, to limit my choices within those parameters. I tried on about six dresses. I then narrowed it down to three. Then it was down to two, even though one was my favorite. At the last minute, I realized that Camille was the most flattering and the most beautiful. It had been my mom’s favorite since the beginning, and I realized that she was right! Kathy told me, after I made my decision, that it was also her favorite. I looked at my mom and said “I don’t think we’re going to find anything as beautiful as this out there.” She agreed, she bought it, and Kathy brought us all pink champagne. One hour, in and out, and I had found my dress!”
Tell us about your day! Did you have a theme or style in mind?
“My theme was soulful, Californian, and elegant. I am a sixth-generation Native Californian, so I wanted it to feel very appropriate for August in Southern California. I love music both as worship (I always sing at mass even though I have no vocal talent) and for pleasure, therapy, and fun. I wanted the music to be plentiful and beautiful. My mom’s friend is a harpist at a nearby Catholic church, so we asked her and her cellist-accompanist to perform during the ceremony. My church’s music director would be performing at an opera festival in Italy on our wedding day, but she was able to arrange for a baritone opera singer, Bernardo Bermudez, to sing at our ceremony.
We wanted the reception to be both classy and fun, so we hired a four-piece band with an amazingly talented and fun vocalist, Leonard Patton, for the cocktail hour, dinner, and part of reception. I asked them to play romantic standards. We also wanted the reception to be fun, and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Our first dance was a medley of two Lyle Lovett songs – the darkly humorous “She’s No Lady” (“she hates my mommma/she hates my daddy too/she loves to tell me/how much she hates the things I do….she’s no lady she’s my wife…the preacher asked her/and she said I do/the preacher asked me/she said ‘He does too’/the preacher said/I pronounce you 99 to life/she’s no lady, she’s your wife”) and the wistful “If I Had a Boat.” To keep the party going, we had a DJ for the last three hour of the reception so we could dance to hip hop. I rapped the entire song of “Passin’ Me By” by The Pharcyde, and my cousin told me it was her favorite part of the entire wedding!
Our wedding favors were ocean-blue 80s sunglasses with “Love” and a heart graphic on the side. We and our wedding party made our grand entrance wearing the sunglasses. Many guests wore them on the dance floor at the reception.
I also wanted the ceremony, reception, and programs to be meaningful in a big way – not just about us, but about love and marriage and faith. When I was trying to conceptualize the wedding, I had a vision of flowing navy fabric, blush, and ivory. Those became my colors. I had only two bridesmaids – my sister and my fiancé’s sister. I let them choose their own dresses, as long as they were navy, long, and flowing. Our flower girls were my 2-year-old niece and my fiancé’s 5-year-old twin nieces. I wanted them to look wholesome yet pretty and elegant. I thought tuxes to be out of place in Southern California in the summer, so I asked my fiancé to pick out navy or dark blue suits for the guys. My processional was to “How Can I Keep from Singing” and the recessional was “Amazing Grace” (my late grandfather’s favorite song) and the gospel song “Oh Happy Day.”
Finally, 20% of our wedding guests were kids! We had almost 40 kids. We had coloring (markers and a coloring book page of a bride and groom), giant Jenga (which they ended up using as building blocks) and bean bag toss on the patio next to the ballroom. The kids also figured out that they could roll down the hill at the golf course!”
Where did you go on your honeymoon?
“For our honeymoon, we went to Norway, with one night in London at the end. My fiancé is part Norwegian (naturally, since he’s from Minnesota) and I wanted to visit Norway because my late grandfather was half-Norwegian. Ryan and I both like mountains, the ocean, the outdoors, and exploring. Since we first started dating, we have been great travelers together. We started and ended in Oslo and took three overnight train trips with our own sleeper with bunk beds and a sink and chocolates on our pillows, multiple car ferries, and one rental car to travel across the fjords. Our last night was in London, where we had a 20-hour layover. We ate fish and chips in a pub, saw Buckingham Palace and Big Ben and the Churchill statue at night, and toured Kensington Palace the next morning.”
Susan + Ryan’s Southern California Wedding Vendors
wedding dress: Camille via The White Flower Bridal Boutique | veil: Justine M Couture via The White Flower | photographer: The Gold Collective | hair: Leslie Cole | makeup: Heather Graff | florals: The Flower Shop | wedding coordination: Lindsay Nicole Wedding and Events | paperie: Leach Creative | videography: Amari Productions | music: Glen Fisher Band featuring Leonard Patton | wedding cake: VG Donut & Bakery | ceremony venue: St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church | reception venue: Lomas Santa Fe Country Club | DJ: DJ Jerry Beck of Beck’s Entertainment