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A common theme we’ve noticed in most of our favorite weddings is that the couple made a conscious decision not to follow the constraints of trying to have a traditional wedding, and just went with what felt right for them as a couple! Justine and John did just that, and their wedding turned out beautifully. From Justine: Our inspiration for the day was to have an event full of “rustic whimsy” with great food, and above all, lots of fun! Every element of the wedding was added only if it would bring joy, fun, or deliciousness to the day! We did everything that would make us happy or add enjoyment for our guests, and didn’t worry too much about following any specific “rules” or fulfilling traditional wedding expectations!

One of my favorite moments was walking down the aisle with my dad, wearing my mom’s veil veil that she wore while marrying my dad 37 years ago! My dress had a special secret of it’s own, as well! Before the wedding, I asked my talented tailor, Anne Fiser, to make the dress convertible for me. The long tulle skirt was overlaid with an asymmetrical short layer, so she made the bottom skirt removable.  I was able to rip off the full bottom skirt and show up to the reception in a gorgeous tea-length dress, perfect for dancing the night away! Another special element was that the flower for John’s boutonniere grew out of the succulent in my bouquet!

My dad and my brother are talented wood workers and their skills were showcased all over the wedding. My dad built all of the long flower boxes that we used for centerpieces, made a beautiful cake stand, and designed and built a perfect escort card display. The escort cards were truly unique and amazing. My brother cut chic hang tags out of rustic wood and laser etched everyone’s name and table number onto the tags! They were fabulous and informative keepsakes for the guests! My brother also carved all of the table numbers out of wood and printed directional signs (“John and Justine’s Wedding: This Way”) and bar menus with white ink on rustic wood.

Our centerpieces were a collection of succulents and fresh flowers, arranged in my dad’s wooden boxes and in various silver vessels that have been in my family for years. We had gorgeous succulents, café au lait dahlias, and coral roses in everything from silver pitchers to silver ladles to sliver sugar bowl lids. My mom grew all of the succulents in our garden and, with fresh flowers added by Teri at Twiggs, put together all of the centerpiece arrangements. We served a delicious and unique family style dinner at long kings tables, layered with beautiful linens from La Tavola Linens, and stacked with rustic wooden boxes and silver vessels overflowing with succulents and fresh blooms. Dinner and dancing in the garden on a warm summer night with café lights stung overhead was truly magical.

Coast Catering provided the most unique, memorable, and delicious wedding dinner I have ever experienced! Filet mignon in port reduction, pan roasted chicken breast, white bean and bacon succotash, quinoa with mint and medjool dates, truffle mac and cheese, and squash blossoms were all served family style. My mom and my sister baked, cut, and frosted 200+ almond cookies for the guests to take home as favors. They placed each cookie in a cellophane bag, closed with a “Thank You” tag that was attached with a zig zag stitched at the top. Beautiful and delicious! In addition to wedding cake from VG’s, we served a cheese course for dessert (the bride doesn’t have a sweet tooth, but she sure loves cheese!) I loved seeing the guests enjoy a plate of “Euphoria” cheese and a glass of whiskey for dessert!

I have so many favorite memories of the day! I loved seeing the look on John’s face when I surprised him by singing Ingrid Michaelson’s, “The Way I Am” with our guitarist during the cocktail hour. John and I also loved surprising our guests with a raucous first dance, choreographed to Queen’s “Best Friend,” complete with high leg kicks, lifts, and dips! I will never forget dancing with my dad (also choreographed!) to Ellie Goulding’s rendition of “Your Song” or when John and his mom broke out from dancing to “The Wind Beneath My Wings,” into the wildly vibrant “Johnny B. Goode.” Surprisingly, cutting the cake with John was a favorite moment of the day! We had hardly set aside official time to do this, because I didn’t think I cared about this “silly” tradition. As it turned out, I loved John gently and lovingly whispering that “we were supposed to do this together” when I hurriedly grabbed the knife and reached for the top tier alone! All of our guests gathered around, as we laughed our way through many trials of removing a single slice together. Being surrounded by our smiling friends and family on such a special and love-filled day was absolutely magical. We had so many special and meaningful details that made the day truly incredible for my husband and I and for our families.

My advice for brides-to-be is to focus your planning choices on what will make the day FEEL fabulous. Spend your resources on things that will add fun, a feeling of love, or deliciousness (if that’s important to you!). I would also recommend scheduling “official dates” with your fiancé over the course of your wedding planning. It’s easy to get swept up and overwhelmed with organizing the details of the day and forget to set aside quality time for each other! John and I decided to take dance lessons before the wedding, so we made every dance lesson day a date day! They were written firmly on the calendar and we loved spending the day together, talking about things other than wedding planning details for a change! If you are lucky enough to have amazing help and support from your family, like I did, cherish the extra time spend together. Those extra hours together putting together invitations, trying on dresses, going to catering, cake, wine, and cocktail (oh my!) tastings are just icing on the cake of a an amazing and celebratory year! Enjoy it!

Venue: San Diego Botanic Garden / Catering: Coast Catering / Linens: La Tavola Fine Linen Rental / Photography: Joielala Photographie / Videography: Red Video Productions / Flowers: Twigs by Teri / DJ: Shammy Dee / Wedding cake: VG’s Bakery / Cheese: Venissimo Cheese / Lighting: Bright Idea Lights / Guitarist: Mike Bowman / Officiant: Bishop Peter Hickman

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  1. Alexan Events — Thursday, January 3rd, 2013
    Love the garden floral boxes on the table tops - styled so lovely!!
  2. Lena — Thursday, January 3rd, 2013
    A convertible dress? Genius!
  3. Jen — Thursday, January 3rd, 2013
    Love all the wood details. Even better that they were made by her dad and brother!
  4. Ginna & David — Thursday, January 3rd, 2013
    Every moment spent in the Botanical Gardens was truly special because everyone felt so welcomed,loved and honored & happy to be part of your beautiful day! The signs, the sighs, the food, flowers, succulents, DJ, whimsies, cheeses, special drinks, family style service at incredible banquet tables....EVERYTHING was delightful! It just doesn't get better than J&J!!!
  5. Lauren @ Every Last Detail — Thursday, January 3rd, 2013
    So beautiful! The colors are gorgeous!!
  6. Hallie Blau — Friday, January 4th, 2013
    I loved it! Romantic and beautiful. I liked the diversity of dresses for the bridal party.
  7. — Friday, January 4th, 2013
    Justine and John did just that, and their wedding turned out beautifully. From Justine: Our inspiration for the day was to have an event full of “rustic whimsy” with great food, and above all, lots of fun!
  8. Lisa — Saturday, January 5th, 2013
    Just a gorgeous and colorful display of love.
    designer outlet and online fashion store
  9. Andrea Bellagala Intern — Thursday, January 17th, 2013
    We LOVE the bride's bedazzled shoes! They are to-die-for! The color of the bridesmaid dresses is lovely and a little different from most, which we love as well. Congratulations Justine and John!