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Photographer Jen Huang and Web developer Elihu Bogan hosted a backyard get-together for family and attendants in their Santa Barbara, California, garden. The lovebirds’ intimate prewedding party on July 18, 2013, blended her Chinese culture with his Irish roots.
The couple wanted the details to feel like they came from their own home, and collected many of them themselves in the months leading up to the celebration. The “sweetheart bench,” found at an antiques shop, now resides in their foyer.
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Jen wanted to handwrite all of the invitations and paper goods because she felt that even if it wasn’t the most professional calligraphy, it was still heartfelt and special.
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Elihu wore a summery J.Crew suit and Jen sported a traditional silk qipao from China. It boasted hand-embroidered flowers.
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A Chinese Tradition
“Our wedding was very Western, so we wanted the rehearsal dinner to reflect my Chinese culture,” Jen says. “We had a tea ceremony with immediate family before the meal.” The ceremony took place inside their living room, a spot the pair now considers sacred because it’s filled with the most wonderful memories.
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Traditionally, during the tea ceremony, you kneel and present your elders with tea and they give you gifts for your wedding. So Jen and Elihu knelt in front of their parents, served them tea, and thanked them for their sacrifices throughout the years. It was a tearful, but happy, occasion.
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TieGuanYin tea (a fragrant Chinese blend) was served in antique teacups the couple had collected during their years living in New York City.
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A Bespoke Bar
A DIY drinks station included Irish whiskey, a nod to Elihu’s heritage. The antique barware was collected through trips across the country, and after being used at the rehearsal dinner was moved to its permanent residency in the couple’s home. “Our houseguests can still use the same pieces that we had at the welcome dinner,” Jen says. “These details tie our present day to the past and remain meaningful beyond that onetime use.”
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Tickle Your Fancy
Jen calligraphed a sign to encourage guests to make themselves a yummy cocktail.
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Wooden tables were set with arrangements of dahlias, garden roses, raspberries, scabiosa, fern, poke weed, ranunculus, and chocolate cosmos made by Poppies & Posies. In China, the color of weddings and happiness is red, so a palette of the symbolic color (plus pinks and other bright shades) was selected.
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Laser-engraved wood detailed the tapas menu and doubled as a cheese board. Duo Catering prepared the meal, which was a tasting menu served family-style.
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Setting the Table
Each place was set with a wooden charger, antique crystal and flatware, and a single plum.
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An Artful Touch
Jen watercolored the place cards, which opened to reveal fun facts about the couple. This served as an icebreaker—with guests reading the tidbits inside and sharing them with one another.
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The Guest List
The backyard setting was especially moving: “We’d just bought our home and couldn’t think of a better way to ‘warm’ it,” says Jen of having their families join together to eat a delicious meal. Another homey touch: the music. The couple put their record collection to use to provide the soundtrack for the celebration.