This Couple's English Garden-Inspired Wedding in Montecito, California, Was 20 Years in the Making
Helen and Huu's romance was two decades in the making. The couple first met 20 years ago, when Helen was a student at the University of Nevada in Los Vegas. Huu was immediately smitten and wanted to propose to her after just three months. Helen, on the other hand, felt her age: She wanted to get a little more out of life before settling down. To show his commitment, Huu offered Helen a diamond promise ring for her 22nd birthday.
Years came and went—the two decided to buy a house and start a life together but chose not to become formally "engaged." Finally, on their 20th relationship anniversary, Helen felt it was time. Huu proposed (again!) in New York City's Central Park, this time with the cushion-cut diamond his future bride had always envisioned (she'd admired this particular stone online for months). The bauble's pear-shaped side stones actually reminded her of another piece of jewelry he'd gifted to her earlier on in their relationship. "It was all very serendipitous," she says.
After more of life's twists and turns—Helen endured an ovarian cancer scare and lost her grandmother—the couple married on March 30, 2019, in an intimate garden-inspired wedding with a touch of whimsy. They were joined by 55 guests and their dogs in Montecito, California, to celebrate their dream nuptials at San Ysidro Ranch. When looking back on the ups and downs of her life and wedding, Helen says that she wouldn't change a thing. "We always believed in serendipity, good karma, and riding the waves of life—our wedding was no different," she recalls.
Invites to Montecito
The Perfect Spot
Deciding on a wedding venue was difficult for Helen and Huu, but when they got the opportunity to marry at the celebrity-approved San Ysidro Ranch, the couple immediately booked it. After all, the locale held meaning for the bride. "It was the last place I went to before going through surgery," she explains.
On the big day, the groom enjoyed a glass of Remy Martin XO Excellence Cognac—the perfect antidote to any pre-wedding nerves.
The Handsome Couple
Helen donned a delicate Judd Waddell wedding dress for the ceremony, which she paired with a belt she'd found at Erin Cole years prior. She posed for portraits in a lace sheath gown from Vera Wang, pictured here.
Huu chose a Hugo Boss tuxedo; he paired his ensemble with a crisp white shirt from the same brand.
As for the bride's accessories? She completed her look with pieces of jewelry Huu had gifted her over the years; she also wore a vintage pearl ring, an heirloom that once belonged to her late grandmother.
Helen's favorite florals, including fringed tulips, bleeding heart, and lily of the valley, filled her bouquet by Intertwine Flowers.
The Added Touch
The First Look
Just before the ceremony, the couple took a few moments to themselves. Helen "loved being able to twirl in my dress" during their first look, she recalls.
A Familiar Wedding
The same watercolor illustration seen on the invitation suite was translated onto a piece of signage placed near the entryway, welcoming guests to the celebration. The sign also foreshadowed two VIP attendees: Gingersnap and Rocky Road.
Helen wanted the ceremony to feel like it was unfolding inside of a terrarium. "It was my interpretation of a Garden of Eden with some of my favorite flowers," she explains. Those flowers included, hellebore, lilac, fritillaria, ranunculus, fringed tulips, sweet pea, allium, narcissus paperwhites, spirea, pieris, roses, spray roses, orlaya, delphinium, bleeding heart, and lily of the valley—many of which adorned the green-and-white arch that anchored the space.
After becoming particularly close to her brother during the wedding-planning process, Helen asked him to give her away. The two walked down the aisle to "You've Got a Way" by Shania Twain.
The cocktail hour, which took place on the patio, had a Restoration Hardware vibe of "modern femininity and masculinity," says Helen. "The color palette was a nice contrast against the white in the cottage, [where the reception was held]."
A Touch of Purple
In line with the English garden theme, guests enjoyed their Prosecco di Valdobbiadene with a lavender garnish.
A Bite to Eat
Guests noshed on coconut tiger prawns, whipped goat cheese and honey-marinated fig crostini, and pecan-crusted brie during cocktail hour.
In the Clouds
If the ceremony was designed to mimic a terrarium, the reception was ideated around a snow globe. "I designed the space as if the guests were floating in the clouds," she says of the all-white color palette. Seven different types of creamy La Tavola linen added texture to the tablescapes throughout the celebration.
Modern stone-hued plates were topped with folded menus—emblazoned with the couple's monogram—that also doubled as place cards. Silver cutlery and crystal goblets completed each setting.
A Touch of Salt
Guests took home valves of floral sea salts as favors.
The First Dance
The couple shared a romantic first dance to "Every Time I Close My Eyes" by Kenny G. and Babyface.
Another highlight came later on in the evening, when Helen surprised Huu was another dance—in private. "It was to 'You Are the Reason' by Calum Scott and Leona Lewis—it was just us, by ourselves," says says.
Lele Patisseri designed the couple's honey-lavender cake, complete with elderflower meringue buttercream filling.
Photography, Clary Pfeiffer
Venue and Catering, San Ysidro Ranch
Event planning, Helen Wei; HHV Designs
Flowers, Intertwine Flowers by Kelly Lenard
Videography, T&C Studios
Stationery, The Wells Makery
Calligraphy, Custom Crafted
Cake, Lele Patisserie
Music, Chris Wooley
Bride's gown, Judd Waddell (ceremony), Vera Wang (portraits and reception)
Hair, Christin Brown of Luna Bella Makeup & Hair
Makeup, Ashley Kelly of Luna Bella Makeup & Hair
Lighting, Bellavista Designs
Linens, La Tavola