This Couple Built a Custom Neon Dance Floor for Their 1980s-Themed Wedding Reception
Katy Jenson and Michael Lasker moved in similar business circles in Los Angeles for years—Katy as the VP of Television for Broadway Video and Michael as a talent manager at Mosaic Media Group—but after meeting at a business lunch, they lost touch for nearly a decade. Then, in true meet-cute fashion, they reconnected at the premiere of a show called Man Seeking Woman. "I was about to leave the party early when Katy asked me to get her a drink," says Michael. "Now, I might be a typical dumb guy, but I'm not that dumb! We ended up talking until four in the morning."
Almost three years later, Michael popped the question on a trip to Budapest, where he rented every seat on a dinner boat for a private cruise on the Danube River. "He'd even hired local musicians to serenade us all night—a violinist and an accordion player," says Katy. "After the proposal, they played 'Memories' from Cats, which I thought was hilarious since it's a song about being old and dying!"
For Katy, who grew up on the East Coast, planning a wedding near the couple's home in Los Angeles meant combining two distinct styles. She wanted "West Coast chill meets East Coast elegance," she says. "Fun and relaxed with loads of personality." The couple chose the Belmand El Encanto hotel in Santa Barbara, California, for their low-stress wedding weekend: "We really wanted the feeling of everyone being in the same place for the whole weekend," says Katy. "No getting on buses!"
On September 22, 2018, they became husband and wife in front of 170 guests at their outdoor wedding and reception; the event was highlighted by perfect, sunny weather. The duo created two distinct atmospheres for the day: A ceremony and dinner teeming with fresh flowers for an upscale backyard garden feel and a 1980s-themed dance party—complete with a custom neon dance floor and a choreographed group dance—for the reception. "All of the personal touches that were still being beautiful and chic made it special for us," says Katy. "We loved that everyone was able to relax and have fun!"
Michael had prepared to propose to Katy on their trip to Europe, but almost didn't have a ring to give her. "A week before the trip started, when I purchased the ring, it was stolen out of the trunk of my car just three hours later!" he says. "The jeweler couldn't find the same diamond, it was the weekend, and I had precious time to look for a new one and deal with insurance. A few days later, the jeweler finally located another similar (even better) diamond and I was able to get the ring again, just in time to fly out the next morning. So yes, I bought two engagement rings. It's just that one of them has no doubt been hawked for hopefully good money in the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles."
The couple's invitation suite from Paper Birch Designs set the tone for their East-Coast-meets-West-Coast weekend with elegant embossed print in fun, unexpected fonts. "We wanted bring an Art Deco, Old Hollywood feel to the printed material," says the couple. Copper-colored text matched the wax custom seal that enclosed each invitation in a strip of fabric.
Katy wore two different wedding dresses by Monique Lhullier on the big day, changing during the reception. "I knew I wanted my dresses to be tea length—I thought that would be so chic and unexpected and original," she says. "My ceremony dress looked so different on the model in the store and I almost didn't try it on. Once I had it on and played with changing the hemline, I knew it was the dress! It had an Old Hollywood glamour element to it, but shortening the length made it modern."
She wore the same pair of rose gold Saint Laurent heels with both looks; skipped a veil to let the ceremony gown's long train take center stage; and kept her jewelry minimal with diamond solitaire earrings that were a gift from her father. "He wanted me to have something that I'd be able to pass along to a daughter someday, which was very special," she says.
Lucky Lilies of the Valley
The bride's understated bouquet from Moon Canyon Design was a special request from the bride that almost didn't happen. "I knew I wanted a lily of the valley bouquet from pretty early on—I had no idea they are hard to find out of season," she says. "I got extremely lucky when the flowers arrived, and the lily of the valley were stunning."
His Dark Materials
Michael ordered a custom dark blue tuxedo, which he wore with a white shirt and a polished black bow tie. "I found a wonder tailor through a friend, who came to my house and walked me through dozens of fabrics and colors and styles, and then the shirt and tux were made in Europe," he says. "I also had them inscribe some important phrases on the inside of the tux—like under the collar, it said 'Man Seeking Woman.'" The final product fit so well, that he wore it for most of the evening—even during the group dance. "I was so enamored with my tux that I didn't take my jacket off, which limited my agility!"
The couple kept their bridal party to just family. "Since Katy and I are adults, which means we were over 35, we decided against the typical huge amounts of bridesmaids and groomsmen and instead just involved our siblings," says Michael. Their two brothers wore dark blue suits and ties, while sisters and sisters-in-law wore pale blue. The flower girls wore white dresses with tiny blue ribbons—"They were one of my favorite things in the wedding," says Katy. "I just fell in love with them the moment I saw them!"—and the two ring bearers wore seersucker suits. "I thought seersucker would be the perfect preppy accompaniment," says Katy. "Very East Coast and perfect for the summer weather."
Home Sweet Home
Katy and Michael exchanged vows outside the hotel, where draped garlands and lush florals created the homey, backyard garden feel Katy was looking for. "I loved the idea of having the ceremony in front of the main entrance to the hotel, which looks like a house from Connecticut where I grew up," says the bride. Seats surrounded a central fountain filled with tall flower arrangements.
In planters, pots, and baskets, arrangements of pale pink, purple, and white flowers dressed up the ceremony area with dreamy hues and a variety of textures. "For the color palette, everything was inspired by Impressionist paintings," says Katy. "I didn't want anything to feel overly formal or fussy and the flowers definitely reflected that."
Katy asked both her parents to walk her halfway down the aisle, and after they reached the fountain, she continued on with just her father. As a nod to the string duo that played during their engagement, Gemini Strings performed throughout the ceremony; the couple requested an instrumental version of "I'll Make Love to You" by Boyz II Men during the processional. "It sounded beautiful, but it was a funny inside joke," says Katy. "If you know, you know!"
The couple's friend, comedy writer Lee Eisenberg, officiated the ceremony, during which the couple exchanged their own vows. "It was perfect to set the tone for us," says Katy. "Get everyone laughing as soon as possible!"
During the cocktail hour, the couple surprised their guests with a one-of-a-kind seating chart. "We thought it would be a hilarious surprise to put a funny picture of each guest or couple on the escort cards," says Katy. "This took a lot of time but was so worth it! People loved being surprised by the photos we chose for them."
Under the Lights
The dinner reception took place around the hotel's lily pond, where round tables were set up underneath garlands of white lights and draped greenery. "The aesthetics of the hotel really spoke to me," says Katy. "I knew that we could create the feeling that we were getting married on a compound in the Hamptons or Martha's Vineyard there—making everything feel like an elevated version of a party you throw in your backyard.
Tables set with floor-length linens in a khaki-colored gingham print brought picnic vibes to the celebration, while white X-back chairs continued the garden party theme. As for the tabletops' florals? "I didn't want stuffy flower arrangements for the tables, so we were able to create multiple arrangements that were grouped together," says Katy.
Bunches of flowers in pink, white, purple, and green were collected in a variety of low vessels on each table; several smaller vases took the place of oversized arrangements. Taupe plates, bronze flatware, and striped napkins coordinated with the checkered cloths, while the menu named the entrées and sides that the couple chose to serve family-style. "We hate plated wedding food, and this added to the overall feeling we wanted to create," says Katy.
The couple slyly referenced their shared love of television and movies by naming each table after a favorite character—including Special Agent Dale Cooper, a Twin Peaks mainstay; Lt. Daniel Kaffee, played by Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men; and John McClane from Die Hard.
Katy and Michael displayed their three-tiered cake on a wooden bridge over the lily pond, surrounded by lanterns and floral arrangements that created a breathtaking focal point in the center of the dining space.
Time to Party
The newlyweds put as much thought into their dance floor as they did into the rest of the event. "During a walk-through of the ballroom, we were brainstorming how to transform the space, and that's when it hit us to create the neon light-up dance floor," says Katy. "From there, we knew we needed to blow it out and make that space entirely about an '80s dance party." Bright tablecloths, neon signs, glow sticks, and a four-sided bar created a custom space for guests to party with Redshoe DJ and The Spazmatics. "We've been to so many weddings with the same identical setup, and we wanted to do something completely unique to our personalities," says Katy.
A Quiet Place
Outside, guests found a quieter spot to rest their feet and chat on couches, poufs, and upholstered benches. "The outdoor space outside of the ballroom went back to looking beautiful," says Katy. "We wanted it to look like a living room with plenty of lounge furniture for people to relax and be comfortable."
It's All Relative
Katy and Michael were so committed to the '80s theme that they chose not to stop for traditional dances—instead asking Katy's sister-in-law, a professional dancer, to choreograph moves for the entire family to "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now." The group performance became the newlyweds' favorite part of the day, not only because it was so unique, but because it represented their personalities so well. "Once we were ready to start the show, all the lights came up and our dance ensued—it was truly fun and hilarious," says Katy. "We loved having the whole family involved and it was memorable for all of us."
Michael agrees: "I couldn't remember the moves…Katy, of course, was flawless," he says. "I didn't mind being outshined by her. But moreover, the day was just magical for being surrounded by our closest friends and family. Truly nothing like it."
Photography, Michelle Beller
Location and catering, Belmond El Encanto
Event planning, Duet Weddings
Flowers, Moon Canyon Design
Videography, Shark Pig
Stationery, Paper Birch Designs
Rentals, Town & Country Event Rentals
Bride's gowns, Monique Lhuillier
Bride's shoes, Saint Laurent
Hair, Mischelle Navar
Makeup, Sarah Sullivan
Lighting, Bella Vista