A Greek-Inspired Destination Wedding in Northern California
Melissa and Alex
Melissa and Alex first met when they were students at the University of California, Santa Barbara. They lived next to one another and would often sit on Melissa’s back porch, surrounded by orange, olive, lemon, and fig trees. After reconnecting several years later and a move to New York, the writers’ friendship blossomed into a full-blown romance. The couple returned to Northern California to get married on October 6, 2012, in a traditional Greek ceremony. It was important to them that their wedding reflect their heritage, their bicoastal romance, and the diverse talents of their friends and family.
The illustrated, letterpressed invitation suite designed by two friends of the bride, was inspired by the church’s white and blue architecture and the motifs found in the venue’s tile work.
The Bridal Party
The destination wedding’s color palette was inspired by the church itself, the Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, a rare gem in the hills of Santa Barbara’s Riviera and an iconic signifier of Alex’s Greek roots. The bridesmaids’ dresses by L’Agence and the stunning bouquets by Holly Flora reflected the gold and saturated mosaic hues of the church’s incredible interior. The bride wore a gown and headpiece by Christos by Amsale.
The couple’s close friend, Danny Lewis of Brooklyn Tailors, custom-designed the groom’s and groomsmen’s suits.
Petals from a few of Melissa’s grandmother’s homegrown roses filled a wooden bowl carried by the flower girl. The bride tucked a few of the flowers into her bouquet as well.
The Bridal Bouquet
Melissa’s bouquet was comprised of ranunculus, thistle, roses, seeded eucalyptus, lambs’ ear, and mint.
Even Chance, the couple’s god-dog got in the mix wearing a tux.
Words of Wisdom
Just before the wedding party went into the church, one of Melissa’s bridesmaids gave her great advice. “Don’t forget to pause just after you walk through the doors with your dad,” she said. “Take it all in.”
Melissa and Alex were married by Father Thomas Paris, the priest who also married Alex’s parents. Alex’s brother and koumbaro (Greek for best man) chose the stefana (wedding crowns) that joined the couple together symbolically.
As a surprise to their guests and to kick off the reception, the couple danced to the Beatles’ “Till There Was You” on one of the church’s outdoor courtyards, accompanied by a band of their friends from both coasts. (The group of pals later recorded the song in their apartment as the track for their wedding video.)
Musical Escort Cards
The escort cards were hand-illustrated by Molly Prentiss, Melissa’s close friend. Hanging from each one was a bell, inspired by the first lyric of “Till There Was You”: “There were bells on a hill…”
The couple wanted to host the dinner on the stone patio on the church grounds (a first for the venue). Doing so meant that they had to be smart about the use of the space. They set up a long table for the wedding party, with muslin runners from La Tavola Linen, and round tables for the other guests.
Orange trees remind Melissa and Alex of when they first met and it was an added bonus that the patio that held the reception overlooked a citrus grove.
The couple created table names based on meaningful places to them in New York and California. The hand-illustrated cards were displayed in placeholders from BHLDN.
Molly Prentiss and another friend, Lauren Hickey, hand-illustrated the menus at each place setting. The feast was catered by Whoa Nelly Catering, with California wine pairings selected by the groom’s father.
Guests enjoyed savory Greek specialties, like olives, cheeses, and dried oranges and figs.
Entwined with Love
Melissa wanted to surprise her husband with a special pair of toasting flutes. After coming across a vintage photograph of a 1960s wedding with two flutes wreathed in baby’s breath, she put a spin on the idea for their own nuptials. Now, the duo collect Champagne flutes and coupes of all varieties, which Melissa likes to festoon with herb branches of flowers for parties as a throwback to their big day.
Sweet and Simple
The couple decided on a simple and delicious orange, almond, and olive oil cake.
The night continued with feasting and toasts in front of a roaring fire and dancing to a Beatles cover band. It would not have been complete with the traditional Greek kaslamantiano dance—beginning with the couple and growing until everyone, from Father Paris to beloved pup Chance, was spinning around the room.
For favors, guests received honey harvested by nuns at the nearby Saint Barbara Monastery, along with koufeta, sugar-coated almonds (a traditional Greek wedding treat), in muslin bags hand-stamped with the couple’s monogram.