One couple planned a Baja, Mexico, celebration that was complete with sun and sand, friendship-forming games, and dancing under the stars.
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"He was a little late and didn't look like his picture, so my first impression was kind of wary," Susan House says of meeting Paul Seradarian at a Hollywood bar after connecting online. "She was on time and looked fantastic," he counters. "So mine was very positive." In spite of that mismatched start, they had a good time and talked for hours. Texts and laughs followed, and then a second date, at a sushi spot. Before they knew it, Paul was heading out of town and Susan had volunteered to pick him up from the airport—a sure sign they were dating.
Paul, a rerecording mixer for movies and television, had another trip that summer. Since his mother is Norwegian and his parents have a cabin in Norway, he was ending a European tour there to get in some family time. Susan, a reality-TV producer, had been working on a show that was canceled, so Paul suggested she come join him. Days later, she was meeting his folks, taking in the sights, and cementing their relationship, all in one trip. A little more than a year later, Paul popped the question with a ruse that had them on the Malibu Pier at sunset, waiting to meet friends for a drink. Susan was wondering why her pals hadn't shown up when Paul casually told her he'd texted her. She glanced at her phone to see his Bitmoji proposing. ("I was trying to be hip," he admits.) She looked up, and he was doing the same in real life.
Though based in Los Angeles, the pair looked all over California for the ultimate wedding location. They wanted to package their big day as a mini vacation with friends and family, where everyone could push past the small talk and get to know one another. Paul eventually suggested Rancho Pescadero, a relaxed Baja, Mexico, resort where they'd vacationed together; Susan readily agreed. "Something magical happens when you step on the Mexican tile in the lobby, and you're transported," she says. With the locale chosen, everything else fell into place. Duet Weddings helped design and plan the weekend, including a beach-bonfire welcome party and an open-air rehearsal dinner featuring local cuisine. A unique conversation-starting game, a scavenger hunt, and resort activities—from morning yoga to surf lessons—filled the days with fun.
As for that dress: Susan never saw herself wearing white—and the bold frock she picked out, along with the coastal scenery, inspired the look and mood of the main event, held on January 28, 2017. With sand underfoot, tropical greenery abounding, and the flavors of Baja woven through the menu, the happy couple and their 75 loved ones delighted in kicking back in Mexico. Their dream of combining a spectacular group vacation with "this amazing commitment to each other," as Susan says, was perfectly realized. "We had high hopes," says Paul, "and it exceeded our expectations."
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Save the Dates
The first palm leaf moment came in the form of the save-the-dates, by Amber Moon Design. The laser cut cards had the basic details rubber-stamped in white and were tucked into fuchsia envelopes lined with a tropical-print pattern.
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The Perfect Spot
The couple had vacationed at Rancho Pescadero about a year before the wedding and absolutely loved it. When Paul suggested it as a wedding destination it was like a light went off and they thought, "why didn't we think of this in the first place?"
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The happy couple was all smiles as they posed for photos around their venue.
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A Print that Pops
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In addition to welcome goodies, the couple gave everyone a "match the fact to the guest" game to work on, as a way to get to know one another over the weekend-long celebration. Guests were each asked to submit one random, funny, or weird fact about themselves. Susan and Paul compiled them, plus a list with everyone's name. These sheets were distributed at check-in, and attendees had the weekend to figure out which tidbit belonged to which person. During dessert, everyone stood up to reveal their stats—and the three guests with the most matches won. "It was a fun way to get them to just go up and talk to anyone," says Susan.
The third prize winner got a kiss on each cheek from the bride and groom, the second prize winner got a $100 bar/food tab, and first prize was a comped hotel-room night.
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In Her Shoes
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Wedding-day festivities started with the preceremony cocktail hour by one of the pools. Susan and Paul chose to flip the order so people could grab a beverage and empanada, then make their way to the ceremony, drink in hand.
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Rancho Pescadero's cocktail program is mostly "farm to glass," including these hibiscus margaritas with rosemary sprigs. There were four libations on offer during cocktail hour: these, plus grapefruit palomas, mezcal mules, and herbatonics.
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The Ring Bearers
Susan's friend Amy officiated; the same friend's sons shared ring-bearer responsibilities, carrying a palm-leaf-print pillow accented with a leather tie to hold the bands in place.
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The Ceremony Spot
Dubbed "the palm nest," an oasis created on the beach with fresh greenery anchored the non-denominational ceremony. Susan and her dad, Stan, entered to "This Must Be the Place," by Talking Heads. Susan quoted Bruce Springsteen's "If I Should Fall Behind" in her vows. After the beachfront ceremony, she and Paul recessed to "And Then He Kissed Me," by the Crystals. Susan and Paul put their own spin on some of the standbys. "I'm Jewish, but Paul is not," explains Susan. "I've always liked the tradition of breaking the glass at the end of the wedding, and so I wanted to include that. We each had our own glass, and we stepped on them together. Why should just the guy get to do that?" The couple also wrote their own vows, with Paul saying, "I vow to be your copilot—so you can either ride or drive depending on how you feel."
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Dressed for the Party
The dress code was loose: The pair wanted their guests to feel like they were simply going to a nice event while on vacation.
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Tables in the Sand
Nonfloral centerpieces stood out against the paprika-hued linen on the tables, which were set on a sandy stretch of ground under the palm trees. The venue had never before hosted a seated reception in that part of the property.
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The plated meal began with a shrimp-avocado salad; then came a rib eye with vegetables and mashed potatoes.
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Fun for All
Susan and Paul had a blast watching their guests celebrate. "Letting loose on the dance floor was a big highlight," Paul says of the reception. "It was the end of a great weekend that couldn't have gone any better. I loved looking around and seeing everyone getting down."
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"We had string lights above the dance floor, because they make anything better," Susan says. So do fireworks—a surprise that lit up the sky during the communal first dance.
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The newlyweds asked everyone to join them on the dance floor as Frank Sinatra's "I've Got You Under My Skin" played.
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Location and catering, Rancho Pescadero
Event planning and design, and day-of paper goods, Brandy Curry for Duet Weddings
Flowers, Pina Cate
Photography, Corbin Gurkin
Stationery, Amber Moon Design
Calligraphy, Nicole Miyuki
Bride's gown, Lela Rose
Hair and makeup, Jessica Erin Moore
Groom's suit and shirt, J.Crew
Lighting and dance floor, Oxten Producciones
Transportation, Todos Santos Private Transportation
Audio rentals, DJ Mijares
Surfing lessons, Mario Surf School