This Couple Threw a Chic and Modern Wedding Weekend in Coastal California
There's nothing small about the California coastal community of Half Moon Bay. Forty-five minutes south of San Francisco, it's a natural wonderland, with sweeping views of the Pacific; sheer, rocky cliffs; and giant redwoods a few miles inland. It's no wonder, then, that when Zach Jones proposed to Whitney Wildrick on his family ranch there, he went big. Zach, who works in private equity, designed a "Will You Marry Me?" sign 12 feet tall and 100 feet long. He lit up the letters and installed them on a cliff. Then he lured Whitney to the beach. "He said, 'Oh—you think that's for you?'" she says of spotting the sign. "But then he got down on one knee. Obviously, I said yes."
Whitney, who works in fashion merchandising, met Zach in 2011. She was visiting Las Vegas with family, including a cousin who ran into Zach, a friend from college. The two felt an immediate connection. Afterward, he left for a work trip, but "I couldn't wait two weeks to see her," he says. "I flew back after three days for a date." Six years later, the San Francisco–based pair married on the same property where he'd popped the question. The setting was incomparable, and it fit the desired vibe: "We didn't want a really traditional, feminine wedding," she says. "One of my favorite aesthetics is a great old Scotch bar. It was grounded in that warmth." Planner and designer Laurie Arons and floral and event designer Mindy Rice helped set the mood for the elaborate gathering.
Nearly every guest stayed in Half Moon Bay, even those who lived nearby. The weekend began with a toga-party rehearsal dinner in the woods. A costumed rehearsal celebration is a tradition in Whitney's family, and it suited the couple's personality. "Zach and I will show up to a dinner party in costume, just for fun," says Whitney. The dress code wasn't optional, so to underscore it they added a "toga inspiration" tab on their website and included an emergency toga kit in each welcome bag. At the party, the nearly 200 guests received "welcome shooters" and laurel crowns. Dinner included turkey legs (which the couple insisted guests eat with their hands), plus pita bread and vegetables served family-style. "We didn't want it to feel fancy," says Whitney.
The wedding itself, the next day, was held a few miles away (via a meandering coastal road), on a bluff over-looking the water—at least, it overlooks the water when the sky is clear. Zach had warned his fiancée about the unpredictable weather along the coast, but she wasn't concerned. "I said, 'It won't be foggy, I know it won't,'" recalls Whitney. The dense fog as the day began tested her optimism—but not for long. The bride made her entrance at the ceremony site standing in a vintage Model A fire truck, her grandfather in the passenger seat, future father-in-law at the wheel. As they made their way across the field, then parked and walked the long, winding wooden path to the waiting guests, the fog began to lift. "It burned off faster than I've ever seen it," says Zach. Right on cue, Mother Nature delivered—in a big way.
Save the Date
The couple's save-the-date was created by Amber Moon Design and calligraphed by Barbara Callow and featured photographs of Zach's cliff-top proposal sign. Zach has an engineering background, so designing the giant proposal was in his wheelhouse. He sent plans to a Silicon Valley fabrication shop and, four months later, trucked the letters to the ranch. When installing them, he found himself in a race against time. "I realized that once I got them up, this could show up on social media," he said. So he worked as quickly as he could (it took him 36 hours), then surprised Whitney with a midweek proposal.
The Stationery Suite
Amber Moon Design created the stationery suite, too, and used a hawk motif—inspired by the family property, Seahawk Ranch—which appeared on the bags as well as other details throughout the celebration. Calligraphy by Curlique Designs softened it up a bit.
Welcome to the Wedding Weekend
Welcome tote bags held "survival" supplies like gin and tonic and hors d'oeuvres kits, Zach's mom's walnut–chocolate chip cookies, and cozy pashminas.
Setting the Scene
The rehearsal dinner took place among the redwoods on the wooded property.
Into the Woods
Whitney and Zach greeted their guests in full toga regalia for the rehearsal dinner. The hands-on toga-party meal was just the start of a memorable weekend of eating.
A small guardhouse was lined with candles and repurposed as a bar.
Cocktail tables and a bar were set up at on a wooded bridge at the rehearsal dinner venue. Although it was held in a wooded area, the roads, bridges, and clearings in this location made for easy access and convenient gathering spaces. "It was a perfect setting for a toga party," says planner Laurie Arons.
Find Your Seat
Crowns of laurel, with paper tags inscribed for each guest, took the place of escort cards.
Ready to Dine
Rustic wooden dinner tables were adorned with olive and bay-leaf garlands; napkins were dyed a mossy green with plant extracts.
Goblets and sheepskin-lined benches added to the authentic mood of the evening.
Guests in Character
Friends of the bride and groom, John Flinn and Maura Burk, got into the spirit of the party.
Zach, aware that the temperature drops in the evening, made it a priority to keep guests warm with heaters and cloaks at the woodland dinner party.
A Grand Entrance
An arch between two towering trees formed the entrance to the clearing where guests were greeted at the start of the party. "The setting is so magical," says Whitney. "You drive down the coast, then up a hill and into private property that's in the middle of a redwood forest. Everyone loved it."
The Bride and Groom
A Winding Path
The groomsmen walked honored guests down the long wooden walkway to the ceremony site. Here, Tyler Moore accompanies Eve Wildrick, mother of the bride.
The Ceremony Programs
Programs set out in trays bore the couple's signature hawk motif.
Tying the Knot
A 250-foot walkway and a platform were built for the ceremony by Zach's dad, in a field overlooking the water. Native wildflower seeds were sowed over the ten acres of field just for the occasion.
Dressed to Impress
Whitney's sister Remy (to the right of the bride) was her maid of honor; a cousin and good friends made up the rest of her party.
The Bridal Bouquet
The bride carried a bouquet of white peonies and sweet peas by Mindy Rice. Of her Mira Zwillinger dress, Whitney said, "I am definitely not a blingy person, but the shine of this dress felt sophisticated, and classic in its own right."
A Tent with a View
Guests were shuttled from the ceremony to the reception site, where a tent was set up on a bluff. The decking and tent were placed to maximize views. "We lit up Shark Tooth Rock [bottom left]," says Zach. "Once the sun went down, you could hear waves and see a little of the beach, but the lights on the rock gave a focal point."
"Aviation"—a classic cocktail made with gin and crème de violette—was one of the two signature drinks.
Blini with caviar were among the passed hors d'oeuvres at cocktail hour.
Besides old-school Scotch bars, Whitney also referenced Out of Africa for décor inspiration. Mindy Rice sourced taxidermied wildlife, like this zebra on the escort-card wall, from a vintage collection originally used in 1920s Hollywood films.
Vintage brass keychains, with round brass tags attached noting table numbers, were mounted on calligraphed cards and attached to the doors of the barn at the reception site. "We loved the idea of not only incorporating brass," says Whitney, "but using an escort card that people could actually take home with them as a memento."
Please Be Seated
After cocktail hour on the deck, everyone was invited into the tent for dinner. "Honestly, Paula LeDuc is the greatest caterer," gushes Whitney. "They made every vision we had come to life!" Wedding-food highlights included cocktail-hour nibbles such as ahi tuna cones; a hearty chicken Milanese for dinner—which was an homage to the couple's favorite San Francisco restaurant, Garibaldis; and multiple rounds of late-night snacks, such as fiery chicken bites (Zach's favorite), ice cream cones, and—in a nod to Whitney's family roots in Philadelphia—mini Schmitter sandwiches, the specialty of a bar called McNally's Tavern. "They even shipped in Amoroso's rolls from Philly to ensure they were right."
Quite the Setup
Dinner tables were set in black with gold accents and white blooms. Centerpieces of varying sizes featured arabacum, duchess peonies, fringed tulips, and gardenias.
Song and Dance
"We just wanted it to be rockin'… . We started slow, with the first dance, and pivoted to Earth, Wind & Fire's 'September.' That got everyone going," says Whitney of choosing the music for the reception.
This moose was just one of the 12 taxidermied animals sourced for the reception.
Dinner and dancing morphed into a full-on party. The bride, in a shorter second dress by Zimmermann and a jean jacket with "Mrs. Jones" embroidered on the back, had a blast as confetti flew.
A simple vanilla wedding cake was cut at 11 p.m., just before the late-night revelry began.
Rehearsal-dinner location, The Island Farm
Event planning and design, Laurie Arons Special Events
Catering, Paula LeDuc Fine Catering & Events
Floral and event design, Mindy Rice Design
Photography, Jose Villa
Videography, Forward Motion Production
Officiant, Saral Burdette
Stationery, Amber Moon Design
Cake, Perfect Endings
Tent and dance floor, Hensley Event Resources
Bride's gown and veil, Mira Zwillinger
Hair, Alex Talon
Makeup, Liza Zaretsky
Hair and makeup, Rebecca & Veronica for Artists by Sherrie Long
Bridesmaids' dresses, Alfred Sung
Groom's tuxedo, bow tie, shirt, and shoes, Brioni
Lighting, Illusions Lighting Design
Transportation, Bauer's Intelligent Transportation
Day-of clothing specialist, Heidi and Violet Johnson of the Wedding DeTailor
Bride's rehearsal-dinner dress, J. Mendel
Groom's rehearsal-dinner outfit (authentic centurion cuirass costume), La Wren's Nest