A Regal, Romantic Summer Wedding at a California Mansion
She couldn't have known then, but when Yiran decided to go to lunch with several friends nearly five years ago, she would meet her future husband, Yexiang. Six weeks after their initial encounter, the San Francisco-based pair would officially become a couple, and the rest—as they say—is history. The future bride (who works as a data scientist at Airbnb) and groom (who is employed as an equity options trader) had been together for four years and eight months when Yexiang popped the question, but he was still able to catch his then-girlfriend off guard with the proposal.
"I knew he was going to propose sometime [soon], but I didn't know when, how, and where," Yiran recalls today. "One day he told me seriously, 'Don't go anywhere this Sunday evening, I have reserved a fancy restaurant,'" which is when she suspected a proposal was near. "On Saturday I happily went with my best friend to go to a yacht party, where she was invited and I was her guest. And when I entered the yacht, I saw my fiancé," Yiran says. "He secretly prepared everything and he was afraid that I would be too smart to guess everything out, so he let me believe he was going to propose on the day after."
"[Yexiang] invited all my best friends to witness—they all did a great job in keeping the secret, especially my best girlfriend, who took me to the party!" Better yet, the proposal was caught on film, which the couple shared with the 90 family and friends who gathered, eight months later, for their nuptials. On August 12, 2018, the pair said "I do" on a warm, sunny day at Villa Montalvo in Saratoga, California. The regal affair (with a semi-formal dress code) came together without a hitch thanks to event planning by Lovely Time Weddings & Events. Today, the couple says that their wedding day couldn't have been any better. "It felt so royal, with luxury and taste," Yiran says. "Everything was perfect and everyone had fun," Yexiang agrees.
Fanciful Wedding Map
Guests were also treated to a playful "wedding map," which outlined the venue and flow of the event.
A Splendid Mansion Venue
The bride and groom tied the knot—and held their reception—at Villa Montalvo, a breathtaking mansion that had once been private residence. Today, it serves as an art museum.
"Montalvo was absolutely a dream. It was majestic and made me feel like a princess," says Yiran, who cites the old Spanish mansion's "gardens, lawns, temples with roman pillars, the warmth in the wood, the detailing in the façade, and the lovely greenery climbing up the mansion terrace," as her favorite details. "It exudes elegance, art, sophistication, and grandeur—and that's everything we were looking for!"
Romantic Theme and Ambiance
"I wanted to get married like a daughter from a noble family in an olden time—classy, beautiful, elegant, graceful," Yiran says of the imperial inspiration for the wedding day. A color palette of blush and gold further brought the bride's vision of a "romantic, elegant, luxe" soirée to life.
A Princess-Inspired Bridal Gown
Though the bride says that she knew she wanted to look "like a princess" on her wedding day, the hunt for the right gown was not easy. "I went to four wedding dress boutiques and maybe tried about 20 different dresses. I always knew I needed an elegant ball gown with a long train," Yiran says of her dream dress—which she ultimately found in a timeless Vera Wang design. "It looks simple upon first glance, but there are more details when you look closer (like the heart shaped tulle in the front, the ruffles on the side, and the sparkling beads on top of the ruffles). It's elegant yet sweet, and when I was dancing with the dress, it looked like I was on a piece of cloud."
The bride polished off her look with a romantic updo by Grace Lin Makeup (their team also handled her makeup!), a Vera Wang veil, Twigs and Honey headpiece, and jewel-encrusted Rene Caovilla pumps. For jewelry, she sported a Harry Winston earrings and necklace in a unique lily design, "because in Chinese, the lily represents happily ever after," Yiran says.
Yexiang, too, had four attendants on the big day—the groomsmen looked downright dapper in their slick The Black Tux suits. The groom wore a dark navy Ermenegildo Zegna suit and shirt, bow tie, and black shoes by Salvatore Ferragamo. Yiran says that the pair selected a Zegna ensemble "because the shopping experience was next to none." "Most of the suits look very similar, but when we went to the Zegna boutique, a specialist was with us from the very beginning and made the process very smooth—it was similar to my experience at Vera Wang," the bride says. "The quality of service is as important as the suit itself."
The First Look
Both the bride and groom recall their first look as a favorite moment from the big day. "At that moment, I had all these flashbacks about the places that we had been to, the things we did together, and the wonderful years we spent together. I told myself I will take care of her for the rest of my life," Yexiang says of his emotional reaction to seeing his bride for the first time.
Time for Portraits
Shortly after the couple's first look, the wedding party gathered for their official portraits, which were taken all over Villa Montalvo.
The Vintage Vehicle
Here Comes the Bride
During the ceremony, Yiran walked down the aisle with her mother.
"Our parents are from China and don't speak English. So we found a priest who can speak Mandarin," Yexiang says of their search for the ideal officiant. The non-religious wedding ceremony had Christian undertones; the couple's officiant read part of the time-honored 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 from the Bible, with verses such as "Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast…"
In addition, the bride and groom wrote their own vows—which were oddly (and unexpectedly!) similar, says the couple.
Husband and Wife
Finally married, the happy couple was all smiles as they walked back up the aisle to "Learn to Meow."
Cocktail hour commenced in the Spanish courtyard and oval garden areas, with music from a live harpist playing in the background. Catering for the big day was coordinated by La Bocca Fina Fine Catering—and the team did not disappoint.
Small bites were served, including sesame-crusted seared ahi tuna, Indonesian-style duck served with Peking pancakes, lamb lollipops in fragrant garden rosemary, seared scallop lollipops, and bay shrimp mousseline in a fillo cup. Merrymakers also quenched their thirst with watermelon mocktails.
From Here to Eternity
Guests were also greeted with a chic, cartoon-style poster of the happy couple, complete with bespoke details. "[My husband] is a little bit on the nerdy side and he studies maths, hence the equation 1+1 = 1314, where in Chinese the pronunciation of 1314 sounds like 'eternity, for a life time,'" Yiran says. "As for the piggy and the fox, those are our nicknames for each other."
Clever Seating Chart
Guests were guided to their seats with the help a whimsical, puzzle-inspired seating chart. The artistic arrangement featured oversized puzzle pieces (listing names and table numbers) hanging from a circular-shaped band of greens.
Playful Guest Book
Yiran and Yexiang kept the festive puzzle theme in mind for their guest book, too. Partygoers were instructed to sign the back of a customized puzzle. When you put all of the pieces together, the puzzle showcases a cartoon portrait of the happy couple.
Guests settled in for dinner at elegant, blush-hued tablescapes featuring lush floral arrangements, pretty pink napkins, and gold accents.
The Dinner Menu
Menus, which were similar to the invitations in terms of both texture and mood, further nodded to the romantic, stylish theme. Guests dined on a feast that began with a first course of dungeness Crabmeat Souffle (set atop a lemon saffron buerre blanc sauce). The second course consisted of medallion of flank steak drizzled with a peppered cabernet sauce, which was served garlic scented red mashed potatoes and grilled baby vegetables, or Chilean sea bass marinated in a citrus and soy glazed served on a bed of baby spinach and cellophane noodles. The vegetarian option was wild mushrooms in vol au vent pastry sheels.
Yexiang says that a poignant moment occurred during the fancy meal—and it came as a bit of a surprise to the couple and their guests. "During dinner, two deer showed up on the lawn in front of the venue. They were just standing there and looking at people for a while. It felt like they were giving us their best wishes," he muses. "The scene was so beautiful—I will never forget it."
A Fun Dessert Cart
The good times kept rolling thanks to a festive dessert cart. Macarons, calligraphed cookies, cream chasse custard with strawberry tartlettes, cake pops, and more were also served.
Their First Dance
After honing their skills with proper dance lessons, Yiran and Yexiang brought their A-game to the dance floor during their first spin, which they took to "La Valse de L'Amour" by Patrick Doyle. They recreated the moves from Disney's 2015 rendition of Cinderella—and wowed the crowd in the process.
Photography and videography, Vid Photography
Location, Villa Montalvo
Event planning, Lovely Time Weddings & Events
Catering, La Bocca Fina Fine Catering
Flowers, Pineapple Petals Studio
Stationery and calligraphy, Inkinity Studio
Music, Big Fun DJ
Bride's gown and veil, Vera Wang
Bride's engagement ring, Bonheur Jewelry
Wedding bands, Harry Winston
Hair and makeup, Grace Lin Makeup
Groom's suit and shirt, Ermenegildo Zegna
Groom's shoes, Salvatore Ferragamo
Groomens' suits, The Black Tux
Vintage car, Rolls Royce