Not Even Raging Wildfires Could Stop This Couple's California Wedding—Which Was Planned in 12 Hours
Shortly after moving to New York City, Liz set up a profile on a dating app—and found Scott, who had agreed to join the app with one of his friends. After one date they knew they had something special. "I loved that Scott would call me instead of texting and always took initiative to find fun places to go in the city for our dates," says Liz. "After about three dates, we just knew."
Three years later, Liz was on the lookout for a proposal every time the couple traveled together, so Scott would let her know before they left if he wasn't planning to pop the question. When he suggested she sit down just before they left to spend two weeks in Spain, Liz expected another "Don't get your hopes up" talk; instead, Scott pulled out a round diamond solitaire in a six-prong platinum setting, and they left for their trip as an engaged couple.
The following year, Liz and Scott—now living in Chicago—were ready to celebrate with a destination wedding in Malibu on November 10, 2018. But when the Woolsey fires began that same weekend—and the venue they had booked sadly burned down—they resigned themselves to signing their marriage license at City Hall and celebrating with their friends and family when they returned home. Each of the couple's 65 guests insisted on coming as planned, though, so while Scott worked on finding available hotel rooms, Liz and her wedding planner, Tory Smith of Smith + James Events, searched for a new venue. "Our friend Lindsey texted us in the middle of this saying why not use her family's home in Newport Beach," says the couple. "Tory loved the idea, we did as well, and the rest is history."
Within 12 hours, Smith and the couple had reworked the entire event, moving the ceremony to a exclusive lookout on Bay Island in Newport Beach and setting up the reception on the deck and lawn of their friend's private residence. "In those moments, seeing the massive destruction and knowing how much people were suffering, we felt humbled to know we still had each other, our family and friends, and our wedding," says the couple. "Even though it was not the wedding we had planned, we just knew it would truly be a celebration with people who cared about us, and that is all that mattered. It couldn't have been a more magical weekend."
Liz and Scott chose a waterfront-inspired color palette of blue, gray, and white tones with a decorating scheme that focused heavily on flowers. The invitations they picked from Minted tied all those elements together with a blue floral watercolor design and bold text. Blue velvet boxes held Liz's engagement ring and her wedding band.
A Couture Gown
Liz worked with Chicago's Mira Horoszowski and Julie Mersine of Mira Couture to design her one-of-a-kind wedding dress. "I knew I wanted a very specific look, and I didn't want it to be all traditional white," she says. "I found a few dresses where I liked certain parts and brought those ideas." The end result: A scalloped boat neck top in white lace over a satin bodice and an A-line skirt in navy Italian silk taffeta. "I loved that it was different, it felt like me," says Liz. "It was so comfortable—I even had pockets built in—and yet I still felt beautiful and elegant."
Their First (and Second) Look
The couple planned their official first look for just before the ceremony, but accidentally bumped into each other in the house before they had finished getting ready. "Given the chaos of the weekend, we just kind of laughed, because something like that was bound to happen!" says Liz. But that happy accident didn't ruin the magic of their first look in a grove of palm trees. "Walking up to him and seeing his smile, my favorite, will always be a memory I cherish dearly," the bride says. Scott agrees: "The first look was my favorite part of the day. It really kicked the day off and got me excited about all of the fun to come."
Coming Up Roses
Liz knew from the start of planning the wedding that the floral design would take a primary role. "Flowers are one of my most favorite things in life," she says. "I always try to have fresh flowers around our home." She chose Heirloom Design House to create her floral arrangements, and, eager to avoid tight clusters of blooms, requested a bouquet that was "soft, loose, and organic."
Around the House
Before the ceremony, Liz and Scott posed for portraits at the house, on the dock, and around the property, giving them a few quiet moments together. "I definitely learned you truly cannot sweat the small stuff," says Liz. "Focus on what matters—your soon-to-be spouse, your happiness, your friends and family."
A Family Affair
Though the couple used the house for getting ready and their reception, they requested permission from the homeowner's board on Bay Island to hold their ceremony on a shared space overlooking the bay. A wooden structure draped in flowers and foliage created a focal point for the ceremony.
Down the Aisle
As The Temper Trap's "Sweet Disposition" played during the processional, Liz's mother, Pam, escorted her down the aisle. "I wanted her by my side!" the bride says. But when she reached the ceremony, she only had eyes for Scott. "Even though we had done a first look, there was just something so amazing to see him waiting for me. After everything we had been through that weekend, it was like, finally!" she says. "I kind of just wanted to run to him, I was so excited to be his wife."
Their Own "I Dos"
Liz and Scott worked with Lisa of Great Officiants to come up with vows that were a little more unique than the traditional script. "We did not write our own vows—both of us were very nervous about making it through personal ones," says the couple. "Instead, we worked with Lisa to make our vows more personal than the regular, standard vows." They also exchanged private letters to each other before the first look.
Shaken and Stirred
During cocktail hour back at the house, The Whaling Club served three signature drinks: Liz chose the "Bee Sting," while Scott opted for an old fashioned—a sweet way of honoring his grandmother, who had always named it as her favorite—and they both agreed on the "Eastern Standard." Says the couple, "Let's just say the drinks were a big hit with our guests."
The couple chose simple escort cards calligraphed by Jenna Caitlin Designs on handmade paper with hand-torn edges; they were presented on an intricate floral tabletop display. "The display resembles a Chinoiserie pattern or a trellis to play off the ginger jars all around the reception," says Liz. "It was made out of a wooden frame with a wiring base, then a floral install that included real white butterflies. It was insanely beautiful and really caught all our guests' attention!"
The Perfect Setup
The last-minute location switch meant rethinking their reception table layout, but for Liz and Scott, the end result never felt like settling for second best. "With the blues and grays in our color palette, it was really beautiful and felt intimate," says Liz. "Everything looked and seemed like our Plan B was really our Plan A!"
A combination of round and rectangular tables were dressed with complementing linens from La Tavola—blue patterned runners on the long tables and solid deep marine cloths on the rounds—while off-white napkins tied with velvet ribbon adorned each plate. Chargers with a decorative edge and blue-and-white dinnerware, both from from Borrowed Blu, incorporated all the colors and patterns on the table; calligraphed name cards, menus, and table numbers from Jenna Caitlin Designs gave the al fresco location an extra touch of glamour. "We really wanted something clean, classic, and romantic," says Liz. "We didn't want it to feel too lavish or over the top because that's not how we are as a couple."
Liz had a clear vision for her florals: "I wanted them to be timeless and classic, and I wanted a lot of whites and creams," she says, "but I wanted to avoid traditional roses, because I do not like them!" Her florist used several varieties of garden roses, including Jeanne Moreau, Purity, Alabaster, and White Cloud, alongside anemones, peonies, and dahlias, throughout the ceremony and reception décor.
Her Favorite Jars
Smaller arrangements made in vintage blue and white ginger jars—a favorite of Liz's—coordinated with the patterns on the plates and added a playful element to the décor's otherwise classic look. "I told Tory how much I loved ginger jars, mixing modern with classic, and she and her team ran with that idea from the get go," says Liz. "It was absolutely beautiful and beyond anything I could have pictured."
On the Dance Floor
Liz and Scott shared their first dance to "I'll Be Your Man" by the Black Keys, but asked their DJ from Dart Collective to open the dance floor to their guests afterward with a tongue-in-cheek song request: "On the fly, we asked if the first song could be 'We Didn't Start the Fire' by Billy Joel," says the couple. "Everyone went nuts and started dancing immediately…singing out loud and hugging each other, jumping up and down. It was amazing!"
Simple and Chic
The couple chose a two-tier wedding cake from Frost It Cakery with white buttercream frosting, fresh blackberries, and lemon slices. "This was hands down my favorite tasting," says Scott; at the end of it, he and Liz decided on one tier of strawberry cake with Champagne mousse filling, and a second of white velvet with raspberry mousse. "It was delicious and gone in a flash at the wedding!" he says.
Photography, Valentina Glidden Fine Art Photography
Event planning, Smith + James Events
Catering, Contemporary Catering
Flowers, Heirloom Design House
Officiant, Lisa at Great Officiants
Calligraphy, Jenna Caitlin Designs
Cake, Frost It Cakery
Music, Dart Collective
Bride's gown, Mira Couture
Hair and makeup, Danielle Ryan Beauty
Bridesmaid's dress, David's Bridal
Groom's suit, BLVDier
Menswear, Calvin Klein
Groom's shoes, Cole Haan
Lighting, Premiere Party Rents
Bar Service, The Whaling Club