This Couple's Sierra Madre, California, Wedding Was All About Family
For Molly Lichten and Josh Meister, meeting at a concert in 2013 felt like fate: He was attending the United States Naval Academy, she was a student at Swarthmore College in Philadelphia, and yet they both ended up at a Calvin Harris concert at the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware. "Somehow," says Molly, "among the 65,000 people that attended the festival that year, we found each other."
Four years later, Josh surprised Molly with a maltipoo puppy as a Valentine's Day gift. On the way home from picking up nine-week-old Charlie—with a photographer friend along to document the pup's homecoming—they stopped to let the newest member of their family play for a few minutes. "While Charlie was romping through the grass, Josh dropped down to one knee and asked me to marry him," says Molly.
The couple, currently stationed in Virginia Beach per Josh's position in the U.S. Navy, began planning a long-distance destination wedding in Sierra Madre, California, nearer to Molly's hometown of Pasadena, which drew friends and family from two countries, 15 states, and Washington, D.C. They hosted the festivities for their 110 guests at Villa del Sol D'Oro, a Tuscan-inspired garden and villa with lush trees, soothing water pools, and an elegant terrace on June 9, 2018. "We wanted our wedding to be romantic and timeless, to draw inspiration from Old-World Tuscany, but still incorporate some modern, personal twists," says Molly.
Those personal touches include a palette in shades of purple, her favorite color; delicate gold anchor place card holders in honor of Josh's naval career; an Italian-themed meal planned by Molly's mother; and—of course—a starring role for Charlie the maltipoo. And while they hit a bump or two along the way, says Josh, any challenges paled in comparison to the joy of their wedding day. "No matter how much you plan, the day will never go as expected," he says. "Just enjoy the ride—the little things aren't as important as marrying the person you love."
An Elegant Invitation
Molly and Josh asked designer Kelsey Malie of Kelsey Malie Calligraphy to create an invitation suite with a Tuscan feel. Handmade paper from Spain matched the "Old-World European vibe" the couple wanted, while sketches of olive branches and the wedding location informed a totally custom design. "Kelsey is so talented, we wanted to give her free reign to create something really special and unique for us," says Molly, "and she certainly did not disappoint!"
The couple turned to jewelry designer Susie Saltzman for help creating their wedding rings—Molly wanted one that she could wear to accent her solitaire engagement ring while Josh was looking for a more subtle band. "We paired my rose gold, classic solitaire with a sunbeam-inspired five-marquise diamond wedding band for something really beautiful and unique," says Molly; the wedding ring fits above her engagement ring. "Josh chose a matching rose gold band with a modern beveled edge and brushed finish."
Back of Mind
After trying on dozens of wedding dresses at multiple shops, Molly surprised herself by choosing a classic ball gown from La Sposa. "I never thought I would end up with a princess wedding gown, but when I tried it on, I knew immediately she was the one—cue the waterworks!" says Molly. A full tulle skirt with lace embroidery and gemstone accents was offset by an illusion neckline and delicate cap sleeves; a row of tiny buttons ran down the length of the dress and a small bow defined the bodice in the back.
Molly had no trouble choosing a hue for her bridesmaids' gowns: "Purple has always been my favorite color," she says, "so I knew right away that we would have a dusty lavender color palette." Her friends from childhood, high school, and college chose tulle off-the-shoulder or halter gowns in complementary shades from Revelry.
Beauty in Bloom
The Chantilly lace bodice of Molly's gown and her custom-made cathedral-length veil created a graceful backdrop for loose curls and effortless makeup from stylists at Blushing Beauty. Florist Of the Flowers created a bouquet using peonies, ranunculus, and other blooms in a range of shades. "To offset the purple," says Molly, "we chose to incorporate darker plum and copper accents."
A Last-Minute Entrance
Josh and his groomsmen, in traditional black tuxedos from The Black Tux, posed for portraits before the ceremony. He asked one of his cousins and a collection of friends from throughout his life to be part of his wedding party—and his best man made an epic entrance: "The day before our wedding, his nuclear sub, which had been submerged for months, resurfaced," says Molly, "and he was able to step off, travel to L.A., and arrive just in time to be Josh's best man at our wedding."
Water and Sky
Molly and Josh fell for Villa del Sol D'Oro's Tuscan feel—"Such a perfect little slice of Italy tucked away amid the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles!" says Molly—and took advantage of the sunken garden and pond between two lines of Italian cypress trees to create a utopian location for their ceremony. "The ceremony spot is one of my favorite parts of the property," says Molly. "Timeless, romantic, tranquil, and absolutely breathtaking."
Much of the ceremony was a family affair: The bride's Aunt Julia, a professional cellist, provided the music, and a longtime friend of Molly's mother officiated the ceremony. Josh's niece, Laila, served as the flower girl, carrying a basket of eucalyptus and other foliage; she wore a full-length ball gown with a heart cut-out in the back.
A Long Walk
Aunt Julia played Bach's "Cello Suite #1 in G Major" as Molly's mother, Josh's parents, and the bridal party entered the ceremony space. After "a dramatic pause," Molly and her dad descended the stairs from the terrace and walked down the aisle to meet Josh. "I was a crying mess the whole day, but seeing Josh's smiling face and the love in his eyes…there was nothing quite like it," says Molly. "I will always remember that moment perfectly."
Their Favorite Part
The couple had decided against a first look before the ceremony, so Josh got his first glimpse of Molly as she and her father came down the steps—an unforgettable moment for both of them. "I am so glad we decided to go the more traditional route here, because that moment ended up being our favorite moment of the day," says Molly.
He Said, She Said
Molly and Josh worked with their officiant, Donna, and Molly's mother to create a ceremony script that felt true to their personalities and their relationship. "We really wanted our ceremony to be short, sweet, and unique to us and our story," says Molly. "There were no readings, but we did choose to write our own vows. Reading and hearing our vows to each other was easily my favorite part of the ceremony."
The Best Pup
After the ceremony, guests moved to the Villa's library and ballroom for an Italian-inspired cocktail hour that included an antipasto spread, stuffed mushroom caps, and baby meatballs. Molly and Josh stole a few minutes to pose for portraits alone—and with their maltipoo, Charlie, who had perfectly performed his duties as "best pup." "Having him be part of our wedding day and getting to see him in his little bow tie and matching tux was so incredibly special," says Molly. "He always manages to steal the show, and we wouldn't have it any other way."
The wedding's only reference to Josh's career as a naval officer were the tiny gold anchors that held paper place cards, hand-scripted by invitation designer and calligrapher Kelsey Malie.
Under the Stars
For dinner, the couple and their guests took their seats on the outdoor terrace overlooking an aisle of cypress trees and the sunken pond. The wedding party sat at one long table down the center, while other guests sat at round tables; the bride and groom cozied up at an intimate table for two.
A mix of peonies, ranunculus, sweet peas, lisianthus, blueberries, viburnum, smoke bush, eucalyptus, and olive branch, arranged in copper vessels, added color to tables dressed in classic white linens and marked with custom table numbers.
The couple placed a menu and an olive sprig at each place setting, giving guests a preview of the Italian-themed meal Molly's mother planned. Courses included summer salad with strawberries; filet mignon, Chilean sea bass, or pasta; grilled vegetables; and risotto.
Molly and Josh chose a three-tier confection from Takes the Cake, complete with two layers of chocolate cake and raspberry cream cheese frosting, and one of white cake with lemon curd and Bavarian cream. They also offered a dessert bar that included Perugina Baci hazelnut bites in dark, milk, and white chocolate; lavender-honey and blueberry cheesecake mini cupcakes; lavender macarons; and Italian wedding cookies. For a personal touch, Molly's mother made heart-shaped sugar cookies with lavender sugar sprinkles and Josh's mother made Filipino pecan tarts.
The newlyweds shared their first dance to James Arthur's "Say You Won't Let Go" and continued the party with music from Vox DJs, while celebrating with their family and friends—the key, Molly says, to making the most of your big day. "At some point on your wedding day, remember to take a momentary pause from the big day," she says. "Be filled with love, joy, and gratitude. It all goes by too quickly, but the memories you make and the moments you share will last a lifetime."
Photography, Kati Rosado Photography
Location, The Villa del Sol D'Oro
Event planning, Vanessa Michelle Co.
Flowers, Of the Flowers
Videography, Fiske Film
Stationery and calligraphy, Kelsey Malie Calligraphy
Cake, Takes the Cake
Music, VOX DJs
Rentals, Archive Rentals
Bride's gown, La Sposa
Hair and makeup, Blushing Beauty
Bridesmaids' dresses, Revelry
Groom's tuxedo and menswear, The Black Tux
Groom's watch, Daniel Wellington
Rings, Susie Saltzman