A Carmel Valley, California, Wedding with an Italian Countryside Atmosphere
For Kimberly and Michael, getting married was the culmination of more than a decade of feelings. "We had crushes on each other throughout high school, but did not start dating until our senior year," says the bride. "Michael finally worked up the courage to tell me that he liked me, and the rest is history!" After nine years of dating, Michael popped the question on a trip to Lake Tahoe with Kimberly and her family, and the couple began looking for a wedding venue in Carmel, California. "Both of us have fond memories of visiting Carmel when we were growing up with our families, and it is a place that we love," they say.
When their planner suggested Bernardus Lodge & Spa as a venue option, the decision was simple. "We thought the venue and accommodations were stunning—simultaneously elegant and laid back," says the couple. "We wanted a venue with an Italian countryside feel, but without the flights." All of the couple's 120 guests stayed on the property, turning the wedding into a weekend-long party—of which the June 29, 2019, ceremony was the highlight.
"We wanted our wedding to be laid back, classic, full of love, and fun!" they add, noting that their goal was to celebrate "our relationship and the amazing people in our lives." And choosing a nearby spot—instead of one in Italy—ended up having one other huge pro: "Because it is local, we can make it a tradition to visit Bernardus each year on our anniversary and relive the best weekend of our lives."
The couple asked designer Elsa Madeline to use the wedding-day color palette to anchor the paper goods. "She is such an artist," says the bride, "and designed and created simple, elegant cream stationery with pale yellow envelopes." As a preview of the lavender fields at the venue, the couple added a letterpress lavender image to the top of the stationery, and enclosed a sprig of the pressed herb within the suite. "We wanted our invitation to give a hint of things to come," says Kimberly.
A Perfect Fit
Kimberly invited her mother and sister to join her on her search for her dream wedding dress, which ended when she tried on an Oscar de la Renta A-line gown with handprinted floral embroidery. "I did not expect to be someone who has the moment and cries when they put on 'the one,'" she says, "but sure enough, when I put on this dress I began to tear up."
A Little Sparkle
Along with a Sara Gabriel veil and Stuart Weitzman shoes, Kimberly wore several pieces of jewelry with sentimental history: Her Cartier bracelet had been a gift from Michael on their ten-year anniversary; her parents gave her diamond earrings from Gump's on the day she bought her dress; the pearl David Yurman bracelet was a gift from her sister; and her vintage ring was an heirloom from her grandmother.
Since Kimberly had chosen the bridesmaids' dress when she was in her sister's wedding, she returned the favor and let her sister make the final decision: A gray spaghetti strap gown with a wrap skirt. "We went with Shona Joy because their dresses are flattering and versatile enough to wear again," says Kimberly.
Together at Last
Kimberly and Michael were so eager to see each other on the morning of the wedding that they planned a first look for before the ceremony. "When I walked out and saw Michael waiting for me to tap him, I instantly felt both calm and excited to make it official and get the festivities started!" says Kimberly. "He looked so handsome, and though we have been dating for so long and planning for a year and a half, it made everything feel real."
Michael wore an Ermenegildo Zegna suit in navy blue, which he accented with a lavender tie. The groomsmen followed his lead in the same color, but ordered their attire from The Black Tux. "We realized there are a lot of different 'navy' colors depending on designer," says Kimberly. "We decided to go with The Black Tux so that we ensured all groomsmen were wearing the same color."
Kimberly requested a "wild yet refined" bouquet, which pulled in the main colors of the wedding palette with yellow roses, ivory peonies, and lavender accents.
Fun and Festive
A chalkboard-inspired sign at the entrance to the ceremony combined an elegant script with a retro typewriter-style font, and displayed a small floral arrangement.
In the Garden
For their ceremony, Kimberly and Michael asked Gavita Flora to work with the natural lavender and flowers already in the garden at Bernardus Lodge & Spa. "They did a beautiful job bringing out the natural foliage while incorporating pale yellows, light pinks, and ivories to evoke a romantic Italian countryside feel," says Kimberly. The large floral arch, which served as a focal point for the ceremony, also stood behind the couple at the reception.
The couple's 20-month-old nephew, Spencer, performed his ring bearer duties in a navy short suit and a Liberty London bow tie. "Spencer held a sign that said, 'Uncle Michael, it's too late to run, here she comes!'" says Kimberly. "We had my brother-in-law escort him to keep him going when he inevitably paused in the middle of the aisle—which he did, but recovered from beautifully."
Vows in the Valley
Kimberly's uncle, a priest, officiated a non-denominational marriage ceremony for the couple. "We both wrote our own vows and kept them a secret until the ceremony," says Kimberly. "While we wrote them separately, they both had the same themes of feeling so lucky to have grown up together, a love of our cat, and a promise to stick by each other through all of life's journeys."
The New Mr. and Mrs.
At the end of the ceremony, Kimberly and Michael surprised their guests by shooting biodegradable confetti out of a confetti cannon. "It was so exciting to get to call my partner my husband, and it was so magical to have the confetti cannons go off in celebration and welcome us as a married couple for the first time," says Kimberly.
Time to Celebrate
Kimberly and Michael joined their guests for the cocktail hour, asking their photographers to capture formal portraits with family and friends on a nearby lawn so they wouldn't miss the party. "We loved getting to see all of our guests who travelled far and wide to be there for that day," says Kimberly. "It was amazing to be in our favorite place with all of our favorite people playing lawn games, chatting, and eating and drinking our favorite things."
Dining Al Fresco
The dinner setup included a long table for the couple and bridal party and smaller round tables for the rest of the guests. Stunning views of the mountains made an outdoor meal an obvious choice. "We loved the beautiful views of the Carmel Valley hills, the smell of lavender that envelops the property, the stunning chef's garden, and delicious seasonal food and cocktails," says the couple.
Setting the Scene
Overflowing centerpieces contrasted yellow, pink, and ivory roses and peonies against dark green foliage. The flowers were arranged in low white vases, which complemented the pale yellow linens and matched the ivory chargers. At each place setting, a sprig of fresh lavender called back to the motif of the invitation.
The couple opted for a cake iced in white to let fresh flowers—which matched the bouquets and centerpieces—act as a focal point. For the flavor, they chose "strawberries and cream cake with vanilla bean chiffon and rum soak."
Kimberly and Michael continued the Italian-inspired theme of their day with a dinner menu created by the chef at Bernardus, which included melon and prosciutto salad, lemon and olive oil sorbet, risotto, halibut, and filet. After dinner, they led guests from the outdoor dining area inside to the ballroom, where a ceiling strung with twinkle lights added "fairy-tale elements" to a night of dancing to music from Dart Collective.
Hand in Hand
The couple followed one tip on their big day: "We received the advice to hold onto each other's hand and don't let go, because you want to have the same memories from your wedding day," they say. "You are surrounded by all of your favorite people, so it is easy to get pulled away from each other. We made a conscious effort to stay by each other's side, and are so glad that we were able to look back on all the amazing moments and memories we shared."
Photography, Sposto Photography
Venue and Catering, Bernardus Lodge & Spa
Event Planning and Design, Shannon Leahy Event Design and Planning
Flowers, Gavita Flora
Videography, Hitmaker Films
Stationery, Elsa Madeline
Music, Dart Collective (reception); Kelly Productions (ceremony and reception)
Rentals, Chic Event Rentals
Bride's Gown, Oscar de la Renta
Bride's Accessories, Sara Gabriel veil; Gump's earrings; Cartier bracelet; David Yurman bracelet; Stuart Weitzman shoes
Hair and Makeup, Elena Malevanaya
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Shona Joy
Groom's Suit, Ermenegildo Zegna
Menswear, The Black Tux