An Ocean-Inspired "East Meets West" Wedding in Carmel Valley, California
Stephanie Whaley felt only optimism on April 14, 2014, when she met Calvin Vinitwatanakhun for dinner: "It was a blind date," she says, "so the evening was already going to be filled with beautiful surprises." Those unexpected moments included a leisurely walk through the city, dinner at a rooftop restaurant, and cocktails at a bar where the couple danced alone in the center of the room. "The spontaneity of the night brought us closer together," she says. "The rest was history."
Four years later, Stephanie, Calvin—an avid sailor—and some friends planned a weeklong sailing trip in the Bahamas. During a sunset photoshoot on a secluded beach, Calvin surprised her with a proposal as their friends cheered him on. "It was a magical experience we will always treasure," she says.
Stephanie and Calvin wanted to create a wedding atmosphere they describe as "Zen meets Jackie O: Japanese elements beautifully contradicting Danish, minimalist design with a touch of spirituality." They chose Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley, California, as the venue for their 110-guest wedding, held on May 19, 2019. "We wanted our wedding day to be a reflection of our love and gratitude for our beautiful family and friends, by romanticizing and paying homage to our Peruvian and Thai cultures," says Stephanie. "As first generation immigrants, our vows reflected our devotion to our past and the future mark we would leave on the world as a couple."
On the big day, stormy weather forced the couple to move their garden ceremony inside and tent their al fresco dining area. But as the couple arrived at the venue that day, the clouds cleared and a rainbow appeared. "This rainbow was symbolic for me as I had mentioned to my dad the evening before, 'My only wish from the rain is for a rainbow to appear before us as I'll know it's a sign from my grandfather blessing us with his warm energy and love from above,'" says Stephanie. "And that is exactly what transpired."
Despite the weather, the couple experienced the day they had envisioned while planning. "Patience was key for us, as we subscribed to the Wabi Sabi teaching of temporal events leaving a lasting impression in our memory palace to cherish for years to come," says Stephanie. "Enjoy the present moment in everything you do and experience—its ephemeral timeline is a reality."
Getting the Blues
Gatherie Creative designed an invitation suite that incorporated the couple's "East meets West" theme with their dusty blue signature color and delicate lotus flower accents. "We both love Japanese culture in all forms—the food, philosophy, art, and history," says Stephanie. "We opted to incorporate the element of Wabi Sabi into our invites while providing a nod to modern Danish simplicity."
Her Custom Wedding Dress
Stephanie's lace mermaid sheath wedding dress from Pronovias came with a detachable overskirt and one feature that proved it was "the one" as soon as she put it on: "It had pockets!" she says.
Still, she made a few other changes: "We ended up customizing the gown to reflect a traditional, yet romantic, Peruvian-style wedding dress."
A Perfect Fit
The couple's New York City tailor created a bespoke tuxedo with notch lapels for Calvin, which Stephanie describes as "fit for a prince." Boutonnières of heuchera, lisianthus, and eucalyptus from Lambert Floral Studio added hints of green, purple, and pink.
Stephanie descended a staircase by a stone wall to greet Calvin for their first look. "We were finally doing the thing!" Stephanie says of how she felt during this moment. "The anticipation of sharing our love story and vulnerability with all of our guests filled us with adrenaline and suspense."
The venue's blooming landscaping offered a lush setting for the couple's portraits, accented by Stephanie's bouquet of colorful garden roses, clematis, ranunculus, hellebore, eucalytpus, and verbascum.
Dusty Blue and Classic Black
An Indoor Garden
With rain in the forecast for their big day, Stephanie and Calvin decided to move their ceremony inside the property's wood-paneled barn. They had planned to install an outdoor zen garden for their exchange of vows, but instead created a hanging one by securing hellebore blooms to suspended moss balls (a type of Japanese ikebana, or flower arranging style, called kokedama). Enclosed pillar candles on the floor shimmered during the ceremony.
A Family Affair
As the ceremony began, Stephanie's mother walked down the aisle (she performed the ring bearer's duties!) before her father escorted her to the altar. Bellarosa String Quartet performed "Liz on Top of the World" from Pride & Prejudice. "After watching Pride & Prejudice as an adolescent, I secretly vowed to one day proclaim my love to my future partner with this mesmerizing and soul-embodying piece," says Stephanie, "and on our wedding day, everything came full circle."
Stephanie and Calvin wrote their own vows, which she describes as "a proclamation of our greatest desires in life." The ceremony also included a moment of silence for family members who had passed away, and the reading of a favorite Pablo Neruda sonnet.
Drinks of the Day
Signature cocktails at the post-ceremony celebration "reflected both our heritage and our favorite travels over the years," says Stephanie. The couple worked with Pour Girl Bartending to create a "Hygge Old Fashioned," made with rye whisky, rhubarb bitters, vermouth, and an orange wedge; "Muay Thai Punch," a mixture of tequila, lychee, Meyer lemon, lime agave, Champagne, and club soda with a nasturtium bloom; and "Tupac Piso Sour," strawberry-infused Frisco Pisco with grape brandy, simple syrup, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, lime juice, egg white, and Angostura bitters.
An Important Date
During the cocktail hour, the newlyweds posed for portraits with the Saint Lucia mountains in the background. "Our wedding festivities began under the full moon in Scorpio, followed by our wedding ceremony under a waning gibbous in Sagittarius—a time of reflection," says Stephanie. "As an astrologer, it's close to my heart. We chose to start the weekend with a full moon in Scorpio because it symbolized our partnership coming full circle, celebrating the end of one chapter, and the beautiful beginning of another—and of course, the emotional passion and depth that encompasses a Scorpio Moon."
A small zen garden installed on a tabletop at the cocktail hour held individual cards listing the seating assignments for each table, allowing guests to find their place before entering the reception.
Rain on Your Wedding Day
The venue's Rose Patio hosted the couple's dinner reception, with a clear tent that kept out the rain. "For Calvin, the rain was a wonderful omen as his family noted it was good luck for our future wedding," says Stephanie. "As soon as we entered the courtyard, the light rain resumed and it started sprinkling—that sprinkling turned into larger raindrops that set the mood for a romantic, blissful celebration. We couldn't have asked for anything better."
Stephanie and Calvin carefully poured a Champagne tower for their guests to start the reception.
Asymmetrical centerpieces with pops of peach, pink, purple, and green were filled with overflowing blooms that rose into the air over the tables.
On the Menu
Single blooms rose from delicate vessels and contrasted with the fuller centerpieces, while gray plates and gold flatware complemented the custom menus. "Peruvian and Thai-inspired dishes were served to transport our guests into both of our cultures' histories," says Stephanie. Paradise Catering provided a berry and greens salad topped with edible flowers; salmon with fresh chimichurri; filet mignon with rosemary garlic potatoes; and mushroom ravioli with brown butter sage sauce.
A jaw-dropping dessert from Jasmine Rae Cakes used rice paper to recreate ocean waves in honor of the groom's love of sailing. Guests had their choice of two flavors: Earl Gray tea cake with orange cream cheese and candied ginger, or chocolate cake with ganache, espresso buttercream, and salted caramel.
In Your Arms
Though Stephanie and Calvin shared a first dance during the reception, they cherish another moment, too: "We stole a private dance after our ceremony with our brilliant friend playing one of our favorites—'Clair de Lune'— on the grand piano near the terrace," says Stephanie. "I will never forget the emotion I felt having my newly named husband hold me in his arms with a tenderness so pure and authentic it left me floating on clouds."
Photography, Amanda Crean
Venue, Holman Ranch
Event Planning, Natalie Choi Events
Catering, Paradise Catering
Flowers, Lambert Floral Studio
Videography, Patrick Ang
Officiant, Monterey Bay Wedding Officiants
Stationery, Gatherie Creative
Cake, Jasmine Rae Cakes
Music, Bellarosa String Quartet
Rentals, The Chiavari Guys; Chic Event Rentals; La Tavola Fine Linen; Standard Party Rentals
Bride's Gown, Pronovias
Bride's Accessories, Toni Federici veil; M. Gemi shoes
Hair and Makeup, Makeup by Quis (bride); A-List Makeup (bridesmaids)
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Azazie
Menswear, The Black Tux
Transportation, Main Event Transportation
Bartending, Pour Girl Bartending
Guest Book, Artifact Uprising
Photo Booth, Chroma
Signage, Ettie Kim Studio