Butterflies and a Blush Color Palette Defined This Couple's California Nuptials
Gillian Dunn and Tyler Sutter had no idea that a chance meeting and a simple hello at a friend's house would be a moment that would change their lives forever—eventually leading them down the aisle 10 years later. "I was blown away when I first saw Gillian," Tyler says. "She was stunning, and I knew I had to say something." After that initial greeting, mutual friends helped connect the pair even more—prompting them to add each other on social media and meet for their first date over coffee. Tyler says the rest is history, as the couple has been together ever since.
He popped the question on January 13, 2018, during a trip to Napa Valley—but the proposal didn't go exactly as planned. "We arrived at the winery and as we were waiting for the tour to start, I realized the winery had two locations," Gillian shares. "The one we were at was so-so, but the other one was picture-perfect. We both kind of silently gasped at the same time because I knew he wanted to be at the other location—it was very 'me.'" After taking matters into their own hands and driving to the other location, the two took in the scenic views until the moment was just right for Tyler to get down on one knee. "I noticed he was fidgeting in his pocket, and me being the adventurous one, decided that we should sneak up to the chained-off roof of this winery," she adds. "And there is where he asked me to marry him!"
The pair began preparing for their next big moment—their September 21, 2019, nuptials—with the assistance of their planner, Jacin Fitzgerald, who helped them craft an event that was timeless and personal. "My priorities were interesting lighting, tons of lush flowers, out-of-the-box creativity, including our dogs Penny and Lily, and creating a truly custom environment that was warm and inviting to our guests," she says. All of their big-day details came to life at Beaulieu Garden in front of their 148 nearest and dearest—mainly by working hand-in-hand with Jacin to make it happen. "Almost every aspect of our wedding design was inspired by our life journeys and our style of living," Gillian says. "Jacin really incorporated our love story, butterflies, and Tyler's Chinese culture into our wedding."
Classic Invitation Suite
The couple chose a blush, gold, and black color palette for their décor, and that combination of neutral hues was first introduced through the invitations. Their stationer, Brent Fraim of Dear Elouise, created a custom suite with vellum, gold foil, tassels, and a floral butterfly motif—all representing important themes to the couple and later found in other parts of their big day. "The gold crawling floral pattern was derived from two places: My Oscar de la Renta wedding dress and a Chinese gold silk-printed screen," Gillian says. "Our custom logo, invites, and ceremony program shapes were all inspired by my love for antique gilded mirrors and artwork."
Dress Fit to Perfection
Gillian donned an A-line Oscar de la Renta wedding dress featuring a hand-painted, beaded, and sewn crawling floral appliqué and layers of nude tulle, ivory silk organza, and nude china silk. "I fell in love with the hand-painted floral appliqué and I already knew I wanted a tulle dress. The dress was the perfect combination of romantic, feminine, and chic. I couldn't stop smiling, and yes, I cried," she says.
Her fitting experience was also positive, she reflects. "My gown was not specifically designed for a plus-size body type, but Heidi Johnson of The Wedding DeTailor was able to transform it while still maintaining its original design. She is truly magical!" Gillian says. "Don't let your body type hold you back from your dream dress—anything is possible if it is meant to be!"
The bride finished her look with a bleached Italian ruscus-filled bouquet and an Oscar de la Renta veil lined with floral appliqué.
While the bride made a last-minute accessory switch—she swapped her Gianvito Rossi pumps for Givenchy block heels due to the property's terrain—the rest of her big-day accessories were set in stone. She wore Saks Fifth Avenue earrings and Cartier bracelets, and carried a handbag designed by L'Afshar.
Gillian opted to have two bridesmaids by her side—her cousin and best friend—and they both selected distinct looks for the nuptials. "[They] are completely different heights and complexions, and both have very different styles," she says. "I knew they wouldn't wear the same dress or color. I also didn't want them to be the same—I wanted their personalities to show." Her cousin wore a gold, floral gown from Monique Lhuillier, while her best friend dressed in a blush Alfred Sung mermaid frock with a back-bow detail.
Dressed to the Nines
First Look Magic
"I couldn't wait to see Tyler," Gillian says of the pre-ceremony moment. "After so much prep and so many alterations appointments for my dress, I was just so excited for him to see me, finally." The groom had mutual feelings: "I was really nervous and then I immediately got really excited. Seeing Gillian for the first time in her wedding dress was breathtaking," Tyler shares. "I couldn't believe how beautiful she looked. It was like seeing her for the first time all over again."
Traditional Chinese Designs
The tasseled ceremony programs opened up like traditional Chinese fans, a tribute to Tyler's heritage.
One-of-a-Kind Ceremony Décor
"For our ceremony, I [deviated] from a traditional straight aisle, altar, and floral arch," Gillian says of the service's décor at the Beaulieu Garden. "Jacin Fitzgerald designed a custom 'dock' and runway over the pond, which was lined with billowing ground florals. Tyler and I stood in the middle of the pond surrounded by our guests sitting in acrylic chairs. It truly felt like we were floating and in a dream."
Music in Full Harmony
The couple kept music a top priority during the wedding-planning process, and hired a full-string quartet to play some of their favorite hits throughout the day. "Music is one of our favorite things, so I wanted this part to really reflect us and our emotions during this huge moment in our lives," Gillian says. "I think it's a great way to contemporize such a traditional event." The wedding party walked in to "Latch" by Disclosure, and the bride made her way to the altar to "Just Like Heaven" by The Cure.
Gillian and Tyler marked their new journey with an intimate vow exchange; the groom's older brother officiated the ceremony. "Our wedding was so custom. I felt that personal vows were the icing on the cake," the bride says. "Brent from Dear Elouise created a beautiful linen book with our logo in gold foil on the front to hold our vows. I loved this idea because we plan to read them again on our wedding anniversary every year!"
The ceremony concluded with a butterfly release, a tribute to Gillian's recovery from addiction. "During my challenges, I was repetitively told by those around me that I was just a butterfly and now truly ready to fly," she says. The creatures flew into the sky as "Dog Days Are Over" by Florence + the Machine sounded in the background—the pair's new chapter as husband and wife had finally begun.
A Quiet Moment for Two
Gillian and Tyler took time after the service for solo and family portraits, during which one of their favorite big-day moments unfolded. "While taking our family portraits, one of the butterflies landed on Tyler's hand. It was so magical. Some of the butterflies had flown up the first layer of my dress, as well—it looked so pretty!" Gillian recalls.
Cocktail Hour Feast
"In addition to passed appetizers, Jacin designed a dim sum station as a fun incorporation of Tyler's heritage," the bride says of their cocktail hour menu. "She paired the traditional lines of the bar and gold floral pattern with funky neon signage that read, 'Dim Sum and Then Sum.' The station was complete with traditional steamer baskets and Asian-inspired floral arrangements," she adds.
"Guests enjoyed personalized drinks named after our fur babies, Penny and Lily," Gillian notes of their signature cocktails.
Their pups also made an appearance on the cocktail napkins, thanks to gold-foil sketches of their likenesses.
Butterfly, Fly Away
Gillian and Tyler's butterfly theme carried into the reception. "Jacin designed two installations of hand-painted porcelain butterflies on acrylic panels. They were produced by Brent of Dear Elouise, and each was calligraphed with our guests' names and table numbers," Gillian shares.
The reception décor reflected Tyler's desire for a modern-day minimalistic aesthetic. The pair chose white velour chairs to complement contemporary cement tables.
"To accompany the Asian-style amuse-bouche being served, Jacin designed a place setting concept of gold modern chopsticks with a traditional paper sheath," Gillian notes. Personalized menus were printed in gold foil and placed at each spot.
Under the Lights
"I loved how muted, yet impactful the reception area looked—it looked like the space was glowing and the drapery created a very intimate feeling for our guests," the bride shares. "The oversized black tassel tie backs were one of my favorite details. It was such a fun traditional throwback."
Gillian and Tyler chose two confections by Jasmine Rae Cakes for their big day—the first, an earl grey cake with honey-rose buttercream and lemon curd, and the second, a chocolate cake with matcha buttercream and jasmine green tea ganache; the latter spoke to the groom's background.
Dancing the Night Away
The couple took their first spin as a married couple to "Butterflies" by Kacey Musgraves. "It reminded us of how we felt, and still feel, about each other when we first met—and also tied in my butterflies!" Gillian says.
"One of my favorite personalized items was the late-night snack containers," the bride shares. "Paula LeDuc designed custom fast-food inspired containers for mini sliders and truffle fries. They featured two caricatures of our dogs on a black, quilted background."
Photography, Jose Villa
Venue, Beaulieu Garden
Wedding Planning and Event Design, Jacin Fitzgerald
Videography, Grover Films
Flowers, Nancy Liu Chin
Invitations, Vow Book, Escort Butterflies, Brent Fraim of Dear Elouise
Acrylic Welcome Sign, Southern Fried Paper
Bride's Gown and Veil, Oscar de la Renta
Wardrobe Stylist, The Stylish Bride
Alterations and Day-of Stylist, The Wedding DeTailor
Jewelry, Saks Fifth Avenue; Cartier; Cocktail Eternity Ring
Shoes, Gianvito Rossi; Givenchy; MiuMiu
Hair, Shea Nishimura
Makeup, Ashley Bias
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Alfred Sung; Monique Lhuillier
Groom's Attire, Calvin Klein
Groom's Accessories, Tom Ford; Givenchy; Rolex
Groomsmen's Attire, The Black Tux
Engagement Ring and Wedding Bands, Van Mardirosian, Jewelry Exchange Co.
Music, Synchronicity Strings; DJ Cams
Catering, Paula LeDuc
Cake, Jasmine Rae Cakes
Reception Chandeliers, Urban Parlour
Deck and Runway, Zephyr Tents
Chairs, Lounge, Plates, Votives, The Oni Collection
Calligraphy, Fleur Calligraphy
Escort Stands, Custom Bar Fronts, Tables, Blueprint Studios
Place Settings, Casa de Perrin
Dance Floor, RCD Dancefloors
Photo Booth, MirMir