It’s time to take a little break and blog about what Matt and I agree on what was the best marriage celebration EVER. Our own!

You probably know that we secretly eloped to Napa in December, and when we returned we began planning a little party for family and friends who were eager to celebrate with us.  That party happened April 10th at the Red Horse Barn in the Huntington Beach Equestrian Center, and in most ways it was just like we are…laid-back, low-key, just a day with food, fun, and family.  There was no ceremony or anything that could really stress us out, just eating, drinking, and visiting with familiar faces.  It turned out to be a beautiful sunny day (many of us even got sunburned!) and overall we could not have asked for anything better.

Part of the reason it was such a success is largely due to the generosity of our vendors, many of whom were friends of ours within the event industry.  We were really excited to expose our family and friends to these talented people and cannot thank them enough for the unsolicited rate reductions they gave us, or the policies they’d overlook just because we were not typical clientele.  That said, I must acknowledge that it was difficult to choose among so many friends who are all skilled and qualified vendors; ultimately we made our selections based on style.  We know dozens of obscenely gifted planners, florists, rentals, food vendors, etc etc etc but when it came time for us to choose, we knew that the number one priority really should be how well our vendors’ style meshed with our own.

One of our toughest decisions, naturally, was photography…the photography market here in Southern California is enormous, and we certainly are not lacking in talented friends who were jumping at the opportunity.  In the end, we went with a fellow Huntington Beach-er, Carolyn Troadec, who is sweet, frank, and relatively laid-back, like we are.  We are familiar with her work and know she does well with posing (family pictures were hugely important to my mother), and can actually deliver when it comes to creating a solid image in-camera as well as working firmly with the post-processing, which are skills that Matt and I value but feel that many photographers out there actually lack, at least in tandem.

Wow. She does not disappoint!  Matt and I are thrilled with the results…

But here I am rambling about style and skill, when pictures speak volumes more!

Knowing full well that many guests just toss the invitation once the date is inked onto the calendar, we used seeded invitations (“plantable” paper) ordered via Of The Earth in the hopes that some of them would try recycling or even planting them in their gardens.  Love, love LOVED the result!



Using the album resources that we have as photographers ourselves, we also made a custom guestbook featuring screencaptures from Facebook and Twitter, back when we announced online that we had eloped; we left room for people to write best wishes as well, but I wanted to keep many of the reactions we had gotten from our friends online, many of which were heartfelt, or downright hilarious!

I searched long and hard for a money/card box that wasn’t, in my opinion, run-of-the-mill fluffy bridal white.  So when I found this awesome, custom-designed box on Etsy from Designs by Karen, I flipped.  It was easy to order and customize.

Matt and I are longtime friends of Ian Tacquard, who is a special events manager for St. Margaret’s Episcopal School. He happens to have an account with Signature Party Rentals, so he totally hooked us up with the chairs, tables, and linens, and also gave us great advice regarding our “natural/neutral” color scheme.  We also had our friend Wendy from Sorelle Weddings & Events on hand to keep the vendors in line as they set up, as well as keep the event moving…which was an enormous help!  I can’t imagine how stressful any event would be without a planner, even ours.

Floral design is by Dandelion Ranch. Isn’t it rad!! I love their look.  They also surprised us and gave Matt a gift boutonniere, and me a gift corsage.

fantasy frostings
Instead of a traditional cake, Matt and I went with a varied dessert table by Fantasy Frostings.  Gloriously scrumptious, as always, and lead cake artist Leslie even allowed me to send her my grandmother’s poppyseed cake recipe for her to recreate with little bundt cakes.  I made the signs myself.

We used Verterra plates that Matt and I had discovered last year at Catersource.  Totally biodegradable, Mother Earth-approved.  My mom suggested (and donated) baskets to hold them so they didn’t blow away.


Open bar consisting of wine, beer, sodas, and margaritas! Matt and I took advantage of the 5-cent wine sale BevMo had in March ;-)

We brought in my old friend from high school, Danny Maika to perform during the event, and he was a SMASH HIT.  Everybody kept asking who he was, and wanted his card.  I was in choir with Danny back in the day, and now he is an OC Music Awards finalist—not to mention a PERFECT choice for atmosphere!

Matt and I were pleasantly surprised to discover Mark’s Catering for our event, who didn’t mind serving chips and salsa, appetizers, salads, and additional drinks such as iced tea, water, coffee, and tea instead of insisting on furnishing the food for the entire event.  They were willing to work with our special demands, our budget, and our venue’s restrictions…AND their food was great.  I really can’t praise them highly enough, honestly.

Our other food feature: TACOS. Freshly made right in front of you courtesy of Taqueria El Tapatio.  We had quite a few problems securing a good, affordable taco cart that could also accommodate the venue’s liability insurance requirements, and the guys and El Tapatio really rose to the occasion. Fabulously inexpensive way to feed a lot of people and fresh, fresh, fresh!  It’s really hard to go wrong with food when it’s fresh, so a taco station seemed like a no-brainer!


One of the things that I found inspiring about the Red Horse Barn is the open grassy space they have. It just SCREAMS "lawn games." I used to play croquet with my cousins in my grandpa's backyard when I was a kid, so we set up some croquet wickets, and it really was a hit among the younger guests (and naturally, my cousins, pictured above)!

You can’t have an event at an equestrian center and not have horseshoes, right?  My grandpa found a horseshoe set in his garage, and I have to say quite a few of my uncles really took to THAT idea!  Pictured also are my shoes which I already had long before this event, but never fail to garner comments whenever I wear them.  They’re Steve Maddens from DSW.

More lawn games, courtesy of my grandpa's garage. Pictured are some of Matt's cousin's kids.

We were "gifted" hay bales from the bride whose event was the day before ours. The feed store that had delivered them preferred to wait a couple days, so we got to enjoy them, too! Pictured is my cousin Isabella...don't you love her outfit?

Me, with my brother. We have some kind of weird sibling connection that somehow results in us wearing the same color to an event without realizing it until we both get there. LOL!! I didn't a way I liked it. It was like he was a Best Man or something.

My dad gave a toast---this was the ONLY thing on the agenda for the entire event. The rest of the time was just visiting, eating, and drinking. Did I mention this was a pretty low-stress party?

Matt and I with my parents and brother. How I love this picture---this is why you hire a pro!

big happy

With both families, Matt and mine

Since there was no ceremony or agenda, during her down time Carolyn set up an informal photo booth, using props that I brought. Looking through some of the resulting pictures, I think some of our guests liked it a little TOO much!


My makeup was done by my favorite makeup artist, Jessica Edwards.

My hair was styled by Sayde, at Toni & Guy.

Matt and I actually both bought our outfits at Banana Republic, though I found the necklace at Express, and the belt at a generic fashion shop.  Isn’t his Dandelion Ranch boutonniere adorable??

We had such a great time, as did our friends and families.  Thanks so much, everyone!

To recap:

Venue: Red Horse Barn
Flowers:  Dandelion Ranch
Desserts:  Fantasy Frosting
Tacos:  Taqueria El Tapatio
Catering:  Mark’s Catering
Plates: Verterra
Music:  Danny Maika
Rentals and Linens:  Signature Party Rentals
Money Box:  Designs By Karen
Bride’s Makeup:  Jessica Edwards
Bride’s Hair:  Sayde (Toni & Guy)
Day-Of Coordination:  Wendy of Sorelle Weddings & Events

  • The power of a good photographer – I feel like I was able to get a taste of what the party was like! I love all the details, totally you two. You both look happy and relaxed – so glad you were able to celebrate your love with your loved ones. I’m still so happy for you two!

  • Congratulations to you and Matt! Very beautiful reception. Love all the details especially your guest book.

  • It was a perfect day!

  • Molly & Matt: These are gorg! That last picture is amazing! Congrats again and again!

  • Matt & Molly! These pictures are amazing! Especially the one of you two holding hands. Just beautiful, and you can feel the love. We’re both so glad we could play a part on that special day!

  • Gorgeous! Gorgeous!!
    I love everything and it looked perfect!!
    Congrats you two!!

  • You are just too sweet – but such a beautiful location and a gorgeous couple, how could I mess that up??

    The centerpiece that you sent home with me, it STILL looks amazing almost a month later! Dandelion Ranch is amazing.