Two hours outside of LA, in a town called Vista, there is a beautiful country club, tucked in between mountains. The view from inside the Vista Valley Country Club is of rolling hills covered with luscious green trees that seem to stretch forever. Yet inside the country club property, down a long windy path across the golf course, is the garden. This is our venue.
Our wedding was a destination wedding. Well, except for Joey and I. It was incredible to have all our friends and family travel to California for this weekend. Guests from all over the world; Chicago, New York, Florida, Washington DC, Arizona, Connecticut, Dominican Republic and Chile.
Joey and I, along with all of our guests, stayed at The Welk Resort, which was a 7 minute drive from the venue. Joey stayed with his family in their villa. I stayed with my family in theirs.
Okay okay. Let’s get to the day of already… Let me set the scene:
It was a nice, cool morning in mid August. I woke up right before my alarm. My eyes went directly to the light shinning through the window beside me, I felt rested and happy. Then it hit me. I’m getting married TODAY! I turned over to say good morning to my mom in the bed beside me since we slept in the same bed but she wasn’t there. So I walked over to the living room to find my parents, smiling and cuddling on the pull out bed. I jumped right in the middle of them for some hugs and kisses. You could feel the excitement in the air. This was the day we had been talking about every single time we spoke since I got engaged.
Now, I know there is a rule about not seeing your fiancé the morning of the wedding but.. we broke that rule… I had to be at the venue at 9am and I knew if anyone was going to be punctual with the time, it was Joey. So I packed my bags and Joey picked me up in front of my parents villa. That wasn’t the only rule we broke..
Once at the country club, Joey carried my wedding dress up to the bridal room, and left. The next time I saw him wasn’t until the first look. I was there first, and I was so excited to spend the day getting ready with my mom, my soon to be mother in law, my sisters, Joeys sisters, and my best friends. In the bridal suite, there was a breakfast buffet set up and as soon as they all arrived we all ate and chatted over breakfast. The mood was very mellow and relaxing, and after about an hour the makeup artist and hair stylists showed up. Then the photographer and team of videographers arrived. And it was at this point that everything started to really speed up.
At some point during the the photo session in the bridal room, my mom looked at me with a worried look on her face. She told me that my dad was really excited but also really anxious. My dad has a heart condition and whenever his heart speeds up my mom gets really worried. She thought it would be best to do a father and daughter first look before the ceremony so that he can feel a bit more relaxed. So that’s what we did, and it was one of my favorite moments of the day. I will never forget the look on his face. And thanks to our photographer, Julia, we now have that moment captured forever.
The ceremony was magical. The garden looked dreamlike with the vibrant shades of green and beautiful flowers blooming accompanied by the sounds of nature and water splashing from the fountains. The song I chose to walk down the aisle to was Window by the Album Leaf. I doubt anyone there has even heard of this song but it’s special to Joey and I.
With my mom and dad at my side, we walked from the garden entrance gate toward the aisle. It was surreal seeing everyone I love in one place, looking at me with tears in their eyes full of happiness and excitement.
And as I neared the aisle, I looked up and saw Joey. He was already crying and when we locked eyes, we both lost it. The whole way down the aisle, our eyes were locked into one another’s, as tears streamed down our faces. We both describe this moment the same as it seemed like in that moment it was just us and everything around us was just blurry. And as I neared him, it was as if we were talking to each other through our eyes and our minds.
Our ceremony was officiated by Joey’s father’s best friend, Richard Rabinowitz. We customized the ceremony to fit what made sense to us and our beliefs. We had prayers read in English, Hebrew, and Spanish. We stood underneath a Chuppah, which was adorned with a fabric that was a gift from my grandma. Even though she isn’t familiar with the jewish traditions and how meaningful it was to have that fabric as the Chuppah, she had tears in her eyes, as she told me after after the ceremony how much that meant to her. We merged religions and cultures, and it only added more meaning and depth to our ceremony. And it didn’t stop there.
At the reception, which was right next to where the ceremony was, but separated by lush greenery, the dance party began. Actually wait - I have to talk about Joey and I’s first dance and my father daughter dance. And then the dance party!!
Joey and I’s first dance was to the song, Overwhelmed by Tim McMorris. Joey had first sent me that song when we first started dating. And when he sent it, he said, “Hey I wrote you this song.” And sent it. If you listen to it, you’ll see why it was the perfect choice for us.
The first dance with my dad was very emotional. I chose Lulluby by Billy Joel. We would listen to it together when I was young and a couple months before the wedding we were driving and that song came on. We held hands and cried the whole song. He had no idea that I had picked it to be our father daughter dance song. When it started playing, we hugged each other and cried again, non stop. He sang every word of the song to me in my ear and that will stick with me forever. We were so lost in the moment. It was actually surreal when the song ended and I looked around and saw everyone because it truly felt like we were in another dimension just us two.
Then Joey and his mom danced to In My Life by The Beatles. It’s also an emotional song for Joey’s family. It symbolized Joey’s grandma who passed away. And it was so nice to see them smiling through the whole song. I know they did not want to be sad about her not being there. They wanted to celebrate - because thats what she would have wanted.
(Insert Dancing Photos Here) (Still waiting on more photos from the photographer)
Okay. Dance party time. Next thing we knew every single person at the wedding was on the dance floor. It was unbelievable. And it did not stop until the very last song. Grandparents, kids, literally everyone. The playlist was a perfect mix of Spanish songs and our favorite songs of all time. We had Outkast playing. Marc Anthony. Lizzo. Even N’Sync came on (Joeys doing).
(Insert Dancing Photos Here) (Still waiting on more photos from the photographer)
The energy on the dance floor was palpable, I know this is biased but it was by far the best dance party I have ever experienced. We also did the Hora which was SO much fun. The thrill/danger/fun of it was unlike anything I’ve ever experience before. As soon as we finished the Hora, and Joey and I returned to the ground, Celia Cruz came on for some great Salsa-ing. What wedding goes from the Hora to Celia Cruz!?
The last song of the night was Dancing In The Moonlight by Toploader, it was the perfect ending. (Yes, we planned that - Actually Joey and I curated the entire playlist). As soon as the song was over, everyone kept chanting “One more song ! One more song!”
As the most magical night of our lives ended, Joey and I walked out hand in hand and we kept repeating, “This was the best day ever.” It really was. it was perfection.
Q & A
Who was your wedding dress designer?
Veni Infantino for Ronald Joyce Bridal
How did you know it was the one?
I customized it with the designer. I wanted a dress that could transform and that I could use for the ceremony and reception.
Any advice for the dress-shopping experience?
Keep an open mind. You might think you like a certain style dress but then you try it on and realize it’s not for you.
What other fashion accessories did you wear (Jewelry, Shoes, Belt, Veil, Etc.)? Who designed them? Did they have any special significance?
Jewelry: I just wore the jewelry I wear every single day. Earrings, a necklace and ring gifted to me from my grandmother and a couple bracelets from two different designers from Etsy and a necklace I purchased at a market in Los Angeles.
Shoes: Stuart Weitzman
Veil: By Veni Infantino for Ronald Joyce Bridal
Did the Bridesmaids all wear the same dress and color?
The color was Rusty Rose. I had them pick out dresses in that color palette. I didn’t care what brand or style. I wanted them to be comfortable and not worry about spending more than their budget. The dress prices ranged from $36 to a couple hundred. The shoe color was nude and they ranged from flats to heels.
Who was your flower girl and ring bearer? Any special stories from their trip down the aisle?
The flower girl was my grandmother and the ring bearer was Joey’s grandfather.
My grandmother was very excited about her role in the wedding and very enthusiastic with the flower petals throwing them over the guest’s heads. It provided a great comedic moment.
Who walked you down the aisle?
My mother and father.
Did you write your own vows?
Yes, we both wrote our own vows. Joey’s vows were the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read in my life.
Who was your florist?
Do you recommend a wedding planner?
YES! I can’t imagine having a wedding run smoothly without one. Ours was Marisa at Seven Stems.
One thing you wish you did differently?
We had a late night snack available which were soft pretzel bites. It cost us $1,400.00
I didn’t taste it and I doubt barely anyone even had any, I feel like we could have done without them.
How did you keep your guests entertained without those silly games?
There were no games at our wedding. There was no time for games really. The only “down” time they had was an hour after the ceremony at the cocktail hour. There was live music, hors d’oeuvres, an open bar.. I feel that everyone wanted to connect at that point and talk about the ceremony.
Did you separate sides for the guests to sit during the ceremony, bride and groom?
No. It was a free for all except the two front rows for closest family. I had about 30 something guests and Joey’s side had a little over a hundred so that wouldn’t of worked anyways.
Best advice given to you before the wedding?
Don’t drink a lot of alcohol! I had little sips here and there that maybe added to 1 full drink. You don’t need it because you will be love drunk. Yes, it is a really thing. Joey and I experienced it. We did not get drunk at our wedding. We wanted to be fully present and enjoy it to the max with no hangovers, headaches or bad stomachs. The person that gave me this advice got blacked out drunk at her wedding and can’t remember most of the night. It makes her so sad even talking about it.
Did you cry from frustration at any point? several times?
One time. The makeup trial I did with the first makeup artist was a disaster. The worst part is that I paid her in advance for some of the bridesmaids and myself which I shouldn’t of so I lost $700.00.
I specifically told her I don’t like a lot of makeup on my face several times. She ignored my wishes and airbrushed the sh** out of my face. Then put eyelash strips on my lashes which looked horrendous and just did a really bad job over all. Meanwhile she’s doing all of this I’m getting a sense of her personality and she’s telling me how when she met her current partner she was with someone else and then she tells me she lied to him about where she lives and how she was using him for free meals at the beginning etc. etc. So I’m getting a horrible feeling about her energy and intentions in just life. Through out this she keeps asking me to pull out my phone and follow her online, even after I ignored her the first time. It was weird. So back to the makeup, she does my makeup WITHOUT me looking at it the whole time. Then at the end she shows me my face and I was in horror. I felt hideous. I was holding back tears, she noticed and asked me if I was okay. I told her I looked so old and that I didn’t like wearing a lot of makeup. Instead of redoing my look she told me to go to a makeup store and buy a ton of makeup to start getting used to wearing more makeup before the wedding. As soon as I got in the car I burst into tears. I got over it in a couple minutes. Lost my $700.00 deposit because I never wanted to see her again in my life and that was worth $700.00 to me rather than trying it out again with her.
How did you choose your wedding bands?
We went to the nearest jewellery store at the mall and got solid gold thin bands. He got white gold and I got yellow gold. It was easy, quick and simple.
How long did it take to plan the wedding?
Well we got engaged in January and got married in August. So.. 7 months.
Was Joey hands on?
VERY! Our wedding wouldn’t have been what it was without him. He made the best to do list and made sure we were on top of it daily. He was on all the calls with the wedding coordinator and DJ except for maybe one, he helped with the busy work of the save the dates and invites, he helped pack the welcome bags, made the playlist for the wedding, helped with emails, made the itinerary for the guests, I mean I can go on and on. Seriously such a dream to plan this with him, he made it stress free.
What did you customize?
I customized the save the dates, the wedding invitations with the help of another artist that did the calligraphy and the welcome bags that we made for every guest checking into the resort. Oh and I also customized the wedding favors with the help of Chocolove. I created a custom wrapper for the chocolate bars.
Did your parents pay for the wedding?
No. We didn’t want our parents to worry about paying for it.
Any special things to accommodate guests?
Yes, besides the welcome bags I stocked up each bathroom with items guests may need.
I didn’t add bug spray but would recommend this for an outside wedding if bugs are a problem.
Was your ceremony an unplugged, no phones allowed ceremony?
Yes! It was and I made the custom sign for that too.
What was that planning book you recommended in your IG stories?
It’s a wedding planning book by The Knot. Here is the link:
What songs did you use for your processional/recessional and entrance song?
Processional song: Live instrumental version of Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles & 100 Years by Five For Fighting played by Pete Goslow.
Bridal Entrance song was In a Safe Place by The Album Leaf
Recessional song: Best Day of My Life by American Authors
Did you have live musicians or recorded music?
We had both. Our Dj was also an amazing musician.
Please describe your menu! Any special food items you served?
So the country club had a no outside food rule. Their food was great but I really wanted to have some traditional latin foods I love like tequeños, guava and cheese pastries and avocado toast.
This is what we had :
Seared Salmon Filet
Lemon Champagne beurre blanc
Roasted Mary’s Chicken
Wild Mushroom Ragu
pasta and seasonal vegetables
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Herb marinated zucchini, colorful peppers, carrots and yellow squash
Did you have a signature cocktail?
No! I didn’t think about that!! It would’ve been so perfect. My family doesn’t really drink so I can’t think of a drink for them but Joey’s family loves tequila so if I could do it all again it would probably be called The Rudman special and it would be a tequila on the rocks with mint and cucumber or something.
What entertainment did you have? Were there any special musical selections?
We had a musician/ Dj
We hand-picked every single song. The playlist was amazing not only because we created it but the dance floor was packed at all times and people were even chanting “one more song!” at the end of the night.
First dance song?
Song: Overwhelmed By: Tim McMorris
Father-daughter dance song?
Song: Lullaby By: Billy Joel
Mother-son dance song?
Song: In My Life By: The Beatles
Wedding cake design?
Rustic with fruits and flowers thanks to Elegance On Display. I made custom clay figurines of Joey and I but left them at home on accident.
Wedding cake flavors?
We had a lemon cake with a raspberry and strawberry filling. We also had an additional sheet cake which I called the “secret cake” that was brought out later that was a chocolate cake with chocolate fudge. I didn’t get to try that one but everyone that tired it told me it was heavenly and that it tasted exactly like what the Trunchbull cake from Matilda would taste like.
Three special memories, stories, or details from your wedding day:
Locking eyes and crying simultaneously with Joey while walking down the aisle.
The first dance song with my father was really special. We both cried the whole song through and he sang every word of that song in my ear to me.
The speeches our parents and Joey’s siblings wrote were perfection.
Advice for wedding planning?
1. Plan what you can afford. I’ve heard so many horror stories of people going into major debt for their wedding. With this in mind I saved up beforehand. No credit cards involved. It made everything less stressful.
2. Create spreadsheets! Having a spreadsheet with all of our guest’s information on it made planning much easier. I also recommend a wedding planner book made by The Knot on top of hiring AT LEAST a day of planner. We had a planner that helped us all the way up to the last minute. It was glorious.
3. Remember when picking a date you cannot accommodate everyone. Make sure it works for your closest and most important guests and then pick it and move on.
4. Who to invite? You can’t invite every single person you connect with. What I personally did was go with intuition. I went with the people that felt like a positive light in my life and that I feel deeply for and those that show their love for me. I didn’t let the time knowing them or if we were related dictate my decision. I also avoided people that might cause a scene or get out of hand at the wedding for everyone’s sake.
5. Don’t sweat the small stuff, who is really going to remember what linen you went with for the napkins?
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
7. Have fun!
How far in advance did you send your save the dates?
About 6-5 months out.
Ceremony site: Vista Valley Country Club
Contact email: LMitchell@vistavalley.com
Reception site: Vista Valley Country Club
Contact email: LMitchell@vistavalley.com
Wedding planner: Marisa Lara at Seven Stems
Contact email: email@example.com
Bridal gown: Veni Infantino for Ronald Joyce Bridal
Veil: Veni Infantino for Ronald Joyce Bridal
Jewelry: Violet + Mable , The Rose Gypsy
Shoes: Stuart Weitzman
Hair: Elena Prohnitchi
Makeup: Draeh Hancock-Collins
Through Poshmark but originally Express brand
Mother of the bride dress: Camille Lavie
Groom’s attire: Zegna
URL: Z ZegnaÂ
Groomsmen’s attire: Mostly rentals
Flower girl attire: Camille Lavie
Flowers/Florist: Seven Stems
Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Botanical Paper Works
Seed paper is an eco-friendly, biodegradable paper made with post-consumer materials that is embedded with wildflower seeds. When the paper is planted in soil, it grows a beautiful bouquet of wildflowers and leaves no waste behind.
Other paper products (programs, escort and place cards, menus, etc.):
Guest book: Custom made from an artist in Lithuania
Music (ceremony and reception): Peter Goslow
Catering: Vista Valley Country Club
Cake: Elegance on Display
Favors: Chocolove Chocolates with custom illustrated wrappers
Transportation: Winery Hopper
We had buses that took the guests to and from the resort to the reception/ceremony.
Videographer: Amari Productions
Photographer: Amore Vita
Contact email: email@example.com
I met Julia In highschool. She had been winning awards for her photography at a really young age but never considered it a career. I was her first model. We would do test shoots around the nearby school and in our neighborhood. I paid her but told her to use the money to get business cards and CDs for the photos. I created her first logo. I told her in highschool “One day when I get married to the love of my life, I want you to be the photographer at the wedding no matter where we live in the world, I will fly you out.” So when Joey and I decided to marry I called up Julia (even before the proposal) and booked her! She books quickly now and only does a select number of weddings a year so I was worried she wasn’t going to be able to do it. She accepted and at 6 months pregnant she flew over to California and went above and beyond the day of the wedding.
Calligraphy Wedding Invitation Artist: https://www.instagram.com/sydneys.swag/
Water for Gift Bags: Boxed Water
We had 142 guests and didn’t want to create extra plastic waste.
So we gave every guest a boxed water instead.