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Saturday Morning Movie: Two Dolphin Trainers Say I Do on the Beach

While most of the country is welcoming fall with open arms, I’m not ready to say goodbye to summer just yet. And lucky for me, we have a beachside celebration to linger with for the weekend ahead. We have two dolphin trainers and a summer romance that turned into so much more, with Focused Bliss Productions capturing the moment they because Mr. and Mrs. With the Pacific Ocean in the background, it’s pretty amazing if we do say so ourselves. Sit back and soak up summer just a bit longer.

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From Focused Bliss ProductionsBoth dolphin trainers in San Diego, Melissa and Nik are a couple who imbue true love and are hopelessly in love with one another. They appropriately held their stunning wedding on the Silver Strand Beach facing the open ocean. This beach is conveniently adjacent to the Loews Coronado Hotel at which they held their morning preparations and evening reception party. Not a detail was missed to tie it all together – from a color palette of teals and blues, to starfish and sand-dollar decor, to a seahorse cake-topper! We just love every aspect of this wedding, but most of all, the raw emotion felt throughout… Especially as Melissa walked down the aisle moving Nik to tears!

From the Bride… Nik moved to California to chase his dream job as a dolphin trainer, and we first met at our mutual friend Roland’s birthday party. I knew Roland through a marine mammal internship that we were both completing at the time. I showed up to his party wearing my favorite piece of jewelry, a sea star bracelet, that I received lots of compliments on that evening. After our first meeting, it would be months until Nik and I would run into each other again. I had just started a new job and had only been working there a few days when he approached my table at lunch to welcome myself and a few other new hires that I was sitting with. I friendly reminded him that we had met once before, but he did not remember me and the look on his face was priceless. A few days later we were sitting at a lunch table together when he finally remembered meeting me that night because of the bracelet I had been wearing. After going out a few times (mostly group dates), things fizzled out.

A few weeks later I ran into him in the work parking lot where he had a flat tire. He had tried everything to get his spare tire off, but one of the bolts was stripped so he wasn’t having any luck. Since I had AAA, I offered to call them and ask for assistance. We got his tire all fixed up and on my drive home he texted me asking what I was doing later that evening. I replied with something about cleaning my apartment and his response was “Well when you’re done with that, why don’t you let me take you out and buy you a drink and flirt with you”. For anyone who knows Nik, they know how bold he is. It was so upfront and honest, that I couldn’t say no. We ended up having a great night and quickly found ourselves in a summer romance that grew into something much more. We fell in love and became inseparable.

We’ve supported one another through the ups and downs over the years that we have known each other. The day that he proposed to me was the second best day of my life, with the first being the day I became his wife. He has become my rock, my best friend, and my soulmate, and when it comes to our relationship, there’s two things that I’m most thankful for: flat tires and Nik’s persistence with me. Without the two, I would have missed out on the greatest love I have ever known and my future husband.

Our wedding day was inspired by our love for the sea, and we wanted to share that love with all of our friends and family! Nik and I grew up on opposite sides of the country, him being from Massachusetts and myself being a Southern California girl, yet both of us were right next to the ocean. Our love for that big body of water and all it’s marine life was something that was instilled in us at a very young age. That love is still present to this day, as we are both dolphin trainers and conservation advocates. It was more than clear when we began our wedding planning adventure, that the theme needed to revolve around something we were both so passionate about. We were set on a barefoot-toes-in-the-sand beach ceremony, as we both had discovered early on in our relationship through casual conversation that this was something each of us had dreamed of. Once we knew our ceremony would be on the beach, we set forth in finding a location for the rest of our wedding day. Nik and I selected Loews Coronado Bay Resort as our venue for our cocktail hour and reception. It was actually the first and only venue we visited, falling in love with it instantly! This was where our style vision for our big day was born. With the classic and chicness of Loews, and the natural elements from a beach ceremony, we decided our style was beach chic. We were on a strict budget like many wedding couples are, and since I consider myself a crafty and creative person, I decided I would take on DIY-ing many of the details for our big day.

The wedding ceremony took place on Silver Strand State Beach, where guests enjoyed a view of the beautiful California coast. Our color palette of deep teal, turquoise, hemlock, pale grey, and silver was not only ocean inspired, but is also a combination of my favorite color, blue, and Nik’s favorite color, green. Every detail present was designed to play off of the already beautiful location. Before guests found a seat, there was a place for them to take off their shoes and enjoy the sand barefoot like the bride and groom would soon be doing. The area was marked by a sign that I built with pieces of a wood palette. I stained the wood a driftwood grey, and painted the words “shoes here, vows there, love everywhere” on the planks. Placed just at the entrance of the aisle way, I created an eclectic set up of teal glass vases varying in different shapes and sizes, each overflowing with greenery. Along the aisle were chair decorations consisting of teal silk ribbon that I had hand dyed to capture the various hues of the ocean, each accented with a white sea star. It was extremely difficult to find ocean themed vow books that didn’t have an anchor on them, so I bought plain little notebooks and painted our own design on the covers. I even took it upon myself to write our ceremony, adding in readings and words that touched our hearts, along with a knot tying unity ceremony and our own personalized vows. Nik’s best friend Roland, and the man responsible for our paths crossing, got ordained and officiated our wedding for us! After the ceremony, guests were escorted to a cocktail hour located outside on Loews’ Beach Terrace, providing guests with cool drinks and a stunning view of the harbor.

Since Nik and I, along with our friends and family, would be moving away from the ocean for the reception, it was important to us to continue the feeling of being seaside. Hemlock linens and turquoise charger plates colored the tables, and the beautiful Constellation Ballroom was lit up with some of the most stunning chandeliers I have ever seen. There was also teal uplighting provided by our DJ to continue with the mood we were setting for our guests. There were short and tall candle votives that I had hand painted in different hues of teal with a silver trim placed on the tables. Nautilus shells were placed on each table, indicating their number spelled out in a hand painted calligraphy inspired font. I used to paint a lot as a hobby so I painted a teal ombre background onto two canvases, one displaying a love quote on it that I had engraved on our cake cutting knife, and another welcoming our guests to our wedding that included our wedding hashtag, #stokedtobeakafkas. Two of my absolute favorite details were our dessert cake plates that I wrote out “Just Married” on, and because we’re dolphin trainers, our bride and groom chair decorations were wooden dolphin cut outs painted grey that I also did calligraphy on, as well! After dinner and lots of dancing and even some Greek dancing (Nik’s family is Greek), we were sent off as husband and wife in a sea of sparklers, only to return back to the dance floor. We ended up extending our reception by an hour because we simply weren’t done dancing just yet!

Each one of our vendors contributed greatly to helping us create our dream wedding day. Our flowers were designed by Patrick of Artistic Florals, and we decided to go with a simple, loose design of all white flowers with some greenery. The flowers I selected for the bouquets included garden roses, ranunculus, freesia, and white beauvardia, with dusty miller and seeded eucalyptus. All of the bouquets were hand tied with cascading white ribbon hanging down. For our ceremony and reception, floral decorations included the flowers and greenery mentioned above, in addition to hydrangeas, larkspur, and dendrobium orchids displayed in three foot tall glass vases. We recycled our flowers from our bamboo arch and placed them on our sweetheart table, and all of the vases from our ceremony were placed around the reception area as extra decor.

For our cake we decided on a classic three tier design from BabyCakes Bakery. To match our invitations and keep with our wedding theme, we chose to do a teal ombre for our design. The three flavors we selected were chocolate decadence for the bottom tier, blood orange with blueberries for the second tier, and a lemon bavarian creme for our top tier, all covered with some of the best buttercream frosting I have ever had! Another one of my favorite details from the day was our cake topper, which was a paper laser cut out of two seahorses from the Etsy shop, Ingridlouise. It absolutely completed our vision!

In lieu of favors for our guests, we donated to the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. This is something very near and dear to our hearts as they have donated over 11 million dollars in conservation grants to over 800 organizations around the world since it was created, and currently, the Fund provides over $1 million each year to conservation programs. To let everyone know about our donation, I printed out the information on cards with plantable paper that had wildflower seeds in it! We skipped menus and ceremony programs to limit the amount of paper products we used, and thought the plantable paper was a great alternative for everyone to have something to take home with them!

I decided to design our wedding invitations from scratch, using a blank template on Zazzle’s website. I had a vision for our invitations and could not find anything remotely close to what I was picturing in my head so I decided to make my own custom design with a teal ombre background. After designing the invitations and receiving them, I used a customized rubber stamp of two seahorses to stamp on each card. There were many elements that I did my own calligraphy on, some I mentioned earlier; others include our invitation envelopes and our guest’s place cards that helped them to find their seat.

I am a very athletic person so I knew my gown had to show off my figure that I was working hard for! I went to Here Comes The Bride in San Diego and tried on a Casablanca Bridal gown (style 2163), and I instantly knew it was the one! It was a mermaid silhouette with embroidered ivory lace on tulle, with a silky champagne colored satin lining. My favorite detail of the dress had to be the eyelash fringed scalloped lace along the front and back necklines, and the entire hemline. I accessorized my dress with a handmade ivory satin belt with a crystal and beaded appliqué from Blossom Veils and Accessories, a cathedral length, one tier, cut edge veil, and a delicately gorgeous garter from Etsy shop, Miss Scarlet’s Garters. For the ceremony I wore handmade crystal barefoot sandals from the Etsy shop, BeNelipots.

My favorite moment from our wedding day is actually a tie between two events. The first being Nik’s reaction when I came down the aisle. I have never seen him cry before so it really meant a lot. When I asked him later what was going through his mind at that exact moment, he said he just couldn’t believe how beautiful I was and it moved him to tears. The second event was our first dance. It was choreographed and we had put in a lot of time and effort into making it perfect! To have it go off without a hitch and to remember every step was a huge accomplishment for myself, and it was so much fun!

If I could give out any advice to future brides, it would be to take the time after the ceremony to be alone with your significant other for a few minutes. After the ceremony and photos, my husband and I spent a few minutes alone in the room I got ready in right next to the ballroom. There was champagne and hor d’ouvers waiting for us and it was perfect. We spent the last couple of months focusing on everything wedding related so taking the time to enjoy each other’s company as husband and wife was just what we needed.”

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Photography: Spotlight Studios | Cinematography: Focused Bliss Productions | Coordination: Jorge Villa | Floral Design: Artistic Florals | Ceremony Venue: El Matador State Beach | Reception Venue: Loews Coronado Bay | DJ: Dancing DJ Productions - DJ Will

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Feel the Sand Between Your Toes with this Beach Reception

At Style Me Pretty, we’ve seen lots of beautiful beach ceremonies, but this beach reception is seriously something special. With wood beam cabanas adorned with greenery and romantic white flowers, this Bride and Groom created an intimate, cozy wedding next to the great Pacific Ocean. See all the pretty details from Bryan N. Miller Photography and Audrey Alba Films in The Vault!

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From Luxe EventsAlong the coast line outside the Hotel Del Coronado lies the sliver of beach that played host to this intimate beach wedding. With the request to make the vast beach feel intimate, the reception is grounded by wood beam cabanas adorned with greenery creating a very physical dreamy outline. Guests are greeted with a grand entry accented with lanterns and abundant flowers. Long clean family style tables are dressed with a “whisper-of-blue” linen, romantic white flowers, and an accent of navy in the menus and table numbers. The light and bright ocean view setting turns twinkly and magical as the sun sets and the market lights brighten the darkness.

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Photography: Bryan N. Miller Photography | Cinematography: Audrey Alba Films | Event Design: Luxe Events | Floral Design: Blush Botanicals | Invitations: Brightly Designed | Hair + Makeup: The Hair & Makeup Box | Venue: Hotel Del Coronado | Linen Rentals: La Tavola Fine Linen Rental | Rentals: Farm Tables And More

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A San Diego Engagement With the Cutest Grooms-to-Be

You can’t help but have a smile plastered to your face when you look at this engagement session from John Schnack — Matt and Chase are so clearly happy and in love. With San Diego’s Coronado beach and quaint downtown as a backdrop, the Grooms-to-be posed for portraits that simply radiate love. See all the happy moments in The Vault!


From John SchnackMatt and Chase were referred to me by their talented wedding coordinator, Molly Stark of Tres Chic Events. From our initial phone consultation, I knew they would be a fantastic couple to photograph! During our conversation, we chatted about possible locations for their engagement session. They mentioned how they spent a good deal of time in Coronado and that it holds a special place in their hearts. We picked a brilliant, mid-summer afternoon for their engagement shoot, and the “Crown City” did not disappoint.

Coronado huge beach and its iconic hotel, the Del Coronado, are familiar backdrops for engagement and wedding shoots. But beyond the main drag of Orange Avenue and the touristy shops at the Del, there lies a quaint neighborhood filled with wonderful locations that one doesn’t see photographed very often. There are streets that harken back to the city’s humble beginnings and shops with façades of yesteryear.

We spent the first part of the shoot exploring these areas, playing with the light and getting Matt and Chase comfortable in front of the camera. After a quick outfit change, we headed down to wide, expansive beach that is Coronado’s draw for so many.

Coronado’s beach is the only stretch of coastline in San Diego that faces due south, so instead of the sun setting over the ocean, it sets over Point Loma to the west, creating an amazing, dark backdrop that can’t be found anywhere else in San Diego. As the sun got lower and less intense, I turned Matt and Chase into it, allowing us to capture the landmark Del Coronado in the background. After all, one can’t have their picture taken in Coronado without showing the Del.

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Photography: John Schnack Photography | Venue: Coronado Community Center

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