This perfectly planned wedding at L’Auberge Del Mar was turned upside down when weather disasters struck and plans were forced to change more times than we can count. Melanie Duerkopp’s photos will fool you though; taken before the torrential rain, we’re able to properly fawn over all the hard work and details created by this talented Bride. While they may have felt a bit “unlucky” at the time, I’m willing to bet that this couple will be smiling for years to come, looking back at all these memories.
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From the Bride… Our wedding day was one disaster after another, but it was still one of the best days of our lives.
When my husband, Shaun, and I met, he was living in San Diego while I was in San Francisco. Shaun made a trip up to San Francisco two months after we were introduced, where we met in person at a restaurant called Betelnut in San Francisco. We chatted over delicious Malaysian food and Sapporos, and it felt like we had known each other for years.
We dated for several months before discussing our future together, which is when we both agreed it would be fun and romantic to have an outdoor “destination” wedding. We liked the idea of having our guests travel so that we could have the opportunity to spend more time with them. We chose San Diego because it held a special place in our hearts, and the weather is known to be incredible.
After visiting ten venues in the San Diego area in one weekend, we both fell in love with L’Auberge Del Mar, a boutique hotel in Del Mar, California. We booked it right away. We chose L’Auberge Del Mar because it gave us a magical view with an open space and three different areas to celebrate in, which was perfect since we knew we didn’t want to have our entire wedding indoors.
L’Auberge Del Mar stole our hearts mainly because of the beautiful ambiance when you walk into the hotel lobby, and the quaint and scenic Seagrove Park, where we would have our Persian ceremony and cocktail hour. Dinner would be held outside on the hotel’s “Pacific Terrace,” which had breathtaking views of the ocean, and dancing would be in the Ballroom, where Samba dancers and Brazilian percussionists were to guide guests from the terrace after dinner. We planned to include surprise entertainment to avoid any guests from getting food coma after their amazing farm-to-table meal, made by talented Chef Josh Elmore, and because we were moving to Brazil a few months after the wedding.
None of that happened.
All the preparation in the world couldn’t have prevented what happened on our wedding day. Don’t let the pictures here fool you though – this was not a “perfect” day. Exactly one month before our wedding, we finally finished most of the wedding planning that had taken us one year to complete. Fortunately, we enjoyed every moment of the planning process. Tables, chairs, linens, lighting, glassware and chargers rented – check. Detailed emails sent out to all vendors outlining how the day should flow – check. Timeline sent to photographer, videographer, wedding planner, and catering manager – check. Photo and layout examples of how dinner should be set up – check. Striped tie to match our invitations and the stripes on my wedding dress – check. One final trip to San Diego to meet with most of our vendors – check. Now I could sit back, relax, and enjoy this last month with my fiancé.
In our minds, nothing could go wrong given all of the energy, planning, and effort that went into every single detail of our big day. Our vision was to have a simple, elegant, romantic, and most importantly, fun, wedding with our closest family and friends. We didn’t want the atmosphere to be too formal or uptight, and our venue was perfect for that. I wish I had noticed some of the details on our wedding day because absolutely nothing went smoothly on April 25, 2015, except for my dress (picked out by my lovely mom), Shaun’s suit, and the energy and love our 200 guests brought with them on our day… which, in hindsight, is really all we wanted. At the time, it was a nightmare – with tears dripping down my face after every piece of “bad” news we would hear leading up to the end of the night – it was like a domino effect. I was in shock and until this day, I can’t believe the day that we had spent endless hours planning and organizing, was an obvious disaster, yet so fun.
It poured on and off with high winds the entire day of our wedding. I was glued to my iPhone’s weather application in the week leading up to the big day, and the chance of rain kept fluctuating. The day before, the prediction was at 40 percent. I didn’t even know that was possible in San Diego! In true Sogol fashion, I wrote a tweet to the Weather Channel asking them how accurate their percentage estimates were, in hopes of hearing that the weather will change before 4 o’clock. Shaun even asked his pilot friend to look into the weather on his high-tech pilot technology. In hindsight, I was thinking to myself that if the weather was going to turn out the way it did on our wedding day, why couldn’t they just say 100 percent chance of rain?
Our Persian ceremony, which we’d planned to have at Seagrove Park, was moved inside the Ballroom 20 minutes before the ceremony was supposed to start due to Mother Nature’s misbehavior. So was our cocktail hour, dinner, and dancing. The day’s plans had changed every hour. My mom had just finished setting up our beautifully designed “sofreh” for the ceremony at the park before some guests had arrived, only to find that within minutes, they were all wet and had to help move all of the items indoors – including a large eight foot acrylic table. My mom was soaking wet, and her professionally blown out hair was completely ruined. The ceremony chairs had all been meticulously set up, and the cocktail tables and designer, sequin laden linens were all ready for the cocktail hour, which was to take place on the grass at Seagrove Park immediately after the ceremony. Everyone who had arrived on time, and not at PST, or “Persian Standard Time,” ended up being punished by getting wet.
As Shaun and I were waiting in the Jade Room at L’Auberge to line up for the ceremony, we had seen guests through the window, taking items indoors and couldn’t believe our eyes! Later, we were told that the site of our guests moving the “sofreh” items in a line to the Ballroom (which was a bit of a walk, by the way) was one of the most beautiful moments of the day. It was a reminder of the old traditions in the Iranian culture, when items of the “sofreh” aghd were sent to the bride’s house, carried on a “tabagh,” a large flat container, while male musicians sang and clapped along. This is the kind of bonding amongst our guests we were hoping for when we chose to have a destination wedding.
After looking outside and praying for the rain to stop, we accepted the situation, and were later told that once the rain stops, cocktail hour would have been moved from Seagrove Park to the Sunset Terrace (another beautiful area at L’Auberge), during which our guests would have explored the fairytale grounds of the venue we’d rented. We were OK with moving cocktail hour to the Sunset Terrace since it was still going to be outside. We soon learned that the weather was only getting worse, and that the cocktail hour also had to be moved inside the ballroom area.
Shaun and I entered the ceremony in an energetic room to traditional, lively Persian wedding music. It wasn’t at all what we had planned or expected, but there was something so special about exchanging our vows right before sunset with our closest family and friends surrounding us in a circle.
We accepted that Mother Nature decided to rain out our ceremony and cocktail hour. However, Shaun and I were so excited when we had gone outside immediately after we got married and had seen that the Pacific Terrace, where we had planned to have dinner, had a beautiful tent covering it with string lights and fire heaters along the perimeter. We looked at each other in awe, decided to put everything behind us, and be thankful that at the very least, we could still proceed with dinner outdoors.
After we finished taking pictures, we decided to go upstairs to the Pacific Terrace and watch the team put on the finishing touches, while our guests were still at cocktail hour down in the ballroom. It looked beautiful – exactly how I had imagined it to be with our round and rented Kings tables, escort cards, flowers, and linens. However, I noticed our cake had broken and been taken apart, our large flower arrangements were getting knocked over due to the wind, and because of this, some of the specialty linens were not on the tables. Given everything else that had happened already, what we saw was the least of our worries. At that point, we were just looking forward to an outdoor dinner.
Shaun and I proceeded to go to our room to freshen up before making our grand entrance onto the tented Pacific Terrace, only to learn that dinner also had to be moved down to the Ballroom due to the 25 mile per hour winds and unstable tent, despite all the time that was spent setting it up. At that point, I lost it and couldn’t believe (and still can’t believe) what a crazy day our well-planned wedding day turned out. Plan B turned into Plan C, and Plan D into Plan E. No one was expecting that the weather would actually be as harsh as it was that day.
This was the moment we decided to join our guests in the rollicking hotel lobby party (my favorite part!), dancing to the beat of the percussionists as they entered behind our colorful samba dancers. This ended up being our “grand” entrance and the first time seeing our guests since the moment we briefly saw everyone at the ceremony. This was also the moment people kept beaming at us and saying what good luck rain is and how much fun they were having.
Being that I am a rational person, I talked myself into fully enjoying dancing with our Samba dancers to Gustavo Lima’s “Balada Boa Tchê Tcherere Tchê Tchê” (our all-time favorite). In the back of my head I kept thinking that our guests were telling us how much fun they were having during the chaotic day to console a teary bride who had been set on a perfect wedding day. Looking back, though, I was wrong.
Our photographer, Melanie Duerkopp, expertly captured all the memorable details, from the wedding day paper goods to our surprise dance performance of Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailando” put on by our friends. She even snapped amazing photos of us right before an outright downpour, and captured the “sofreh” spread that my mom had spent nine months working on (both the indoor and outdoor versions). We had two broken, yet delicious, lemon bavarian cream and chocolate raspberry torte cakes by Michele Coulon, beautiful flowers by Ziba Salamat, and an elegant fruit and dessert table by Elaheh Shahlavy – a must-have at any Persian wedding. Adele Banasik, L’Auberge Catering Manager, schemed with me over every detail for the last year and made sure things went off without a hitch, even throughout the series of unfortunate events. The entire catering team and staff at L’Auberge were absolutely amazing, and Justin and Georgina from Weddings on Film captured our day on film perfectly.
To any future brides reading this post – I hope you never have to go through what I went through on your wedding day. If you do, however, I hope that at the very least, you are completely aware of what your alternative plans are so that the day won’t end up as an “adventure” like it was for us. But I will leave you with this: no matter how much planning, effort, time and love you put into your day, there will be something that doesn’t go as planned, and you need to be ok with that.
Life can be long or short, filled with fortunes, misfortunes and surprises. Who knows what else it has in store for us, no matter how much I want to plan and ensure everything goes smoothly and the way I envision it. What I do know, though, is after any rainy day, there will always be a blue sky that peeks out afterwards.
Photography: Melanie Duerkopp Photography | Videography: Weddings on Film | Floral Design: Ziba Salamat | Wedding Dress: Vera Wang, Beverly Hills | Cake: Michele Coulon Dessertier | Ceremony Venue: The Del mar Powerhouse | Reception Venue: L’Auberge Del Mar | Bride's Shoes: Jimmy Choo | Catering: L’Auberge Del Mar | Hair & Makeup: Paula Mayer Studios | Lighting: Fuller Lighting | DJ: Deejay Al | Groom's Attire: Lauren by Ralph Lauren | Officiant: Shahrzad Ardalan | Brazilian Productions: Brazilian Productions | Bride's Bracelet: Nordstroms | Bride's Earrings: Alexis Bittar | Catering Manager: L’Auberge Del Mar | Ceremony Bench: Classic Party Rentals | Envelope Addressing: Sogol Motiey (Bride) | Fruit & Dessert Table: Elaheh Shahlavy | Ghost Chairs: Hire Elegance | Linens: La Tavola Fine Linen Rental | Paper Goods: Zephyr Weddings | Persian Ceremony Spread (Sofreh): Haleh Payandehjoo, Mother of the Bride | Tables & Chargers Rentals: Classic Party Rentals | Veil: Vera Wang, Beverly Hills