My name is Sofia Hunter (still getting used to my new last name, ah!), I’m 23 years old and currently live in Los Angeles, California. I’m originally from Brazil but grew up in 5 different countries speaking 3 languages, lived in 11 homes and went to 7 schools – so it’s safe to assume my life was pretty unusual. I moved to LA four years ago to attend the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, where I got an Associates degree in Apparel Industry Management and my Bachelor’s in International Manufacturing and Product Development. I’ve loved fashion ever since I discovered a sewing machine in middle school and hope to one day have my own brand of tech-integrated clothing
Our Love Story
I actually don’t remember the first time my husband, Mike, and I met but I know it was over 7 years ago because that’s how long we’ve been friends on Facebook (thank God for technology, am I right)! I do know, however, that we met through mutual friends at one of the many church retreats I used to attend with my family in California since I was young. Mike was born and raised in Orange County, went to college at USC and had been working in LA since his senior year. When I moved to LA in 2013, Mike was the only person I knew who lived here, so naturally we reconnected and ended up becoming close friends. Fast forward to 3 years later, I had my thesis exhibition and decided to invite Mike, who somehow ended up spending the entire weekend with my family. Summer time came around and I moved to New York to pursue an internship with Monique Lhuillier (little did I know that the bridal industry would become very dear to me in a few short months). Coincidently, the week I moved to New York, Mike was making a one-day layover in the city so we decided to get dinner and the rest was history. It was the strangest thing, but after years of knowing each other, something sparked that night which would change the course of our friendship forever. Mike never went back to LA and instead, spent the whole summer in New York where we fell in love. Our story is a true testament that anyone can make it out of the “friend zone”…it’s all about the right place and the right time.
Believe it or not, Mike and I knew we were “the one” for each other on our third date, so we really saw no need to wait to get married. We dated for 4 months before he proposed, but it would’ve happened much earlier had he not been waiting to do it in Paris during his sister’s wedding. Yes, he proposed on the day of his sister’s wedding. During those 4 months, I was pretty much expecting the proposal to happen any given day, except for on the day it actually happened. When we took our trip to Europe for the wedding, I was sure he had been waiting to do it in front of the Eiffel Tower, but when we were done seeing it and he simply walked away, I was left super confused. Little did I know that he only had one opportunity to do it when both our families would be together. I had mentioned to him that it was important for me to have my parents there when he proposed, and being that they live in London, he had to wait for the one day they would be with us…he had to wait for the wedding day. So while we were taking family pictures at this gorgeous business club before the ceremony, Mike took my hand, got down on one knee, said something I don’t remember and I screamed YES! He had wisely let the photographer and videographer in on his plan, so they were able to get amazing pictures and even a video of the whole thing: Watch Video Here. I’ve always known exactly what kind of ring I wanted, so I had dropped hints all throughout the summer and made sure my mom/sisters knew about it as well in case Mike asked them. He picked up on all the hints, worked for over a month designing the perfect ring, and let’s just say I was extremely pleasantly surprised when he opened that box!
Let’s Talk Wedding Planning
Wedding Date, Geographical Location, Venue
January 2nd, 2017.
Montage – Laguna Beach, California.
I’ve always wanted to get married by the beach, so there was no shortage of locations in Southern California when we started scouting. I originally wanted to have my wedding ON the sand, but when Mike started introducing me to some beautiful hotels on the coast that he had visited while growing up, I was quickly convinced to change to mind (but I was still set on having it outdoors). We spent a few days visiting a few different hotels in Orange County that we both loved, and after visiting the Montage in Laguna Beach it was so clear that that was the winner. Their customer service was beyond anything I had ever experienced and everything about their designated wedding areas was outstanding! We actually also looked at a couple private properties with Luxury Estate Weddings & Events and fell in love with all our options. At the end of the day, we decided the Montage would be the best decision because of the guaranteed level of service and their years of expertise with all things wedding.
This was by far the hardest thing for us during this process and one of the few things we still regret not getting perfect till this day. We had about 120 people at our wedding and I wish we could’ve had 120 more (that’s a little exaggerated but you get the point). Mike and I both wanted a very intimate wedding where we were close to every single person who attended, basically no “just to be polite” invites. What really determined the size of our final guest list was the venue choice and our budget. It was either we had our wedding at a cheaper/not-so-nice venue and invited everyone on our original list, OR we had our wedding at the Montage and reeeeeally narrowed down the list to, ultimately, 120 people. At the time, we felt comfortable with the final guest list we put together, but we still regret not inviting many people who we would’ve loved to have there. If you’re reading this and you’re one of those people (or if you’ve ever felt offended about not getting invited to someone’s wedding you thought you were close to), please understand this is one the hardest parts in wedding planning and distributing your budget!
What was your wedding budget?
My budget was pretty hard to determine since not only was I the first out of my sisters to get married, but I also didn’t have many friends who had gotten married recently in the US who I could get estimates from. My parents paid for our wedding and gave me a rough budget range that we decided should be enough to cover all the costs. The easiest way to stay within that range was to create a spreadsheet on my “Wedding Planning” document with several rows outlining each item and three columns: estimate cost, actual cost and percentage of budget. At the beginning of the process, I called/emailed several vendors for a specific item until I came up with a number for the “estimate cost” column. When I had decided on a vendor, I plugged in the “actual cost” and that would generate the “percentage of budget” column to know how much I still had left to work with. I was pretty good about completing all the rows and staying within budget…until about the week before the wedding when a hundred unexpected expensive costs (like outdoor string lighting, who knew!) came my way and I just had to say okay and stop calculating.
How did you prioritize your budget, what factors were most important to you?
Like I mentioned before, the venue was a big deal for me, so that probably took up most of my budget but only because catering and drinks fell under that price. If they had been separate items, food would’ve been my number one priority. My photographer was the second biggest expense. This was important for me because I love looking at pictures and have a terrible memory. So making sure I had incredible pictures of the best day of my life was extremely essential! My third priority was flowers/decoration and everything after that was pretty much equal.
How did you ask your besties to be your bridesmaids?
Since my bridesmaids were spread all throughout the world, I was pretty limited in my options. I decided to do something simple since most of them knew they would be my bridesmaids anyways. I sent them all personalized cards from Etsy with a scratch-off heart that said “I can’t say I do without you”. See Here
How was your dress shopping experience?
As with all things wedding related, I had a Pinterest board for my wedding dress since I was a teenager. I had a few “dream dresses” pinned but all I really knew I wanted was timeless and ballroom. I did a lot of researching online before visiting any stores in order to narrow down the designers and fabrics that I liked. I started noticing a pattern that all my favorite dresses were by Rosa Clara, so I quickly knew that was the designer I wanted. Without thinking I would actually buy a dress on the first day I went looking, I took one of my bridesmaids and my sister with me to an appointment at Panache Bridal. I tried on 8 dresses – 2 of which I loved and 6 of which I hated. Afterwards, we went to Jaclyn’s Bridal, where the second I came out wearing my wedding dress, my mom and other sister who were on FaceTime started crying and I said yes to the dress!
What was your overall vision or theme?
Our overall theme was “rustic romantic” and we knew that’s what we wanted to go with since the beginning. In order to stick to that theme, I created a mood board and gave it to each of our vendors to make sure we were all on the same page (this is super helpful)!
If you had to describe your wedding style in one word what would it be?
How did you find your vendors?
I found most of my vendors through researching on Google and The Knot, with the exception of my photographer who I had randomly been following on Instagram for a while and was obsessed with his work (he was actually the first person I booked before I even had a venue)! I relied a lot on customer reviews and making sure they fit my wedding “style”. My videographer was the hardest vendor for me to decide on since I had a very rough idea of what kind of video I wanted and had so many options to choose from! I spent so many hours watching example wedding videos over and over again that I felt like I was best friends with all these random couples.
How did you design your table layout & decor?
The choice of linens, plates, cups, etc. was pretty straight forward and was all done with the Montage coordinator. The decor, however, was discussed mainly with my florist and we used Pinterest photos to nail down exactly what I wanted.
How involved was your fiancé in the planning process?
Who are we kidding – men were not created to wedding plan! Mike really trusted my judgment and taste, so he was okay with me making all the decisions by myself. The only time he was very involved was during the big budget decisions, venue scouting, his suit choice (duh) and food selection!
Did you use a wedding planner?
Yes, but only because I had such little time to plan and because the Montage required at least a day-of wedding planner. After countless emails and phone calls with several companies in Orange County, we hired LVL for a 60-day service (ironically about 60 days away from our wedding day). We got placed with Carissa McDevitt as our coordinator and she was the best! She told us exactly what needed to get done on our end and made us feel so secure with everything she was doing on her end. We used a program called Aisle Planner to facilitate sharing theme ideas, budget, guest list, etc. and it was a life saver! Besides LVL, we also received a ton of help from the Montage Catering Manager, Katie King, who along with Carissa, coordinated with all the vendors on the day of the wedding and made sure everything ran smoothly without a single hiccup.
Did you have a Day-of Coordinator present on the day of your wedding?
Both Carissa and Katie were day-of coordinators and I’m so happy I had them there! I couldn’t imagine having to deal with all the setup and welcoming all the vendors the morning of while getting my hair and makeup done.
Did you guys do a “First Look”, or did your fiancé see you for the first time walking down to aisle?
We did a first look and I highly recommend it because it gets so many pictures out of the way before the wedding starts. You spend so much time taking pictures during the ceremony/reception that anything you can get done in advance is a huge relief. Our photographer was there for the whole day and left towards the end when we didn’t need any more pictures. Mike and I stayed at the Montage on our wedding night, so we didn’t have a big send off that required the photographer to be there super late.
What would you recommend as “must have pictures” for future brides?
I actually did a whole Instagram series on must-have wedding shots since I think it’s so important Click Here! Some of my favorites were the black and white beach shots of Mike and I, bridal party walking towards the camera, detail shots of the flowers/decor and bridesmaids getting ready in matching robes. Luckily, our photographer has tons of experience and we never even had to make a shot list or think twice about getting these in!
Did you have a videographer?
Of course! This is definitely a must-have since pictures can only translate so much emotion 30 or 50 years later, but videos capture everything! We hired Plug Wedding Films (“Emerald” package) and I was extremely happy with the final result. I didn’t even feel that they were there during the whole day and they somehow captured every important moment!
Escort Cards or Seating chart?
Seating chart! You’re already choosing which table your guests should sit at, at least let them choose which chair they want!
What song did you choose for your first dance?
We took so long to choose a first dance song! All the ones I liked, Mike said didn’t mean anything to him and all the ones he liked, I thought were terrible to dance to. One thing we did agree on was that we wanted a song where every single word made sense for us (not asking for custom-made song or anything). We ended up choosing “This Will Be Everlasting Love” by Natalie Cole and I LOVED our choice!
Buffet or sit down meal?
Our wedding ceremony started at 12pm and we served a sit down lunch at 2pm. After the ceremony ended we had tray passed cocktails while we took family photos. The food at our wedding was one of the best meals I’ve ever had and many of our guests would agree with that. Even a year later we still have people telling us how much they enjoyed the food! The Montage has the most incredible wedding catering and chefs, (even at their restaurants) so I made sure I had time to eat everything that came to our table.
Live music or DJ?
We had a live guitarist play during our ceremony, cocktail hour and the entire lunch. He was AMAZING! Once we started doing speeches during dessert, we actually just created a playlist on Spotify with our favorite songs that played for the rest of the night. We had a family friend as the MC.
Cake or Desserts?
Both! We had a vanilla crème brulee at lunch and then served our salted caramel chocolate wedding cake at about 5pm. Both were made by the amazing pastry chefs at the Montage. We also had an epic donut wall that I worked so hard to come to life because I love donuts more than anything and had to have them at my wedding! The display was made by Lizzy Liz Events and the donuts were from California Donuts
Did you provide transportation for your guest or valet parking?
Top 3 most memorable moments of your wedding day
1) Reading our vows
2) Our first dance
3) Hearing our bridal party/family speeches
One thing that made your wedding unique or something special and personal you added to your day that stands out from other weddings.
I’d have to say our donut wall was pretty unique.
Total months planning?
Since Mike and I knew we were “the one” on our third date, we basically started wedding planning right away. I was really just Pinteresting a ton during the time I was still living in New York. After I moved back to California in September, that’s when the real planning started. You guys should’ve seen the look on people’s faces when we walked in to visit a venue and I told them we weren’t even engaged yet – but I knew it was happening! So we had about 4 months total of planning. The last few weeks were definitely the most stressful and just a big blur.
What was one thing that you had difficulties with during your planning and how did you overcome it? & What was one of the easier things for you to plan?
The thing that was the hardest to plan and decide was our ceremony flowers/decoration. We were set on having a very clean, polished look with a big hedge arch behind us since the beginning, until we couldn’t find anyone who could build it or transport it to Laguna Beach. So we had to come up with an alternative and decided to have a chupah instead, giving our florist less than two weeks to build it! The one thing that was the easiest and most enjoyable for me was designing our wedding invitations since I absolutely love graphic design!
One thing you wish you knew when you were planning your wedding?
I can’t think of one thing in specific but I’ll take this opportunity to stress how important it is to have day-of support to ensure everything goes smoothly. We were only able to enjoy the day without thinking about any details or moving from one part of the day to the next because of all the preparation and planning we had done.
Anything you would have done different?
We definitely spent more time with my photographer than I had ever imagined, so if I could’ve done something different I would’ve allotted a certain amount of minutes and had a “timer” with me. We really wanted sunset pictures on the sand but that took away a lot of time from being with our guests and enjoying the reception.
One thing that helped you stay stress free throughout your planning and on your wedding day?
I don’t really get stressed out so the whole process was pretty smooth for me, even having only 4 months to plan. Knowing that I was planning for the best day of my life and my husband, family and friends were all helping me made it so enjoyable!
Did you go on a honeymoon? If so, where to? Did you go right after the wedding or wait?
Yes, we flew to Hawaii the morning after the wedding. Our honeymoon planning was a little restricted since our wedding actually happened during my school’s winter break, so I had to go back to classes right after. That only gave us about 4 days to honeymoon and that’s why we chose Hawaii since it was the closest tropical destination to us. We will be going on a big honeymoon part 2 this summer (still deciding on destinations)!
Last but not least if you could give ONE piece of advice to a bride-to-be planning her wedding what would it be??
Don’t forget to enjoy the process! This will be the most rewarding event you will ever get to plan! Last but not least, definitely make sure to eat at your wedding and say hi to every single guest!
Sofia & Mike’s Happily Ever After
Mike and I just celebrated our 1 year anniversary – I can’t believe how fast time has flown by! This first year has been the happiest year of our lives and it will definitely be a tough one to beat!
Venue & Catering: Montage Laguna Beach // Wedding Dress: Rosa Clara Bought at Jaclyn’s Bridal //
Hair & Makeup: Design Visage // Wedding Shoes: SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker // Photography: CHARD Photo // Videography: Plug Films // Florals: Flower Allie // Donut Wall Design: Lizzy Liz Events //Donuts: California Donuts // Wedding Coordinator: LVL Weddings (Carissa McDevitt) // Suit: Suit Supply // Live Music: SoCal Wedding Guitar // Photo Booth: Mobile Photo Booth