Hello I’m Alexandra or Ali for short. I’m an amateur travel blogger just trying my best to split my time between traveling the world and laying in bed watching Netflix.
Our Love Story
We met in summer 2012. I was 18 and he was 21, he was in a band and I pretended like I had totally heard of the band before. We met through mutual friends and instantly started flirting. We became officially boyfriend and girlfriend in November of that year. We are both from the same city born and raised in Huntington Beach, California but on opposite ends of town.
From meeting in 2012 we became inseparable and knew pretty early on that we wanted to marry eachother. So after 5 years of dating he FINALLY proposed on May 7th 2017.
After 5 years, my boyfriend asked me to be his wife.
May 7th started with Justin (the husband) surprising me with breakfast before church and then heading to South Coast Plaza for a shopping spree at Saint Laurent . Next, I enjoyed a manicure and dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant in Newport Beach. We then headed down to the beach at Crystal Cove. Here I spied a beautiful tropical setup. Flower petals lead to a blanket filled with gorgeous bouquets of Hawaiian flowers, pillows, blankets, candles, chocolate covered strawberries and my favorite angel food cake. After proposing with an absolutely breathtaking ring that Justin had designed, my two dogs came running around the corner to complete the surprise. It started to sprinkle as we walked the beach but the clouds parted and the Lord blessed us with a perfect rainbow!
Let’s Talk Wedding Planning
Wedding Date, Geographical Location, Venue
We got married on July 14, 2018. The wedding was held at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. Originally I really wanted to do a destination wedding in Banff, Canada but there just seemed to be so many complications and too many people that we decided local was better. We googled a ton of locations in California and in the end I was pretty set on Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, California. While that location was gorgeous I really was trying to save money. So when the church my dad has worked at for 25+ years became an option, I jumped on it. As much as we all want the perfect wedding and for it to be pretty it was really hard for me to justify the huge budget that Calamigos Ranch would end up being (Especially for a Saturday wedding in the middle of July). So basically the main criteria/ what drew me to the church was convenient and full creative freedom to make this wedding into exactly what we wanted.
Since we opted for the church wedding the guest count was not an issue. We ultimately had a 200 guest count and got it down to about 150, we did this by just going through each name and thinking through if we would still be friends with this person even a year down the road OR if we have even talked to them in the past 6 months. By the time wedding came around we invited 160 people and 136 were there on our wedding day. We had such a high rsvp count I believe since the wedding was in such an accessible location and close by to the majority of our friends. and then the majority of the people who rsvped no to our wedding were out of state family that we never anticipated coming anyway due to the distance.
How did you prioritize your budget, what factors were most important to you?
From the very beginning I made a spreadsheet for cost. I first googled what common cost were in my area for each part of the wedding and then researched vendors ideally below or around those cost. For me the photography was number #1 priority. I hired two separate photographers so that I could have two completely different editing styles and views of the wedding. And that for me was the best use of our budget.
How did you ask your besties to be your bridesmaids?
It wasn’t much of a surprise for my girls but I put together beach bags with cute palm print towels from nordstroms and small goodies inside. I went with that theme so that it would be stuff they could use for my Palm Springs Bachelorette weekend (and I got them purses and sunglasses for the Bachelorette party).
I spent a bit more time on the gifts for the groomsmen haha we got custom wooden boxes with the groomsmen names on it and inside we had tie clips and small liquor bottles.
How was your dress shopping experience?
I had a basic idea for dress style but nothing specific. I had no idea of where I wanted to go shopping so i just googled locations around me and made a few appointments. My first appointment was as Panache Bridal in Costa Mesa by South Coast Plaza. This place has SO many options of all price points and style. I found one gorgeous long sleeve lace ball gown style that I was obsessed with and was my total dream dress. However it was $5000 for the gown plus $1000 for veil plus alterations and tax so it was a bit higher then I originally wanted to spend. The main reason I decided no on that dress was that my wedding was in the middle of the summer and a long sleeve dress would not of been fun. Next up I went Casablanca Bridal in Newport Coast. This store was beautiful. It was small and only had a handful of dresses but I found a few that I loved and easily narrowed it down to two. I scheduled another appointment with my mother and a few others to decide between the two. This dress was perfect for me in every way and at a way better price point overall.
For my bridesmaids I went with the Vera Wang line for Davids Bridal. I choose black because all the girls would look amazing in them, they could wear them again easily AND I love wedding photos with no bright colors..dark and moody is my vibe!!! I decided to let the girls pick whichever dresses they wanted. They just had to be black and long.
What was your overall vision or theme?
I was never a girl who planned her wedding when she was little. I started thinking about it when I got engaged but my style came through only as the wedding planning went along. I did know I wanted dark colors..not bright and vibrant. Basic colors all around. Black, Grey, White and greenery.
If you had to describe your wedding style in one word what would it be?
classic & modern
How did you find your vendors?
I spent hours and hours online looking for my photographers but most of my other venders were friends or from word of mouth. Most my venders were booked right away and I didn’t have to have multiple meetings which was great Thankfully my venue too was the church so no restrictions with vendors.
How did you design your table layout & decor?
Lots of pinterest photos and then sat down with my florist who had to tone down my over the top ideas into something realistic and in our budget. I knew I wanted the dark grey table clothes + Big vases and flowers and long greenery on the head table..everything else was worked out as we went a long.
How involved was your fiancé in the planning process?
He was available to help but mainly was just an ear for me to talk to. He did cake tasting with me and showed up to some meeting but I made all the decisions on vendors and ideas by myself. He did make our wedding arch himself though which was really special. Justin was great but my brother was really the main help with the whole process (and he turned out to be my main day of coordinator as well) couldn’t of done it without him!
Did you guys do a “First Look”, or did your fiancé see you for the first time walking down to aisle?
YES FIRST LOOK PHOTO SESSION!! I think everyone should do this because I hate going to a wedding and have a 2 hour cocktail hour. We did two hours of photos before the wedding and I feel like I looked better and more calm doing it before and not all sweaty and tired doing it after the ceremony and having to rush to the reception. We had two photographers and got over 1200 wedding photos so we were very happy with this whole part.
What would you recommend as “must have pictures” for future brides?
This is hard I wanted EVERYTHING and i love the photos so much. I love my individual photos with everyone like my brothers and dad and bridesmaids, its just super special to look back on. I love all my detail photos of the tables and flowers as well.
Did you have a videographer?
Yes! we used a family friend I went to school with Jake Hilger
What song did you choose for your first dance?
Perfect by Ed Sheran
Cake or Desserts?
YES both! We did a three tier cake and then a popsicle bar. We loved them both.
Top 3 most memorable moments of your wedding day?
The whole bridal party took a party bus to the photo locations and it was such a blast. The groom decided to wear a blindfold the whole drive so that he couldn’t see me but we could all still be together. This ended up being way more fun then two separate limos.
The second would be that we decided to skip eating and use the time to walk around to every single table and greet every single person who was at our wedding. We got to thank all 136 of our guest personally for coming and being apart of our special day.
Our sparkler exit. So many of our guest participated and it was such a fun way to end the night. The photos turned out SO good..I cant wait to frame them!!!
One thing that made your wedding unique or something special and personal you added to your day that stands out from other weddings.
Nothing too unique (they have all been done haha) but we had a few fun things like;
Our seating chart was old school motel key tags that had each persons name and a destination on it (instead of having table numbers we had each table as a destination that we were visiting on our honeymoon).
We had a popsicle stand that had flavors such as cookies and cream, fudge and mint chip and people loved that.
Photos were big part of our wedding so in addition to having a Photo Booth we had a photo wall with a neon sign on it!!!
Total months planning?
We got married July 14th, 2018 and got engaged May 7th, 2017 so I spent that whole year planning BUT I did a ton of stuff right away such as booking big vendors and then during the holidays took a break and took things back up a few months before the wedding. I had a very specific check list so nothing was too stressful. I wouldn’t say it was enjoyable though, it took SO much of my time!!!
One thing you wish you knew when you were planning your wedding?
I guess just that I kept thinking I could save half my wedding budget easily but in reality It took every penny and more to plan this thing haha
Anything you would have done different?
More time in the beginning to take photos..if you want two hours then book three. I could of done without some of the little details I did such as our names on the match boxes to light the sparklers but besides that Im really glad we spent money on most of the other stuff haha.
One thing that helped you stay stress free throughout your planning and on your wedding day?
I did pilates all the way until the day before the wedding and that was so helpful keeping me stress free. And just not taking the planning too seriously. Everyone will enjoy the wedding even if you don’t spend 10 hours deciding on what your neon sign should say for your photo wall haha
Did you go on a honeymoon? If so, where to? Did you go right after the wedding or wait?
The wedding was on a Saturday and we left Monday evening so I loved having a day and a half to just relax at home after the wedding and spend some time with out of town family and my puppies before being gone for two+ weeks. I planned the whole thing by myself. We flew to Paris for a few days then on to Venice. After 2 days in Venice we rented a car and drove up to the Dolomites (The Italian side of the Swiss Alps basically). Then we did Santorini and Mykonos, Greece for a week and then a quick pit stop in Rome before flying home. We mixed some luxury hotels with hiking in the alps and historic places in Paris/ Rome so it really was the perfect mix of everything.
Highly recommend following Alexandra on instagram if you love a pretty feed and lots of travel inspo: @alexandrawing
Last but not least if you could give ONE piece of advice to a bride-to-be planning her wedding what would it be??
Dont worry about anything on your wedding day..I feel like I did a pretty good job of just letting everything happen and not trying to stick to a time schedule and while it went by soon fast it wasn’t stressful. And hire a day of coordinator ..if you are planning the whole thing yourself just don’t forget the day of coordinator..because without someone for the day of you will be worrying about all the little details and that will take you away from enjoying your special day.
Alexandra & Justin’s Happily Ever After
Venue: Calvary Chapel // Catering: Sally Ann Catering // Photography: Duke Moose & Chase Sevey // Videography: Jake Hilger // Wedding Dress: Casablanca Bridal // Bridesmaids Dresses: Vera Wang @ Davids Bridal // Hair Stylist: Nadia Rose // DJ: DJ Tempoe // Cake: Geneva Stone // Desserts: Popsicle cart by Pacific Organic Pops
Don’t stop here! Keep scrolling to see the rest of Alexandra and Justin’s magical day!
Wishing you two a happy first year of marriage and many more adventures in your future together!