Hello, gorgeous! My name is Dana Maria Miller and I’m a twenty-seven-year-old newlywed, born and raised in Orange County, CA. I have many titles including Graphic Designer & Photographer (Dana Miller Photography), Doggy Mom, Wine & Coffee Enthusiast, Child of God, and Friend to The Best Women on Earth- but my most favorite title these days is “Andrew’s Wife”.
Our Love Story
October 30, 2015. I’ve just put on my 1970’s hip-hugging bellbottoms, curled my hair like Farrah Fawcett’s and have proclaimed to my mother and all my girlfriends that I am DONE dating for a good while as we head out the door to one of the gal’s Halloween party. We arrive to the house party, hug all our fabulously-costumed friends and proceed to celebrate one of my absolute favorite holidays while “being the bigger person” to the guy I’ve just stopped dating (a week before this party) who showed up with his new girlfriend. For the sake of saving him embarrassment we’ll call him “Joe”. JK. His name is Josh and I don’t care if I embarrass him because we’re cool. (More on this later.) Being a “girl’s girl”, I of course ended up adoring his new chick and making her my new best friend for the evening which of course drove her man crazy. What was that thing I said about being the bigger person? Anyway… Soon, Andrew enters the room dressed as an aviation pilot. We had mutual friends and had only met a couple times but, as soon as he walked in, he picked me up for a big hug (he’s the best hugger). I proceeded to introduce him to my girlfriend, Elysse, who was standing beside me upon his arrival. After exchanging pleasantries, Andrew made his way across the party to say “hello” to friends and, like any great girlfriend, Elysse hit me with some hard truth. “Forget Josh. Andrew is so cute. Go for it!”. She had a point there… I made my way out to the patio and Andrew and I challenged some friends to a beer pong game. I know, very classy but hey, its real. Minutes later, Josh made his way over to his BEST FRIEND, Andrew (oops), to mark his territory. Andrew stayed calm, put his hands on Josh’s shoulders and led him away from me while telling him he had had his chance and blew it. He came back to me and asked if we could spend some time getting to know each other. We talked until the sun came up, he drove me home, walked me to the front door, kissed me and asked me out. 2 days later we went on our first date and, as the story goes, we knew this was the last “first date” either of us would ever go on.
Andrew was warm, intentional, driven, kind, so so funny, and I was “home” with him. He truly courted me, held my hand in church every Sunday, charmed my mother (she would have married him if I hadn’t), and became my truest friend, protector and partner. God’s timing was and is so incredibly perfect. I am forever grateful for all the frog’s He sent me before my prince. Ladies, if you’re still kissing frog’s, hang in there. God already knows who you are going to end up with and he will be the most precious gift that is well worth the sometimes excruciating wait.
Side note: Those of you who are feeling bad for Josh right now, don’t. He was a groomsman in our wedding and one of our best friends and we love him. He was just going through a hoe phase in 2015.
Andrew and I had been together for about a year and a half when he proposed. I was SO ready to be his wife and, despite his best efforts to remain discreet, I was fairly sure it was going to happen soon because he had been a little extra inquisitive about the kind of ring I envisioned. So, for approximately 3 months, my hair was curled, my nails were perfectly manicured, my makeup and outfits were flawless at all times and I was peeking around every corner looking for the photographer who would capture the moment I had been waiting for my whole life. LOL I know. Trust me I know how ridiculous I sound. And it did not happen any of those times. But again, God’s plan was better. Long story, short… Andrew planned a very cute intimate proposal at our house with a few close friends, I drank 1 too many glasses of wine and therefore, ruined it. I know.. way to go, Dana. Not my finest moment and I honestly hate this part of the story but I’m getting to the good part, I promise. So as we went to sleep that night, he was grouchy. Little did I know he thought he was going to fall asleep engaged that night and I messed it up. (Still kicking myself). The next morning, I wouldn’t leave him alone about why he had been grumpy after game night. I wanted to fix it! He didn’t want to talk about it. I was relentless. He finally blurted out, “Babe, I was going to propose last night.. I got nervous, I waited too long, you drank more.. I went to bed bummed out. I love you and I’m still going to ask but you’re going to have to wait just a little longer until I can come up with my next proposal plan.” ……. I started balling. “I ruined the best night of my life. Honey, I’m so sorry! I love you I don’t want to wait any longer! I’ve been waiting to be your wife my whole life!”. I was inconsolable despite his amazing loving, sweet words and hugs. (I am realizing how dramatic I am as I’m writing this). Andrew told me to dry my eyes, take a deep breath and a hot shower, and he’d be right back with coffee. I did as he said, minus the ceasing crying, and curled up on the couch in one of his big t-shirts. He came home with our coffee as promised, and as I peeled myself up off the couch cushions to sip it, our sweet boy, Bear, trotted up to me with a little blue box attached to his collar and laid his head in my lap. I turned to see Andrew down on one knee. That man took my very chipped-manicure hand, looked into my red, puffy, mascara-less racoon eyes, and said, “Dana, I know this isn’t how I planned to do this, but since when do we do anything according to plan? It doesn’t matter where I ask you- I have known since the day I met you that I wanted you to be my wife and I don’t want to wait another day and I can’t watch you cry anymore. (ha!) Will you please marry me?”. I responded, “I have never wanted anything as much as I want to be your wife. YES!” He popped the blue box open to reveal the most beautiful sparkling emerald-cut engagement ring. It is perfect and timeless in every way. The man did good.
Let’s Talk Wedding Planning
Wedding Date, Geographical Location, Venue
We were married at Serra Plaza in San Juan Capistrano, CA on October 14, 2018. I was drawn to this venue initially for a couple reasons. First, the outdoor Spanish courtyard is so stunning and the sparkling ballroom chandeliers hung above it were such a beautiful and unique touch that I fell in love with as soon as I saw in photos. Also, I envisioned us taking our romantics photos at the Mission San Juan Capistrano which is just a few blocks away. This was the first and only venue we visited. We fell in love immediately. I looked at Andrew and asked, “Can you see us getting married here?” He said, “Yep!”. And we sealed the deal. One of the most unique and special perks of this venue is that the owner is a collector of vintage pieces (furniture, chandeliers, signs, etc.) that are all at your disposal to use for your big day. Disclaimer: the chandeliers are an added cost but everything else is included in the venue fee. And the chandeliers were worth every penny! Serra Plaza has lighting, round tables, chivari chairs, church pews, etc. that are, again, all included in the venue fee, which saved us a fortune in rentals from an outside vendor. This bride loves a bargain.
Our wedding was an elegant and intimate affair. We had a total of 89 guests including the bridal party. (We each had 6 bridesmaids/groomsmen). We knew from the start we wanted to keep it small for a few reasons. First, we had a budget and we intended to stick to it. We had to decide if we wanted to invite everyone and their mom, so-to-speak, and budget for quantity over quality OR if we wanted to invite only our closest friends and family and treat ourselves to every sparkly, delicious and photo-worthy detail we dreamed of. If I can give my fellow brides any tip on making her guest list, it would be to not lose sight of what the day is really about. It’s so easy to get caught up in the pressure’s of what you’re “supposed” to do or what everyone else wants. This day is not for your mom’s 2ndcousin’s aunt who’s going through a hard time right now or your dad’s golf buddy! This is a sacred, precious moment for you and your beloved to make vows in front of God and the special people who mean the most to you. Its YOUR day, girl! Now, I know there are special circumstances and you will make compromises along the way (we alllll do it!) but, for me personally, I wanted to be able to look out at our guests and know every beautiful and handsome face.
What was your wedding budget?
Our budget was 30k. We built a spreadsheet at the very beginning of the planning process allocating specific amounts to each vendor, clothing item, bridal party gift, etc. Throughout the planning process we periodically sat down together to move funds around and reallocate budget to the items that were most important to us to stay under that 30k number. We were personally able to stay within that budget. However, Andrew’s parents did surprise us and treat us to our florals (4k) and my mom gave us a gift to put towards the wedding as well (5k). So while Andrew and I spent $26k, in total, with their gifts, we spent 32k.
How did you prioritize your budget, what factors were most important to you?
Ultimately, I’d say budget-wise the venue, florals, and photographer were the most important to us. Venue and florals set the romantic tone for the whole wedding and the photos are the precious memories we’ll have of that amazing day forever. Our photographer, Elizabeth Lauren was amazing and captured every perfect moment.
How did you ask your besties to be your bridesmaids?
I put together a pretty little gift box for each of my girls. I bought “Will you be my bridesmaid?” cards on Etsy and handwrote a personal note to each of them telling them why they’re so special to me and why I need them by my side as I marry my man. In the box was a mini bottle of champagne and a champagne glass with their name on it in script (also Etsy!).
How was your dress shopping experience?
I had always envisioned myself in a certain dress.. until I got engaged and went dress shopping. Ha! My bridesmaids, mom, future mother-in-law and niece (honorary bridesmaid) went to Love and Lace Bridal in Irvine, CA. The experience was so special. We were greeted my Ramona who is just the sweetest lady ever! She led us to our own little section of the shop, complete with adorable vintage sofa’s and chairs and champagne flutes for our bubbly. I picked out 12 dresses to try on. I knew that at least 5 of them weren’t “the” dress before I even tried them on but it’s part of the fun to try on different styles! I loved every second of playing the ultimate dress-up game! I decided pretty quickly that I loved the trumpet style on my figure. I’m petite at 5’2” but very curvy and my husband is a fan of the booty so I had him in mind when trying on. I liked all of them and didn’t know how I was going to choose until I tried on the last dress. Number 12. I paired it with a gorgeous belt made up of emerald cut stones that look just like the solitaire on my engagement ring and a simple long veil. I looked in the mirror and felt like a BRIDE. I saw myself wearing it walking down the aisle to Andrew and it was a unanimous “THAT’S THE ONE!” from the ladies. My dress is called “The Harper” designed by Made with Love Bridal. It is an ivory dream complete with off the v-neck, low back, silk buttons down the booty, and a gorgeous train that is to-die-for. I wish I could wear it every day.
As for bridesmaids dresses, I gave the ladies a blush color and told them to run with it. I did let them know I wanted them each in a different style but all the same color and they looked stunning. To set my MOH, Alexa, apart I bought her a really beautiful delicate belt to add to her dress so she’d have a little extra sparkle.
What was your overall vision or theme?
To be perfectly honest, my vision when we got engaged was completely different than what we ended with. Haha I originally envisioned blush, burgundy, and gold tones and Andrew in one of those really sexy deep blue trendy suits. And thennnn.. I found my dress. My “Harper”. She was so beautiful and as soon as I decided on it my vision totally changed. I suddenly pictured my hair in Old Hollywood full curls and Andrew in a classic tux looking like James Bond. The florals changed to all white and with greenery. Gold accents, crystal chandeliers, bow ties and champagne. A classic, elegant, timeless masterpiece!
If you had to describe your wedding style in one word what would it be?
How did you design your table layout & decor?
Soooo much Pinterest, you guys. I am a Graphic Designer & Photographer professionally and a self-proclaimed interior-designer as well so I’m fortunate that I have a knack for visuals. I had a very clear vision in mind what I wanted and it was just a matter of finding photos on Pinterest to show to my florist/vendors to make it come to life. I did all my own printed items (welcome sign, bar & In-Loving-Memory sign, table numbers, place cards, etc.).
How involved was your fiancé in the planning process?
Andrew was pretty involved in the planning process. He trusted my vision for the aesthetics but I really wanted all the special details to be planned together. He was involved in everything from the tastings to choosing the music that would play throughout our day to the ceremony scriptures and then some.
Did you guys do a “First Look”, or did your fiancé see you for the first time walking down to aisle?
We did not do a first look. Andrew saw me for the first time walking down the aisle. I totally understand the perks of the first look (getting your photos done before the ceremony, private moment together before you share the day with all your guests, etc.) but I would not change that moment walking down the aisle to him for the world. The song I walked down the aisle to was the only song I kept from Andrew. He wanted to be surprised. I chose the song “I Get to Love You” by Ruelle. The song was so moving, the words were perfect. “One look at you, my whole life falls in line. I prayed for you before I called you mine…” The song played, I walked to him and everything else stood still. The second we locked eyes, and I saw how moved he was.. It was truly one of the best moments of my life. His reaction was everything and more that I ever could have imagined and hoped for and I love that our family and friends got to bare witness to that moment.
What would you recommend as “must have pictures” for future brides?
The must-haves for every bride are different I think but the most important ones for me were: each of us spending time with our bridal party in the morning, my mama helping me get into my dress, her walking me down the aisle, Andrew seeing me for the first time, the romantics at the Mission, and family photos. Truthfully, my photographer was so on her game I didn’t even need to provide her with a shot list!
The photos of my mom and I walking down the aisle and the photos of Andrew seeing me for the first time are my absolute favorites. I get choked up just looking at them. My mom is my best friend, my hero.. she’s everything to me. Being able to hold her hand as I walked my future husband and love of my life was one of the most rewarding and precious experiences of my life. I will never forget it. I felt so proud of her and she was so proud of me and having that pure joy and pride on film is precious.
And I don’t think I even can put into words what the pictures of Andrew mean to me. I looked at him and every moment, every prayer, every detail every guest who’s eyes were on me fell and it was just me and him. I saw this amazing human who I love so deeply having the most profound moment of gratitude. He was so overwhelmed with joy and gratefulness that he was marrying me and its just an indescribable feeling.
Did you have a videographer?
We did hire a videographer! It was actually a last minute addition for us but we are SO glad we did. Studio 923 captured so many precious moments that I otherwise wouldn’t have seen including Andrew and the boys getting ready, our Pastor praying over them before the ceremony, opening the wedding gift I sent him, our bridal party grand entrances etc…
What song did you choose for your first dance?
We put a lot of thought into the music for our day! As the guests were arriving, we chose 10 present day songs covered by string quartets. (MAGICAL.) Our processional song was Rewrite the Stars (Greatest Showman) played by The Piano Guys. I walked down the aisle to “I Get To Love You” by Ruelle. This song will bring me to tears for all time. It said everything I could have ever wanted to say to him in that moment to the most beautiful melody I could ever imagine. When the Pastor said, “You may kiss your bride!”, Stevie Wonder’s “Sign, Sealed, Delivered” played and the celebration began! The bridal party grand entrance song was “Love Never Felt So Good” by Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake. Our first dance song was “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole. The wedding was so classic and elegant and romantic it just felt like the perfect choice. Our song is actually “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” by Elvis Presley but since Hailey Reinhart released her beautiful cover of this song a couple years ago and I heard it at so many weddings we decided to switch it up for our day! Our father/daughter & mother/son dance songs were “The Way You Look Tonight” covered by Adam Levine and “Humble and Kind” by Tim Mcgraw. I tossed my bouquet to “Love on Top” by Beyonce. Andrew took my garter off to Pour Some Sugar on Me by Def Leppard. Our last song of the evening was “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen (Andrew’s favorite band of all time!) and the whole room gathered around us in a big mushy mosh pit and sang every last note!
Top 3 most memorable moments of your wedding day?
- Walking down the aisle to my Andrew. The most moving, rewarding, special moment of my life.
- Saying our vows to each other. We wrote our own which I am really proud of. They were so genuine and heartfelt and beautiful and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
- The toasts. My mama, his dad, my MOH and his Best Man. Each of them had the most beautiful (and at times, hilarious, words) that we’ll never forget!!
One thing that made your wedding unique or something special and personal you added to your day that stands out from other weddings?
One thing that was really unique and special for us was having our Pastor officiate our wedding. We met Pastor Espinosa about a year before our wedding when we began premarital counseling with him. He quickly became a dear friend and trusted advisor in our lives. He helped us grow in our faith individually and as a couple, counseled us on God’s purpose for our marriage and how to protect and preserve it for years to come and truly helped us become a closer, stronger and more intentional couple. Every Wednesday morning for months, we looked forward to meeting with him and agreed that our wedding day just wouldn’t be the same without him. So, as always, we picked up our Wednesday morning Starbucks on our way to him and had our barista write an extra special message on his “venti 3-pumps mocha”.. “WILL YOU MARRY US?!” He said “yes!”
On the big day, Pastor Espinosa conducted the most beautiful, spiritual and PERSONAL ceremony! He was able to share insights on Andrew and myself because he truly KNEW us. He also made sure he came to both myself and Andrew to pray over us before the ceremony began which was so sweet. We are so thankful for him and the spiritual guidance and support he has given us and being married by him was really a gift.
Total months planning?
We were engaged for 16 months. Within the first few weeks of being engaged, we nailed down our venue, hired our photographer, and chose our caterer. Once we had those big-ticked items nailed down, we had some time to just enjoy being engaged, take our engagement photos, celebrate with our loved ones at our engagement party, etc. The real planning began about a year before the wedding. I picked my dress and we settled on the rest of our vendors 10 -11 months out and the rest in the 9 months leading up to the big day. I really enjoyed the planning process and felt very organized and without stress 90% of the engagement. About a month before the wedding I had a couple meltdown moments. haha. It’s a lot! It happens! However, I made sure that by the time we were a week out, I had every detail ironed out and we could just enjoy every minute. That week leading up the wedding was nothing but pampering, precious time with loved ones, and excitement to become husband & wife!
One thing you wish you knew when you were planning your wedding?
I guess the only thing I would say is that no matter how prepared and detail-oriented and thoughtful you are as a bride, SOMETHING won’t go according to plan and that is OKAY! Give yourself a break, take a deep breath and remember that EVERY bride has a struggle! Haha For some, its rain on your wedding day, for others its an overbearing mother-in-law, a dramatic bridesmaid or a vendor miscommunication. Things happen and you have to remember that at the end of the whole thing, you will be HIS WIFE!! And that is the best most important and precious part of the whole wedding process! So laugh at the oopsies and keep your eye on the prize!
The day before our wedding it STORMED. Like pouring rain, thunder and lightening kind of storm. Our venue was outdoors and I had this gut-wrenching moment where I realized that we were probably going to have to move our Spanish courtyard wedding under the stars into the cocktail hour space at the venue. I was so disappointed. Andrew took my hand and kissed me and said, “babe, its going to be perfect. Inside, outside.. its going to be the best day ever.” I reminded myself that I would rather marry Andrew in the middle of a rainstorm in a heartbeat than anyone else on the most perfect sunny day. I took a deep breath and made peace with a rainy day wedding. The next morning we woke up, the forecast had changed and it was the most perfect blue-sky day I’ve ever seen.
One thing that helped you stay stress free throughout your planning and on your wedding day?
One thing at a time! Make yourself a checklist. (You can find some great ones on Pinterest actually!) Organize your to-do’s by time frame (12 months before wedding, 3 months before wedding, 2 weeks before wedding, etc.) That way you can prioritize your planning one month at a time instead of getting overwhelmed toward the end of the planning process!
Did you go on a honeymoon? If so, where to? Did you go right after the wedding or wait?
We went on the most wonderful honeymoon. We left 2 days after our wedding. I highly recommend giving yourself one day between to catch your breath before jumping on an airplane. The night of our wedding and the following night we stayed in a little hotel by the beach in San Clemente. We slept in, had breakfast on our patio while we opened our cards from the wedding and reminisced on all the amazing moments from the day before. Went to bed early and headed for LAX early the next day. I wish we could go back on our honeymoon all over again. We did an all-inclusive honeymoon (highly recommend! Flights, resort, all meals & cocktails, activities included) at Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya in Cancun, Mexico. We booked through Unforgettable Honeymoons. It was SO easy and we had the most romantic, relaxing, unforgettable trip. We took bubble bath’s in our jacuzzi tub on the patio of our honeymoon suite (YES BATHTUB ON PATIO), sipped mai tai’s in our private beach cabana on the sand, snorkeled, zip-lined through the jungle, adventured in Tulum, had breakfast in bed, dined at 5-star restaurants every night and even had a private dinner for two the last night. It was SO romantic.
Last but not least if you could give ONE piece of advice to a bride-to-be planning her wedding what would it be??
Oh, that’s an easy one!! Ladies, be present. Your time as “The Bride” is SO special. All the love and thoughtfulness and time you put into all the precious relationships in your life come back to you in this moment. Hold your man close, let your friends and family shower you with love, and take in every beautiful moment of the wild ride from tastings to dress shopping with your girls to writing your vows and everything in between. It goes by SO fast and you will forever remember it as one of the best times of your life! Have fun with it and remember when you get a little stressed that some beautiful girl out there is dreaming of being in your sparkly wedding shoes while she’s waiting for her Prince Charming!
Dana & Andrew’s Happily Ever After
We’re the Millers- yay! Andrew and I just celebrated our first married Valentine’s Day and are feeling truly blessed. The wedding was just the sparkly glamorous BANG that kicked off our big beautiful life and now we’re enjoying every minute of just being married. We are a pretty “normal” couple, really! As I write this, the rain is hitting our windows and we are sitting by the cozy fire, one sleepy dog on each side of us, binge watching Empire on Hulu. Pretty typical Monday night for us and this is our “happily ever after”. Now that the wedding is over, rather than florals and music and menu’s, we are excited about going on family adventures with the pups, planning a couples trip to NY (neither of us have ever been!), doing home improvement projects together (we are Chip and Jo’s biggest fans) and daydreaming of our future little ones! We are both SO excited to start our family and it won’t be long now before we start trying but, for now, we’re just soaking in every fun moment being Mr. and Mrs. Miller.
Venue: Serra Plaza // Catering: Jay’s Catering // Wedding Dress: Made With Love from Love and Lace Bridal Salon // Groom & Groomsmen Attire: Grooms Grotto // Hair Stylist: Elysse Palomo @ Suite Beauty // Makeup Artist: Raquel Meza // Photography: Elizabeth Lauren Photography // Videography: Studio 923 // Florals: The Pink Daffodil // Rentals: Bright Event Rentals // DJ: Steve Burdick Events// Coordinators: Pure Lavish Events //
Keep Scrolling for more stunning photos of Dana’s elegant, timeless wedding with a hint of James Bond, old Hollywood glam vibes for major inspo!
**THIS BUSTLE SO OBSESSED**
Congrats Mr. & Mrs. Miller!