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A Wedding With a Forest Ceremony and Dinner Party Reception – Brides

8 minutes, 28 seconds Read

Ava and Phillip first crossed paths at a Starbucks in Denver in May 2020. Two years later, on March 25, 2022, the couple found themselves taking in views of Camelback Mountain on the rooftop of the Sanctuary Hotel when Phillip popped the question. Ava always envisioned getting married surrounded by trees, so a redwood grove at Santa Lucia Preserve in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, fit the bill. And when they toured The Inn at Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach, they knew it was the venue they’d invite their 100 guests to for their reception; plus, when their big day arrived, attendees were able to stay on-site there for the weekend. “Pebble Beach provided stunning views, accommodations, and event spaces that didn’t compare to any other venues we looked at,” Ava says.

The couple worked with Jacin Fitzgerald Events to design their black-tie affair, which began with a jaw-dropping ceremony among the redwoods and culminated in a dance party in the property’s ballroom. You won’t want to miss a single one of the personal details incorporated into their November 4, 2023, wedding. Read on to see the couple’s first touch, sneaker valet, payphone escort display, and Alice in Wonderland-inspired after-party, all captured by Ryan Ray

Photo by Ryan Ray


Ava and Phillip enlisted Southern Fried Paper to design unique wedding invitations with a neutral color palette, textured floral designs throughout, and a wax seal featuring their custom monogram.

Photo by Ryan Ray


Ava got ready for the big day with her wedding party, which included a maid of honor, bridesmaids, and bridesmen. “In our getting ready suite, we had face masks, skin rollers, eye masks, gua shas—all the best self-care products and tools—while we sipped coffee and Champagne!” the bride says.

Photo by Ryan Ray


Photo by Ryan Ray


When Ava went shopping for her wedding dress, her sister flew in from Australia to surprise her. “It was really special to have her and my mom with me,” Ava remembers. She chose a white silk mikado Romona Keveza ball gown with a ruched sweetheart neckline and a cathedral length veil. When her mom asked her if they should purchase the gown, or if Ava needed time to think about it, she knew it was the one. “When I thought about walking out of that store without buying it, I got nervous so right then and there we bought it!” she says.

She wore her grandmother’s sapphire ring, a diamond bracelet from her father, and her mother’s diamond earrings. For her wedding day beauty look, Ava went heavy on the eyelashes and contour and wore her hair down for the ceremony before pulling it up into a low bun for the reception.

Photo by Ryan Ray


After an in-room hot shave with his future father-in-law, Phillip stepped into a classic black tuxedo with a black bow tie. The finishing touch? A submariner Rolex—a gift from his bride that he received that morning.

Photo by Ryan Ray


Ava and Phillip wrote personal vows to exchange before the ceremony. “I was really nervous and Phil is my best friend,” Ava says. “Knowing that I was going to get to talk to him before we walked down the aisle calmed my nerves.” The couple held hands and exchanged heartfelt vows they wrote for each other—but didn’t sneak a peek.

Photo by Ryan Ray


Photo by Ryan Ray


Ava and Phillip designed their ceremony around the redwood grove setting. “We wanted our guests to arrive and feel as though they stumbled upon a forgotten enchanted chapel in the forest,” Ava says. The couple enlisted Hensley Event Resources to build a custom chapel that was decorated with ferns and moss. Attendees were seated on wooden benches; the aisles were decorated with arrangements of roses made to look as if they were naturally growing from tree stumps. They added four hanging chandeliers to the chapel for ambience.

Photo by Ryan Ray


Photo by Ryan Ray


Photo by Ryan Ray


Ava and Phillip switched up the schedule and invited guests to visit a custom bar before the ceremony. “It was a nice surprise for our guests, and allowed us the time needed for touch-ups before the ceremony, so no one felt rushed,” Ava says. They served a signature pomegranate rosemary cocktail called “The Real Diehl” as a nod to their new shared last name. The couple also served a cucumber gimlet as their signature mocktail. Bar décor included natural elements like moss, leaves, pinecones, and tree stumps.

Photo by Ryan Ray


Photo by Ryan Ray


Before guests were seated for the ceremony, they were offered tissues with custom labels and wax seals featuring the couple’s name and wedding date. They were also given small gold bells to ring when the couple recessed back down the aisle.

Photo by Ryan Ray


Photo by Ryan Ray


The couple included their dog in the ceremony; she wore a pink dress and pearl leash. Ava always dreamed of having a harpist play “Canon in D” as she walked down the aisle—that’s what her mother chose for her processional. The harpist strummed “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as the family walked down the aisle and switched to “What a Wonderful World” for the wedding party.

Photo by Ryan Ray


Photo by Ryan Ray


Photo by Ryan Ray


Ava walked down the aisle with her father and her mother stepped into the aisle to watch them. “It was a moment we all looked forward to and planned for,” the bride says. Ava held a bouquet of peonies, roses, smilax, dahlias, and freesia; she added a locket with a photo of her and her late grandfather wrapped around the stems.

When she arrived at the altar, Ava and Phillip—who had saved their true first look for this poignant moment—exchanged traditional vows and incorporated a unity candle that Ava’s parents used on their wedding day. They celebrated back down the aisle to “Send Me on the Way” by Rusted Root.

Photo by Ryan Ray


Ava’s bridesmaids wore Jenny Yoo dresses in varying green, blush, and neutral tones; her bridesmen and Phil’s groomsmen wore classic black tuxedos to match the groom. The ladies carried small iteration’s of the bride’s, with the addition of Queen Anne’s lace, while the bridesmen and groomsmen accented their looks with pocket boutonnières composed of ferns, Spanish moss, freesia, and greenery.

Photo by Ryan Ray


Photo by Ryan Ray


After the ceremony, Ava and Phillip took off in a vintage white car decorated with a “Just Married” sign, ribbons, and flowers. They took golden hour portraits with their photographer while guests hopped into shuttles (where lavender scented towels awaited) to head to the reception. When they arrived, they enjoyed canapes, espresso martinis, agua frescas, and mocktails.

Photo by Ryan Ray


Photo by Ryan Ray


Photo by Ryan Ray


Photo by Ryan Ray


Phillip is a sneakerhead, so they asked guests to bring their favorite kicks to dance in. They even had a coat-check style sneaker valet where guests could “check” their dress shoes in exchange for their comfy ones.

The highlight of the cocktail hour, though, was the telephone escort card experience. Guests approached pink vintage-inspired payphones (complete with the duo’s monogram!) expecting an audio guestbook—but, to their surprise, the couple’s planning team was waiting on the other end of the line, asking for their names. Then, a pink-gloved hand emerged from the curtain to pass along a pink flower with the attendee’s seating number. “This was the hit of the party and guests are still talking about it to this day!” Ava says.

Photo by Ryan Ray


Before they hit the dance floor, the newlyweds changed into matching white python Air Jordans that were custom made for their reception. They even created a matching set for their dog.

Photo by Ryan Ray


Photo by Ryan Ray


Photo by Ryan Ray


A mauve velvet curtain was opened to reveal the reception space, which was lit with candles and chandeliers. The couple’s florist, Mindy Rice Design, created floral installations for the ceiling, lush table centerpieces, and cascading arrangements to border the ball room. “We wanted this to feel like an intimate surprise dinner party and less like a standard wedding dinner and this setting absolutely allowed us to do just that,” Ava says.

Photo by Ryan Ray


The band performed on a tiered stage that was decorated with greenery and flower arrangements to mimic the ceremony decor.

Photo by Ryan Ray


Ava and Phillip enlisted their close family friend, Hope Jones, to create their nearly naked vanilla wedding cake. “It was special to have her do it for us,” Ava says, “She also made our custom monogrammed cookies for our welcome gifts.” The cake was decorated with trailing flowers and greenery.

Photo by Ryan Ray


Photo by Ryan Ray


Photo by Ryan Ray


Ava danced with her father to a Paul Simon song; Phillip shared a dance with his mother to a Backstreet Boys tune. The couple chose “She’s No Lady” by Lyle Lovett for their first dance, which ended in a dip and a kiss.

Photo by Ryan Ray


As the reception wrapped up, Ava and Phillip posed for a few more photos as cold sparks lit up the night.

Photo by Ryan Ray


Photo by Ryan Ray


Guests thought the band was playing the last song of the night when the couple’s planning team opened another curtain to reveal a tunnel full of Alice in Wonderland-inspired flowers and lights leading to their after-party. The duo went with a moody color scheme for this part of the evening, adding gold disco balls, green uplighting, and textured elements like velvet lounge furniture to the space.

Photo by Ryan Ray


Photo by Ryan Ray


Photo by Ryan Ray


Determined to spend the rest of her wedding dancing, Ava changed into a short For Love & Lemons dress with a bustier-style bodice, ruched mesh fabric, and tiered ruffle skirt. And just when the group thought things couldn’t get better? The couple passed out custom Air Jordans to the wedding party, so everyone could party the night away in comfort.

This post was originally published on this site

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