Chic Weddings/Real Weddings

Colorful South African Inspired Wedding In Southern California

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A little personal update: Jack and I are still on the road on our yearlong honeymoon (in Morocco at the moment!) & currently nursing a massive we-love-and-miss-you Cape Town hangover. After the most incredible five weeks in the Western Cape, this South African-inspired Socal wedding is giving me all the feels.

San Diego couple Jenna and Andrew have a certain love for the outdoors – having traveled the world, frequented California’s parks, honeymoon on safari in South Africa & even gotten engaged in Yosemite National Park, it was important to them to find a venue that kept their party in the wild outdoors. Leo Carillo Ranch provided the perfect rustic space lending plenty of shady outdoor space.

Once the perfect spot was chosen, the couple took inspiration from Jenna’s South African heritage – bright colorful patterns, bold king protea florals (we couldn’t believe how many grow wild along the highways in SA!) traditional shweshwe fabrics and adorable African animal tokens for the tables. We’re also quite smitten with the couple’s colorful quilted chuppah, handmade by the groom’s mother.

Photographed by the ever-talented Let’s Frolic Together, this explosion of joy & color is a bohemian feast for the eyes.

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Our Love Story

We met through our Jewish community in San Diego and mutual friends. The first time we spoke was when I had the chance to film and interview Andrew about his experience leading young professionals on trips to Israel. I was impressed because he was well-spoken and had similar values to me. We kept in touch and I soon went on a trip to Ethiopia where Andrew messaged me often to ask how my trip was going. When I got back we went on our first date, which was brunch, and we talked for hours.

Jen: We got engaged in Yosemite National Park in October 2017. Andrew planned a hike up Sentinel Dome and when we got to the top he led me over to a rock with a view of the beautiful valley below. He then surprised me by getting down on one knee and asked me to marry him. It was such a special moment I’ll always remember.

Andrew: I spent about three months planning the surprise proposal and hired The Allen’s Photography to help make it happen. There was a lot of back and forth with the photographers to make sure it would be the perfect plan. Jen and I love going to National Parks, so I knew California’s most majestic park would be the perfect place to pop the question.

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The Venue & Style

We were looking for an outdoor setting that felt magical, romantic and laid back at the same time. When we toured LC Ranch we knew we’d found the perfect location. It is rustic, charming and full of beautiful succulents, cacti and bougainvillea, and it even has peacocks roaming the grounds. We loved that we could have an outdoor ceremony under the giant pepper tree and an outdoor reception a short walk away on a beautiful patio.

Our inspiration came from Jen’s South African heritage and the vibrant African shweshwe fabrics in sunny yellow, cerise pink, deep blue and turquoise. The tables were themed by African animal and we had wire and beaded African animals on them. Jen is an artist and wanted to add her own special touches to the day so she created realistic paper flower bouquets and boutonnieres out of crepe paper. She spent days on it but was very happy with the results and can keep her wedding bouquet forever as a special memento.

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Favorite Moments

One of our favorite moments was our ‘first look’. We sent each other letters which we read just before and when we saw each other we were both emotional and so happy. I remember that all my nerves melted away because Andrew is my rock. And when Andrew saw me he teared up.

We also loved reading our vows to each other because they were so meaningful and had some humor added in too. We both love to dance and it was really fun to let loose on the dance floor together surrounded by all of our favorite people. Another favorite part of the day was the speeches made by our fathers, maids of honor and best man.

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The Attire

Andrew is a big fan of sports, particularly baseball and football, as are his groomsmen, and he gave them their favorite team socks as part of a gift package. They actually wore taco socks the day of the wedding which were appropriate for the delicious Mexican food we had on buffet.

Andrew’s beautiful tie was the inspiration for our bridal party color palette with light blue and a touch of pink, which we thought was a pretty compliment to the other colors. We love country music, with a mix of classic rock and pop and chose a playlist with all of our favorite songs. Our first dance song was ‘to the moon and back’ by Luke Bryan.

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The Ceremony

To us, it felt like our day was a love fest. All the love that surrounded us by family and friends, some of whom traveled 20+ hours to be there for us. And the labor of love that went into the artistic elements from the chuppah quilt handmade by Andrew’s mother Shelly to the yarmulkes and favor bags handmade by Jen’s mother Linda. We wrote our own vows and had family members come up and each read one of seven blessings for our life together. Jen had both parents walk her down the aisle.

We loved the Jewish tradition of having fifteen minutes just the two of us immediately following the ceremony and of having a ketubah (Jewish wedding contract, which is an artwork that is hung in the home) that we signed before the ceremony.

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The Reception

We love country music, with a mix of classic rock and pop and chose a playlist with all of our favorite songs. Our first dance song was ‘to the moon and back’ by Luke Bryan. Everyone told us they had a lot of fun at our wedding and that was really important to us. We danced, talked to family and friends, and got photos taken in the retro CanHam Photo Booth.

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The Photography & Videography

We chose the talented and incomparable Jasmine of Let’s Frolic Together as our photographer for our day. We could tell she has a knack for capturing special moments, real emotions, and all the fun quirks and personalities of the people she photographs. She also puts you completely at ease in her presence and brought so much great energy to our day that our bridal party were all commenting on how awesome she was. We couldn’t have been happier and when we saw the photos from our day we were totally blown away. She brought out our playful sides and we ended up having so much fun both at our engagement session in Balboa Park and in finding great settings for photos at our venue.

We weren’t sure about whether we wanted a videographer or not and our best friends actually convinced us that it’s something we’ll be so glad to have to look back on and remember our day. They were 100% right and we have watched our wedding highlights video over and over again since. Carly Lackey of Black Shutter Media was incredible. She skillfully captured all the special moments with her talented eye and you’d barely even know she was there. She was so unobtrusive and sweet-natured that it was an absolute pleasure to have her there.

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The Planning

A great place to start is with sitting and jotting down together what you envision for your day, looking for ways to make it feel ‘so you’ and think of what will make you and your family and friends smile.

We did use Pinterest initially to start to pull together a look and feel with a style board. We created an excel spreadsheet for budgeting right at the start so we could estimate what we think we should be spending on everything. It helped us to see that if we are spending a little more on accessories than we planned, then we know we need to save money in another category. We also talked about what is most important to us about the day so we knew where to budget a little extra.

I looked for inspiration on Bridal Musings, Green Wedding Shoes, and The Knot and we used The Knot to create our website, and they have an app as well. We used Paperless Post for our invitations, which was great and saved a lot of money.

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Advice to Other Couples

Our advice for the day of your wedding is advice that we were given and it’s to every so often take a moment to soak it all in. Look around at all the details and smiling faces and imprint it into your memory. Find your inner calm in it all, since at times it may be hectic with everyone getting ready together. Steal those moments alone together when you can (maybe for some magic evening light pics with your photographer).

You may not get to do everything you wanted on the day if you have a tight timeline so the looser your timeline can be, the better. We did not get to see our dessert bar because we wanted more time on the dance floor, but dancing was more important to us and we still got some desserts packed up for us to enjoy in the early hours when we arrived at our guesthouse. Decide what’s going to be most important for you in enjoying your day and night.

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The Honeymoon

We went on our honeymoon a few days after our wedding. We were both exhausted and ready to just relax. We chose an all-inclusive resort called Hamanasi in Belize to stay for seven days and it was the perfect getaway for our honeymoon. We stayed in a treehouse room in the jungle, which was comfortable and romantic. It had a jacuzzi on the deck and the resort was on a beach so it couldn’t have been more relaxing. The meals were delicious and each day we had a new activity that we chose from a list of activities. We went hiking, snorkeling (which the region is renowned for), and learned how to make chocolate.

I would recommend a honeymoon just after your wedding and to make sure it is primarily relaxing and for simply being together. We just got back from our honeymoon part two which was a trip to South Africa with a safari in Kruger National Park. Andrew had never been so I was excited to show him my home where I grew up. The safari was absolutely amazing and something I want to do again and again. It was so cool to experience together.

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