Michelle Hodgen remembers everything about the first time she met Bennett Lebherz – right down to the day of the week. “We met on a Wednesday night in a business class at CSU Long Beach,” she says. “He seemed gentle-hearted, kind, and very quiet.” After four years of dating, Bennett knew they would be a successful couple for the rest of their lives. “We really came together to form a strong team,” he explains. 

Bennett enlisted the help of his two sisters to find the perfect engagement ring; then, he took Michelle on what she thought would be an ordinary date consisting of dinner and jazz at their favorite beachside hotel. She didn’t know that he had secretly invited their families and a photographer to hide nearby and watch as he popped the question on the cliffs. “Overlooking the ocean on a beautiful, clear day, he got down on one knee. It was more than I could have ever asked for,” Michelle beams.

As avid wine enthusiasts, Michelle and Bennett were originally drawn to the idea of holding their wedding in California wine country. However, they ultimately chose a local country club due to its convenience and size, and allowed the nectar to inspire their décor. “Instead of having the wedding in wine country, we brought wine country to us,” Michelle says.

For the ceremony, guests gathered in a beautiful, sun-filled hall that featured high ceilings and large picture windows. The aisle was framed with blush and white flower petals, which matched the coral bridesmaids’ dresses and Michelle’s own hot pink shoes. Behind the officiant stood wine barrels topped with purple, fuchsia, and green flowers and the letters M, B, and L formed out of moss. The couple affirms that the best part of the entire day was the moment they first laid eyes on each other. Michelle admits she couldn’t hold herself together after walking into the room and seeing Bennett. She was as “giddy as a schoolgirl” throughout the ceremony.

After an alfresco cocktail hour showcasing four of the couple’s favorite wines and a performance by the same band that was playing the night they got engaged, guests headed back inside, where the ceremony room had been transformed into a glorious reception. Tables were adorned with coral tablecloths, white lanterns, and arrangements of hydrangeas, peonies, and pink roses. About 1,000 wine corks were scattered throughout the space and, as a nod to their love of Disneyland, Mickey and Minnie figurines were also sprinkled around the room.

Following dinner, plenty of dancing (“My dad and I are always the dancing machines at weddings,” Michelle boasts), and a delicious cake that Bennett had taken a particularly strong interest in selecting, guests headed out. But the celebration wasn’t over yet. The newlyweds hosted a pizza party at the hotel where many attendees were staying, which allowed them to spend time with their friends in a casual setting while enjoying a late-night snack.

Reflecting on his big day, Bennett recalls a suggestion he received from a friend that perfectly illustrates his own advice to other grooms. His friend advised him to propose decorating the tables with fishbowls filled with goldfish that could then double as favors. “In short, your wife, the wedding planner, and the mothers will think you are crazy and they will rightfully take over the planning and ignore your requests,” Bennett laughs. Michelle doesn’t quite agree – she recommends working together as a team. Still, Bennett attributes their wedding’s success to Michelle’s vision and execution. “She did a fantastic job delivering the experience we both dreamed of!” he says.