Autumn-Inspired Wedding in Ojai Valley, California

Michele and Vince

Photographed by: Yvette Roman PhotographyLocation: Ventura, California, United States

Michele Fazekas didn't think that Vince Gonzales was interested in her when they met during a group bike ride at the beach. But Vince remembers talking to her more than to anyone else that day. "Funny how you can perceive things totally differently," says Michele. It took two years of being friends before they realized a romantic relationship was what they both wanted. When it came time in 2005 for Vince to propose, he brought Michele back to the same beach in Santa Monica where they had shared that first encounter.

With so many people on their guest list planning to travel from out-of-state for the wedding, Michele and Vince wanted to find a beautiful destination for a weekend getaway. They chose The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa just north of their home base in Los Angeles for its picturesque landscapes and laid-back vibe. And they aligned themselves with wedding coordinator-to-the-stars Yifat Oren to make sure that every detail would come together exactly as they hoped. "Everything was centered around making our guests feel welcome, cared for, and special," says Michele. This included providing their 100 guests with "folio" invitations outlining important information about the wedding weekend such as events, accommodations, local activities, and directions. The invites also set the elegantly rustic tone of the weekend by being printed on handmade paper embellished with a dried red leaf and bound with brown twine.

The couple kicked off the weekend with a casual rehearsal dinner set in a nearby barn. Barbecued fare, flavored iced teas, and a self-serve candy bar provided tasty reasons to take a break from dancing to a local rockabilly band. Guests left the party with boxed pastries to enjoy for breakfast the next morning.

At the ceremony the next afternoon, more dried leaves made their way onto the charming handmade programs that each guest received at the church. Bridesmaids carried autumn-inspired bouquets, and the flower girl proudly showed off a unique basket lined with fall leaves that contained succulent plants inside a bird's nest. Michele clutched her own bouquet, which intertwined her late great-grandmother's silvery rosary with the design. After walking his daughter down the aisle, Michele's father sang "The Promise," a song that the bride remembered from her childhood. "He has a beautiful voice," says Michele. "He had people in tears."

At the resort, the reception room was a feast for the eyes with a different and exotic floral arrangement decorating each table. Shafts of grain, petrified wood, vegetables, succulents, and berries were mixed with vibrant blooms to create stunning centerpieces, and coordinating nosegays were placed at each setting. "Just little works of art at each table," remembers Michele. The cake, which was filled with mint chocolate chip and orange raspberry layers, was also covered in a variety of flora, not to mention a cake topper featuring Han Solo and Princess Leia as a tribute to the couple's devotion to Star Wars.

According to Michele and Vince, the twelve-piece band that engaged the crowd was extremely reflective of the couple's diverse musical tastes. "The band could play anything," claims the bride. "People are still talking about them." That is partially because of their stirring rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" that brought everyone -- including Michele's grandmother -- to their feet, swaying with candles overhead and singing along.

The couple also gave each guest a homemade mix of their favorite songs -- the soundtrack to their relationship -- on CD. It was one of Michele and Vince's favorite parts of planning the wedding, and their pleasure in making it showed in the variety and significance of each song they selected.

As a keepsake for themselves, the bride and groom asked six special guests to document the wedding weekend in any way they liked (tastefully, of course) using disposable video cameras. It was an innovative improvement on the idea of distributing point-and-shoot cameras that often go unused. For around twenty-five dollars per camera, they received DVDs of the priceless footage. "Some of the clips we got back were hilarious," says Vince.

Planning each personal touch turned out to be more pleasurable than they ever imagined it could be. So much so, that the only unexpected thing about their wedding was "how much you miss it when it's over!" exclaims Michele. "The planning is all about anticipation and excitement even though it's stressful. We were sad when everything was all said and done. We wish we could do this every year."

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