Lots of people meet in bars, but not many encounter love at first sight the way Frank Chang did: while standing in line for the bar’s bathroom behind Ellen Yoo. “When I met Ellen for the first time, I knew I would marry her,” claims Frank, but when he finally had the opportunity to talk to her, she refused to give him her number. They ran into each other the following weekend at a completely different New York City nightspot, and this time, Ellen could not say no. It was destiny at work. Later, with a little help from the powers that be within Ellen’s family, Frank arranged a surprise proposal on Thanksgiving Day and asked Ellen to marry him surrounded by love, happiness and a multitude of candles in the living room of her parents’ home.

The couple loved the idea of holding their wedding during the long Labor Day weekend to give their out of town guests the opportunity to spend a little more time in southern California, especially since their wedding would take advantage of the beautiful late summer weather for which the area is known. The Ritz-Carlton in Marina Del Rey provided the seaside location and elegant reputation Ellen and Frank wanted to share with their beloved guests.

Ellen was lucky to have an industry expert by her side during every step of the planning process. Her sister, well known bridesmaid dress designer Jenny Yoo, not only lent her “amazing eye for detail” to making stylistic decisions, she also gave Ellen invaluable emotional support. Of course, Jenny designed Ellen’s bridesmaid dresses, as well as two different gowns for the bride to wear. For the ceremony, Ellen exchanged tearful vows in a romantic lace dress with a dramatic back and changed for the reception into a gown of duchess satin with an empire waist. “It meant the world to me to have my best friend design such beautiful dresses for my wedding day,” says Ellen.

Following their Western observance, a third wardrobe change was required when Ellen and Frank celebrated their heritage in a traditional Korean marriage ceremony. Donning time-honored Korean attire, the couple participated in the rituals of offering their parents dried dates and chestnuts, and, in turn, accepting tea offered by their parents. The conclusion of the ceremony was marked by both sets of parents tossing the dates and chestnuts at the bride who tried to catch them in the sweeping skirt of her vibrant gown called a han-bek.

It was a beautiful tribute to their close family ties that reflected the consistent use of personal touches throughout their wedding, such as the participation of the couple’s beloved teacup Yorkshire terrier, Casey, in their first ceremony. With a custom made pillow placed on her back, Casey acted as the ring bearer while being carried down the aisle in the flower girl’s basket.

The ceremonies’ fresh and modern palette of greens and pinks was repeated throughout the reception, enhanced by the additional glow of candlelight that warmed the room with its views of the marina. Guests dined on Peking duck salad, seared Loup de Mer, roasted beef and French vanilla crème brulee at tables dressed in shades of pink roses, orchids and floating candles. In lieu of a band, Frank’s friend, Joon Lee, took turns with the DJ singing an array of love songs after his rendition of “Unforgettable” moved the crowd. “We ended up having our own special wedding singer,” recalls the couple. “Everyone enjoyed dancing to his beautiful voice. We all had an amazing time.”