Eastern-Themed Summer Wedding at the Montage Laguna Beach

Molly and Erick

Photographed by: Ira Lippke StudiosLocation: Laguna Beach, California, United States

There's something to be said about two people that agree to go to a wedding together as their first date. Set up by a coworker, Molly Estrin and Erick Richardson decided to take a chance, and their bravery was rewarded. "We just really hit it off even though we are so different from each other," says Molly. They continued to embrace a sense of adventure throughout their courtship, and during a trip to New Zealand, Erick proposed to Molly beneath a 1,000-year old Giant Kauri tree.

And although neither Molly nor Erick is of Asian descent, an Eastern-themed wedding was the perfect expression of their relationship. "We compare ourselves to yin and yang," explains Molly. "We are complete opposites and yet we fit together perfectly. We share an appreciation for Eastern aesthetics and philosophy, and we chose an atmosphere suited to us." The ceremony they designed was inclusive of many religions, including several Jewish traditions, and was conducted by a close friend of the couple. It took place on the oceanfront lawn of the Montage Resort and Spa, which was reconfigured into a Zen garden by importing architectural structures and bonsai trees. In keeping with feng shui tradition, the aisle meandered through staggered rows of chairs and was lined with collections of large rocks and orchid plants. Statues of Fu dogs (ancient guardians of Buddhist temples) flanked the entrance of the aisle, and an enormous meditating Buddha hovered over the proceedings.

In addition to the eighteen bridesmaids and groomsmen who took part in the processional, a flower girl carried a silk Chinese take-out container filled with flowers, and a ring bearer presented an oversized fortune cookie - a traditional symbol of chance and a tribute to Molly and Erick's relationship - on a pillow. The couple's dog Kiwi also made an appearance, resting comfortably on her own cushion while her owners exchanged original vows in the late afternoon sun. Guests used paper parasols to shade their views.

The California Craftsman interior of the resort was transformed into an Asian-themed supper club complete with red leather banquets and a custom lighting treatment that projected a cherry blossom branch pattern across the white draped walls. Wooden tables both long and square supported a variety of decorative elements, such as stone Buddha statues, pagodas, tall table lamps, vases, and wooden water bowls, as well as low floral arrangements. Bowls, baskets, and boxes filled with orchids, roses, and dahlia heads alternated with votive candles and river rocks along the mandarin orange silk table runners, and twelve-foot blooming trees punctuated the room. At each place setting, a silk presentation box topped with an orchid and a set of chopsticks opened to reveal the evening's menu, a thank-you note from Molly and Erick, and a monk's prayer bead bracelet, a gift for every guest. As the bride and groom entered the ballroom, the resort staff stood at attention dressed in red and black Chinese jackets. Molly and Erick took the dance floor for the first time as a married couple, spinning atop a yin and yang - the iconic symbol of balance and inseparable strength. As guests dined on wonton soup, rice paper-wrapped spicy chicken, Mongolian beef with Chinese broccoli, and orange chicken with sticky rice, they also enjoyed home videos of the couple's international travels, which were playing on nine flat screen monitors mounted throughout the room. "It was a way to share a little bit of ourselves and our humor with our guests," says Molly.

The five-layer wedding cake was covered in edible cherry blossom branches, the same motif that first graced the wedding invitations and was projected in the lighting treatment around the room. Not a single aspect was overlooked in the execution of the event, and the attention to detail made the celebration thoroughly unique. "The decor was so well planned out, and it created such an experience for us and all our guests. There was such a warm and inviting feeling that we will never forget," asserts Molly. The newlyweds had plenty of time to reminisce about their memorable celebration during a two-month honeymoon, which began with a trekking excursion to the Kingdom of Bhutan, followed by stays in Bali, Java, Puerto Vallarta, and Costa Rica.

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