Fall California Wedding with European-Inspired Details

Jessica and Keith

Photographed by: Apertura PhotoLocation: Palm Desert, California, United States

Jessica Stice and Keith Buckley can attest to the notion that Disneyland is, in fact, "the happiest place on Earth." The two met there when they were teenagers and proceeded to date on and off for about five years until they reconnected for good in 2005. One year later, during a seemingly casual stroll on the beach, Keith stopped Jessica to smell the flowers... and read them. Keith had planted purple orchids along the walkway in the shape of a very important question he had for his bride: "Jess, marry me?" She accepted, of course, and Keith whisked her away to a surprise engagement party attended by their families, friends, and coworkers at his parents' home.

During college, Jessica had spent time studying in Florence, and its rich and romantic culture provided inspiration for the atmosphere she envisioned for their wedding. "I had fallen in love with Italy, and that was exactly what we wanted for our guests. We wanted them to fall in love with the night and those around them." Beginning with the private, Tuscan-themed country club just outside Palm Springs that they chose as their venue, Jessica and Keith set about creating a Florentine oasis in the middle of the Southern California desert.

The theme of the wedding was first announced to guests by ecru and brown invitations delivered in boxes stuffed with moss, olive branches, and grapevines. Grapes were also present in the bridesmaids' bouquets along with cream roses and brown orchids wrapped in chocolate satin, while the groomsmen's boutonnieres were made of green and brown foliage mixed with pheasant feathers. Jessica and Keith were married in a Catholic ceremony that featured a string quartet the bride chose as an extension of her "hopelessly romantic" personality.

Set in the middle of the club's olive grove, the reception felt like it was on the grounds of a private villa. Strings of white lights crisscrossed above the tables connecting the trees and dotting the nighttime sky. After the ceremony, Jessica had replaced the ivory sash on her dress with one in chocolate brown to match the look of the party. Tables of different shapes and sizes were draped in chocolate brown linens and set with gold chargers, ecru napkins, brown and gold menu cards personalized with each guest's name, pillar candles, and various arrangements of Casablanca lilies, roses, peonies, orchids, feathers, and Chardonnay grapes. "We wanted the centerpieces to look like people could eat them, and they actually did!" laughs Jessica. In chic lounge areas set around the dance floor, guests gathered to watch a video montage displayed on three large screens. The "real time" video featured footage from earlier in the day - from the bride and groom's preparations to their grand entrance into the reception - complete with voiceovers.

In addition to a dinner feast, the newlyweds served two wedding cakes to fuel their guests for the long night of revelry ahead. The traditional wedding cake featured layers of carrot cake with cream cheese filling and raspberry chiffon cake with fresh berries and white chocolate filling. The groom's cake, designed as a golf ball on an open green, was made of Godiva chocolate cake with fresh bananas and whipped cream filling.

When it was finally time to say "arrivederci," each guest left the party with a customized bottle of olive oil in honor of the Italian affair. Looking back, there is one moment in particular that Jessica will replay in her mind forever: the father-daughter dance. "My dad looked at me and said, 'I have been praying your whole life for exactly this day and this moment. I'm so proud of you.'" It summed up the overwhelming feeling of love and togetherness that the wedding was really about, something that she and Keith tried very hard to keep front and center during their planning process. They advise other couples to do so as well. "Remind yourself everyday of something you love about your fiance and tell him," asserts Jessica. "That is the only way to make sure that the focus remained on the marriage, not just the wedding day."

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