Grand Ballroom Wedding at The Ritz-Carlton in Southern California

Victoria and Thomas

Photographed by: Tony Florez PhotographyLocation: Laguna Niguel, California, United States

Victoria Zarifis’ sister, Pamela, felt there was something special about her client Thomas Gorski. As his hairdresser, she had gotten to know him during all the times he was seated in her chair, and she was convinced that he and Victoria were made for each other. At Pamela’s insistence, Thomas and Victoria met for a blind lunch date, one that ended up lasting ten hours. While on a romantic vacation one year later, Thomas presented Victoria with a heartfelt letter, and by the time she was finished reading it, she could barely make out the stunning engagement ring or his kneeling silhouette through all her tears.

“We had a fairytale courtship, so we wanted a fairytale wedding to send us off into marriage,” explains Victoria, and they fulfilled their dream with a traditional ceremony in the beautiful Laguna Presbyterian Church and a regal reception surrounded by the grandeur and elegance of the Ritz-Carlton. Their talented coordinator, Gail Garceau, worked intimately with the resort’s meticulous staff to bring a storybook celebration to life for Victoria and Thomas, replete with all of the requisite facets: a dove release during the recessional, candelabra centerpieces dripping with crystals, and the placement of their monogram on their menu and cake.

In a rare and romantic gesture, Victoria and Thomas did not see each other before the ceremony, and the anticipation only added to the drama of Victoria’s entrance. With a dear friend singing during their service and a Catholic priest and a pastor blessing their marriage, the bride and groom celebrated their commitment to each other and to God in the traditional and spiritual way they had always dreamed of.

After the ceremony, they arrived at the Ritz-Carlton which was majestically transformed by shades of champagne, lavender and gold. During the planning process, Victoria had applied her design background toward shaping the entire look of the wedding and the great deal of thought she put into every detail was apparent. From lavender up-lights illuminating the dining room to the collection of family wedding portraits displayed on the card table, no surface or corner was left untouched by her personal vision. A “living room” was created by bringing in white leather sofas and coffee tables so that guests could enjoy the wedding’s signature cocktail, the “chocolate kiss martini,” in comfort. Inside the ballroom, dinner tables were covered in champagne linens, adorned with crystals and topped with purple glass chargers that borrowed color from the luxurious centerpieces of lavender and purple flowers. The couple’s two-flavor wedding cake was presented to diners alongside a platter of chocolate-dipped strawberries, and as guests later retired for the evening, a midnight snack was provided from an old fashioned popcorn cart.

But the most memorable details of Victoria and Thomas’ wedding were not found in the décor. As a tribute to his family’s proud heritage, Victoria’s father delivered a touching welcome speech that included marriage advice spoken in Greek while Pamela shared these thoughts with the couple, “Victoria, you found your prince and Thomas, you found your princess, and I gained the brother I never had.” Victoria left her new husband speechless when a surprise slide show that she produced of his childhood and their life together began playing on a huge screen and Thomas responded by belting out his own rendition of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” to a room full of cheering guests.

Looking back on their wedding, the couple claims, “we really wanted our guests to feel pampered and entertained,” and with all the thought they put into their event it’s hard to imagine that anyone left feeling otherwise. It was certainly their day, the realization of a dream not only to marry their truest companion but to share their happiness in fairytale style. And as Victoria and Thomas looked forward to their exotic honeymoon, their guests received one last expression of their thoughtfulness: a single flower placed in each of their cars secured with the hope for a safe trip home.