Passed notes don’t often end in marriage, but that’s exactly how it happened for Alexandra MacFarland and Joshua Crawford. “It was my first day at a new school and Josh came into my home room to give me my parking pass, and along with that he gave me a note asking me out on a date,” describes the bride of the moment she met her groom.

After eight years of dating, including long distance college years, Josh was ready to propose. He was in college in Michigan while Alexandra was finishing her nursing degree at Ohio State University, so planning a surprise proposal was no easy task. Josh repeatedly kept trying to make special plans with his girlfriend, but Alexandra – panicked over her upcoming final nursing exam – kept shooting him down in order to have more study time. Frustrated and in love, the determined future groom got into his car one night and drove to Ohio. “When I opened [the door] he was down on one knee and said he couldn’t wait another second to be engaged to me and since I kept blowing him off to study this was how it was going to have to go down. I was in sweat pants, his shirt, no bra; hair in a messy bun with a 2,000 page nursing book in my hand and it couldn’t have been more perfect or more us,” muses Alexandra.

The couple decided to have a small destination ceremony near Santa Barbara, California. “I’m a really passionate person but also a pretty guarded person, so our special day was something I only wanted to share with our closest family members and a few friends,” explains the bride. Because they had only 25 guests, the bride and groom were able to exert more creativity with the ceremony seating, selecting an eclectic mix of benches, chairs, and loveseats. Alexandra and Josh also each had one of their siblings stand with them, rather than a traditional full bridal party. 

The bride looked chic and modern as she walked down the aisle with her father, who donned a black cowboy hat. Alexandra was elegant in a fashion-forward crop top gown designed by Monique Lhuillier and her lace-up pumps featured a dragon pendant from a necklace her dad made to match his own. For her jewelry, the bride wore the pearl-and-diamond necklace that her mom wore when she was a bride. Alexandra’s bouquet featured a freshly picked style, matching the organic feel of the day. “Flowers included white peonies, blushing bride, Patience garden rose, sweet pea, white spirea, limonium [in] misty pink and bay leaves wrapped in an ivory ribbon with a hint of twine,” tells the bride.

Alexandra and Joshua held hands as the pastor officiated the nuptials. At his request, they had written each other letters for the wedding. “Little did we know he was going to read those letters out loud!” laughs Alexandra. “But it was the perfect touch and really made our wedding ceremony so personal.” 

For the reception, guests sat at one long table that featured centerpieces matching the bridal bouquet. Two acoustic guitarists added to the intimate atmosphere while friends and family dined on a four-course meal with a surf-and-turf entrée of lobster and filet. The cake was as modern as the bride’s dress: naked of frosting except between layers, the confection was decorated with lavender, bay leaves, and small rose buds. 

Despite a two-year engagement, the entire wedding was planned in just two months – the one thing the bride would do differently. “I would give my self a little more than two months to plan!” she confirms, praising her planning team at Viva Bella Events for pulling off the celebration. Besides a more relaxed planning schedule, Alexandra has further advice for future brides: “A wedding planner you vibe with is a must. And also, soak up every possible second of your special day. It goes by so fast, but it is the most magical, special, intimate day of your life. I get chills just saying this. You will never have the feelings you have on your wedding day ever again in your life. Cherish them, and hold onto them as long as possible!”