After moving back to Los Angeles following graduation, Eli Nazarian was shown a photo of Serena Hakim by his mother. “I was in awe of her beauty at first sight,” remembers Eli; however, since Serena was living in New York City while attending university, he didn’t reach out. A couple years later, Eli learned from a friend – who is also Serena’s cousin – that Serena was moving to LA for law school. “I didn’t hesitate. I asked her out on a date the first week she moved back,” affirms Eli. 

“On our first date, I remember looking into Eli’s eyes for a moment. He had such kind eyes, and I intuitively felt at home with him,” shares Serena. Two years later, Eli planned a proposal at the same hotel property where their first date took place. The day before Valentine’s Day, Eli led Serena to a beautiful suite decorated with roses. He got down on one knee and asked his beloved to marry him. “It was a very meaningful and emotional moment filled with so much love,” reminisces the bride. 

When planning their wedding, the pair decided to host a large destination wedding in Los Cabos, Mexico, for nearly 500 guests. “The most unexpected thing about planning a wedding was how much went into every moment – from flowers to mapping out the timeline of events, to managing the sound and lighting,” explains the bride. Wanting to design a fun-filled weekend for everyone traveling near and far, Eli and Serena ensured no detail was overlooked – from the welcome soirée at a 150-year-old space in downtown San José del Cabo, to a lively pool party the following day, and of course, the wedding. 

Moved by its natural and abundant energy, Eli and Serena selected a 12-acre botanical cactus garden to host their alfresco ceremony and reception. “There was a feel of peace, serenity, and being connected to our roots,” shares the bride of how she felt upon their first visit to the venue. “Trees have always been a calming force for me. Our ceremony highlighted these beautiful natural creations and was based on the theme of nature and life. It had a mystical angelic feel to it,” she adds. 

Serena was a vision in an off-the-shoulder lace gown, which she found while visiting Paris with a friend. “The dress symbolized elegance, love, and kindness to me,” the bride muses. She wore her hair in an elegant updo and carried a bouquet of creamy peonies and garden roses as she made her way down the aisle to meet her husband-to-be. Loved ones were seated in the round to witness the Jewish ceremony, which took place beneath a grand chuppah comprised of fresh greenery and whimsical ivory blooms amidst the palm trees throughout the desert seaside setting. 

“It was the perfect weekend celebrating our joining as husband and wife… It was truly a magnificent exchange of positive and loving energy.”

Following the ceremony, guests transitioned to the outdoor reception space by traversing through a tunnel of verdure, vanilla-toned blossoms, and candlelight suspended from glass orbs. They found their seats at one of three tablescape designs. The first showcased long tables covered in neutral linens surrounded by wooden chairs with ivory cushions; the second featured round wood tables beneath pergolas adorned with greenery, cascading white florals, and tiered golden chandeliers; and the third presented banquette-style seating in a circular formation with a tall “tree” constructed of branches and leaves placed in the center. 

As the rest of the décor was so extraordinary, gorgeous centerpieces were kept stunning, yet understated, with low arrangements of blossoms, such as roses and orchids in tones of white, apricot, and blush, accented with ivory taper candles and elegant place settings. The newlyweds were seated at a floral-embellished sweetheart table arranged to have a perfect view of the dance floor, which was illuminated with impressive lighting and unique, statement chandeliers that provided even more of an organic feel to the space. 

Following a sit-down dinner service, friends and family enjoyed slices of a towering wedding cake decorated with colorful pressed flowers. “It was everything I had envisioned and more!” smiles the bride, who changed into a floral long-sleeve minidress after the lively hora and the couple’s first dance to “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli. The rest of the night was spent dancing to the sounds of a live band performing music by the Gipsy Kings, as well as party music played by a DJ. An impressive light show complete with laser beams kept the festivities going into the night. 

Serena and Eli confirm they wouldn’t change a single thing about their destination-wedding weekend. “It was truly perfect,” affirms the groom. His bride agrees wholeheartedly: “It was the perfect weekend celebrating our joining as husband and wife… We felt so much love, and we have always wanted to give that feeling to the people we encounter in our lives. It was truly a magnificent exchange of positive and loving energy.”

This real wedding was originally published in the Spring 2023 issue of Inside Weddings magazine. 

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