Co-workers who lived near one another, Wendy Ridder and Sam Bergh started carpooling together as a way to make the most of their 40-minute Bay Area commute. It proved, however, to be a stepping stone in developing their friendship into something more. “It did not take long before we were going to long, romantic dinners after our drives home,” says Wendy. Nor did it take long for Sam to decide that he wanted Wendy to occupy his passenger seat—permanently. On Valentine’s Day, the two were gazing into the sky from their picturesque hotel balcony in Carmel, CA, trying to locate the Big and Little Dippers. It was there, overlooking the Pacific and underneath the stars, that Sam made his proposal.

Echoing their coastal engagement, Wendy and Sam wanted to get married at the beautiful oceanfront resort, Bacara, in Santa Barbara. It was the perfect geographic compromise between the couple’s home in the San Francisco Bay Area, and where they were both raised in Los Angeles. (Not to mention an ideal spot for many out-of-town guests who hoped to make a vacation out of Wendy and Sam’s wedding weekend).

Beneath a wooden structure hung with floating ivory roses, the bride and groom were married in a ceremony they designed to reflect their Christian and Jewish backgrounds.

The officiant read a passage from the Bible that discussed the importance of truth, love and compassion in marriage. In addition, she surprised Wendy and Sam by relaying the exact words they had individually shared with her about why they loved one another so much. After the couple exchanged vows, Sam broke the symbolic glass in accordance with Jewish tradition, and the couple recessed to the buoyant tune, “Good Vibrations.”

During the cocktail hour, guests indulged in a sushi and sashimi bar staffed by a chef making rolls “to order” and three kinds of flavored martinis—apple, lemon drop and cosmopolitan—dispensed from ice sculptures. As the sun set, everyone entered the ballroom, where hundreds of crystal stars twinkled over the dance floor. It was a magical scene that recalled the couple’s special night in Carmel. In keeping with the wedding’s naturally luxurious theme, each napkin was decorated with a gold-painted starfish that also signified the wedding’s close proximity to the ocean. It coordinated with the gold, ivory and dark green décor, which was broadened to include champagne and dark mauve roses in the various centerpiece arrangements.

Taking the time to absorb all that was happening around them, however, was most important to Wendy and Sam. Hearing the speeches given by loved ones and dancing cheek to cheek was really what made their night so special. “It seems so simple, but just looking into Sam’s eyes and seeing the love was so wonderful. It was the perfect way to start off the rest of our lives together.” And dancing with her father was a momentous occasion, too. Just one week before the wedding, Wendy’s father was in a terrible car accident which left everyone uncertain of his ability to attend the wedding, much less walk or dance. Luckily, he was able to do both, and father and daughter shared a traditional dance just as they had always envisioned.

As guests left with bags of take-home sweets from a playful candy bar, Wendy and Sam were already thinking about their farewell brunch the next day. It was the last opportunity for the newlyweds to spend time with family and friends before heading off to Japan and the Philippines for their honeymoon. It also happened to be Mother’s Day. “What better gift was there to give our mothers than to tie the knot,” jokes Wendy.