New Year's Eve Extravaganza at The St. Regis in Dana Point

Stephanie and Gil

Photographed by: Tony Florez PhotographyLocation: Dana Point, California, United States

The best New Year’s Eve parties are those that greet the dawning future with a joyful mix of anticipation and reflection. Therefore, it made perfect sense to Stephanie Lynch and Gil Mardaresco to hold their wedding celebration on New Year’s Eve, surrounded by an intimate gathering of family and friends.

The couple met four years ago when Gil became a client of Stephanie’s retail sign business and soon won himself the title of “craziest customer.” Receiving such an honor might blow the romantic chances of many a man, but Gil’s ability to make Stephanie laugh finally persuaded her to accept one of his many invitations for a date. The pair clicked instantly, and just one year later, the two were talking about marriage. Although Gil and Stephanie went ring shopping at Tiffany & Co.—a very traditional pre-wedding destination—the location at which Gil ultimately chose to pop the question was quite the opposite: a local restaurant called the Crocodile Café.

Reflecting the unique way in which they approached their relationship, Stephanie and Gil embraced unconventionality with regard to their wedding plans. Stephanie spent a scant four months planning the wedding, and even with such a narrow window, she was able to enlist a variety of vendors still available for their coveted New Year’s Eve date. She chose her vendors based upon reputation and gave each the artistic liberty to transform the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa into the perfect backdrop for the couple’s holiday nuptials. Both Stephanie and Gil had always been fans of the property’s relaxed elegance, but it was the romance and intimacy of the hotel’s wine cellar dining room that sealed the deal. The ceremony was held in this unique space, its dramatic details accentuated by a profusion of lit candles and bare, wintry branches.

Streamlining the quick decision-making process was the idea of keeping the event’s colors to a strict palette of black and platinum with burgundy accents. The floral arrangements included abundant, hearty grapes, black magic roses, artichokes, peonies and burgundy orchids. Stephanie’s mother, Susan, hand made black New Year’s Eve horns for each guest, embellished with beads, ribbons and the words “Stephanie & Gil 2004.”

Stephanie and Gil continued to buck tradition up to and including their actual wedding day. They did not identify attendants, feeling that each of their 32 guests, by nature of their presence at the intimate celebration, was a special member of the wedding proceedings. The couple also decided to spend the morning before the ceremony together and to share Stephanie’s grand entrance from the top of the stairs in the mirrored rotunda with immediate family only. During their ceremony, guests were invited to stand or be seated cocktail-style at small, round tables, and enjoy music featuring songs by the British singer Dido—one of the couple’s favorite artists. Stephanie and Gil also decided to forego a traditional first dance at the beginning of the reception and the ageold bouquet toss at the end.

Marriage is about compromise, and Stephanie made one of her first efforts with aplomb. Gil does not eat sweets, so Stephanie and her cake decorator created a “cake that wasn’t really a cake.” False rounds were covered in dark chocolate fondant and filled with berries that were scooped out in place of a cake-cutting. It did have a carrot cake base, however, that was served the next day at the New Year’s Day brunch that the couple hosted for its guests.

Stephanie and Gil’s New Year’s Eve celebration was an inspiration to other couples considering a holiday wedding. Because the focus was on love—not the holiday itself— the couple enjoyed a successful, stress-free wedding. With the right combination of ingredients, from a great destination and intimate guest list to a touch of New Year’s tradition and a memorable date, the idea of becoming husband and wife while ringing in the New Year might strike you the way it did Stephanie and Gil: too perfect to resist.

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