Old World-Inspired Wedding in California

Susan Elizabeth and James Tripp

Photographed by: Handeland Tesoro PhotographyLocation: Santa Barbara, California, United States

Elizabeth Beeley and Tripp Hemphill’s relationship is a true testament to timing. Despite a long list of overlapping experiences from Texas to London, Elizabeth and Tripp had succeeded, since childhood, in remaining strangers. It wasn’t until they both joined the same church as adults––single adults––that they were introduced by a mutual friend and discovered their entwined pasts. As Elizabeth explains, “When we learned how much we had shared without ever knowing it, we knew that we had been led to each other. We kept the door of opportunity open and a tremendous love grew.”

Tripp proposed to Elizabeth three years later overlooking the ocean at the Bacara Resort and Spa in Santa Barbara––the eventual site of their wedding. It was an event that kept spirituality at its core while surrounding it with delicate, Old World charm. According to the bride, every decision––from décor to cake to the groomsmen’s attire––was completely inspired by her Baroque style dress. A champagne satin Reem Acra ball gown, it was embroidered with an intricate design of scrolling bronze vines and lovebirds. With the addition of unexpected autumnal tones like apricot, chocolate, faded green, and plum, the resort’s lawn and ballroom were transformed into woodsy, dramatic sanctuaries replete with old-fashioned sensibility.

Because Elizabeth and Tripp had met at church, and in honor of their grandfathers who had worked together as Episcopalian priests, the elements of the ceremony––from liturgy to music––were carefully chosen to reflect their shared spiritual commitment. During the service, Elizabeth’s oldest brother Christopher, their officiating priest, wore her grandfather’s clergy cross around his neck, and the couple used the same communion set Tripp’s grandfather had carried with him across the battlefields of Europe as an Army Chaplain. A wrought iron cross the couple had purchased together in Texas was suspended from the floral ceremony structure, and several choir members from their church performed. Elizabeth’s other brother Mark also sang the couple’s song, “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds. “Listening to all of the ethereal, sacred music as we looked out onto the Pacific Ocean was the most transcendent experience,” remembers Elizabeth.

Indoors, the reception tables spoke to the bride’s background in both interior design and the culinary arts. Lifted from the canvas of a still-life painting, each centerpiece was comprised of antique-looking vessels filled with burgundy orchids, black magic roses, and plum dahlias grouped together with bejeweled candles atop layers of apricot and plum linens. Gold-rimmed china and crystal provided a regal presentation for the wine-pairing dinner of lobster-artichoke risotto and rack of veal. And the couple’s exquisite wedding cake, covered in dark chocolate ganache, boasted a gold leaf design patterned after Elizabeth’s gown––kissing lovebirds and all. Each table was named for a destination in France the pair planned to visit on their honeymoon.

Some guests opted to retire with a piece of cake to the Moroccan lounge, which beckoned from the balcony outside the ballroom with daybeds, rugs, and lanterns. “I know an entire group of guests who spent the whole night out there!” remembers the bride. But most thought it time to give the dance floor a workout. In addition to the main band that pumped out a stream of R&B and soul, the couple chose to have a Gypsy Kings-esque group reignite the party with infectious Latin beats. The floor was packed, and the overall progression of the day’s soundtrack––from the ceremony’s classical hymns to the reception’s dance hits––rounded out the experience for the couple. “When I look back, it was the music that made the day so memorable and fun. At each point, the music enhanced the visuals, the flavors, and the words that were spoken,” explains Elizabeth.

The newlyweds even gave guests custom CDs of their “Greatest Hits” so they could recapture the mood whenever it struck them––perhaps while enjoying a midnight snack from the patisserie-like display of croissants, brioche, and other baked goods inspired by the couple’s French honeymoon. Together, the favors were a proper way to commemorate the true feast for the senses that was Elizabeth and Tripp’s celebration.

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