As college students, Melody Chiu and Tony Hou were mere acquaintances, despite the fact that they shared mutual friends and even the same apartment building. Upon graduation, the two went their separate ways: Melody to become a kindergarten teacher and Tony to pursue medical school. It wasn’t until a few years later when they were reintroduced that their love story began.

Tony’s proposal was a complete surprise to Melody. Under the guise of a belated birthday celebration, Tony planned an elaborate picnic. While enjoying her favorite foods, a friend dressed as Winnie the Pooh (an inside joke, according to the couple) showed up and presented a shocked Melody with an engagement ring. Capping off the thrilling day, family and close friends were waiting at Tony’s house to celebrate with the newly engaged couple upon their return.

With fourteen months to plan a wedding for 350 people, Melody and Tony enlisted the expertise of wedding planners Cara Kleinhaut and Erin Sprinkel of Caravents. As Melody explains, “Not only did they help make my wedding day stress-free (since they took care of every imaginable detail!), but they also were really great at reminding me of what tasks needed to be completed and all the possible details that I needed to address.” Regarding the result of all the planners’ hard work she adds, “It actually looked like the weddings I would see in wedding magazines.”

Selecting the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel as the venue was the easiest decision made by the bride and groom. While at a family friend’s wedding at the Ritz-Carlton years before Melody and Tony began dating, Melody’s father casually joked that the beautiful and serene beachfront setting would be perfect when it was her turn to walk down the aisle. At the time, Melody didn’t think twice about what her father had said, but deep down, a seed had certainly been planted.

Stepping away from tradition, Melody and Tony opted for a contemporary design for their wedding in hues of pink and brown. At the ceremony, the end of every other row of chairs featured dark wood pedestals topped by offering bowls that were filled with blush-pink dendrobium orchid blooms. The bridesmaids began the processional in various versions of the same two-toned pink dress designed by Jenny Yoo, and Melody looked breathtaking in her strapless Vera Wang gown.

With the guest list as large as it was, the bride and groom still wanted a feeling of warmth and intimacy. Friends were asked to participate in various ways during the ceremony, including serving as ushers, gift attendants, a scripture reader, guitarist, singer, and officiant. Growing up in America but being of Chinese descent, the bride and groom incorporated one Chinese wedding tradition into the ceremony when they presented flowers to their parents to honor the extraordinary role they had played in the couple’s lives. As the newlyweds exited the ceremony to the Beatle’s song “All You Need Is Love,” guests tossed petals, surrounding the happy couple in what looked to be a sky of dancing butterflies.

The Ritz-Carlton’s formal ballroom was brought to life by the creative floral designs of R. Jack Balthazar. Melody was astonished at how they “transformed my really basic, general ideas and made them into a detailed, beautiful, incredible reality.” The use of both square and round tables with differing table arrangements set the contrasting, yet harmonious backdrop. The round tables were topped with chocolate-brown linens and set with centerpieces consisting of large dark wood boxes wrapped in pink grosgrain ribbon and detailed with square capiz shells. Inside each was a lush composition of pink and green flowers.

The square tables were dressed in pink linens and featured a trio of monochromatic arrangements in upholstered glass cylinders of varying heights. Two of the containers were upholstered in a brown and pink stripe and the third was upholstered in plain chocolate silk dupioni. The one unifying piece on all the tables was the pink champagne napkins finished with a brown satin ribbon.

One of the highlights of the reception included the screening of a film, made by friends of the couple, titled “When Tony Met Melody.” Inspired by Melody’s favorite movie “When Harry Met Sally,” it was a snapshot of Melody and Tony’s lives before they met each other, during their courtship, and as a couple. For the stars of the film, hearing the laughter and seeing the smiles on their guests’ faces was priceless.

To encourage mingling, chocolate-colored benches surrounded the dance floor creating a space for people to congregate. Taking that idea one step further, the sweetheart table was surrounded by comfortable benches and pillows, offering a silent invitation to friends and family to visit with the bride and groom.

Reflecting upon the event, Melody is still struck by what happened when a friend was singing and playing the guitar during the ceremony: “A large flock of seagulls flew in this incredible formation overhead. Guests thought we had arranged for it but we hadn’t... it was really beautiful and majestic and almost felt like God’s little additional contribution to our wedding day – affirmation that it was truly an auspicious event.”