Red Rose-Inspired Backyard Wedding in California

Michel and Dean

Photographed by: Silvia Mautner PhotographyLocation: Santa Monica, California, United States

Michel Fountain and Dean Bennett met through work, and were friends for more than four years before they started dating, then dated for seven years before they got engaged. Their spectacular wedding, almost twelve years in the making, was well worth the wait! Dean and Michel’s romance began while the two were in San Francisco for a work function. After having drinks with a co-worker, she spotted her then-friend Dean on a bench in Ghiradelli Square waiting for a trolley. Michel sat next to him, and in a bold, cocktail-inspired move, she leaned in to kiss him. But alas, Dean turned at the same instant and her kiss landed on his ear. Despite the awkward first kiss, Michel and Dean began dating a few months later and the two built a wonderful relationship from their sweet long-time friendship.

The last few years of their courtship were completed over a long-distance, with Dean working in San Francisco while Michel remained in Los Angeles. During one of their weekends together in San Francisco, Dean took Michel on a trolley ride and then to the very bench that hosted their first kiss. Dean presented Michel with a Halcyon porcelain box, which she collects, and which he had custom made in England. The top of the box featured two doves and the inscription “For a lifetime of love.” Michel opened the box to reveal a diamond ring and the words “A nervous kiss off the mark found its way to my heart”.

Dean prompted her to turn the box over, as the bottom read “Michelle, will you marry me?” As well as the Halcyon boxes, Michel also collects charms that symbolize all of the places that she and Dean have visited together. While in San Francisco, the couple picked up a park bench charm as a memento of their beautiful engagement.

This timeless, storybook proposal would demand an equally charming wedding, and for Michel, the location was obvious. She always knew that she would follow the tradition of her family by having her reception at the home of her grandmother, who will turn ninety years old this May. Her home was the first house built in Pacific Palisades, around 1920, and has been host to the wedding receptions of the bride’s two sisters, mother, three aunts, and one uncle. Continuing this 45-year tradition was truly special for Michel and Dean. However, the couple chose to hold the wedding ceremony there as well, which was a first.

The bride and groom admit being surprised at how quickly the time passes while planning a wedding. Their nine-month engagement was filled with the usual pressures of decision-making, but was going along smoothly until the couple was faced with the tragic and sudden loss of Dean’s mother, just eight weeks before the wedding. Shortly after, Michel’s mother suffered a debilitating fall that required surgery. Michel and Dean dealt with their family matters with grace and wedding tasks were put on hold. Luckily, friends and family (Michel’s sister in particular) took on added responsibilities to ensure that the wedding would go on as planned, just as the mother of the groom would have wanted.

Dean and Michel exchanged vows in an afternoon ceremony in front of 300 guests, including six bridesmaids and seven groomsmen. A very personalized part of the service was a presentation of roses by the six bridesmaids, who were Michel’s life-long friends. Each rose represented a marriage blessing: patience, health, family, peace, trust and abundance. Separate from the roses, Dean’s father presented a white hydrangea in honor of his beloved wife, whose spirit could be felt throughout the whole day.

The look of the event was based on the deep burgundy color of the Black Beauty rose, which was used in abundance throughout the ceremony and reception. Black Beauty roses decorated the wedding altar and made up the bridesmaids’ and bridal bouquets. Rose petals were scattered along the wedding aisle and were also placed in vellum cones and hung on burgundy ribbons on the back of the guests’ chairs. Even the flower girl dresses had rose petals placed inside the layers of tulle. After the ceremony, the guests showered the couple with rose petals as they walked down the aisle as husband and wife.

The ceremony was followed by a seated dinner reception with a menu many steps above the standard wedding fare. The nouveau cuisine included Caprese canapés with prosciutto, Italian tomato and fresh basil and other passed hors d’oeuvres, a salad course of baby Sonoma field greens, Belgian endive spears, radicchio and watercress, and an entrée duo of fire-grilled Chateaubriand of beef and sauté of breast of chicken picatta and a variety of fresh vegetable side dishes with unexpected twists. The four-tiered, lemon-filled white wedding cake was covered in white chocolate icing and covered with red Black Beauty roses and ivy cascading down the sides onto the table. For a breathtaking presentation, the cake was displayed on a raised and lit gazebo surrounded by white rose bushes in the center of the reception.

The setting lent itself to an event with a great sense of family tradition, history and elegance, topped off by a perfectly sentimental toast given by the best man, who has been Dean’s best friend since the age of two. Dean learned that not all traditions are serious, though — Michel’s family carried on a tradition started by her father’s groomsman forty years ago by throwing the groom, tux and all, into the swimming pool before the end of the evening!

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