Romantic California Wedding at the Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa

Carrie and Jay
Photographed by: Jose Villa Photography & True Photography WeddingsLocation: San Diego, California, United States

It’s fair to say that on the night that Carrie Gugger met Jay Kelley, she was under a spell. Not his exactly... she had volunteered to be hypnotized at a college party, and she and Jay were seated next to one another during the experience. While their romance did not begin until many years later, something magical had certainly taken root that fateful night. “When we were re-introduced after college, we were amazed by our common pursuit of ‘life’s greatest adventures’ and quickly began dating,” recalls Carrie. Four years later, Jay proposed to Carrie, and a wedding for May 2005 was in the works.

But life’s great adventures often have a way of presenting themselves rather unexpectedly, and right before they were set to wed, Carrie was chosen to appear as a contestant on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart television show. There was no doubt in either of their minds that she would pursue the opportunity, but because of the confidential nature of the show’s outcome, Carrie and Jay were not allowed to disclose why they were postponing the wedding. “When the show aired, our guests and vendors began planning for our second attempt at a first wedding,” she says.

Planning the wedding for the second time allowed the couple to incorporate many more personal elements into the celebration that they had initially overlooked. Carrie and Jay decided to center their plans on honoring family and friends as well as one another, and they kept this perspective in mind when considering each significant detail. Since they met at the University of California at San Diego and became engaged just off campus, Carrie and Jay felt that the nearby Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa was the natural choice for hosting both the ceremony and reception. The hotel could also accommodate all of Carrie and Jay’s out of town guests, allowing everyone to concentrate on celebrating instead of driving.

When the big day finally arrived, guests were greeted at the ceremony by an aisle of red rose petals lined with clear glass cullet disks, which, as a glassblower, Carrie uses to create her original works of art. The disks represented a piece of her as well as the passion and creativity she and Jay hoped would always exist in their marriage. In addition to five groomsmen and three bridesmaids (each dressed in a different brown dress custom-designed to suit their individual tastes), Carrie’s brother Paul served as her “man of honor” while another male friend enjoyed the title of “bride’s usher.” As Carrie explains, “It was important to me to have my closest friends stand by me at the wedding, and the fact that two of them were men was initially a cause of concern. I’m so happy that in this circumstance, sentiment won out over tradition.”

The same could be said for the original vows she and Jay cleverly designed. Throughout their seven-year courtship, the bride and groom relied on traditional love letters to keep each other close-at-heart whenever they were geographically separated. Carrie pulled meaningful passages from all the letters Jay had written her and arranged them to form his vows, and he did the same with Carrie’s letters to create the vows she would recite to him. Doing so, according to the couple, was like falling in love all over again and inviting their closest family and friends to witness it.

Guests arrived at the cocktail hour to find escort cards designed as luggage tags in honor of Jay’s fondness for world travel nestled in trays of beach glass. Each tag boasted the “stitched floral” motif that adorned all the paper products from invitations to menus, which Carrie chose because it reminded her of her great-grandmother who had taught her how to knit. A unified color scheme was also maintained by reworking the chartreuse, chocolate brown, and deep red colors of the ceremony for the reception décor. Each dinner table was dressed in chartreuse and brown linens and topped with three different arrangements of hydrangea, cosmos, peonies, snowberries, and orchids in square glass vessels. Surrounding the centerpieces were more glass cullet disks, and on the head table, the addition of hand-blown Venetian champagne goblets designed by the bride, as well as dragon-stemmed toasting glasses created by one of her glass instructors, made Carrie and Jay’s space infinitely more special.

Also lingering on each dining table were two bound photo books — one documenting Carrie and Jay’s relationship and the other featuring photos of the guests seated at each table — that the bride and groom had prepared on their computer. The books provided a bit of inspiration for the unique “photo challenge” (a nod to Carrie’s Apprentice days) that the newlyweds instituted at the reception. Each guest was given a specific type of image to capture using disposable cameras found throughout the ballroom. Not only did this activity facilitate mingling, it also proved an ingenious way to ensure that the cameras were put to good use.

Carrie and Jay’s wedding was a celebration steeped in creative and surprising details, none of which was more memorable than the father-daughter dance. All of the guests expected a very traditional and sentimental song choice from Carrie’s “conservative” father, but only a few minutes into their slow sway to the Bee Gee’s ballad “Heaven No More,” Carrie’s father whipped off his jacket and did his best John Travolta impression as “Stayin’ Alive” filled the room.

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