Romantic, Outdoor Bohemian-Chic Wedding at a Santa Barbara Park

Molly and Edward
Photographed by: Willa Kveta PhotographyLocation: Santa Barbara, California, United States

As championship-winning athletes at UCLA, it was only a matter of time before Molly Cahill and Edward “Cooper” O’Connor met. “Cooper was a member of the UCLA Men’s Volleyball team and I played for the UCLA Women’s Water Polo team,” recalls Molly. “The first time we met was at a party to celebrate the National Championships of our two sports [in 2006].” After their initial introduction, the pair’s friendship blossomed into a college romance that reached beyond graduation. Eight years later, on the Big Island in Hawaii, Cooper made the decision to ask for Molly’s hand during an early morning stroll on the beach. As she was accepting, she looked up to see her friends clapping at a hiding spot nearby – an extra surprise her now fiancé had organized. She notes: “It was an amazing day!”

When it came to the planning process, Molly was surprised by how easily everything came together. “Cooper and I decided on everything together [–] but my mom, my sister, and my best friends, Rosey and Sarah, were instrumental in helping us finalize decisions,” tells the bride. Additionally, Molly and her helpful ladies found wedding inspiration from Pinterest. Nine months after Cooper’s proposal, the couple was excited to tie the knot in a verdant park in Santa Barbara. The ceremony space was minimally decorated as to not overwhelm the natural charm of the alfresco area. Small, pastoral vessels with luscious greenery and white blooms were the only ornamental materials lining the raised surface where the officiant – Molly’s college water polo coach and current USA Women’s National Team coach – stood, which added further organic artistry to the location. 

The bride floated down the aisle in a desert sand-colored gown with a sheer white overlay, complete with intricate leaf detailing. “[My dress] is so [unique] and beautiful, [it] really inspired me throughout the entire planning process,” she gushes. “Everything from its color, to the beading, to its cut was different from any other wedding dress I had ever seen before and [it] felt magical.” Molly grasped a compilation of wildflowers that coordinated perfectly with her outdoor motif. “I wanted the flowers to be romantic and whimsical, and to complement the beautiful [outdoor] setting of the venue,” she explains. Her seven bridesmaids – including one bridesman – carried bouquets of similar lush textures and wore navy blue ensembles, matching the groom’s cerulean tuxedo, that complemented each person’s individual style. 

Immediately following their vows, the newlyweds and their guests gathered in a nearby section of the park to celebrate. The reception was abounding with more fresh perennials sitting inside clear vases of varying sizes and shapes. Alabaster table linens were topped with woven burlap runners and pristine china adorned with floral designs. For the culinary side of things, Molly and Cooper chose a few nontraditional menu items. “[We had] an authentic taco bar, accompanied by fresh salads and sides,” shares the bride. “We [also] did not have a wedding cake; instead, we had a beautiful strawberry shortcake station.” The couple’s rustic concept augmented each element of their big day and created a comforting vibe.

In hindsight, Molly describes her nuptials as “perfect.” “I think our wedding perfectly reflected our personality. We definitely stayed true to some aspects of a traditional wedding, but we also weren’t afraid to mix things up to stay true to ourselves as well,” she reveals. “The simple menu combined with the eclectic mix of vintage plates and glassware [echoed] our style [and] the flowers brought out the natural beauty of the oak trees and were amazing accents to each table.” The bride goes on to muse about a moment that stands out in her mind. “[S]tanding with Cooper up above the reception, [I was] overcome with happiness as we looked at all of our friends and family in one place,” Molly smiles.