While walking through the Boston University campus one day, Rosario Perez spotted Shaaz Ahmed talking to a few other students. She instantly felt a powerful attraction. “All I could think was, ‘Where is that boy from? He looks so exotic,’” Rosario says. So she took matters into her own hands and winked at him.

That wink was all it took to begin a seven-year relationship that became a lifelong commitment during the 2012 holiday season. While on vacation in Phuket, Thailand, Shaaz took Rosario to a romantic dinner. At the end of the meal, a very jet-lagged Rosario fell asleep on the table – but Shaaz wasn’t deterred. He woke her up, got down on one knee, and asked her to marry him three times before Rosario answered. “I thought I was still dreaming,” she remembers.

Rosario admits that she wasn’t prepared for the intricate details she would have to plan for her upcoming nuptials. “I told my good friend, who is a wedding planner, ‘So, you just find a venue, organize the alcohol, and get a DJ, right?’ She couldn’t stop laughing after I asked her that,” Rosario recalls.

With just six months until their wedding date, the couple quickly began searching for a Los Angeles-area venue that would be entertaining and accommodating to out-of-town guests – a task that was of the utmost importance, since only 15 of their 150 guests resided in the United States.

A sophisticated hotel just steps away from shops, restaurants, and the beach was selected for the convenience it would provide for traveling guests. White chiavari chairs topped with silver cushions were arranged poolside, and paper fans in hot pink rested on each seat to offer relief from the California heat. Towering bouquets of magenta roses and hydrangeas filled colossal urns that flanked the end of the aisle, which was lined with sleek black lanterns and fuchsia roses wrapped in silver ribbon. Bridesmaids wore body-conscious gold dresses and clutched bouquets of pink roses and fuchsia phalaenopsis orchids as they walked down the aisle to the romantic sounds of a string orchestra. 

The bride was the epitome of modern style in a voluminous off-the-shoulder gown and birdcage veil. A single lock fell loose from her braided updo, and a cascading bouquet of dark pink phalaenopsis orchids perfectly complemented her dramatic gown. Rosario and Shaaz laughed and smiled throughout the interfaith ceremony, led by an amazing Catholic priest. “I was raised a Muslim,” Shaaz explains, “so I wanted us to find someone that was open and understanding about our union and cultures.”

At the conclusion of the joyful ceremony, Rosario took a moment alone in her bridal suite to reflect on her ancestors before heading to the reception. “I wanted to pray to them and think of how they must have felt and how their weddings must have been. It was a very special moment,” she recalls.

Meanwhile, guests made their way to a ballroom adjacent to the pool for cocktails; then, they enjoyed a formal sit-down dinner beneath contemporary black-and-white poolside cabanas. Violet lighting cascaded over pewter tables adorned with silver candelabras and mercury-glass vases filled with fuchsia and magenta roses, hydrangeas, orchids, lisianthus blossoms, and hyacinths.

In addition to a lavender- and pistachio-flavored cake covered in red ombré fondant, a mouth-watering array of desserts was offered atop a shimmering pink table appropriately labeled “Dulce Amor” (Spanish for “Sweet Love”). Small boxes were available for guests to fill with turtle pretzels, red velvet cake pops, fruit tarts, sugar cookies, and key lime bars.

The radiant décor and striking design of the event proved to be one of the couple’s favorite elements of their big day. “Even though I went to some meetings, I didn’t really pay attention to what was going on,” Shaaz admits. “When I saw what the place looked like, I was impressed and I understood all the time my bride had spent planning our day.”

Rosario adds, “I had imagined it so many times, but [the work of] my wedding planner and florist exceeded my imagination. The place looked stunning.”

And it all began with a single wink.