Seaside Wedding in California with Beach-Themed Décor

Jennifer and Michael

Photographed by: Suzanne Karp PhotographyLocation: San Juan Capistrano, California, United States

The beach has clearly been a recurring theme for Jennifer Underdahl and Michael La Caze’s romance. The two met on the beach on July 4th of 2000, at a party that Michael hosted at his family’s beach house. After building many fond memories at the same oceanfront setting, Michael proposed marriage on July 4th of 2003, while he and Jennifer were driving to the beach once again. When the time came to choose a location for their nuptials, it only seemed fitting that the event be held back at the La Caze beach house. The couple envisioned a small, simple wedding with an atmosphere of relaxation and casual, quiet elegance. However, here is where the simplicity of their story takes a complex turn…

One of the most unique features of Jennifer and Michael’s wedding is that it took place just two weeks after Michael’s sister Karen got married, at the family’s other home in Rolling Hills. Add to that the fact that both weddings were planned entirely by Michael and Karen’s mom, Carole La Caze, and you’ve got a recipe for chaos. But amazingly, no one cracked under the pressure and each couple had the wedding of their dreams.

When Michael and Jennifer got engaged, Karen’s wedding was already planned for September 27th. Jennifer and Michael wanted to get married after Karen, but before daylight savings changed, and also had to work around the wedding of dear friends in early October, which gave them an extremely short window of opportunity.

The couple decided on October 11th and Michael’s parents didn’t even flinch at the thought of the logistics, which is a great testimony of their dedication to their children’s happiness. Additionally, Michael’s loved ones could have been unhappy with such a crammed schedule of special events, but they were completely supportive, delighted at the latest good news and more than thrilled to attend Jennifer and Michael’s big day.

Jennifer’s vision, simply put, was to “share their special moment with their loved ones in a very relaxed way, with everyone playing on the beach, enjoying delicious hot soup and fresh seafood – no aching feet from uncomfortable shoes!” Each element of Michael and Jennifer’s wedding was designed for a calming effect, down to even the muted color scheme of sand and seashells, rather than a more tropical beach theme with vivid, striking hues. A quiet décor was chosen to complement the natural, rustic seashore rather than overpower it, with the ambience enhanced by candlelight, beautiful linens, seashells and orchids swaying in the ocean breeze. Jennifer described her ideas to Michael’s mother, who carried them out beautifully and presented the couple with the wedding of their dreams. White orchids were loosely gathered in sleek rectangular vases and abundant candles flickered in glass hurricanes surrounded by sand and seashells. Further illustrating the theme, the simple three-tiered wedding cake had beads like sea pearls outlining each layer and was scattered with light blue seashells.

Michael and Jennifer’s sunset ceremony was officiated by a life-long friend of Michael’s father. The experience was made extremely personal by the involvement of the couple’s family members, including siblings and cousins, and by the unique readings chosen by Michael, who has a master’s degree in philosophy. Instead of the standard ceremonial readings, Michael found meaningful works by Leo Tolstoy, Aristotle and Lao Tzu, as well as an Apache Wedding Blessing. These passages were powerful testimonials to the couple’s experiences and were relevant to their personalities, their relationship and their union in marriage.

Still moved by the poignant ceremony, the guests – many in bare feet – were then treated to a casual, yet festive dinner of luscious, piping-hot bouillabaisse, crusty French bread and lots of fine wine and champagne. True to their laid-back nature, the bride and groom asked the band to surprise them for their First Dance. The couple beamed at the band’s choice of Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” for their debut as husband and wife, a song well-suited for their magical evening.

In the end, no one would have guessed that this flawlessly executed, charming celebration had been planned in only three months and took place on the heels of another huge family event. When asked what advice this ultra-calm bride has for future couples, Jennifer is refreshingly candid in her answer. She explains that while popular belief holds that it’s “your day”, it is not! “The sooner you accept this, the easier the planning will be!” “Realize that your parents have waited many years, maybe since before you were even born, for your wedding day, so let them have their fantasy, too!” While Jennifer and Michael made sure that their preferences and input were heard, they were also mindful that a wedding should never be a battleground. They supported each other and presented a united front throughout the whole process, even when it meant compromising more than they would have liked, and they ended up with a wedding that was uniquely their own. Last but not least, she reminds the men to participate in the planning, and the women to relax! The only thing that matters at the end of the day is that you are married to the man of your dreams. The rest is merely details. Wise advice from one who knows best!