When mutual friends introduced Michelle La Garde and Rico Garcia, their chemistry was instant. Upon their second meeting, Michelle and Rico stayed up all night talking, and realized the depth of their connection to one another. In January 2005, Rico asked Michelle if she would spend all her nights talking to him and proposed to her at a romantic spot nestled in the Hollywood Hills. Michelle and Rico were married fifteen months later in front of 320 family members and friends.

When planning their Southern California wedding, Michelle and Rico knew what they wanted out of their reception: a Spanish-themed event that included a New York club-styled lounge. For anyone else, this might have been an odd combination, but for Michelle and Rico, who share a proud Hispanic heritage and a love of Manhattan, it was pure perfection. Having a traditional ceremony that reflected their Catholic religion was also very important to the bride and groom. The ceremony took place at St. Edwards Church in Dana Point with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. Standing at the altar, the couple shared a touching moment as they looked out over the congregation and appreciated just how wonderful it was to have both families come together in celebration of their love.

In keeping with their Spanish theme, a private hacienda served as the reception site. Set amidst exquisitely manicured gardens and surrounded by mature oak and sycamore trees, Rancho Las Lomas was the perfect mix of intimacy and extravagance. The bold use of reds and browns in the décor had guests believing they had been transported to Spain for the day. Strips of sheer red panels formed an open canopy over the outdoor dining area, and chandeliers of red votive candles hung delicately from tree branches. Brown linens with striking red accents and centerpieces of tightly packed red roses brought the tables to life.

Throughout the celebration, guests were treated to a variety of personal touches that reflected the couple’s unique flair. During the poolside cocktail hour, a mariachi band entertained the crowd, and a flamenco guitarist performed during dinner. Guests also enjoyed slipping into an old-fashioned photo booth to take souvenir strips of comical photos. As another special memento, each guest was presented with a signed reproduction of one of Rico’s own paintings (the groom is an artist and a business owner), as well as a CD filled with the couple’s favorite songs.

Following dinner, guests were invited upstairs to the lounge where sheer panels of gold fabric and long spiral crystal chandeliers signaled that the party was about to begin. Red velvet couches surrounded the large dance floor, and tall cocktail tables, a chocolate fondue fountain, an additional tower of cupcakes, and a gentleman hand-rolling cigars completed the atmosphere. Explains Michelle, “If you didn’t want to dance, you had plenty of other options.” The couple’s four-tiered wedding cake covered in forty hand-made sugar butterflies – Michelle’s favorite – was also on display. To top it all off, two stunning ice sculptures that dispensed flavored martinis created the ultimate nightclub experience.

To give herself more room to boogie, Michelle transformed her flamenco-inspired Monique Lhuillier gown into a cocktail dress by removing the lower half of the skirt just above the knees. “It was so much fun to change it up on everyone. No one knew what to expect,” says the bride.

And at the end of their amazing night, the newlyweds left in a vintage Rolls Royce en route to explore Paris, the Greek Islands, and life together as husband and wife.