Summertime Wedding with Deep Red Hues in Ojai Valley, California

Melissa and Eric

Photographed by: John Solano PhotographyLocation: Ventura, California, United States

Eric Wasserman knew Melissa Rogal was "the one" the first time they met. And in June of 2006, he followed through on his prediction by proposing to her on the beach in Hawaii, complete with romantic bonfire and celebratory champagne.

One year later, Melissa and Eric were married at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, a spot that had been meaningful to the couple during their courtship. The resort's relaxed and naturally beautiful setting was one that lent itself to the very personal wedding they had envisioned. "It was so important to us that the wedding really represent us," says the bride. So, aided by coordinators Diane Levine and Alyson Fox as well as their families and recently married friends, Melissa and Eric infused their summer soiree with touches that expressed the creativity and sense of humor they share as a couple.

When guests checked into the hotel they were greeted with welcome bags full of local brochures, snacks, and a personalized "Mad Libs" game about the wedding. And as they took their seats for the outdoor ceremony, guests were able to familiarize themselves with the members of the wedding party from the humorous descriptions Melissa and Eric included in the programs. The couple chose to personalize their Jewish ceremony by asking seven of their friends to recite their own original blessings for the lucky couple in place of the seven traditional blessings that are normally included in the proceedings. The bride and groom also paid tribute to Eric's late brother by displaying his favorite baseball cap on the ceremony table. Standing next to it, Melissa and Eric exchanged unique vows framed by a chuppah dripping with deep red roses and hanging greenery.

The reception was an extension of the "warm, romantic, and fun" atmosphere that had been established by the ceremony's dramatic decor and significant details. The lodge-like room was draped in rich burgundy fabric for a cozy feel. The tables were all covered in similar red silk linens and decorated with a variety of centerpieces that incorporated the same mix of roses, vines, and branches into low and tall arrangements. Flickering candles, plates of chocolates, and roses placed on each napkin rounded out the room's elegant and abundant look.

Just before Melissa and Eric made their grand entrance to the ballroom, their guests were treated to a memorable surprise. Applying his professional skills as a television writer and film school graduate (Melissa is an entertainment attorney), Eric created a very special video to entertain the group. It not only included photos from both his and Melissa's childhoods and their lives as a couple, but it also contained comical footage that Eric produced himself. One such section compared the unfortunate hairstyle histories of the bride and groom. "It is something that all of our guests still rave about to this day. It really set the mood. We secretly watched it from the back of the room," says Melissa.

After the video, the gathering feasted on a summer-inspired meal of tomato and mozzarella salad; herb-crusted chicken Paillard with artichoke hearts, basil, and seasonal baby vegetables; and wedding cupcakes filled with mint chip, mocha chip, and strawberry mousse (the couple also employed a "show cake" for the ritual cutting, which was served to guests as well). Friends and family let loose on the dance floor and took turns mugging for the camera in an old-fashioned photo booth set up just outside the ballroom (next to an equally alluring ice cream sundae bar). Some of the snapshots were given to guests as souvenirs; others were arranged in a keepsake book for the couple.

But the best memories for Melissa and Eric were the kind words that guests shared with them about the wedding. "So many people told us how much they loved the wedding and how much fun they had," remembers the bride. They confirmed that the celebration was everything Melissa and Eric set out to create: beautiful but lighthearted, just like their relationship.

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