It was seventeen years ago when high school students Thea Andrews and Jay Wolf's innocent crush on one another sparked a lasting friendship. "We became close friends and stayed friends through our twenties," explains Thea. A romance eventually developed, and their continued closeness has formed a special kind of bond. "He's still my best friend today," says Thea.
A relationship with such history was deserving of an unforgettable proposal, and Jay was determined to pop the question in Mexico. Just one day prior to whisking Thea away, Jay's only instruction to her was to pack a bag with a bikini and a passport. But as an on-air correspondent for Entertainment Tonight, Thea was filling in for regular host Mary Hart and was supposed to stick close to Los Angeles in case she was needed. "I told Jay I didn't think I could go," she says. But Jay had already cleared his bride's schedule with a few surreptitious phone calls. "My bosses knew I was getting engaged before I did!" marvels Thea.
Only six months after their engagement, the couple exchanged vows in Ojai, California, a location removed enough from the bustle of their home base in LA to feel like a true destination wedding, but close enough to make planning the wedding convenient. The preparations were made even more effortless thanks to Thea and Jay's coordinator Liz Brown of Imagine and good friend Anya Sarre (whose own wedding was featured in Inside Weddings), the head stylist for ET. "Anya was especially helpful when it came to the dress," says Thea. Faced with much confusion after trying on dress after dress, Thea followed her friend's advice: "If you're not sure which one to choose, it probably means you haven't found the right one yet." So, at Anya's urging, Thea decided to have her gown custom-made, which allowed her to incorporate bits and pieces she loved from each of the contenders into one dream style. The final design combined everything Thea loved -- the timelessness of beaded lace with a modern silhouette.
The bride and groom held back tears as they exchanged vows in the herb garden of the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. "The air smelled like lavender and Eucalyptus trees," recalls Thea. It was an intimate ceremony that did without such mainstays as bridesmaids and groomsmen (although Jay's nieces Rebecca and Alexandra did act as flower girls). "My best girlfriends were with me all day, and we had the best time despite the fact they didn't have "official" titles," explains Thea. She also chose to forgo the traditional bouquet toss at the reception and instead presented the flowers to a close friend who was planning to get engaged soon.
"A lot of brides want their guests to leave saying 'What a beautiful wedding,' but the most important thing to me was that our guests said 'What a great party!'" This reaction was achieved by personalizing the elegant reception with several offbeat twists. Held in a barn on the resort's property, the party featured such diversions as an old-fashioned photo booth and mechanical bull, both of which were rarely unoccupied during the night. Surrounding them was a mix of classic flowers and whimsical antiques that enhanced the setting's beautiful rusticity. An oversize floral wreath marked the entrance to the barn where old saddles were accented by worn-in banjoes, watering cans, galvanized tubs, and hay bales covered in vintage tablecloths so they could function as benches. Mason jars filled with flowers also dotted the cocktail table wine barrels, and lounge areas were created with cozy couches. Under the stars in the barn's courtyard, long farm tables were set with formal china and arrangements of roses, peonies, and ranunculus atop metal stands wrapped in curly willow.
Although fully entertained by all the activity, no one missed the opportunity to grab a piece of the couple's chocolate-on-chocolate wedding cake. "Every single crumb was gobbled up. Thank goodness Jay fed me a bite or I never would have tasted my own cake!" confesses Thea. As for Jay, his new wife surprised him with a special cake of his own, one that was modeled after a treat he loved as a child but adapted to accommodate the dairy allergy he acquired as an adult. "Not only was he extremely touched by the gesture, he was excited to eat his first piece of cake in years," says the bride.
Guests staying at the hotel were given baskets of goodies, and those who braved the bull left the wedding with badges of honor in the form of cowboy hats. And everyone who clocked some time in the photo booth took home a strip of photos as a keepsake from the night; duplicates were saved for the bride and groom. The photos were arranged in an album alongside guests' personal messages -- which became somewhat saucier as the party progressed -- so the couple could relive everyone's good time. "Later that night back in the hotel room, I started to read the book and almost died laughing," says Thea. "Not your traditional guestbook but perhaps my most treasured memento from the wedding."