Tropical-Themed Outdoor Affair in Malibu, California

Kelly and Aaron

Photographed by: Alex Schoenfeldt PhotographyLocation: Agoura Hills, California, United States

Strongly influenced by the commitment ceremony of two of their close friends, Kelly and Aaron had their hearts set on creating a wedding ceremony that embraced each guest as a participant, giving them the opportunity to reaffirm the love they have in their hearts for their partners, their children, and their families. The power of sacred spaces, unity, and the blessings of nature inspired the couple to use the four directions, seasons, and elements as the theme for the wedding.

Both the ceremony and reception were held at Rancho Chiquita, Malibu, with the Santa Monica Mountains, the Pacific Ocean, and a huge blue sky providing the backdrop. Kelly and Aaron wanted to create a sense that each guest was crossing a boundary into a sacred space upon entering the ceremony area. Perched at the edge of a cliff, guests were led down an outdoor staircase, at the end of which, there was incense on one side and a bowl of purified water for hand washing on the other. Guests were provided with brightly colored fans and Chinese paper parasols to keep the August sun and heat at bay.

The altar space was prepared to represent the four directions, seasons, and elements: orchids and clear blue pebbles represented the east, water, and spring; live fire, extinguished before the ceremony began, symbolized the south, fire, and summer; pine cones and turning leaves symbolized the west, autumn, and earth; and hollow bamboo and black river stones were used to symbolize the north, air, and winter. Vivid flowers popped out among the rustic trimmings: rather than traditional “wedding” florals such as roses, Kelly chose to embellish the locale with an abundance of orchids in jewel tones such as orange, fuchsia and chartreuse.

Aaron and Kelly were thrilled to be married by their yoga teacher, whom they consider to be one of the most spiritually grounded people in their lives, and who was very involved in the ceremonial planning. After the couple exchanged their personally written vows, their parents gave them their blessings. The congregation, who read a Native American wedding song together, gave the final blessing.

The wedding was scheduled to take place just before the full moon in August, so as to provide the reception with a magical moonlight reflection off the ocean. The sunset and moonrise completed the nature-driven theme, delivering color, drama, and grace. By the end of the evening, everyone agreed it was a captivating event.

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