A Lush Modern Wedding at the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point, California

Real Weddings

On June 8th, 2014, one lucky couple — the winners of Brides Live Wedding — will say "I do" at the breathtaking St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point, California. And they'll be in good company. The resort has served as the venue for countless gorgeous weddings, including that of Sara and Chris Hannigan on August 25th, 2013, captured by John & Joseph Photography.

Sara and Chris may not have had the most romantic meeting. "We sat next to one another at a bar at Newark airport as we waited out a rainstorm that had delayed our flights," says Sara. A few minutes of chatting revealed that they had a friend in common, so before heading off to their flights, the couple exchanged business cards. Two years later, a Facebook comment from their mutual friend reconnected the duo, who soon began dating long-distance, before Sara convinced Chris to move to Los Angeles. In July of 2012, a surprise proposal by the pool at the Parker Hotel in Palm Springs gave way to 13 months of wedding planning, followed by a fresh, clean wedding in Dana Point.

Read on to see all of the sleek, sunny details!

"Chris is classic, and I'm a little more bohemian," says Sara. "I wanted us to feel like both of our personalities had been honored." The invitation's gold font and capital lettering tied the two together perfectly.

Chris worked with Sara's friend, Amanda Keidan, to design the engagement ring. "Amanda has such a beautiful design process," says the bride. "She talked to each of us separately, got a sense of our style, and created the ring based on what we told her. I still catch myself staring at it, like I just got engaged!"

Sara skipped the "something old..." rhyme, instead letting her fashion sense take the lead. Vibrant green earrings popped against her soft updo and simple gown. "I had my dress custom-made by an incredible seamstress," says Sara. "I was inspired by a dress that was shown by Calvin Klein, but never produced for retail. Believe me, I called! But for some reason [creative director and designer] Francisco Costa wouldn't call me back..."

Sara carried a bouquet of delicate, fragrant gardenias with her silk jersey gown. "It's not the most forgiving fabric, but it was so comfortable," she says. Chris accented his gray suit with a green tie and pocket square, and topped it all off with a gardenia boutonniere.

Sara's dress served as the inspiration for the rest of the wedding. "I showed our planner and florist my dress, and we started from there," she says. "We wanted it elegant and modern, and I only had one rule: No pink!"

Chris and Sara worked with Carrie Johnson of Details Details to plan their wedding day. "The minute we met her, we knew it would be exactly what we'd dreamed of," says Sara.

The outdoor ceremony took place beneath a vine-covered altar flanked by modern arrangements of white hydrangeas, Calla lilies, and orchids. "Most of my inspiration was green and white, and this completely captured it," Sara says.

Instead of a wedding party, Chris and Sara kept it simple by having his father and her mother serve as their attendants. The bride and groom wrote their own vows, and Sara's sister did a reading. "We wanted the ceremony to be intimate and concise," says Sara. "There wasn't a dry eye in the house by the end!" A Catholic blessing at the end served as a nod to Chris's family's faith.

A string quartet played during the ceremony and cocktail hour, including "Jesus, Joy of Man's Desiring" during the processional and "Trumpet Voluntary" as the recessional song.

"Getting married at the St. Regis Monarch Beach felt like a destination wedding, but we didn't have to plan from afar," says Sara. "We fell in love with the view, and were so happy that all of our guests could stay on the property with us."

The open-air reception was decorated in lush white flowers and hanging arrangements of greenery, vines, and leaves. "I was blown away during the run-through, and couldn't imagine that the team would be able to outdo themselves," remembers Sara. "But the reception was even more amazing than the mock-up. I wanted dinner to last forever."

Lots of candlelight, including hanging glass orbs and engraved votive holders, contributed to the glow of the California sunset.

Mirrored tables reflected the low arrangements of white orchids and hydrangeas. "The whole thing was just so romantic," says Sara.

Guests were served a choice of salmon or beef tenderloin as they sat at the long mirrored table. "The tenderloin was delicious," remembers the bride. "My dress didn't fit the same after dinner, but at that point, I was ok with it!"

The three-tiered wedding cake was decorated with fresh white orchids. In addition to cake, guests were served molten chocolate cake and lemon crème brûlée.

Sara and Chris shared their first dance to "I Will Love You" by Fischer. The couple shared their mother-son and father-daughter dance to Louis Armstrong's "A Kiss to Build a Dream On." During the toasts, Sara's sisters and brother surprised her with a serenade.

"So far, married life has been busy!" says Sara. "But we make an amazing team. He remembers to pay the bills, and I keep him on his toes!" Sara's advice to brides is to have fun with the process. "Don't be that bride. Have faith that it will all go as planned, and it will. And you'll have a better time putting all together that way."

Ceremony & Reception Venue: St. Regis Monarch Beach || Wedding Planner: Carrie Johnson of Details Details || Bride's Wedding Dress: Custom design by Mina Design & Tailoring || Shoes: Christian Louboutin || Jewelry: Eddie Borgo || Hair & Makeup: Coco Noelle of Be Loved Salon || Groom's Attire: Canali, Salvatore Ferragamo || Engagement Ring: Amanda Keidan || Wedding Bands: Cartier || Florist: White Lilac Inc. || Invitations & Paper Goods: Vera Wang || Music: Ceremony & cocktail hour - Angelica Strings, Reception - Vive Entertainment || Catering & Cake: St. Regis Monarch Beach || Photography: John & Joseph Photography

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