In 2009, in a crowded coffee shop in the middle of Harvard Square in Massachusetts, Lisa Polucci, now 40, was looking for a table. At first glance, she thought Kei Yamada, now 35, was putting books away and heading out, so she asked for his spot. He said he'd only just arrived. A while later, Lisa finally found an open seat — right next to him.
"He was cute, so I suggested we grab ice cream at a local scoop shop down the street," Lisa says. "We ended up talking all afternoon." After five hours of conversation, the pair parted ways. Two days later, they met again — this time for dinner. "And the rest is history," she says. "I had been to that coffee shop a hundred times before, but it only took one trip to change my life."
Three and a half years later, Kei proposed at Christmastime in Boston. But the couple had their sights set on cross-country nuptials in warm California wine country. So, on October 19, 2013, they exchanged vows at HammerSky Vineyards in Paso Robles. A wedding photographer in her own right, Lisa turned to Harwell Photography to capture all of the details of this destination wedding that mixed rustic garden touches with elegance and glamour.
For Lisa, finding the perfect gown was a search spanning three states: Georgia, Massachusetts, and New York. After visiting sixteen boutiques, she found "the one" at the famous Kleinfeld bridal salon in New York City. A Sophia Moncelli satin gown with a mermaid silhouette and chapel-length train stole her heart. "It is truly reminiscent of 1940s Hollywood, which is exactly my style," she says. The vintage feel was carried through her entire ensemble, including a Swarovski crystal and pearl headband, embellished Blossom Veils belt, and Pelle Moda silver heels.
"My father and I are very close, so I had to do a 'first look' with him," Lisa says. "Otherwise, I would have been a crying mess while walking down the aisle." As a special gift to both of her parents, she embroidered handkerchiefs with private, personal sentiments.
Kei's purple tie and matching polka-dot pocket square popped against his bench-made, charcoal gray three-piece suit. Personal accessories completed his polished look: his father's vintage cuff links and a rose gold watch engraved with the couple's initials and wedding date. Champagne ribbons tied together the rose and Dusty Miller boutonnieres.
Kei included his close friend, Lindy, as his "groomswoman." She wore a sleek gray sheath to match the men's suits. Lisa's brother stood with her as her Man of Honor.
In addition to being in the wedding party, Lindy helped Kei and Lisa create their plum, ivory, and gray wedding invitations, including a letterpress tree bark design and oak tree motif. The symbol also adorned the escort cards and table numbers. "Because we were getting married beneath a giant, old oak tree, we wanted that to be a prominent theme," Lisa says. Lisa learned how to heat emboss so she could make the escort cards herself.
Lisa's father walked her down the aisle to an acoustic version of Train's "Marry Me." "Since Kei and I met in a coffee shop, the song became really special to us," says Lisa, referring to the lyric "...If I ever get the nerve to say Hello in this café...".
The outdoor ceremony was centered beneath the sweeping branches of the oak tree. "We wanted everything to be simple, with the highlight on our love and commitment to one another," Lisa says. The only décor added was a line of flowers along the aisle and ivory-and-blush petals for the couple to stand on.
After walking back up the aisle to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," Kei and Lisa took photos around the vineyard while guests sipped cocktails on the tasting room terrace.
Guests dined on the lawn at long farm tables, topped with plum runners and soft flowers.
Centerpieces featured garden roses, dahlias, and hydrangeas in blush, cream, and raspberry hues to contrast with the purple linens.
The outdoor reception took place beneath strands of café lights. "We wanted to be under the stars," Lisa says. "Having everyone at long tables helped foster laughter and conversation."
The simple, romantic cake was adorned with sprigs of cherry blossoms. Guests had two flavor choices: chocolate cake with chocolate-hazelnut ganache, or vanilla cake with raspberry and cream cheese filling. An ornate silver cake stand and suspended "floating" vases upped the glam-factor.
A swing dancer for more than 15 years, Lisa knew she wanted to really cut a rug with her new husband. Kei took several lessons to prepare, and the couple successfully spun to Bobby Darin's "More" during their first dance.
The vineyard's barn offered a covered seating area while an eight-piece swing band played on the outdoor ballroom floor. "We knew we didn't want a DJ, and swing was a perfect fit for our vintage vibe," Lisa says. While the band was on break, Lisa and Kei turned to their playlist of '80s and '90s hits like "Thriller" and "Don't Stop Believin'" to keep guests on their feet.
After making their exit beneath a shower of sparklers, the couple headed on their minimoon to San Francisco, where they dreamed of their summer 2014 honeymoon in Paris and the South of France. "I giggled when we checked into our hotel room and the concierge called me 'Mrs. Yamada' for the first time," Lisa says.
While planning for the big day, Lisa realized that some of the more traditional elements of a wedding aren't necessarily essential. "Figure out what you're most passionate about and spend your time and money there," she advises. "Because you really don't need pretty programs or monogrammed menus."
Ceremony & Reception Venue: HammerSky Vineyard || Wedding Coordinator: Danae Grace Events || Officiant: Tom Allen of Something Blue and True || Bride's Wedding Dress: Kleinfeld Bridal || Shoes: Pelle Moda || Garter: La Gartier || Jewelry & Headpiece: Kleinfeld Bridal || Hair & Makeup: Joseph Antone Salon || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Bill Levkoff || Mother of the Bride's Dress: David's Bridal || Groom's Suit: Freemans Sporting Club || Groomsmen's Suits: Suit Supply || Engagement Ring: Leon Mege || Wedding Bands: Steven Kirsch || Florist: April Flowers || Invitations & Paper Goods: Small Cap Studio, DIY by the bride || Calligraphy: Featherletter || Music: Ceremony - Candle Light Strings Quartet, Reception - Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers || Catering: Robert's Catering || Cake: The Cakery || Rentals: Unlimited Events, Kramer Events || Videography: Jeremy Mitchell Cinema || Photography: Harwell Photography