When Good Day LA entertainment anchor Julie Chang first met Leif Drake, the duo were in high school. "We went to rival schools in Ann Arbor," says Julie, "and I was dating his best friend's older brother at the time. So he barely made eye contact with me!" One of her earliest memories of Leif is of driving him and two of his friends to a party in a nearby down. "They wanted to meet girls from their rival school," she says. "Little did Leif know, his future wife was the one driving the car!"
The pair went separate ways for college, and didn't reconnect until 15 years later, when a project she was working on led to her reconnecting with friends from her childhood in Ann Arbor. "Sparks flew, and we proceeded to see each other every single day until I moved to Los Angeles nine months later for work."
The day Leif proposed, Julie had gone to him with the intention of breaking up with him. Following a surfing accident, her doctors found a tumor in her brain, and told her that surgery could lead to her permanently losing her vision. Leif came to be with her in California immediately, but Julie didn't want to put him through it. "I tried to set him free," she says, "but he wouldn't have it. He proposed right there!" And a month later, unbeknownst to their family and friends, Julie and Leif eloped to the desert in the middle of Nevada, with only a pastor present. Thankfully, Julie made a full recovery, and Leif proposed again in December of 2013. "We'd already been through the 'and sickness and in health' part, so of course I said yes all over again!"
Though they were married before they really got engaged, Leif and Julie wanted to have a big celebration for their family and friends. On July 12, 2014, they all gathered at Hammersky Vineyards for an outdoor celebration of love and life, photographed by Ballad's Photography.
After trying on just one dress in a bridal salon, Julie bolted. "It freaked me out," she says. "I'm not a traditional bride." So she took to Pinterest to find a dress that was boho and comfortable, and found a lace mini-dress with sheer panels by Grace Loves Lace. "It was super form-fitting, but also stretchy and comfortable, which was perfect because — surprise! — I was four months pregnant on our wedding day!"
The couple skipped a wedding party, but had two flower girls, both in drop-waisted lace dresses.
The ring bearer, in a seersucker suit and a straw hat, had an extra-special job: walking the bride down the aisle!
Julie and Leif's ceremony took place overlooking the vineyards, with guests seated on hay bales topped with blankets. "We were already married, so we wanted the wedding to have a casual, camp theme," she says.
Julie donned a purple flower crown, handmade by her sister, for dinner.
The reception took place outdoors, beneath strands of café lighting. Guests sat at long wooden tables topped with burlap and centerpieces in mason jars.
"We topped slabs of oak with jars full of lisianthus and wild flowers," says Julie. "It was fresh, natural, and so pretty." The best part? All of the flowers came from Trader Joe's!
Dinner was a combination of the couple's favorite foods, from Korean-inspired chicken wings to bruschetta. For dessert, Julie had her heart set on a "Mille Crêpe" cake from Lady M Bakery. "It's my absolute favorite," says Julie, "and I was so excited to find out they opened a bakery in West Hollywood. My friend drove our cake four hours from Los Angeles!"
But a single cake wasn't enough. Leif's mother made a traditional Norwegian almond wedding cake, topped with Korean and Norwegian flags.
Right after she moved to L.A., Julie met the members of The Family Crest and immediately became a fan. Over the course of her diagnosis, surgery, and recovery, the band continued to check in via social media to see how she was doing. "I swear their music helped me heal," Julie says. So it was only fitting that the band play for Julie and Leif's wedding! "They were special guests as much as they were entertainment," she says.
After all that, you'd think Julie and Leif need (and have earned!) a vacation, but her pregnancy has put a hold on honeymoon plans. "We're hoping we'll find someone to watch the baby so we can go scuba diving in the Galapagos next year!" she laughs.
Julie's advice is to remember to keep it all in perspective. "Maybe it's because we've stared death in the face, but we were so aware that it's really just a wedding. When something goes wrong, brush it off and move on with a back-up plan. As long as you're married at the end and have a great time, the things that don't go as planned don't matter."
Ceremony & Reception Venue: Hammersky Vineyards || Bride's Wedding Dress: Grace Loves Lace || Shoes: Pour La Victoire || Jewelry: Vram || Hair & Makeup: The bride || Groom's Attire: J.Crew || Flower Girls' Attire: Zara || Ring Bearer's Attire: J.Crew || Engagement Ring: The bride's grandmother, Harry Winston || Wedding Bands: Vram || Florist: The bride, sister of the bride || Music: The Family Crest || Cake: Lady M Confections || Rentals: All About Events || Photography: Ballad's Photography