A bride's flair for the dramatic takes center stage at her backyard reception

After accepting her boyfriend Tyler Kropf's proposal, Margaux Humphries didn't have to search far for wedding inspiration; she just thought of her favorite musical, The Phantom of the Opera. The couple set out to capture the glamour and mystique of an Old World European opera house at their dramatic soiree at Margaux's parents' villa in Laguna Hills, CA. "The only place that felt right" to bring her vision to life, says the bride, "was right at home."

The couple hired wedding coordinator Kathy Jo Peterson to plan the reception, which followed an intimate ceremony (officiated by Tyler's father and attended by immediate family only) at a nearby temple. The family helped transform the Humphries' backyard with rectangular banquet-style tables covered with crimson crushed-silk linens, surrounding the candlelit pool. Bunches of grapes and twisted vines winding between place settings added warmth and texture—and were a creative way to get around the bride's allergies, which are triggered by flower pollen. (The decor also paid tribute to the wine-producing village in southern France that Margaux is named after.) The team went to great lengths to sustain the affair's sophisticated aura, from incorporating family heirlooms into the decor to building a chiffon-draped stage above the outdoor Jacuzzi to showcase performers and toasts.

To help maintain the theatrical tone inspired by Phantom, florist Alex Amidi of Square Root Designs created tall iron candelabra centerpieces accented with velvet-red roses. Then the bride, who's an artist, handmade a decorative mask for each of their 120 guests, to serve as both a holder for the napkin and menu card and as a personalized party favor. (Margaux designed the masks to reflect each guest's personality, but credits Tyler with a lot of the beadwork.) The couple then carried the Phantom theme throughout the event, from the single-stem roses the bride's best friends and sisters carried instead of bouquets, to the entertainment—a friend of Margaux's sang opera music.

But the finest performances of the evening, of course, belonged to the bride and groom. After dinner and dancing in the spotlight, they departed as husband and wife through an archway of sparklers and an onslaught of camera flashes that Margaux says "felt like paparazzi."

Learn From Margaux and Tyler
Put your impressions on paper: Many of the elements that made this wedding one-of-a-kind were Margaux's original ideas, which she communicated to her vendors through drawings. Even if you're not an artist, sketching out a rough draft of what you want for decor helps get your wishes across.
Redesign dessert: Neither the bride nor groom are big fans of cake, so they ordered one in a smaller size (serving 75 guests) and supplemented it with sweets they prefer: crème brûlée and chocolate torte with fresh berries.
Savor the setting: The couple opted to leave their elaborate decorations in place for the weekend so the family could enjoy the display longer. As a bonus, this saved money, because a late-night tear-down typically costs extra.

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