When Barbara "Barbie" Blank and Joseph "Joe" Coba said "I do" on April 9, 2021, they did so with help of their three dogs, who dressed up and acted as ring bearers! It was an especially meaningful moment for the couple—she's a former WWE wrestler and reality TV star; he's an engineer who works in construction management—because they first met at their local dog park in May 2019, almost two years ago. "It was my first time going to the dog park by means of a recommendation from a friend," she recalls. "I initially started talking to Joe, because our dogs started playing together, ironically all bulldogs, and we immediately hit it off."
They chatted for 20 minutes that day, making sure to exchange names of their dogs—but they forgot to share their own names and contact info! Thankfully, Barbie says, Joe found her on social media and suggested they meet up at the dog park again. "From there, it was love at first sight," she says. "We spent three hours at the dog park getting to know each other and capped the evening off with our first dinner date. We have been inseparable ever since."
The hardest part was definitely having to plan our wedding during COVID and having no idea what the next year was going to bring.
Joe proposed on May 28, 2020, after a cancelled vacation to Bali and a re-planned weekend in Sedona, Arizona, where the couple hiked up to Cathedral Rock. Barbie admits that she wanted to quit halfway up—but she didn't, and Joe got down on one knee at the top. Despite the unknown year ahead, the couple started planning.
"The hardest part was definitely having to plan our wedding during COVID and having no idea what the next year was going to bring," admits the bride. "With all the uncertainty, we had to plan it like it was all going to work out and make health and safety accommodations where we could."
Keep reading to see Barbie and Joe's "glam garden party" featuring plenty of pretty, personalized details and creative, COVID-19 safety measures, as planned by Partners In Crafting and captured by Heather Anderson Photography.
After a year of planning, the couple was able to hold their date and venue: April 9, 2021, at Serendipity Garden. "We got very lucky that our wedding date stayed the same," acknowledges the bride. "We were always planning a smaller wedding that would be outside, so we had those factors on our side. We just had to make sure everyone had the vaccine or was tested beforehand."
The couple chose the location because it would allow guests to move through the grounds during the various parts of the event, such as the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception. "We had a vision for an outdoor wedding that could incorporate the flow and feel that felt like a story; similar to the story of our relationship," she explains.
On the day of, they took extra precautions and implemented a number of enhanced safety measures "to ensure our guests were healthy and felt safe," says the bride. "Thankfully, the wedding went off perfectly and was a day to remember!"
Over the course of 10 months, the bride worked with Ryan Patros and Walter Mendez of Ryan & Walter, Beverly Hills to make two custom wedding dresses—one for the ceremony; one for the reception—based on inspiration photos she had collected. "I was in there all the time getting every precise detail down," Barbie recalls of the months-long process. "Ryan and Walter are the absolute best dress designers—they took my inspo and made it their own. With the finest fabrics from all over the world, they spent countless hours designing the wedding dresses of my dream."
I wasn't able to have my dad next to me for my wedding day, but for them to make that so personal and add that to my dress, was everything.
When Barbie went to pick up her wedding dress from Ryan and Walter, she says the designers-turned-friends gave her specific instructions to not open the bag until the moment she put her gown on.
"On the wedding day, as I was putting it on, I looked into the dress and they had sewn next to my heart the words 'by your side Ronald,'" she says. "It just meant the world to me for them to know how much that would mean to me. I wasn't able to have my dad next to me for my wedding day, but for them to make that so personal and add that to my dress, was everything."
Barbie's three bridesmaids wore champagne dresses from Australian designer Nookie. "I wear their dresses all the time for red carpets," she says. "When I was picking out my bridesmaid dresses, I knew I wanted something with a high slit and floor-length, so as soon as I saw the dress in black, I reached out to the designer and asked if they could make it for my wedding color palette!"
Barbie completed her wedding look with a veil from Ryan and Walter and "the most beautiful diamond necklace, earrings, and bracelet" from Facet Gems. She also wore her grandmother's wedding band and had her "something borrowed, something blue, something new." "I wore my dad's necklace on my ankle, tied my godmother's handkerchief to my wedding bouquet, and bought some new blue undies," she says.
The groom also had a custom look: a velvet jacket with a satin shawl lapel (lined with a purple paisley liner!) paired with custom black tuxedo pants with a white tuxedo shirt. "He wanted to keep his attire traditional with a gentleman’s touch," Barbie says.
Joe notes that he and Barbie actually selected his outfit together. "We had a concept of a traditional black tuxedo but wanted some distinguishing flair," he says. "We chose the black velvet material for the jacket to provide a classy, but royal feel on our special day.
The couple worked with Laura Hine, Brittany Giello, and their team at Partners In Crafting to coordinate every wedding detail. Looking back, Barbie says planning was "so much fun," adding that she was "very hands-on through the entire process."
"We went through many ups and downs juggling the COVID pandemic, managing restrictions, and, at one point, a California fire raged within feet of the wedding venue," the bride says. "Throughout all of the external stressors, our planners were more than accommodating to provide me with various options and ideas—all while keeping me calm through the hurdles. I was very particular about little details, and they helped make everything I wanted possible."
Joe was also involved; he and Barbie even took on a DIY project together! "We created our wedding invitations! The company we used made them and mailed them to us in steps, so that we could easily create the wax and seal ourselves, and then hand-tied gold string around each invite," explains the bride. "It was really cool to do together! We enjoy doing little projects together, and making the invitations and mailing them out really made the reality of the date come to life."
The couple's dogs acted as their ring bearers and wore customized dog leashes and collars by Frenchie Bulldog. "We really wanted our wedding day to feel personal, so we did a lot of things that were important to each of us," Barbie says. "We incorporated our three dogs by having them walk down the aisle with the three pairs of groomsmen and bridesmaids. This detail was paramount, as we initially met at the dog park."
"We really leaned into the gorgeous garden setting of the venue with all of its lush greenery," Barbie says. "We kept it traditional with white, cream, and pops of gold. We went for a glam garden theme."
The ceremony scene was set with a lush, 74-foot-long aisle—of roses, spray roses, bleached ruscus, ranunculus, and greenery—that led to a focal floral installation by Lovestruck Blooms. The altar was surrounded by white chairs with acrylic backs and ghost chairs for guests to sit in and enjoy the view. The front row was saved for the bride and groom's families, with two seats reserved with memorial signs for their late fathers.
"Most importantly, we designated two wedding chairs with custom placeholders to dedicate seats for both of our fathers who had passed away from cancer," adds the bride.
With in-person selection limited at stores thanks to COVID-19, Barbie admits that she "searched online for weeks" to find the flower girls' attire. The end result? Adorable sleeveless gowns made of tulle and lace (with matching baskets!) from JJ's House.
I felt like I was walking towards my husband, as an independent woman, to bond together through marriage and start our new life and husband and wife.
"Due to my father passing away, I decided to walk down the aisle by myself," says the bride. "I didn’t want anybody to step in for him in his absence. I felt like I was walking towards my husband, as an independent woman, to bond together through marriage and start our new life and husband and wife."
The groom's uncle officiated the ceremony, which the couple says "was very special to us." The pair exchanged handwritten vows—something that added "a very personal touch to the ceremony," says Barbie.
Barbie and Joe wrote their vows separately; however, "ironically," they both included quotes from the movie Meet Joe Black. Joe ended his vows with, “I love you now; I love you always," while Barbie concluded with, “Love is passion, obsession, someone you cannot live without. Someone you can love like crazy and who will love you the same way back. There is no sense in living your life without this. To make the journey and not fall deeply in love, well you haven’t lived a life at all.”
A live string quartet played throughout our ceremony. "I’ve always been a huge fan of live string quartets," says the bride, who knew she wanted live music.
She also knew exactly what she wanted for the processional: "Doria" by Island Songs VII. For the recessional, however, she was "stuck" on what song to play. "Our quartet suggested a song from The Beach Boys called 'Don't Worry Baby,' which was one of my dad's favorite songs, so it all fell into place," she says.
"We envisioned a glam garden setting for the ceremony with the fairytale horse and carriage exit," says the bride. "Then, as evening began, we wanted to keep the romantic setting with twinkle lights, lawn games, cotton candy, and crepes for the guest to enjoy during cocktail hour."
Following the ceremony, Barbie slipped into a second look: a stunning, sheer-and-embellished gown that set the tone for a change of scenery and the evening to come.
"All guests were asked to be COVID tested and/or provide vaccination cards prior to the event," explains the bride. "We also had masks, sanitizer, and a COVID survey for guests to sign and a temperature check upon entry."
Upon arrival, guests were asked to choose a color from a bracelet station—that way, their comfort level would be visually known to guests around them. The couple came up with the system: Silver meant "Okay with hugs and high fives"; gold meant "Okay with talking but not touching"; and rose gold meant "Will wave from six feet away!"
To encourage social distancing, cocktail hour was set across the sprawling property with different areas, such as Joe's cigar bar, for guests to visit at their leisure.
On the menu: cotton candy, crepes, and popcorn—all served in individual servings and containers. "Staff and vendors serving food and beverage wore masks for the event's entirely," adds Barbie.
It was a beautiful moment where we were able to step back from the wedding and admire all of its beauty.
At the advice of their married friends, the newlyweds made time to spend 10 to 15 minutes with each other to "just sit back and enjoy the moment." "For us, that was during the sunset photos—we met back at the altar while the sun was setting," Barbie says. "We were able to hold and enjoy each other's company. It was a beautiful moment where we were able to step back from the wedding and admire all of its beauty."
"We knew planning the wedding that we were just coming out of a pandemic and that this may be the first opportunity for many to get out and travel," Barbie says. "We had family and friends coming from across the country to celebrate our marriage and wanted to provide a safe environment that also allowed for people to interact and have fun throughout the afternoon. We outlined the events to allow people to socialize with each other while walking from space to space through a fairytale evening."
The reception took place in a beautiful barn, where the massive barn doors were left open at both entrances. Inside, tables—placed at least six feet apart—were decorated with tall brass stand centerpieces, ivory velvet napkins, mirrored gold utensils, and lots and lots of candles. Barbie and Joe sat at a sweetheart table below a trio of shiny statement chandeliers.
"The juxtaposition of the rustic and natural setting against the luxe velvet tablecloths, chandeliers, full white florals, and brass touches made for a woodsy fairytale," she says.
Barbie says the easiest part of planning was putting together the seating chart—a task that many couples find to be one of the most challenging!
"My husband was very involved during the process, which was so awesome to have his input," she says. "I had heard horror stories of other people doing seating charts and how it was so hard, but literally we figured ours out in probably an hour. My husband put his engineering skills to work and created a scaled poster board of the barn and seating tables. With sticky notes, we placed our guests at assigned seats, which made it visually so much easier to put together."
The couple cut into a naked cake by Michelle’s Bakery, which was covered with fresh florals by Lovestruck Blooms and a cake topper personalized with their shared last name. Inside, it featured four flavors: berries and cream, marble cake, vanilla cake with raspberry filling, and caramel dulce de leche.
My best advice is to just go with the flow when obstacles or challenges present themselves.
The newlyweds did the traditional dances but with their own twist: Barbie and Joe chose Train's "Marry Me" for their first dance; Barbie shared a special moment with her mom to Tom Petty's "American Girl"; and Joe danced to Lynyrd Skynyrd's “Simple Man” with his mom. The night ended with a "beautiful sparkler exit."
"My best advice is to just go with the flow when obstacles or challenges present themselves," reflects the bride. "Also, make time on your wedding day to take a step back, to observe, and be present in the moment with each other."
Venue Serendipity Garden
Planner Partners In Crafting
Bridal Gown Ryan and Walter
Veil Ryan and Walter
Jewelry Facets Gems
Hair Cindy Lopez
Makeup Brian Valentine
Rehearsal Dinner Attire Marquise Bridal
Bridesmaid Dresses Nookie
Mother of the Bride Dress Eliza J
Groom’s Attire Joseph Abboud
Groomsmen Attire Men’s Wearhouse
Flower Girl Attire JJ’s House
Ring Bearer Attire Frenchie Bulldog
Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands Facets Gems
Floral Design Love Struck Blooms
Stationery A Fabulous Fete
Paper Products Creative Amme
Bridesmaid Gifts White Confetti Box
Cake Michelle’s Bakery
Rentals The Rental Avenue; Floral Prop Rental
Save the Date Cards Jessica Ferguson
Ice Sculpture & Custom Cubes The Art Of Carving Ice
Bartender Gold Shaker
Aerial Champagne Cirque Mirage Entertainment
Fabrication Paper Garden XOXO
Videography Isabel Cinematheque
Photography Heather Anderson Photography