Laura Gelston and Evan Goldschmidt met as freshmen at John Hopkins University in 2007, however, it wasn't until after graduation that the pair began dating. To celebrate their seven-year anniversary in August 2018, Evan surprised Laura with a trip to Big Sur—but that wasn't the only surprise he had in store. He proposed at Big Sur’s Post Ranch Inn, and the newly-engaged couple quickly began planning their September 14, 2019 wedding there.
The couple wanted to bring their family and friends back to the scene of their engagement, arranging a wedding weekend on the serene California coast. "Big Sur is one of the most enchanting places we’ve ever been," says Laura. "We absolutely love the dramatic scenery and rustic environment. The smell of the redwoods on the way down gets us every time."
They decided on Ventana Big Sur, an outdoor venue nestled above the coast with the "most spectacular views," for both their ceremony and reception. But the priceless seascape wasn't the only aspect of Ventana that made the venue an easy choice for the couple: It also happened to be right across the street from where Evan proposed!
With an intimate ceremony under towering redwood trees and celestial-inspired details (including an astronomer!), Laura and Evan wed during a weekend full of coastal California flair. Keep reading to see how their wedding unfolded under Big Sur's sky as planned by Callista & Company and photographed by Lacie Hansen Photography.
Evan's sister designed the save-the-dates, invitations, and day-of stationery with the couple's love of travel in mind. "We’ve lived in different cities over our years together, so she created an annotated map for our save-the-date cards," explains Laura. "She reused some of the icons and added new ones in the same style for our day-of stationery, which made the paper elements feel cohesive without using a single logo or monogram."
"With many of our guests traveling from the East Coast, we wanted to give our friends and family a getaway with all the things that make California so great to us," says Lauren of her vision for the day.
With their wedding slated for a Saturday, the couple decided that after breakfast on Friday, they wouldn't worry about any logistics and instead relish in the excitement of the weekend. "At a certain point, you have to stop planning and just experience your wedding," she says. "Something about having a self-imposed deadline for planning-related stress helped us genuinely relax and enjoy the weekend."
The couple kicked off their wedding weekend with a rehearsal dinner at Californian restaurant Big Sur Roadhouse, followed by a surprise falconry demonstration for their guests.
Our guests loved the stunning birds of prey and enjoyed learning about their role in the Big Sur ecosystem.
"Our guests loved the stunning birds of prey and enjoyed learning about their role in the Big Sur ecosystem," recalls the bride.
Lela Rose was the bridal designer of choice for Laura, who fell in love with a floral embossed gown. Another plus? The dress had pockets!
To fit the wooded venue, Laura wore Stuart Weitzman booties—which were "great for walking through the woods and dancing all night," she boasts. During the ceremony, Laura also accessorized with a Laure de Sagazan headpiece rather than a veil.
Sammy of Lambert Floral Studio hand-tied a rich red bouquet of foliage and blooms for the bride.
Since the wedding décor focused on a darker color palette, Laura's bridesmaids wore various white gowns to add contrast. "I later learned that bridesmaids traditionally wore white to confuse evil spirits and potential kidnappers, so that was an added bonus," jokes the bride.
Her bridesmaids also carried petite versions of her own crimson bouquet.
Evan donned a bespoke blue-gray suit on the big day with one very personal accessory: cufflinks his grandfather received when he served in the Navy during World War II.
We loved having a moment away from everyone to see each other and reconnect.
Laura admits that a first look wasn't part of their original plans but "somehow it made its way onto the schedule." The moment, however, is one the couple wouldn't trade-in for the world. "We loved having a moment away from everyone to see each other and reconnect," reflects the bride. "It can get a bit stressful preparing for the wedding and that time together did wonders to calm us down."
The groomsmen echoed Evan's sleek look in navy suits, black ties, and boutonnieres.
"Evan and I didn’t know anything about planning an event like this, so one of our first decisions was to find a wedding planner," shares Laura. "Callista guided us through the whole process and made planning pretty easy."
The ceremony took place at the Redwood Cathedral on the grounds of the Ventana—an open, forest venue surrounded by towering redwood trees. There, guests sat on authentic redwood benches.
An heirloom quilt from Evan's family sat atop the floral-covered iron chuppah.
Laura and Evan kept their handwritten vows short and sweet. They did, however, include a reading of a letter President Theodore Roosevelt wrote to his nephew during the ceremony.
Before becoming husband and wife, Laura and Evan exchanged wedding bands from San Francisco jeweler La Bijouterie—the same designer as Laura's engagement ring.
"We wanted to inject something lightheartedness into the ceremony, and loved the dramatic theme song for the ending," says Laura of their unique recessional music choice, which was The Avengers' theme song.
"Laura and Evan’s interactive escort card display was one of the most favorite [displays] I’ve ever designed," says the couple's planner. After the ceremony, guests walked down a winding gravel path lined with 108 candles dangling from iron shepherd hooks. "Each hook featured individual guest escort cards hand-tied with deep green silk ribbon, which guests slipped off the hooks as they made their way from the ceremony to cocktail hour."
Laura also admits to leaving most of the day-of design details to their wedding planner—"I don’t trust my DIY skills," she admits with a laugh. "This turned out to be a great decision. They did an incredible job!"
While the couple didn't intend to offer a signature drink at the poolside cocktail hour, they did make a last-minute addition to the menu and served frosé due to the "unseasonably warm weather," shares their planner. "It was the crowd favorite!"
After sipping cocktails on the pool deck, guests made their way to Ventura's Ocean Meadow lawn to three long tables covered in ivory linens. Overhead, greenery-accented string lights hung to illuminate the space as the sun set. Pendleton blankets were draped on every third chair to keep guests warm throughout the night.
"Our tabletop design was contemporary and elegant with crisp ivory linens, ivory ceramic chargers, deep velveteen green menus, and eye-catching crimson centerpieces," says the couple's planner.
Tucked between each place card and menu were delicate sprigs of lavender that alluded to Evan's family, who spends their summers in France.
"Our deep velveteen green, redwood, and umber color palette felt cohesive with the surrounding landscape with some additional unexpected tones like crimson, crushed rouge, and foggy white," adds the wedding planner.
The couple followed the flavors of coastal Californian cuisine for their wedding meal, starting with plated first and second courses of heirloom tomato and burrata and seared scallops with snap pea risotto. The rest of the meal, which featured grilled wagyu and Alaskan halibut, was served family-style.
Securing guest accommodations proved to be the most challenging aspect of the wedding planning process for Laura and Evan. "We wanted all of our guests close by and there are very few lodging options in Big Sur, so we were really hands-on with making sure everyone had a room. Luckily it all worked out in the end!"
"We reimagined the event space and instead of the band performing next to the dinner tables on the Ocean Meadow lawn, we made the unique decision to set the stage on the sun deck above the lawn," explains Laura and Evan's planner. "Then the band shifted directions after dinner as we welcomed guests onto the deck to dance the night away."
The décor also included a few celestial touches inspired by the starry sky in Big Sur. Clusters of candles in glass vases were scattered throughout the lawn to mimic the constellations. Laura and Evan even hired an astronomer to guide guests during the reception! "We had a local astronomer show our guests the cosmos through a telescope," explains the bride. "The Big Sur sky is excellent for stargazing and we were lucky to have a clear night."
Following dinner, Laura changed into a fitted white jumpsuit.
In lieu of a wedding cake, the newlyweds served petite apple, strawberry rhubarb, and mixed berry pies and even encouraged guests to take a pie home for a midnight snack. Laura and Evan also enjoyed a few extra days in Big Sur after the weekend and are planning an official honeymoon for this year. "At the end of the day, we couldn’t think of a more special place to get married," reflects Laura.
Venue Ventana Big Sur
Planner & Designer Callista & Company
Bridal Gown Lela Rose, from Jin Wang
Shoes Stuart Weitzman
Hair Kenney Duy of Fellini Salon
Makeup Stephanie Hsu; Kenney Duy of Fellini Salon
Bridesmaid Dresses Fame and Partners
Mother of the Bride's Dress Carolina Herrera
Groom’s Attire Tailors’ Keep
Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands La Bijouterie
Floral Design Lambert Floral Studio
Paper Products Claire Goldschmidt; Callista & Company
Music Dart Collective; The Dart Family Band
Catering Ventana Big Sur
Rentals Theoni Collection; La Tavola; Chic Event Rentals
Transportation Main Event Transportation
Accommodations Glen Oaks; Ventana Big Sur
Floral Donation Repeat Roses
Astronomer David Prosper of Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Falconry Antonio Balestreri at Ventana Big Sur
Photography Lacie Hansen Photography