Just like their engagement, which happened at home on a Friday night after work, the location of Kailen Kouvas and Alex Echeverry's wedding was unexpected. The couple, who resides in Columbus, Ohio, decided to invite their 130 guests west, to Santa Barbara, California, for their big day on September 10, 2016. “I envisioned having our West Coast wedding on the water and outside,” says the bride, who decided on a mostly neutral palette and plenty of personalized details. “I wanted it to have that Southern Cali vibe with elements of fun—new things we hadn’t seen in weddings before,” she says.
The bride and groom got creative over one year of planning, and leaned on the ladies at Firefly Events to execute their design-minded vision. From the neon sign above the cocktail bar and unique escort cards (personalized for each guest!) to the seriously detailed invitation suite, each part of this destination was, as the bride describes, “so different and perfectly us.”
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“We fell in love with the property,” says Kailen of their reception venue, the Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore. “It’s situated on the ocean and the view of that with the mountains in the background was gorgeous. All the greenery was so beautiful and it felt private for us and our guests.”
After choosing her gown, the bride changed her mind at her final fitting, just two weeks before the wedding! “Something didn’t feel right, it didn’t feel like me,” she says. After trying to alter the dress she'd already purchased, she decided to revisit the drawing board and looked around the showroom at Kleinfeld Bridal. Thankfully, she quickly spotted the Christian Siriano gown she would wear down the aisle. And since the bride had a seriously short time frame, she turned to Julie Sabatino of the Stylish Bride, who worked wonders and got the dress to her only one week later.
“It was the best decision I made; I felt amazing in that dress," she explains. "It was so me—it was modern but still bridal and it went perfectly with our venue and wedding vision!”
The bride accessorized with her grandmother’s Judith Leiber clutch, which her older sister also carried at her own wedding.
Kailen opted for a statement bouquet of distant drum roses, majolica roses, white clematis vine, and porcelain vine, but didn’t want it to be too oversized to take away from her complete look.
The bride's three 'maids wore Jenny Yoo, while her sister and matron of honor wore Elizabeth and James. The wedding party also included five groomsmen, a three-year-old flower girl, and 30-year-old ring bearer (the bride’s best friend). "He choreographed his trip down the aisle with finger guns, pony dancing and a bow to the priest," explains the bride. "The whole crowd was laughing!"
The couple went all-out with their invitation suite and paper goods, using innovative materials like gold foil on frosted acrylic, leather, and suede.
For their vows, Kailen and Alex selected Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Santa Barbara, which the bride says “felt authentic and worked well with our vision.” And since the groom's family is Colombian, the couple were wed in a bilingual Catholic ceremony by Father John Love. An acoustic guitar duo played throughout, and the newlyweds exited, fittingly, to “Hotel California."
The couple made their exit in a vintage car, while their guests made their way to the reception site via Santa Barbara trolleys.
To kick off the reception, guests gathered for a cocktail hour that featured specialty drinks called "the Golden State" and "the Vermont Sour." “The view of the ocean and mountains behind us was the biggest reason [for choosing this location]," she says. "I knew I wanted to be by the water but not on the beach and this was perfect.”
In lieu of traditional escort cards, the couple came up with something original: personalized portraits! “We had a portrait drawn of each guest with their table number on the back,” says Kailen, who submitted each picture to the artist, Karina Puente Arts International. They were hung on a large board during cocktail hour, and someone was there to wrap each drawing—accompanied by a triangular nail for future hanging—and send it home with each guest.
The resort's terrace was the perfect setting for dinner, which like the rest of the wedding, Kailen describes as “modern, fresh, organic and whimsical.” Bella Vista built a beautiful wooden structure draped with fabric to shield guests from the sun. “Two long feasting tables ran down the length of the terrace and a canopy of greenery and delphinium hung over each table, with an awesome lighting installation running down the center,” says Kailen.
The long tables were covered in ocean-blue linens and were paired with unexpected black bentwood chairs. The table numbers were done in gold calligraphy on a frosted acrylic hexagon that rested in a gold stand.
Each place setting included a beautiful marble charger and dinner plate, plus gold flatware and specialty glassware. The centerpieces (featuring an assortment of porcelain vine, garden roses, dark plum scabiosa, clematis, and carnations) were housed in gold vessels, alongside colored hurricane and votive candle holders.
The dinner menus were again unique, featuring gold foil and engraved phases of the moon on frosted acrylic. The night's three courses featured a panzanella salad, sweet corn bisque with rock shrimp, and black cod or skirt steak. “The coolest part of dinner was how Room Forty would present the food,” says Kailen. “They brought out about 10 plates at a time on these really cool wooden plants that were held by a person on each end.”
Above the bar, the couple added another bit of personalization with a custom-made neon sign that read, “Let’s go get lost.” (Trend alert, brides!)
Kailen and Alex chose three different cake designs: gold leaf , white marble, and black fondant with gold drip.
Dancing to a mix of hits—as well Spanish and Greek music in honor of the couple's heritages—took place in the ballroom. The couple’s first dance was to Coldplay’s “Sparks,” and when guests weren't boogieing the night away, they bounced between the Flipbooth photo booth, tequila bar, bourbon bar, and ice cream sandwich station. Talk about a fun reception!
Venue: Our Lady of Sorrows, Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore Santa Barbara || Catering: Room Forty || Bar: Pharmacie LA || Cake: Lelé Pâtisserie || Ice Cream Sandwich Bar: Cool Haus || Planner: Firefly Events || Bride’s Dress: Christian Siriano || Bride’s Shoes: Jimmy Choo || Stylist: Julie Sabatino, The Stylish Bride || Groom’s Attire: Tom Ford || Hair & Makeup: Team Hair & Makeup || Floral Design: Flowerwild || Music: Pacamambo, Sound House, DJ Valida || Invitations & Paper Products: Bliss & Bone || Rentals: The Ark, Taylor Creative, Classic Party Rentals, La Tavola, Found Rentals || Custom Bars: Studio D Decor || Neon Signs: Dave’s Signs || Lighting, Dance Floor, Reception Structure: Bella Vista || Photobooth: Flipbooth || Vintage Car: Classy Chassis Rentals || Wedding Bands: Greenwich St. Jewelers || Photography: Jose Villa || Videography: Love Brain from Wedding Artist Collective