This Bride Wore a Black Wedding Dress for Her California Nuptials

Janine and Gabe planned a wedding at a stunning winery in Santa Maria, but the bride's totally gorgeous Vera Wang gown put their backdrop to shame.

Updated 01/04/17

Photo by Michael Stephens Photography

While Janine Sperandeo and Gabriel Wallace think they may have been set up back in June of 2011, we may never know the truth. “A mutual friend invited us both to her husband’s wine bar in Santa Monica to meet up with a group of friends, but the two of us are the only ones who showed up, or so she says!” Janine remembers. A set up or not, the pair hit it off, and in October of 2015, Gabe was ready to pop the question.

“Janine and I had dreamed about a weekend trip to Mendocino, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity,” Gabe recalls. “We spent a long weekend in a quaint cabin overlooking the bay, and on the second day of our trip we set out for a hike through a fern canyon and into a redwood forest.” Little did Janine know, while she was getting coffee he’d slipped into a grocery store for champagne. They found their way to a beautiful waterfall and, after most of the other hikers had left, Gabe led Janine to the perfect spot and got on one knee. “There was an older couple nearby, and they had us recreate the moment so they could take pictures for us,” Gabe says. “Then we sipped champagne on a bench nearby. We were so happy, and I was so relieved that it had all worked out!”

This California couple didn’t go too far for their wedding, favoring the beautiful grounds and modern vibe of Presqu’ile Winery in Santa Maria for their nuptials on April 2, 2016. The vision was inspired by one of Janine’s favorite cities, Milan. “I love the combination of a modern and edgy vibe with the history and natural elements of stone and wood,” she says. They skipped the flowers and used only greenery, bringing the outdoors into their entire celebration. The photos, by Michael Stephens Photography, speak for themselves!

bride
Michael Stephens Photography
bride
Michael Stephens Photography

We love a bride who knows exactly what she wants, and Janine was no exception. “I knew I wanted a traditional gown, but with a unique twist, so I’d made up my mind, long before Gabe even proposed, that I didn’t want to wear typical white,” says the bride. “I lost my mom 13 years ago, so I shopped with my three best friends. We started at Vera Wang, because why not? My mom would have been thrilled.” Knowing that the designer had numerous non-white dresses in her collection, it was the perfect spot to start shopping, and Janine fell for an intricate black-and-nude ball gown with layers of tulle and ruffles down the front.

Instead of a traditional bouquet, Janine carried a fragrant collection of olive branches, wrapped in gold ribbon.

rings
Michael Stephens Photography
wedding shoes
Michael Stephens Photography
bridal party
Michael Stephens Photography

The dark hue of Janine’s dress was the perfect match for the moody blue halo around her engagement ring. She paired it with her great-great-grandmother’s diamond ring (which has been handed down through generations and in her family since the 1800s), as well as ruched tulle Casadei peep-toes.

“Gabe and I wanted all of our guests to have a blast, so we skipped the wedding party. Instead, our friends stepped in to help when we needed it,” Janine explains.

groom
Michael Stephens Photography
first look
Michael Stephens Photography

To complement Janine’s dark dress, Gabe wore a slate gray Hugo Boss tuxedo, with a black lapel and delicate stitching. He finished the look with an olive branch boutonniere.

The (very!) excited bride and groom had their first look in the gardens surrounding Presqu’ile Winery.

bride and groom
Michael Stephens Photography
bride and groom
Michael Stephens Photography

“We tried to keep everything about the weekend casual,” says Janine. “Gabe and I stayed together and had breakfast with our families the morning of the wedding. We didn’t want to observe the formalities — we just wanted to throw a really great party!”

refreshment bar
Michael Stephens Photography

As guests arrived at the ceremony, they were greeted with strawberry lemonade, iced tea, and lavender shortbread cookies.

musician
Michael Stephens Photography
celtic handfasting braid
Michael Stephens Photography
ceremony décor
Michael Stephens Photography
bride
Michael Stephens Photography

To celebrate Gabe’s Scottish heritage, a bagpiper welcomed guests to the ceremony and played as they headed toward the reception.

Gabe’s father performed the ceremony, including a Celtic handfasting ceremony using a cord the bride and groom braided themselves. Two seats were left empty in the front rows, in remembrance of both the bride and groom’s late mothers.

The finishing touch to Janine’s wedding day look? A nude veil complete with black lace appliqué. “The consultant at the salon insisted I try it on, and I immediately felt like an Italian princess!” says the bride. “But just before heading down the aisle, it caught on the concrete and fell off, in view of all of our guests! We all laughed, and my hairstylist ran in to reattach it. Then my dad and I sped down the aisle to stay on-cue with the music!”

bride and groom
Michael Stephens Photography
bride and groom
Michael Stephens Photography

Instead of writing their own vows, Gabe and Janine asked Gabe’s father write personalized vows for the couple to recite. “We wanted him to share his wisdom with us,” says Janine.

bride and groom
Michael Stephens Photography
bride and groom
Michael Stephens Photography

“Presqu’ile Winery is gorgeous,” says Janine. “They also recently moved their tasting room, which meant we had the entire reception area to ourselves.” Perfect for sunset photos, of course!

reception food
Michael Stephens Photography
reception food
Michael Stephens Photography
family photos
Michael Stephens Photography

During cocktail hour, guests sipped the venue’s wines and sampled cheeses, antipasti, and flatbreads. Nearby, a memory table displayed photos of the couple’s late mothers and grandparents. “We wanted to have them all with us that day,” Janine says.

reception décor
Michael Stephens Photography
reception décor
Michael Stephens Photography
reception décor
Michael Stephens Photography
reception décor
Michael Stephens Photography

Inside the venue, the bride and groom accented the space’s modern-meets-rustic vibe with cross-back chairs and soft gray linens. Centerpieces combined candles in metallic votive holders and arrangements of olive branches, rosemary, and eucalyptus in brass vessels.

Each place setting included a MadLibs card written by the bride and groom for guests to complete.

glasses
Michael Stephens Photography
reception décor
Michael Stephens Photography
reception décor
Michael Stephens Photography
reception décor
Michael Stephens Photography

“Gabe’s sister surprised us by putting the toasting flutes from her wedding at our seats,” says Janine. “They were a gift to her from their late mother for her own wedding.”

The menu featured Italian comfort food, from lemon and garlic roast chicken to grilled polenta and pasta with pesto and red potatoes.

guest book map
Michael Stephens Photography

Instead of a traditional guestbook, the bride and groom asked their loved ones to leave notes on an antique map that the couple framed for their home.

dessert bar
Michael Stephens Photography

Instead of a cake, Janine and Gabe served a sweets bar. The miniature cupcakes were Scottish fruitcake (a traditional wedding cake in Scotland), passion fruit chardonnay cake, chocolate stout cake with peanut butter and caramel, and Mexican chocolate cake. There was also a spread of Italian cookies, including biscotti, ossi dei morti, and amaraetti.

For the second half of the evening, Gabe changed into a kilt, made in the Wallace family tartan. A DJ from Los Angeles played Motown and ‘80s hits — guaranteed to keep guests dancing!

“We honeymooned to the eastern coast of Australia,” says Janine. And of planning a wedding? “It takes longer, and requires a lot more patience, than you might think!”

Ceremony & Reception Venue: Presqu’ile Winery || Wedding Planner: Korinna Peterson of Le Festin Events || Bride's Wedding Dress & Veil: Vera Wang || Shoes: Casadei || Hair & Makeup: Cristophe Beverly Hills || Groom's Attire: Hugo Boss || Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands: SN Queens || Flowers: Fluidbloom Designs || Invitations: Paper Source || Music: Dart DJ || Bagpiper: Bill Boetticher || Catering: Trumpet Vine Catering || Cake: Enjoy Cupcakes || Wedding Signage: The Wedding Sign Company; Bourbon Blue Cards || Rentals: Central Coast Tent & Party || Photographer: Michael Stephens Photography

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