Wedding planning made me sick and 100% stressed. I never wanted to throw a big bash all about US. I felt like the anti-bride. I found great love and now I was expected to throw a party that could cost over $30,000. It all seemed ridiculous! My husband didn’t even own a suit. It was never my dream to have a bunch of girlfriends follow me around to look at dresses and shower me with gifts. All of the traditions around weddings made me cringe, especially time honored traditions like throwing the bouquet, spending a fortune on dress, hair and makeup, having a first dance in front of everyone, and expecting bridesmaids to do everything for you.
Eloping sounded like a better option because we realized that this day was not about us, but it was a day for everyone else, especially our families. After endless research on dresses, flower walls, hair styles, shoes, decor, alcohol options, cakes, food, DJ’s, flowers, and more, my head was spinning, but mainly over the cost.
For the amount of money for one day, we could have traveled for 6 months. Travel always seemed like a much better idea. However we didn’t want to have any regrets, so after seven months of planning from the time we got engaged in February, I orchestrated our wedding or “white day party” in Malibu for September 23 with guidance from a wedding coordinator, Natalie Prager.
Thanks to my husband’s family owning an incredible venue on the water in Malibu, we didn’t have to worry about renting a location since the ones we looked at went from $7,000 to $20,000+. Although I imagined getting married with my toes in the sand, we realized shuffling people from the beach (where you need a permit in Malibu and Santa Monica) to the venue was too much, especially for Mark’s 96 year old grandmother. Thus, we chose to have the ceremony and party all at one location, on the massive deck at CURE Malibu, right across from SoHo House and Nobu, with a breathtaking ocean view.
Instead of telling my girlfriends what to wear and dressing them all the same, I had several of my friends walk down the aisle together as a show of support. I told them to them wear whatever, with suggestions of “Malibu chic, white or pastel colors.” My friends looked beautiful and coordinated without ever having spoken about outfits.
After an incredible amount of research and coordinating, we celebrated our union with about 80 of our closest family and friends, and of course with a hashtag, #MalibuLoveStory. We had committed long before the actual wedding celebration and we were happy in the end that we made our special day happen thanks to our parents emotional and financial support, even after canceling and paying for our our wedding invitations and creating a Facebook invite. That’s another story! Since the whole process is overwhelming and often challenging to find relatable wedding suggestions online (i.e. Pinterest and Instagram may depress you even more with perfectionist scenes), here is a list of our favorite vendors and services. Happy planning!
Los Angeles Wedding Vendors and Services
Taverna Tony’s bartender + team
We snagged a local expert bartender named Robert Reardon from Taverna Tony’s in Malibu who knew our Malibu relatives. After numerous emails fine-tuning every possible cocktail detail and bar need, I knew I could trust him. Robert came with a team that I later learned was his own family, his two sons and wife. They were one of the best parts of our wedding due to their great attitudes, exceptional bartending skills, and sons who made sure our family was always with a drink in hand and table areas were cleaned throughout the day. We were most impressed with their hard work, especially bringing in their own bar and concocting a beautiful bar set up that wildly exceeded my expectations. Robert showcased a board with all of our signature drinks. Everything displayed (like preferred wine, beer and spirits) looked beautiful for an outdoor wedding. Feel free to contact Robert for your event at email@example.com.
We brought our own alcohol into the venue. Our top choices included:
Beer from Brouweriji West – After an amazing media trip to San Pedro, we fell in love with the beer from Brouwerijii West, a small-batch craft brewery and tasting room that sits in a 70-year-old Navy warehouse. Their mixed fermentation beers remind me of beer sampling in Belgium, delighting drinkers with unique flavors like hints of peach, floral, cereal (Cap’n Crunch, yes seriously), and coffee. Made from special grains and a few hops we ordered a Pilsner called Popfuji, a fruit-forward saison called The Dog Ate My Homework, and their newest Falling Water, all in beautiful cans. I realized they taste much better out of the cans in a glass.
Carbonadi Vodka -Our wedding started to head towards an Italian theme based on what we loved and why not have Italian vodka, the ultra-premium vodka imported from Northern Italy and brought to California to be micro-oxygenated and filtered through rare carbonados. My husband loves vodka, especially this one.
Pink Party Sparkling Rosé – From Swish Beverages, the same guys who brought you White Girl Rose comes this sweet, crisp bubbly rose with notes of honeydew and cantaloupe. Guests loved these day party bubbles, Make sure to read the side of the bottle!
Bellussi Prosecco DOCG and La Montina Franciacorta Brut DOCG – After sampling numerous proseccos and bruts, we decided on these two gems for toasts and signature mimosa type drinks. For the best prices, order from the Italian wine store www.Vinodirect.com
Côte des Roses is still my favorite reasonable priced rose that I found at Trader Joes and World Market. It tastes better warm. We also found a red from Bogle Vineyards and a white at Trader Joe’s that we liked, but barely any were consumed.
After an extensive search all over Los Angeles, I decided to have my dress custom made by Gretchen Dawley, a young wedding dress designer in the Hollywood area. I immediately fell in love with all of her fabrics and cuts, and wish I could wear every dress from her 1950’s Havana collection she based on influential and inspiring women from Cuba. My wedding dress is similar to her Aida gown with ruffled chiffon flutter sleeves, but with a different flowing chiffon bottom. Enjoy more photos HERE.
A master at making anyone look good, I had used Jackie for several other events and a stylized wedding shoot before the actual wedding, so I could get an idea of what I might look like on the big day. She is often on major shoots and multiple wedding locations a day making girls look glam for photo shoots and campaigns.
I knew after the first time with her, I wanted less eye makeup around my eye creases and my hair to be down instead of an up-do. Jackie is super sweet and makes you feel comfortable right away, not judging or getting mad if you want to make changes. She doesn’t mind trying out new makeup options and hair styles with you until you are pleased. Jackie brings her entire slew of products right to your home or hotel. She has a line of tools and foundation to make any skin flawless. The craziest thing is my hair lasted looking good 3 days after the wedding.
Also, she was always on time and often stayed over her allotted time to make sure everyone was happy. Jackie worked on my mom too, and her assistants also helped beautify my aunt and mother in law. Make sure to book her in advance because she is a sought after bridal hair and makeup artist in LA and for destination weddings. Wedding makeup and hair is big business so make sure you book wisely.
The free standing lightweight Usie Booth at our wedding allowed guests to take photos on a white couch with the ocean in the background. It didn’t take up much room, and if needed, the free standing apparatus can shine light if your venue is dark. Usie Booth dropped the machine off before the wedding and picked it up the next morning. Before the event, you can customize your photos with a theme or hashtag. Photos can be printed or can go online in various forms like photo strips, moving .gifs, or just one picture shot. After your event, you get a customized online gallery a few days later.
Goli, the owner, was delightful to work with, especially after emailing back and forth at least 50 times about the graphics and set up for the Usie Booth since I was worried about the internet service on the deck. She made sure there was extended Wi-Fi on the large deck so guests could save the movable .gif photos and upload them to social media. Usie Booth offered far better pricing than absolutely any photo booth options we researched and experienced first hand at events.
Founded by a Michelin star chef and James Beard award winning chefs, Crateful’s team creativity, knowledge and passion resonates in their attention to every detail, customizing each event to the client’s need, taking pride in originality and uniqueness. We met downtown with CEO Emanuele Ponzo to sample a menu that was far better than other locations we tried. The food quality and presentation was outstanding, so we were sold quickly even for a higher price.
We decided to have interactive stations plus passed appetizers that we sampled at our first meeting. Our cocktail hour bites were followed by a live burrata station and live taco station. Passed pasta dishes with eggplant and a goodbye burger were also part of our day to help absorb the alcohol. Guests could sample fish, shrimp, or chicken tacos made to order with fixings, and sample various Italian cheeses with accoutrements. Crateful’s team brought in everything they needed, even without a kitchen space or fridge at CURE Malibu. This was the most expensive part of our day, but I wanted to make sure we had great food. Guests are still talking to us about the crab balls, burrata making, and burgers.
We discovered this coffee and tea bar at CURE Malibu when they were hosting an event for the Malibu Guitar Festival. The two men from the Long Beach area were very kind and helpful bringing extras like various kinds of milk, sugars, and flavorings to make people happy. Their lovely set up bar includes an umbrella as well as a board to share the coffee and tea options.
We discovered passionate Luca Monaco with his incredible gelato flavors at an Angeleno Magazine food event. He came on his motorcycle to Malibu weeks before the wedding to allow us to taste the gelato and sorbets. The day of our wedding he set up his stand and umbrella, and brought cute matching containers and spoons I chose beforehand. Luca stayed quite a long time serving guests 6 options like blood orange sorbet and salted caramel. You can find the Monaco Gelato storefront at 2633 S Robertson Blvd. Also, I researched countless places and everywhere was charging three times the price. Thank you, Luca!
SK Donuts & Croissant
My dear friend Amber picked up my donut order at my favorite donut shop near the Grove the morning of the wedding. She placed the fresh donuts of all varieties on tiered plates. Even with cake, the donuts were gone quickly.
Look no farther than this exceptional celeb-loved cake shop, once called Jamaica’s Cakes. I brought in a photo of the idea I had in mind – 3 tiered cake with cascading fresh flowers down the side. Jamaica came the day of the wedding and set up the whole cake with our fresh flowers. I don’t like my cake overly sweet, so I adored the many cake and filling options I sampled beforehand that were not sickeningly over sugared. We opted on 3 layers with white cream frosting including red velvet with cream cheese, vanilla with fresh strawberries and cream, and chocolate with mocha filling. Even a week after the wedding we were eating the leftover cake, which was still just as moist and flavorful. This was by far the most expensive cake I will ever buy in my lifetime, but good value compared to other bake shops.
Although we had a major miscommunication via email a week before the wedding due to my being overwhelmed with all of the details and some major personal losses, SWOOP is an App that offers group transportation from a designated place and time for pick up and drop off. You can drink on board, meet new friends, and let them do the driving. It is a transportation savior for wine tasting, private events, and shuttling wedding guests.
Downtown LA Flower Market area – Andrews Flowers
For about 90% of my floral arrangements I had them made downtown, then shipped and placed the morning of the wedding from Andrews Flowers at 825 S San Pedro. I found them just by walking around and scouting out arrangements and vases I liked and striking up a conversation with Anna, who was at Andrews Flowers every time I visited. I brought pictures of a bouquet, ceremony pieces, coffee table arrangements, cocktail table pieces, flower girl crowns, and more. If I went with a florist, it would have cost more than twice the price.
My mom also spent the day before and morning of the wedding making sure all of the flowers were up to snuff. My mother, the ultimate gardener and floral arranger made many of the floral cocktail table vases on her own after we bought several hundred dollars more of flowers the day before. I wanted wild elegant romantic looking flowers, but in pastel shades and white. We bought bags of rose petals and my mother made the long table greens and slipped in tiny vintage vases and elegant white and pastel flowers in the vases throughout the greens. Throughout the deck space, my mom also made simple flower arrangements like the flowers had just been picked, wrapped her own green garland around the balcony deck, and made simple floral stalks with ribbon for my girls walking down the aisle.
Day Of Coordinator
Natalie Prager helped guide me through various meetings to help refine my wedding cake search, hunt for the best rental deals, and more. She was a Godsend the day of the wedding making sure everything moved in a timely transition. If she wasn’t there, I don’t know what I would have done because we needed someone to cue the music, guests, and help the servers/attendents move ceremony chairs and flowers after the ceremony. She was on her feet all day guiding vendors and even helping make sure the flowers and rose petals were scattered before I walked down the aisle. It was the little things that stressed me out that she took care of, that I wouldn’t have been able to do while entertaining guests.
Photography and Video
@SkyandReefPhotography by Tara Morenfeld shoots in both LA and Hawaii. She created a stylized photo shoot for us thanks to becoming her subjects via the Facebook group, Something Borrowed, Something New. Our fun shoot included a first look walk under a white archway in the middle of a field on a cliff way up in the canyons miles above the Malibu Pier. The secret spot was a hard-to-get-to location which made me love it even more. Other looks included massive balloons, sunset pictures, and solo shots of my blowing veil at sunset.
@thesirenandco to our great surprise was along with Tara. Maleka Ellis created our favorite memory, a several minute video montage capturing us and our stylized shoot moments. See a clip of our stylized photo shoot with drone footage on Instagram.
For our surprise engagement at sunrise, my husband found a photographer near Tulum. After I met with various photographers in LA, I was torn and decided to go with Vika Petlakh known as @StillVika on Instagram, an artistic photographer with an excellent eye. She captured our 7-8 hour day with an assistant. We never felt like the photographers were stalking us or being a nuisance. I didn’t really want to take traditional wedding pictures, but more candid documentary style moments. Photos were beautifully edited when returned in Dropbox both in color and black and white. Her photos of a variety of subjects are jaw dropping, and she is often traveling the world as a photographer for major campaigns and brands. You can view her photography series at SoHo House West Hollywood soon. Book her at firstname.lastname@example.org or see more at stillvika.com
Owned and founded by Dr. Lisa Benya and her husband Michael McCauley (my husband’s cousin), CURE Malibu offers an ocean terrace with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean where your eyes soar until the end of the world. CURE Malibu located across from Nobu and SoHo House’s Little Beach House Malibu sits atop of the expansive sea. You can take control of your own wedding theme by bringing in the vendors you wish. The massive deck space still seemed like we could have fit about 50 more people, even with a DJ, dance floor, bar, outdoor photo booth, food and dessert stations, 2 long tables for 30 and lounge seating.
As dancing and drinks are clinked, watch the sunset, surfers, and Malibu pier in the distance. Since this is a white chic hair salon and med spa by day, your whole wedding party can get weekend pampered with massages, day of hair styling, IV drips, facials, and just about every latest beauty and health treatment imaginable in Los Angeles.
Malibu Beach Inn for a staycation and pre wedding dinner for guests
Although we live in Malibu, four nights at Malibu Beach was a special retreat. We ended up having our dinner here at this luxury beach resort the night before at their Carbon Beach Club, an indoor outdoor restaurant where Chef Cody Dickey uses fresh locally sourced ingredients from nearby One Gun Ranch and resident farmers’ markets. The bartending team created signature drinks like the “Yes, Dear” for our welcome sunset cocktail hour the night before in the bar lounge, and we had appetizer bites brought out before the sit down dinner.
The 47 guest rooms at Malibu Beach Inn offer breathtaking Pacific Ocean views. Located on the sands of Carbon Beach known as “Billionaire Beach,” each room makes you feel like you are living on a boat with the Malibu Pier off to the right. Serenity takes over as ocean waves lull you to sleep and tea can be sipped on your private balcony.
Noteworthy: Soft Italian linens not only keep you warm at night, but fireplaces in most rooms turn on with a switch, perfect for chilly California nights. A private art collection decorates the entire hotel and a pamphlet in the foyer describes each significant piece.
New: Toto toilets keep your bottom warm and offer a myriad of sprays and positions for your bathroom pleasure. The advanced ALICE communication system allows guests to text the Malibu Beach Inn team at their leisure. A recent remodel includes a clean, sleek, minimalist Scandinavian bleached wood design thanks to designer Waldo Fernandez.
Don’t miss: Complimentary morning yoga on the beach and a day lounging on the privately owned shore with exclusive beach service for anything your heart desires. We recommend the fish tacos and a cocktail from their award winning barman.