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Our day, our way: a fairy tale wedding in California

Our day, our way: a fairy tale wedding in California

Written by Katie Byrne

Karen and Jonathan filled their enchanting celebration with blossom, twinkling lights and more...


Karen Chiu, 33, a visual branding designer, and Jonathan Jung, 28, a video production manager, celebrated their love in a religious ceremony at Union Hill Inn in Sonora, California.

Photography: Matt Horan

Budget: £30,000 - £35,000

Flower budget: £3,500

We first met at church, when we both attended an information session about a trip to North Korea. Jonathan spotted me but we didn’t properly meet until a couple of months later, when we realised we’d be making the journey together! We became ‘official’ when we returned back home and Jonathan proposed on Valentine’s Day 2016.

I wanted to create a romantic, fairytale-like setting for our wedding, with touches of soft-blush flowers, and subtle hints of mint green and white.

Our venue was a 100-year-old barn that had been beautifully transformed into a chapel. We lined the rafters with eucalyptus and strings of fairylights, and also used lanterns to line the aisle.

My wedding dress was the ‘Penelope’ design by Watters. It wasn’t what I’d imagined originally but the pale bronze skirt offered a sense of ethereal romance and I loved the illusion neckline. It was whimsical, dreamy and perfect for dancing in!

A family friend who owns a bakery created our wedding cake. It was a tall one-tier design, which our florist added flowers to. We also ordered macarons, lemon bars, cupcakes and apricot scones – there were only crumbs left by the end of the night!

Cherry blossom was key to our wedding. We decided to go to Japan for our honeymoon and booked our trip to tie in with the cherry blossom season - so I wanted everyone to have a taste of the experience! The flowers, with their white blooming branches, made the space come alive.

Our florist went out of her way to make our dreams come true: the peak bloom-period lasts for only about a week and we were worried our wedding wouldn’t be in-season. It had been hailing the week before and we were hoping for a miracle – and some heat. Luckily, the weather was perfect.

Susan and her team placed cherry blossom all over the venue, decorating the chapel with branches positioned around the entrance and using them to arch the backdrop in our reception areas, as well as in the tall vases we used for our centrepieces.

I handmade some of the decorative details, including the place settings. I decided to use the concept of a friendship ‘wish bottle’ I was given as a child. The design represented our desire for each of our guests to have a lasting friendship with us. The cork stopper of each bottle was cut in half so I could slide in the name card, whilst the glass bottle was filled with star sand, which I played with during my childhood in Taiwan.

My father’s friend owns a vineyard and he gave us hundreds of red wine bottles to give to our guests. We tied custom tags onto the bottles and encouraged people to take them home as a souvenir of the day.

I’m really shy and wasn’t sure if I wanted to ‘toss the garter’. However, it was a lot more fun than I imagined – even though I accidentally kicked Jonathan in the face!

My tip for brides-to-be: Use the celebration to share the story of your relationship with your guests, whether it’s through food, flowers, music, games or dancing.

Steal their style!

FLORIST: Sweet Lilacs Studio VENUE: Union Hill Inn, California DRESS: Watters at Bolee Bridal CAKE: Columbia Kate’s Teahouse VIDEOGRAPHER: Martin Wood 


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