A Big Sur Wedding Among the Redwoods With Japanese Traditions

Erik and Julie met in sixth grade while attending an American middle school in Tokyo, Japan. The two were classmates through high school and lost touch once they graduated. As fate would have it, they each ended up in New York City after they graduated from their respective law schools. That’s when they matched on Bumble. “We recognized each other and decided to grab drinks to catch up, and started dating soon after,” Julie says. On a weekend trip to Connecticut in January 2020, Erik found the perfect opportunity to propose while the couple watched the sunrise together. 

Although Erik and Julie have busy schedules, they worked with wedding planner Jacqueline Hallgarth to stay organized as they planned their wedding with 92 guests. They envisioned an elegant wedding that incorporated some Japanese elements as a nod to their childhoods. “At the start of the planning process, I was so inspired when Julie and Erik sent me pictures of Julie’s gorgeous country home in Japan,” Jacqueline says. “We wanted the guests to have an immersive experience true to the destination—Big Sur.” The couple’s ceremony and reception took place at Ventana Big Sur where contemporary architecture met the natural surroundings of iconic redwood trees. They went with a color palette of oatmeal, taupe gray, navy, dark gray, gold, rust, and dried sage to create an autumnal landscape.

Read on to see the beautiful design details of Julie and Erik’s October 23, 2021 wedding day, planned by Jacqueline Hallgarth Events and photographed by Kurt Boomer Photography.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


When Erik and Julie were looking for their wedding venue, they had three checklist items; a stunning natural landscape, a meaningful destination for the couple, and a location that wasn’t too difficult to get to. With guests traveling from all over, the couple wanted to make sure guests had a special weekend experience, and Ventana met their criteria. Erik and Julie’s invitation suite featured a redwood tree motif and a map of the property.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


The couple welcomed their guests with custom bags full of goodies, including a note from the couple, a bottle of local beer, a custom bottle opener, and a recovery kit.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Julie got ready for the wedding with her wedding party by her side. The bride wore a white robe with a blush flower pattern on it while the bridesmaids wore short pink robes and fluffy slippers. They popped the Champagne and enjoyed getting ready on the property before the ceremony began.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Julie wore the first dress she tried on; a silk crepe Oscar de la Renta wedding dress with a pleated plunging neckline. Even though she tried on more dresses with one of her bridesmaids (and the rest on Zoom!), she couldn’t get the dress out of her mind and knew it was the one. Channeling Gemma Chan for style inspiration, Julie paired her dress with a Daphne Newman Design veil, Jimmy Choo shoes, and a low bun hairstyle with wisps of hair framing her face. “I thought it also went well with the dress and kept the look modern, sleek and timeless,” Julie says.

The finishing touch was a necklace that Julie created with No.3 Fine Jewelry using an heirloom diamond ring passed down by her Japanese grandmother. “We transformed it from a ring into a drop necklace with three diamonds, and we also put a sapphire in the clasp so it would be my something old and something blue,” she says. Julie held a bouquet of textural foliage and romantic floral varietals like chocolate cosmos.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Erik wore a custom-tailored three-piece navy suit from Hall Madden paired with a sage green bowtie from The Tie Bar. He accessorized his look with a Santos watch from Cartier that Julie gave him as a wedding gift. His boutonniere was composed of dried foliage and local mini pinecones.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


We wanted to be able to spend some time just the two of us enjoying the day and the moment.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Julie and Erik have a 22-month-old son, Noah, who keeps them busy, so they were excited to have a moment together during their first look before seeing the rest of their family and wedding party. “We wanted to be able to spend some time just the two of us enjoying the day and the moment,” the bride says. 

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


The couple’s son, Noah, was their ring bearer, while their dog, Kea, was the flower girl. Noah wore a dark navy suit to match his dad and the groomsmen, and Kea wore a flower collar.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Julie’s seven bridesmaids wore various shades of rust and rose. “I really liked the rust color in our color palette, so I decided to go with shades of the rust for bridesmaid dresses,” Julie says. She asked each bridesmaid to choose the shade, fabric, and style of their dress. “I thought they looked great together and loved the different hues and styles that they picked!”

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


As guests entered the ceremony space, they were greeted by a custom acrylic welcome sign and a guest book table. An elevated wooden platform was set up as an aisle runner on the lawn, surrounded by garden-style floor arrangements made up of golden ferns, textural branches, and natural California buckwheat. “We wanted the florals to speak true to Big Sur’s autumnal setting that time of year,” says Jacqueline. For the altar, Siren Floral Co made foliage arrangements that appeared as overgrowth around the platform. 

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Julie and Erik hired a string trio from Dart Collective to play their ceremony music. The couple selected “Marry You” by Bruno Mars for the processional.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Julie and her parents made their way down the stairs and the aisle to the string trio’s rendition of “Just The Way You Are” by Bruno Mars as guests watched on.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


The ceremony was officiated by one of the couple’s high school teachers who taught them in Japan. Julie and Erik exchanged personal vows they wrote for each other. Erik surprised Julie by asking her bridesmaid to translate his vows before the ceremony and reading his vows in both English and Japanese. This ended up being one of Julie’s favorite moments of the wedding day!

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


The couple’s son, Noah, ran into the aisle as the couple was declared husband and wife. The three of them recessed down the aisle together.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


The couple stepped away with their photographer, Kurt Boomer, to take portraits around the grounds.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


As guests made their way to the reception area, they passed by the iconic California redwood trees. The couple loved that guests would walk through the woods to get from the ceremony space to the reception. A custom map of New York was displayed with the words “Living, Learning, and Swiping” as a nod to how Julie and Erik started their relationship.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Julie’s family is from Japan, so it was important for the couple to incorporate some Japanese elements in their wedding. Julie’s family knows fifth-generation lacquerware makers who designed the lacquerware cups that were given to guests at the couple’s wedding. The cups were placed on a tiered display and escort cards printed on card stock were attached to them.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


The couple’s reception took place in the Sur House Terrace, where guests had ocean views. Long tables were set up underneath a pergola embellished with locally grown golden ferns. Mountain scenery and fire pits surrounded the dinner area and set the mood.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Julie and Erik selected neutral linens in an oatmeal shade accented with black flatware. The centerpiece arrangements featured Ikebana-style florals with organic shapes in handmade ceramic bowls.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Guests mingled at the reception as they enjoyed the couple’s signature cocktails. Erik chose an Old Fashioned as a nod to his love of whiskey; a favorite he shares with Julie’s father. Julie enjoys fruit-forward drinks, so she chose a Paloma. A lounge area with comfortable couches was set up on the patio as well.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


The couple served a four-course dinner with several options, so they gave guests a restaurant-like experience with a slate gray menu booklet from Swell Press Paper Co. The meal started with ricotta gnocchi in a parma broth. Guests chose between an heirloom tomato and burrata salad or a baby beets salad with brown butter yogurt for the second course. For the main course, the couple offered porcini rubbed flat iron steak, cioppino with seafood in a saffron tomato broth, or a Thai green chili with vegetables and tofu.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Julie and Erik were nervous in the days leading up to the wedding about the weather. A few days before the big day, they had to make the decision on whether to rent a tent or not. They decided to take their chances, and lucky for them they were able to host the entire day outdoors. “We woke up Sunday morning after our wedding and it was pouring,” Julie says. A bomb cyclone hit the Bay Area the morning after the couple’s festivities ended!

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


There is a common Japanese wedding tradition called “Kagami Biraki” where the couple’s families break a barrel of sake to symbolize the start of something new. Once the barrel is broken, guests enjoy the sake together.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


The couple and their guests listened to heartfelt toasts from the couple’s loved ones during the dinner reception.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Julie and Erik shared their first dance to “River” by Leon Bridges. Julie shared a dance with her father to Adele’s “Make You Feel My Love,” and Erik danced with his mom to “My Wish” by The Rascal Flatts.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


For dessert, guests enjoyed a pistachio and blonde chocolate dessert along with the couple’s cardamom-flavored wedding cake with raspberries and vanilla bean french buttercream. The couple worked with Jasmine Rae Cakes to design a sculpted cake mimicking folded paper forms with two cranes emerging from the cake to incorporate Japanese paper cranes and origami.

Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


Photo by Kurt Boomer Photography


After dinner, the dancing began! Guests made their way into The Sur House, a restaurant on the venue’s property that was transformed into a dance party. The rustic wood interiors were elevated with modern lounge decor for guests who wanted a break from dancing the night away. The couple hired a DJ and horns from Dart Collective for an interactive entertainment experience.

The couple took a brief trip to Calistoga after the wedding, and they’re planning an overseas honeymoon in 2023. To couples planning their own wedding, Julie and Erik have this advice: “Make a plan, but be prepared for things to change!”

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