In honor of the Fourth of July holiday, we’re sharing Stephie and Aki’s spectacular celebration. The couple enlisted the creative team at RTTO Events to help them plan their carnival-theme wedding. Set at Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, the event began with a lovely outdoor ceremony under weeping tree branches, cafe lights and a beautiful ombre pink petal isle runner and was followed by, literally, a carnival reception. Complete with a big ferris wheel, clowns on stilts, retro carnival games, balloons and cool floral installations, it’s truly a sight to be seen and all the details are captured beautifully by the talented MacKensey Alexander.
What made the wedding special and unique?
FROM RTTO: The bride and groom came to us with the idea of a carnival theme. We were excited because the space they’d chosen speaks to that — Calamigos in Malibu has this amazing ferris wheel, for starters. So we ran with the idea. The bride and groom had specific, creative elements they wanted to incorporate such as carnival games which made the event so fun and we loved accenting that with really unique installations that hung from the ceiling, bright colors and balloons, and interesting florals. It was carnival taken up a notch and turned out really fun and elegant which we believe also describes the couple pretty perfectly.
Tell us about the gown and how/where you found it.
From the Bride: My gown was the Teresa Gown by Hayley Paige which I got at the JLM Couture Boutique in West Hollywood. It was actually a dress that my bridal party chose for me and I decided to try it on first, just to please them. However, as soon as I tried it on I was amazed and quite shocked at how much I liked it that anything else I wore afterwards just didn’t compare. The details were absolutely gorgeous with just the right amount of sparkle and simplicity to it. And it was so perfect for our carnival theme too!
From RTTO: We couldn’t have hoped for a better dress on this gorgeous bride. She chose it with her bridal party and we were taken aback by how perfectly it fit her theme, but more importantly how perfectly it fit her.
What were some touches added to make the wedding personal?
From the Bride: We unfortunately lost Aki’s mom the year prior to cancer and it was very hard for all of us. We decided to commemorate her by handing out poppy pins for all the guests to wear because their family used to go on annual poppy field trips and it was something that his mother loved to do. Almost everything about our wedding was personal to us. It essentially encapsulated our relationship in its entirety because Aki and I are essentially big kids who just want to have fun. Our goal was to make it as less wedding-like as possible. One of our top priorities was to make sure our guests walked away happy and just as giddy as we were that night. I was very involved in the planning process to make sure that the right details were showcased and it all came through wonderfully in the end.
RTTO: While we enjoy bringing RTTO’s style to every wedding we design, what we really liked about this one was how much the couple brought to the table as well. For example, the bride had her friends help create a dessert table and it was stunning – so perfectly detailed to match everything else within the aesthetic. Plus, we can’t express how emotional we got when it came time to walk them down the aisle – between the flower girls holding these impactful, oversized balloons and the couple’s sweet baby boy who went down the aisle in a wagon – perfection.
What was the most memorable part of the day?
From the Bride: For me the most memorable part of the day was walking into our cocktail hour with our son. Aki and I also had our first dance in front of the ferris wheel surrounded by our loved ones and that was such a special moment for us!
From Heather at RTTO: The couple’s son was sleeping right before the ceremony. Grandpa handed him over to me so that everyone could take their places. I was literally directing the ceremony processional while holding this sleeping baby. Then I placed him into his wagon at the last moment. I get emotional as it is, but this all unfolding so beautifully really got me at the core.
Tell us how you met and became engaged.
From the Bride: Aki and I first crossed paths on Mother’s day of 2006 where we were both eating at my parents’ restaurant in LA. I saw him sitting at the sushi bar and thought he was cute but thought I’d never see him again so I didn’t think much of it. Little did I know that was very far from the truth. I had just graduated high school and was helping out for the summer as a waitress, and lo and behold there’s Aki in the kitchen working as a chef. For the next 3 months we continued our friendship even though I had started to attend college, coincidentally not too far from where he was living at the time, and we went on what many people would consider “dates” but was just hanging out for us. Eventually he mustered up the courage to tell me he liked me and from there it was history. Fast forward 8 years with the many trials and errors in between of any real relationship, we decided to take time off of work and travel the world. Quite literally. We traveled through Europe, Middle East, Africa and South East Asia for 3 months before making our way to Australia.
Our engagement happened on New Year’s Eve of 2014 before we headed to Australia. I had been telling Aki throughout our relationship that I didn’t want him to publicly propose because for me it was such a private moment. He really took this to heart and the poor guy already had a mountain to climb since it’s really hard to surprise me. We were planning on taking a picnic to Disneyland to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks; while he was working on that, there was a book delivery for him from Shutterfly and I nonchalantly handed it to him because it had his name on it. Knowing me so well, he assumed that I had already thought about the possibility that whatever was in there could be linked to a potential proposal (which he was right about!). I tried to dismiss the idea so I didn’t ruin anything for myself. I noticed he was gone for a hot minute (by the way, during this time he was actually trying to figure out what to do because the book actually wasn’t supposed to arrive until after the New Year) and when he came back he handed me the book and told me to open it, which really made me think that maybe he had made a book about our travels. I was right. It was a really sweet book of all the places we had traveled to and the highlights of our trip but at the very end of the book, he had placed a picture that was taken at Disneyland probably 4 years prior where Chip and Dale forced him to go on his knees and pretend to propose to me. As soon as I saw that, I knew what was coming. I essentially shut down (of happiness) because we had talked about it for so long it was weird to actually be in that moment. He talked to me about our entire relationship and how much it had changed him for the better and what it meant to him and that he was looking forward to spending the rest of his life with me. In the end, although he had made this really nice picnic for us, we just went and did an In N Out burger run and sat on our couch and enjoyed each other’s company. :)
Event Planning, Design & Florals: RTTO Events // Photographer: MacKensey Alexander // Venue: Calamigos Ranch, Malibu California // Dress: JLM Couture // Event Lighting: Malibu Event Lighting