Despite meeting on multiple occasions, Melissa Grosch and Derek Winberry finally made an impression on one another after a night spent at their favorite spot: the dance floor. In fact, only recently did Melissa realize just how long they had gone without connecting. “I found a picture from my 22nd birthday party; not only was Derek at the dinner party, but he was also sitting next to my dad and little brother!” Six birthdays later, the couple spent the weekend of Melissa’s 28th at the Montage Resort in Laguna Beach. On the day that Derek had planned to pop the question, Melissa awoke from a dream in which she imagined him doing just that! Luckily, the real surprise was not ruined, and Derek asked Melissa to marry him overlooking the romantic southern California coastline.

It was therefore natural that the couple ultimately chose a wedding venue with a similar sense of coastal elegance: La Jolla’s Lodge at Torrey Pines. Ironically, while its oceanfront lawn fit the couple’s idea of a perfect ceremony location, the Lodge’s rustic Craftsman ballroom was not what they envisioned for their reception. They preferred to make a bold, modern statement with the affair, and so they spared no effort in completely transforming the space beyond recognition.

Melissa and Derek’s event planner and floral designer created the wedding’s look around a color palette of red, white and black with a rhinestone buckle motif as a unifying element. Everything from the custom designed invitations to the understated cake was wrapped in ribbon and secured with an elegant jeweled buckle. Cherry blossoms and the Chinese symbol for “double happiness” also made appearances throughout their wedding, bringing an Asian sensibility to the sleek and stylish celebration.

A black and white cabana with a floor of red rose petals was raised for the ceremony, which was set against the sunset view of the ocean. As Melissa walked down the aisle to meet her husband-to-be, she clutched in her hand a letter Derek had written to her the night before. “It was the loveliest letter I’d ever read,” she recalls. “He knows me so well that he knew exactly what I needed that day. I must have read it 100 times.” And while she held his loving words, Derek tightly grasped her hand as they exchanged vows surrounded by their 185 guests.

Sipping red martinis, guests plucked their place cards from a cherry blossom-like tree and migrated to the breathtaking scene that was “Derek and Melissa’s lounge.” The entire floor of the ballroom was covered in white carpeting, blending seamlessly with the custom-made white dance floor, the walls, and ceilings that were draped with diaphanous white fabric. A conversation area with white sofas and coffee tables was set in one corner, and several cabanas were installed over the guest tables. Red paper lanterns in various sizes hung above the tables, drawing the eye upward from the grouped arrangements of dahlias, roses and Dutch parrot tulips. Each centerpiece vase was wrapped in red, white and black ribbon and fastened with the signature rhinestone buckle. A wealth of votive candles cast a ruby red hue throughout the room.

Melissa and Derek love to dance, so while the décor was a sight to behold, the most important element of the party to them was the music. The floor was so jam-packed that people were waiting in line to have a turn. Everyone cleared a path, however, when Melissa and her grandfather fulfilled their very special wish to share a dance at her wedding. Her grandfather grew quite ill while they were planning their party, and Melissa’s family was grateful that he was able to see his first grandchild become a bride.

A painting created by Melissa and Derek’s florist and inspired by the black and white fabric found in Melissa’s home provided a backdrop for the square, tiered wedding cake that was wrapped in edible red ribbon and presented on a glass table covered in candles. When it was time for guests to depart, each received a taste of something else sweet: chocolate truffles inside Chinese take-out containers stamped with the double happiness characters.

A fitting touch, since Melissa and Derek were still on cloud nine reliving their inspiring night long after the party was over. They were able to enjoy instantly the first of their wedding photos, thanks to the Polaroid filled guestbook that surprised them in their honeymoon suite.