The eight-year love affair that led to the engagement of Mara Grumbo and Mark Rus began when the pair met while studying abroad at the London School of Economics. Once their program was completed, Canadian-born Mark and American-born Mara continued their romance long distance, culminating in a unique proposal designed to cleverly include the home countries of each. “We were on a plane flying from the U.S. to Montreal to celebrate New Year’s Eve, and as the plane crossed the United States/Canadian border, Mark got in the aisle and went down on one knee!” Mara recalls. “A limo picked us up when we landed and took us to our hotel, where our parents – who, unbeknownst to me, had flown in to meet us – were waiting. I had no idea!”

A guest list of 100 loved ones from around the world was swiftly crafted for the pair’s California wedding. Grateful for the willingness of their families and friends to travel from Switzerland, Italy, and New Zealand as well as from Canada and within the United States, Mara and Mark knew they wanted a celebration site that was as impressive as it was comfortable. Upon setting eyes on a remarkable private estate in the bride’s hometown of Malibu, the pair was immediately smitten. The seaside venue offered lovely European details that were important to the twosome. “We spent some time living in Italy, so the subtle Tuscan elements made the site very appealing,” shares the groom.

Because the couple had settled in Montreal, the bride had some initial concerns about planning a wedding while in another country. “Luckily, I had the help of my family,” reveals Mara. The couple also enlisted the guidance of a professional wedding planner. “She was an incredible help and partner in our process,” admits the groom. “We couldn’t have had the wedding we wanted without her.”

Mara’s approach for the design of the celebration was to incorporate colorful flowers, but otherwise keep the décor at a minimum. “I didn’t want to compete with the natural magnificence of the location,” confides the bride, who instead chose to fully embrace the picturesque environment. A stone aisleway drizzled with rose petals led to a stunning arbor created expressly for the vow exchange. The arch was constructed of wooden branches, lovely celery-green foliage, and collections of roses in punchy springtime shades. The garden area, surrounded by abundant vegetation, also lent a spectacular view of the ocean.

Bridesmaids held nosegays with bright pops of color that complemented their blush-tinged frocks. The charming duo of ring bearer and flower girl were dressed as dashingly as their adult counterparts: he, in a smart black tuxedo; and she, in a charming white dress with flutter sleeves. Mara’s fitted gown revealed a strapless neckline that was sweetly ruffled, and her airy veil floated gracefully behind her in the breeze. A flourishing bridal bouquet of pale peonies and vanilla roses completed the vision.

For the al fresco reception, attendees found table assignments printed on crisp stationery that dangled from the branches of Manzanita trees. Inviting vignettes of sofas and lounge chairs were arranged on the perfectly manicured landscape. Strands of sparkling lights were suspended overhead, casting a dreamy glow as the sun began to set. Rows of delightful floral arrangements ran the length of each table, including roses, dahlias, hydrangeas, and peonies in tints of tangerine, raspberry, peach, and lime. Square china plates edged with a lace design held personalized menu cards. Crystal goblets with immaculate detail completed the look.

Mara and Mark selected a delectable dinner menu as well as signature mixed drinks, an assembly of favored wines from Italy and California, and an assortment of beers for guests’ enjoyment. “We had to have Canadian beer for my fellow Canucks!” laughs Mark. The couple opted to forego a traditional wedding cake and instead offered a dessert table that featured a variety of sweets alongside a cappuccino cart.

The groom admits to working diligently on the musical selections for the celebration – selections that spanned guests’ rides on the airport shuttle through the final song of the celebration’s after-party. His most significant choice was that of the first dance: “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young. “It represents having lived a good life with your wife, and reflecting back on it together feeling as in love as you did from the start,” shares Mark.

Smiling faces around the room proved the event a successful one. Exuding elegance and warmth, the wedding was everything for which Mara and Mark could have imagined or wished – with one exception. “If I could do it all again,” beams the groom, “I’d start the wedding earlier and end it later. Then the whole experience would have lasted even longer.”