Early in her law career, Ashley Berk was assigned to work in first-year associate Hardy Ehlers’ office for her summer internship. “He spoke to me all of two times the entire week I sat right beside him,” she admits. “I thought Hardy was really cute, but sparks didn’t begin to truly fly until I started working at the law firm full time.” Despite many attempts by friends to spark a love connection between the two, it still took some time. “Hardy was nervous to date someone in the workplace, although we never worked together, so we stayed friends until he couldn’t set his feelings aside any longer,” she smiles. On an office retreat at a picturesque resort in Newport Coast, their love story commenced. “We sat together on the bus ride to the resort and flirted the whole evening,” confirms Ashley. “He finally kissed me that night, and we have been attached at the hip ever since.”

Hardy knew early on that he wanted to propose; however, he began to make real plans after two years. With a sparkling cushion-cut diamond engagement ring in hand, Hardy invited Ashley’s parents to the restaurant where he first met them, securing their enthusiastic blessing. Hardy says, “It was such a joyful and emotional lunch, and one I’ll never forget.” He then waited until Ashley had finished a weeks-long trial to make his intentions clear. On her first weekend at home, Hardy woke up Ashley and started dancing to “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by The Beach Boys. “I started to laugh, not really knowing what was going on but knowing it was all adorable,” muses Ashley. “Within 30 seconds, Hardy was in bed proposing. It was surreal and a moment I will never forget.” Surprising his bride-to-be once again, the groom whisked her away for a celebratory weekend at the same resort where their relationship began.

With just nine months to organize a stylish outdoor soirée, the couple hired the experts at Geller Events to make their dreams a reality. “We had amazing planners who we collaborated closely with through every step of the process,” confirms the bride. Hotel Bel-Air, a luxurious property hidden in the hills, was selected for the alfresco celebration, and on the first day of fall, nearly 160 loved ones gathered to witness the nuptials. “We wanted a ‘Tuscany meets rustic California’ wedding vibe,” shares Ashley of the elegant setting featuring beautiful florals by The Hidden Garden.

Friends and family found their seats next to the property’s dreamy Swan Lake on either side of a wood-plank aisle lined with verdure and vanilla blossoms. The bride was exquisite in a strapless gown featuring a sweetheart neckline and floral lace embellishments as she made her way towards Hardy to “Your Song” by Elton John, performed by a live pianist. At last, she met her groom beneath a gorgeous chuppah bedecked with lush greenery and flowers in shades of blush and ivory.

Though they desired a mostly secular service, the pair did incorporate some Jewish customs, including the ketubah signing, a chuppah, and the breaking of the glass, to honor the bride’s culture. “The ceremony was my favorite moment of the night,” remembers Ashley.  Hardy agrees: “Our dads wrote and officiated an original ceremony, and we wrote our own vows. It all came together in the most personal way – a perfect representation of us.”

Loved ones convened for the open-air reception at long wooden tables decorated with high and low centerpieces, as well as romantic candlelight. The design scheme from the ceremony was carried over, with the addition of deep shades of burgundy to provide a warm, autumnal ambience. Floral arrangements comprised of roses, hydrangeas, dahlias, and protea blooms in tones of blush, ivory, and wine were interspersed with tall taper candles on antique-style stands as well as bowls filled with fresh peaches, blackberries, plums, and dates. Bistro lights gave the space an Italian feel as friends and family shared spirited conversations and special toasts.

Following the sit-down dinner, the newlyweds and their attendees made their way into the hotel ballroom for an after-party decorated with bold black-and-white lounge furniture, metallic accents, and vibrant lighting. “We wanted that to feel like a real dance party,” notes Ashley. Though the day went by much too fast, the couple agrees their celebration was absolutely perfect. Delighted that she took her own advice, Ashley encourages other brides to do the same in order to have nothing but positive memories from the wedding experience. “Don’t take yourself or the night too seriously,” she urges. “Enjoy it and add elements of both of you to make it special and personal.”