Present-day fairy tales could begin while traveling the world, through happenstance meet-cutes à la our favorite rom-coms, or through blind dates organized by mutual friends, but more often than not, they begin in the not-so-dreamy practical world of online dating. Such was the case for Stacia Harris and Mario Davis. For him, it was the first foray into the realm of digital dating; for her, it was an exciting way to meet new people she wouldn’t otherwise connect with. “I was enjoying the process of meeting new people … and encouraged friends to follow suit,” she tells BAZAAR Bride.
Soon after their initial match, the two quickly realized that they had much in common. “Both Mario and I are the youngest of three children, are born in the month of September, and are parents to small dogs,” Stacia says. “Besides these uncanny similarities, we share strong passions for the outdoors, travel, food and wine, art, and music.” Those shared passions led to a next-level first date organized by Mario, a Princeton graduate who moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music, and now works as a record label and advertising executive.
“We met for lunch at Scarpetta, on a sunny afternoon,” Stacia recalls. “[It’s] a posh restaurant inside the Montage hotel in Beverly Hills. I was flattered by the gesture and pleasantly surprised that we shared an equal love for fine dining and good wine.” It was on that date that everything clicked for Mario, after Stacia jokingly implied that she hoped she was special to him—and she was. “I appreciated the well thought-out first date and told him, ‘I hope you don’t take all your first dates out to such nice places!'” It was this comment, in addition to Stacia’s “undeniable beauty, brains, and adorably brazen attitude,” says the groom, that got him thinking about a future with her.
As for the bride: “I wasn’t 100 percent sold just yet,” she recalls. “Even though I thought he was supercute, smart, funny, and kindhearted, I had also made up my mind that [he] wasn’t emotionally ready to be in a serious relationship, and put him squarely in the friend zone.” The two remained in contact, platonically, for about a year until “the love we had developed for each other as friends blossomed into a full-on romantic relationship.” Though Stacia didn’t know it at the time, Mario would soon pop two truly meaningful questions. His first came in 2016, when he asked Stacia be his girlfriend over drinks at Bar Stella in Silver Lake. “We never looked back,” she says.
Despite their magnetic connection, the couple traveled a more traditional route in their courtship. “Surprisingly enough, we opted out of living together prior to being married,” Stacia explains. “We took turns commuting from Santa Monica and Hollywood, switching every Thursday through Sunday. Alternating weeks gave each of us 10 days [together] at our respective homes.” In scheduling their quality time, Mario and Stacia balanced out their individual needs and time with their friends with their joint desire to spend as much time as possible together. “Monday’s were my me-time,” she says. “Tuesdays and Wednesdays were [nights spent] with my girlfriends, and Thursdays I was back with my love.” As many couples tend to cohabitate prior to marriage, Stacia notes that living separately just worked for the two as a couple, as well as helped her to “gain clarity” on their future together.
That clarity is evermore palpable in hearing the couple describe their chemistry. “We’re like-minded in important matters in life,” Stacia says. “Our politics are similar, the way we spend and save our money are aligned, how [we’ll] choose to raise kids one day … restaurants, movies, music … those are easy to decide on and just as easy to bend on.”
With their birthdays four days apart, Mario planned a trip to Italy for the duo in September of 2018, after two years of dating. In Venice, the last spot on their epic tour of the country, Mario popped his second question—this time asking Stacia to marry him.
“It was arguably the most romantic and magical of all the places we had visited,” she remembers. “We were only there for two nights—and so for Mario it was literally now or never. He was hoping for some place private, since I am notoriously shy. He decided [to propose] on the private rooftop patio of [our] hotel, the Bauer Palazzo, overlooking the Grand Canal and the ethereal Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute.”
After all of Mario’s expert planning, however, there was one hiccup—”The door was locked, and he didn’t have access.” But Mario just switched gears and coordinated an equally fabulous, even more private proposal in the couple’s hotel room. “He got all dressed up. Set up the camera to film it … and everything arrived right on time—the hors d’oeuvres, the roses, the bottle of Ruinart on ice. It all looked perfect,” Stacia says. “He woke me from my nap and asked me to put on a dress. I, being grumpy, declined. He pulled me out while I was still in my robe and proposed. Of course, I said yes.” Mario proposed with a “Davis family heirloom, originally given to Mario’s mother by his father on their 25th wedding anniversary. The ring consists of three diamonds—one center oval stone flanked on either side by two diamond trillions, reset on a new custom platinum setting.”
After a proposal that fit the bill for all their needs—private, luxurious, and above all, romantic and unique to the two of them as a couple—the two immediately began planning. As for all things wedding, Mario’s priorities were simple: “I only had one request—that we get married in Napa, the spot of our first vacation together,” he says.
So the couple set out to plan an intimate, warm, and romantic wine country wedding, working with planner Marilyn Ambra on the details. “Napa Valley has always been a special place for us,” Stacia explains. “Not only was it where we took our very first out-of-town trip when we began dating, but it was also my first visit to wine country. We decided on a private Napa wine country estate for intimacy. It’s tucked away on the edge of a mountain in Calistoga, California, with sweeping views over the valley and mountains.”
In retrospect, Stacia and Mario were on to something. In today’s world, where gatherings are restricted and smaller, more intimate weddings are becoming the norm for 2020 and perhaps even into 2021, their nuptials—without restrictions or safety concerns—are jam-packed with inspiration for couples looking to wed at home, in private gardens, or outdoors in sprawling vineyards.
The estate the couple landed on had it all: “The graceful cypress tree-lined drive up to the estate is wrapped in vineyards. The lush lawn, infinity pool, and wraparound decking are all at the view’s edge. The terrace below is a bocce court facing the garden views. A mini redwood grove with an amphitheater is where our ceremony took place. The estate has an elegant, relaxed feel, which made it the ideal location for our wedding,” the bride explains.
The couple, who entertain often and are passionate about fashion, food, wine, and decor, viewed the wedding as a chance to let their loved ones into their world. “Family and friends would quickly describe us as a stylish couple who complement each other, [and] I would have to agree,” Stacia admits. “They would also describe us as a loving and kind couple that enjoy the simple things in life, like staying home and cooking, early 7:00 a.m. walks on the beach with our pups, and surprising family and friends with our favorite recipes during the holidays.” Stacia and Mario chose to infuse their event with elements of how they love to live, rather than approach their wedding as an affair they’d do one time only. So the duo invited their guests to enjoy three days in Napa Valley, kicking off with a rehearsal dinner on Friday at Santé Restaurant in Sonoma.
At the low-key dinner, the bride—a fashion product developer and Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising grad—prioritized comfort, with style. Stacia donned a satin camisole and matching slip skirt “that I shockingly now wear to the office with my favorite flats.” She paired the look with a sentimental piece: an emerald-green clutch purchased in Italy at the Gucci Garden in Florence just days shy of the proposal. The rehearsal dinner menu paid homage to Mario’s Greek heritage, featuring a Mediterranean spread of roast grilled lamb, whole-roasted branzino, eggplant moussaka, and baklava.
The duo’s easygoing welcome dinner parlayed into the next day, when the couple invited their guests to an intimate, woodland ceremony and dinner party at a private estate. As for the fashion, the bride wore a crepe sheath by Monique Lhuillier with long sleeves, a mock neckline, an open back, and a dramatic train. “I had my fair share of dress hunting … and couldn’t seem to find The One,” Stacia recalls.
Intensifying her hunting efforts, she did what few brides dare to: She went wedding dress shopping alone. “I decided to make my way to Melrose Place in Los Angeles to a few of my favorite designers, accompanied only by my magazine clippings. Deciding to go solo lent me the opportunity to listen to what dress spoke directly to me, and which dress I felt like my best self in. When I initially pulled a few gowns at Monique Lhuillier, my vision for [the wedding] day wasn’t the clearest. But once I slipped on the Bardot gown, I knew it was the one. My vision for the entire wedding was planned around this single gown. It was romantic and modest, it whispered timeless elegance and sophistication, and it was simple, pure, and thoughtfully crafted. It’s a gown my older self [will] look back at and still admire.” Stacia paired the gown with a cathedral-length veil with a satin trim, also by Monique Lhuillier, Aquazzura sandals, and Oscar de la Renta Baroque pearl earrings.
The bride prepared for her ceremony with hairstylist Jess Jewel and makeup artist Huong Vo, accompanied by her bridal party who donned blush-hued satin dresses by Teri Jon. The groom, rather than sporting a suit or tux from a single label, styled his look by hand-selecting each piece. Mario donned a black shawl collar dinner jacket by Theory, J.Crew trousers, an Eton shirt and pocket square, and a bow tie by Ermenegildo Zegna. He accented the look with 24-karat gold glasses by Jacques Marie Mage and Celine cuff links.
As for the intimate ceremony, the estate’s amphitheater situated in a redwood grove offered the couple the privacy and, simultaneously, the views and expanses they were hoping for. “We consider ourselves (to a certain degree) to be outdoorsy people, and so we decided to forgo a more traditional indoor church ceremony. We thought the outdoor amphitheater was pretty impressive and spoke more to our everyday style.” The couple and their wedding party descended the stairs of the theater, rather than walked down a standard aisle, to a string trio. And their “two furry baby pups” played a key role, strutting down the aisle as part of the family.
Feather & Stone Photography captured the entire event, in addition to an engagement session with the couple prior to their wedding weekend. “We wanted a mix of in-the-moment emotions, gentle movement, and portraiture—inspired by high-fashion editorials,” Stacia says. “After working with Seth and Tenielle, it’s impossible to imagine hiring anyone else. They approached the whole process with attention to detail and artistic flair … [and] went above and beyond even our highest expectations.”
After the two exchanged vows, Stacia and Mario invited guests to an intimate, sit-down dinner. Guests were escorted down a garden path, greeted by long, communal tables decorated with florals and a classic tablescape of ivory, cream, mauve, dusty rose, and verdant greens. The couple opted for an organic and natural palette, keeping their standout setting in mind, especially the estate’s infinity pool and “the blue hues over the valley as the sun set.” As for the decor, designed in collaboration with Loop Flowers, Stacia explains that she and Mario “chose a whimsical … and organic, loose style that [was] also polished and refined.” The arrangements tapped textural, romantic blooms and seasonal vines and foliage set in white ceramic vessels and clear glass compotes and cups.
For the reception, Stacia changed into a second look: a draped, almost ’80s-inspired cocktail dress by Oscar de la Renta, which she paired with Jimmy Choo pumps. To kick the celebration off, the couple danced their first dance to Tony Bennett’s “The Way You Look Tonight,” with a set from DJ Beatific carrying the party into the evening.
As lovers of fine food and wine, the couple worked closely with their caterer, Elaine Bell, to craft a coursed dinner menu, paired with local wines. “The concept for our menu was to give our guests a fine dining, three-course experience … but before [dinner was served], we had a surprise wine-and-cheese pairing of our chosen favorites, locally sourced from Napa,” the bride explains. After a dinner that began with a grilled peach and arugula salad, followed by a choice of beef, fish, or vegetarian succotash, “our last course was a shock that happened on the dance floor—we gave out late-night bites of salmon sliders and french fries served in mini paper cones.”
For dessert, the couple worked with Jasmine Rae Cakes, which designed a confection packed with flavor—and with a painted exterior reminiscent of an oil painting of white roses. “The first layer was Earl Grey cake with honey rose buttercream, which I like to call my layer, since high tea is one of my favorite ways to pass time,” says the bride. “The second layer was a dense chocolate cake with black cherry cream cheese, hibiscus ganache, and caramel—a.k.a. Mario’s layer. Jasmine layered her painterly finish in light and dark grays with undertones of purples, blush, and greens.”
Though the couple never worked social distancing into their wedding planning—it was 2019 after all—their choice to host an intimate dinner party and forgo an after-party is a prime example of how one could achieve a small yet safe wedding outdoors. Guests were sent home with petite bottles of sparkling wine from nearby winery Chandon and “bombonieres, traditional Greek wedding favors made of silk, lace, and tulle layers, made into a pouch filled with sugar-coated white almonds.” Another ode to Mario’s Greek roots, the favors are said to symbolize purity and new beginnings.
The next day, guests were invited to a farewell brunch at Bouchon Bistro in Yountville, California. Reflecting on their wedding weekend, the couple explains that their three-day affair was “exactly what we wanted: an intimate, romantic, heartfelt, and cinematic celebration amongst our dearest family and friends.”
After a lengthy planning process, the duo forewent a honeymoon immediately following their wedding weekend and stayed local for a mini-moon instead. “We stayed at the same hotel [that we did] when we first visited Napa as an official couple, the North Block Hotel, for two nights. Then, we stayed in Monterey for two nights and made another stop at Carmel-by-the-Sea for an additional day to relax on the beach before making our way by to Los Angeles.” The two are currently planning a joint honeymoon and anniversary trip to Morocco and South Africa—whenever restrictions on travel and tourism, and their schedules, allow, of course.
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