Jenn and Gabe met in college at UC Santa Cruz and they’ve been “inseparable ever since,” says the bride.

They dated for more than nine years before getting engaged while on a road trip to Los Angeles to visit family and friends. All of their family members and friend were “in” on the engagement surprise.

Gabe set up an elaborate plan. On their way to dinner, he stopped to take a sunset picture and they saw a bridge with hearts on it. “We walked toward it, and there were beautiful white rose petals everywhere,” says Jenn, who was taking pictures on her phone of the bridge and rose petals. “I’m not sure how, but I was still clueless.”

Then as she was putting her phone away, “I saw a box and Gabe getting on one knee.” Shocked and crying tears of joy, she said yes. “Everything after that just seemed like a dream,” she says.

The next surprise? When they drove to Gabe’s grandfather’s house to share the news, Jenn’s parents, brothers and friends were all there. “It was truly a magical moment,” she says.

Nine months later, Jenn and Gabe married in a Jewish ceremony in front of 175 guests at Hilltop Hacienda Estate at the Kennolyn event venue in the Santa Cruz Mountains. A perfect spot since they wanted to get married near Santa Cruz where they met.

Since there was a chance of rain, they had their ceremony in the wooden area, not on the lawn. Their reception was tented, too, just in case. Best of all, though, their wedding day was sunny!

They said their vows under a Chuppah and Gabe stepped on the glass. Gabe’s family friend, Judy led the ceremony; Jenn’s brother played the music.

“We both wrote our own vows, and everything about our ceremony went better than I could ever imagine!” says the bride of the bohemian themed wedding.

Jenn had a “wedding dress disaster” two weeks before the wedding when too much of the dress’ length was cut off during alterations. “It changed the entire look of the dress,” she says. “I scrambled to find something else quick.”

She ended up getting two samples off the rack at a dress shop in Pasadena. A seamstress in San Francisco made “the two pieces one piece,” says Jenn. “She did an amazing job and it turned out perfect!”

Gabe loved seeing his bride: “I just remember how beautiful she looked!” he says.

While the couple didn’t have wedding favors, they did place a worry doll next to each setting. The dolls were a way to honor Jenn’s El Salvadorean, Guatemalan and Chilean heritage. According to Mayan myth, if  you put the doll under your pillow and tell it your worries, the doll will take your worries away.

The wedding day was worry-free for the newlyweds. The bride explains, “I felt the love from our families, friends, and everyone there.” 

—Kristen Castillo