This Couple Held the Sweetest Wedding at the Bride’s Best Friend’s Family Home

updated Oct 26, 2020
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Michelle Race and Shawn Warren married on August 15 in California.

Even after a decade together, Michelle Race didn’t predict that her boyfriend, Shawn Warren, would propose—at least not when he did. “I expected we’d get married, but I didn’t think it would happen this year, especially not after the pandemic started,” she says. 

But on June 6, after months spent at home in Lomita, California, Shawn, a registered nurse, suggested the two take a day trip to go hiking in Santa Barbara. “I should have been suspicious because normally we’re not great at planning things in advance, but he knew the trail he wanted to take me to and he was pretty specific about finding one spot,” says Michelle, a community science manager at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. 

Once they arrived at the vantage point overlooking the ocean that Shawn had scoped out ahead of time, he asked if they could take a photo together. “So I pulled out my phone to take a selfie, but he kept looking down. I was like, ‘What are you doing?’” Michelle recalls. Turns out he’d tucked the ring into the bottom of his fanny pack, and he was digging around for it. “It was probably 30 seconds before I got the ring out, but it felt like 10 minutes,” Shawn says. Finally, he got down on one knee. 

“It was really beautiful and lovely and all the things you’d want after being with someone for 10 years,” Michelle says of the proposal.

The two didn’t waste any time moving forward with wedding plans. “The pandemic has shown me that the future is unknown, so we just said, ‘What are we waiting for?’” Michelle explains. 

At first, Michelle and Shawn planned to tie the knot at the church that Michelle grew up attending. But a month before the wedding, the county barred indoor activities at places of worship due to the continued spread of COVID-19, and the two were forced to find a plan B. That was when Michelle’s elementary school BFF, Molly, reminded the couple that they could always get married in her parents’ Santa Monica backyard. “We didn’t want to burden [Molly’s parents], but eventually that became our best option,” Michelle says. “It ended up being wonderful and really saved us.” 

On August 15, after waking up at home and taking a trip to the car wash (“It was very casual,” Michelle says with a laugh), the two headed to Santa Monica. Their parents, siblings, nieces, two best friends, Michelle’s sister’s boyfriend, and Molly’s parents joined them for a late afternoon celebration under a canopy of flowers dangling from a pergola above the patio, designed by LA-based florist The Little Branch.

The overall vibe for the day, photographed by Eve Rox Photography, was “family-focused, relaxed, full of laughter, fun, meaningful, and thoughtful,” Michelle says. As part of that vision, almost everyone at the wedding had a role to play in the ceremony, and “anytime someone did something, I wanted to cry about it,” she confesses. Michelle’s dad, a deacon, officiated with help from a Catholic priest, and the ceremony included Filipino traditions such as the exchange of “Arras,” or unity coins, between the bride and the groom, who is half Filipino.

After the ceremony, the planning team from the Backyard Wedding Collective reset the patio area for the reception, adding in small tables adorned with flowers, gold-painted animal figurines, and thank-you cards from the couple. Meanwhile, guests sipped on two signature drinks—the Santa Barbara and Lomita Sling—prepared by Michelle’s sister’s boyfriend, Jack, while a family friend, Chris, provided the tunes, both singing live and DJing. After the couple’s first dance to Lauryn Hill’s version of “Can’t Take My Eyes off of You,” the pair cut into a berries and cream cake from Nicole Bakes Cakes, as well as two miniature confections in honor of Michelle’s mom’s and Molly’s August birthdays. 

The festivities wrapped with a sparkler send-off around 8 p.m., and the newlyweds headed off for a night’s stay at a nearby Airbnb, a gift from their friends. After a whirlwind two months of planning, the day had gone just as they’d hoped, even if not how they originally envisioned their wedding in a pre-COVID-19 world. “The fact that we had to keep it small made it feel more intimate, and the fact that it ended up being at Molly’s parents’ house was wonderful for both of us, particularly for Michelle because she spent so much time there growing up,” Shawn says. Adds Michelle: “It’s a life lesson of not letting your expectations get in the way of having a really great day or making plans. The wedding day was so perfect.”

The Apartment Therapy Weddings vertical was written and edited independently by the Apartment Therapy editorial team and generously underwritten by Crate & Barrel.