For Love and Basketball—A Japanese-American Wedding at The Harper in Costa Mesa, California

Classmate meet-cutes are genuinely some of our absolute favorites. "Joseph and I first met at pharmacy school," Nicole Watanabe begins, recounting her

Classmate meet-cutes are genuinely some of our absolute favorites. "Joseph and I first met at pharmacy school," Nicole Watanabe begins, recounting her first time locking eyes with Joseph Wang. Their connection was almost immediate, a bond forged over shared interests and experiences. "We grew closer as we realized we shared similarities, including their love for basketball, boba and food." It wasn't just a fleeting campus romance; it was the beginning of something profound and lasting. Nicole recalls how their relationship blossomed, "After several study sessions and pick-up basketball games, we became an official couple in January 2013 and have been together ever since!" Nicole continues, "Joseph was trying to find the perfect spot to propose in Monterey, California, along the scenic 17 Mile Drive along the coast." The challenges posed by weather and crowds proved too great to pop the question along the drive, but Joseph had a surprise up his sleeve. "The next day, we went on a small hike, and he proposed by the Bird Rock!" she details.

In the kaleidoscope of wedding planning, it can be challenging to nail down a particular motif that you and your beloved are equally set on—this wasn't an issue for Nicole and Joseph. "Our wedding was exactly how we imagined it! We wanted our wedding to reflect us as individuals and as a couple," Nicole beams. "We're both laid-back, simple people and prefer a fun, comfortable atmosphere instead of something formal or a black-tie event."

Speaking of a more relaxed atmosphere, the pair knew they wanted to infuse their passion for basketball into their big day. It wasn't just about the love for the game but about the culture and community that came with it. In Southern California, the Japanese-American Basketball Leagues hold a special place: a blend of sport and cultural heritage. Nicole and Joseph, both ardent players, found this an integral part of their lives. So, naturally, when it came to their wedding, the couple wanted to ensure these elements were front and center.

Incorporating Nicole's Japanese-American heritage was equally significant. "Since I'm Japanese, I wanted to incorporate the Japanese tradition of senbazuru," Nicole notes. Senbazuru, the ancient tradition of folding 1000 origami cranes, symbolizes luck and longevity. The result was nothing short of breathtaking: a chandelier of a thousand origami cranes, strung with care and suspended over the dance floor, a testament to the intricate beauty of traditions and the blessings they carry.

The couple's attire was chosen with the same thoughtful consideration. "Joseph customized a suit from Indochino in the color slate and accessorized it with brown shoes and a black bow tie," shares the bride. Her own choice was a stunning lace dress from Martina Liana, a mermaid silhouette that was both elegant and comfortable, topped off with Loeffler Randall heels, later swapped for white Nikes—a nod to her practical yet stylish nature.

As the wedding day dawned, attendees gathered in the verdant courtyard and faced the couple's circular wedding arch. The ceremony was a fusion of modern aesthetics and traditional values, much like Nicole and Joseph themselves. Nicole held an expansive, bold-hued bouquet of blush-and-pink blooms accented by greenery, mirroring the flora adorning the arch and keeping in line with the light tropical aesthetic.

The reception was a celebration of love, life and the game. What truly made their wedding stand out was the personal touches that resonated with their personalities. Guests were greeted by the innovative basketball-themed interactive seating chart. "The basketballs were placed on a board created by Laser Drew, which also included a small basketball hoop at the top," Nicole explains. The guests' excitement as they interacted with the mini basketball hoop escort wall, trying their hand at shooting hoops, was a highlight of the evening.

As the night unfolded, the dance floor under the origami crane chandelier became a space of joy and celebration. Loved ones dined at long tables minimally festooned with low arrangements, neutral-toned taper candles and custom menus. Meanwhile, Bandit, their beloved corgi, made an adorable appearance on the bar cocktail sign, endearingly named "Bandit's Bar."

Reflecting on their special day, Nicole's advice to other couples planning their wedding resonates with wisdom and experience. "If you have a wedding planner, trust their advice and suggestions!" She emphasized the importance of enjoying every moment, for, in the end, "It's all worth it on your wedding day! Enjoy every moment!"

Vow Books, Mrs DIsh, Customized Initial Ring Box and White Basketball With Calligraphy
Groom and Bride Holding Wide Tropical Bouquet With Blush and Coral Flowers, Ferns
Bride in White, Zip-Up Hoodie and Bridesmaids in Black Shirts, Wavy Hair
Groom and Groomsmen in Navy Suits Pouring Jameson Whiskey into Clear Mugs
Modern, Black-and-White Welcome Sign With Ivy Greenery Wrapped Around
A courtyard ceremony space with low floral aisle markers and a circular gold arch at the altar with blush, pink and coral flowers with greenery around most of the hoop, all underneath olive trees and string lights.
Bride and Groom Reading Vows at Circular Ceremony Arch With Flowers in Pink and White
Groom in Navy Tuxedo, Boutonniere Looking at Bride With Long Veil at Altar
Bride in Fitted Lace Dress, Long Veil and Groom in Navy Tux At Circular Arch With Flowers
A blush escort card display made up of basketballs painted white with calligraphy names of each guest and their table numbers for a wedding inspired by basketball.
Bride and Groom Shoot Basketball Hoops With White Escort Card Basketballs at Reception
Bride Shooting Hoops With Custom Escort Card Basketball Display With Hoop
Basketball Guest Book With Purple and Yellow Colors
Low Centerpiece With Blush, Coral and Pink and a Custom Menu
A set of three custom-made origami chandeliers made of white paper cranes to represent the bride's Japanese heritage, put together by the mother of the bride and hung up with winding ivy greenery above.
Custom Blush Escort Card Display With White Basketballs, Lounge Furniture
Transparent Bar Menu With Dog Illustration and Signature Cocktails
Long Wooden Tables With Black Chairs, Low Centerpieces and Taper Candles
Bride in Fitted Gown and Wide Blush-and-Coral Bouquet, Bridesmaids in Pale Turquoise