High-Fashion Meets South-of-France in this Stunning Southern California Wedding at Villa del Sol d'Oro
Los Angeles-based sweethearts Tertulien Thomas and Kristopher (Kris) Elder had been discussing the idea of marriage for some time. “Little did Kris know that I was already plotting a proposal—I had just finished paying off the deposit to my jeweler the day he asked me that question,” Tertulien reveals. So, on a bright and sunny New Year’s Day in Southern California, the couple drove to Temecula in Orange County and hopped into an air balloon. “I had a photographer and a Champagne toast on hand for the event: it was quite romantic. Afterward, we had lunch at Perch LA to celebrate the engagement!”
Tertulien sums up the grooms’ July wedding design succinctly and beautifully: “Everything about this wedding was intentional.” The pair dove into wedding planning headfirst, knowing they wanted to plan something unique and, most importantly, deeply reflective of their character, heritages and tastes. At first, Tertulien and Kris looked into hosting a destination wedding in the South of France—however, with worries about lingering COVID-19 restrictions, they elected to stay local and found a Franco-Mediterranean-inspired villa just east of Pasadena, California. “I am a fashion-head and a bit low-key obsessed with fashion, so I thought it would be fabulous to design our wedding around a specific vibe: Met Gala being held at a fabulous estate in the South of France… and the theme is romance,” describes Tertulien.
With so many personal elements, guests experienced special surprises during every facet of the big day. Friends and family walked into the alfresco ceremony space and were greeted by a lovely and sacred ritual. “Because I am a spiritualist of Vodou origin, I wanted to incorporate spiritualism into our wedding,” Tertulien notes. “As guests were waiting for the ceremony, I had Mètres Riva Nyri Precil open up the space with her singing bowl to call in the spirits. Additionally, we held an aromatherapy ritual at the same time where Sacred Scents anointed each guest with essential oils.”
Following their wedding party—stunning in blush-and-hot-pink ensembles—the grooms walked down the aisle in coordinating white outfits. As the stylist of the two, Tertulien designed every wedding look for both himself and his husband. He contacted a kiltmaker in Scotland and commissioned an all-white kilt for Kris. Though hesitant initially, as it was not a traditional color, the kiltmakers were sold when Tertulien offered to send along a silk wool satin from Italy. For his own outfit, Tertulien was inspired by the late fashion icon, André Léon Talley, to design a robe. “I wanted the drama of a bridal gown without wearing a dress. I’ve loved a regal robe/cape with my fashion for the past few years, so this occasion was quite fitting for what I envisioned.”
Floral design played a starring role in the event’s decor. “I wanted the flowers to exude romance, so I selected flowers like roses, wisteria, cherry blossoms and star-gazer lilies, which smelled absolutely divine.” The blooms complimented the chosen color palette for the day: hot pink, emerald green, diamond white and gold with a hint of blue. This vibrant collection of hues represented the couple’s fun energy, but it also held a deeper meaning. “The color palette was inspired by the colors of the “Rada Lwa Spirits” that walk with me in my family’s lineage,” Tertulien, who is of Haitian descent, explains.
The distinct palette was prevalent primarily in the open-air reception tablescapes. “Kris made all of the candles for the wedding, so all of the dinner candles, altar candles and guest favors—that was all Kris Kandles, my husband,” beams Tertulien. The newlyweds changed into second all-white ensembles to continue the celebration with their nearest and dearest. In response to a song that Tertulien wrote and performed for his beloved at the ceremony, Kris performed a hilarious comedy skit at the reception to enliven the guests and his new husband.
The taste-making Mr. and Mr. have several practical pearls of wisdom for any couple planning their wedding. “Keep those communications lines open between the two of you. It really helps; it keeps the other spouse involved and interacting. Have an extra set of eyes or at least an assistant or two to help you, especially if you are an extremely busy person. Make sure that you make this day your own and make it fabulous. Details are so crucial. Be strict in your dress code and RSVP times. Have everyone contact a third party on the day of the wedding so that you can focus on getting ready. Be budget conscious and take your time to shop around. If something doesn’t feel right, walk away—better yet, run away. You won’t have time to say hi to everyone, so keep that in mind. Finally, remember to have fun.”