An Earthy, Laid-Back SoCal Wedding at The Old Rancho Wedding Estate in Carlsbad

“I know a lot of people knock ‘love at first sight,’” Caroline Baratz says, “but we know it to be true.” She and Dan Sansa met amidst the buzz of Harl

“I know a lot of people knock ‘love at first sight,’” Caroline Baratz says, “but we know it to be true.” She and Dan Sansa met amidst the buzz of Harlem at a little hole-in-the-wall bar. The bride fondly remembers the moment she first laid eyes on him. “When I saw Dan crossing the street, I had the thought: ‘That’s my guy.’” Their connection was immediate and effortless, marked by shared laughter over beers in a cozy bar. Their bond deepened naturally, culminating in a magical proposal surrounded by the raw beauty of Anza Borrego. During a hike through the rugged canyons, as they reached a tranquil spot by a river, Dan popped the question in a setting that Caroline describes as “quiet and special and just us. I loved it.”

As they embarked on their wedding planning journey, Caroline and Dan knew they wanted to incorporate elements that were deeply personal and meaningful. “We wanted the day to be infectiously happy, and it really was,” Caroline shares. The theme of their wedding was a harmonious blend of rustic romance and classic rock, with a touch of Spanish desert influences—a nod to Caroline’s favorite song by Brandi Carlile, “You and Me on the Rock,” and Dan’s profession as a geophysicist. The couple’s Anza Borrego engagement was echoed in every choice they made, from the venue to the decor.

Set against the backdrop of a historic ranch, the wedding venue was chosen for its natural beauty, which perfectly highlighted the season’s splendor. “May in Southern California is about as good a season as you can get,” explains the bride. The couple enhanced this setting with decor that married a chic aesthetic with the rustic charm of the locale. The result was breathtaking, with velvets and soft desert colors mixed with bright florals that created a dream-like atmosphere.

Fashion choices for the day were equally thoughtful. Caroline found her dress at an Anthropologie store in Carlsbad, where the unique blend of California formal with a hint of adventure made her feel utterly herself. “Every time I put on my dress, it just felt like me,” she says. The lace and plunging neckline added a touch of elegance that was both unexpected and perfect. Dan’s attire was smartly curated with help from his sister Emily, culminating in a sleek suit complemented by a green tie Caroline had picked up in Paris—a city where Dan had once studied and which held special memories for them both.

As the wedding day dawned, guests were greeted by the serene beauty of the historic ranch, transformed into a festival of colors and sounds. The ceremony space was adorned with an arch exploding with native cacti and vibrant flowers, under which Caroline and Dan would make their promises. The air was filled with the sound of a mariachi band, a festive touch that brought a smile to everyone’s face.

The ceremony itself was a reflection of Caroline and Dan’s journey, intimate and heartfelt. Guests sat on rustic benches, the strumming of a guitar blending with the natural sounds of the surrounding landscape.

Following the ceremony, the cocktail hour allowed guests to mingle while sipping on cocktails, each drink a nod to the couple’s adventurous spirit. The reception unfolded under a canopy of twinkling lights, where tables were laid thoughtfully with soft, earthy tones and fresh pops of bright florals. Textural elements hung above, reminiscent of the open roads and wildflowers described in their favorite songs.

Dinner was a vibrant affair, filled with laughter and the clinking of glasses. Surprises awaited at every turn, with personalized details that reminded guests of the couple’s story and dedication to each other. The speeches were a highlight, with Caroline noting, “Somehow, we ended up with four speeches that were each better than the next.” Emotions ran high as stories and anecdotes painted a picture of a couple deeply loved by their family and friends.

As the evening wound down, Caroline and Dan shared their thoughts on the journey they had embarked upon together. “Practice gratitude with your partner,” the bride advises. “It’s not a given that you find the person that keeps you going in the hard moments and makes the good moments even better. Say thank you, even for the small stuff; it goes a long way.”

And as the last notes of the mariachi band faded into the night, the newlyweds danced under the stars, surrounded by the laughter and joy of their loved ones, their hearts full and their future bright.

Green and Orange-Red Wedding Invitation Suite With Desert Liner Design
Bride's Small Bouquet of Blush, White and Yellow Flowers With Greenery
Bride With Bridesmaids in Different Dresses, Different Colors and Patterns
Bride in Lacy Wedding Dress, Plunging V-Neckline With Mom in Formal Deep Navy Gown
Golden Retriever Dog With Flower Collar
Outdoor Courtyard and Aisle Lined With Arrangement, Arch With Floral and Cacti
Bridesmaids Walking Couple's Dog With Flower Collar Down the Aisle
Bride in Deep-V Wedding Dress, Groom in Blue Suit and Green Tie at Ample Floral Altar
A custom and unique escort card display with golden bells featuring small name cards with miniature bells and a four-tier wedding cake with panels in varying shades of pink.
Ornate Vintage Bells in Custom Escort Card Display
Small Golden Bells on Name Cards With Ribbons
Memory Cards and Guest Book for Guests With Handwritten Sign
Wood Chairs and Eclectic Table Setting With Low Centerpieces Under Boho Chandeliers, Fairy Lights
Smooth Rock Table Numbers With Small Gold Bells
Eclectic Place Setting With Pastel Flowers, Wooden Charger, Clay Vase and Other Wood Elements
Rock Table Number and Wicker-Wrapped Glassware on Patterned Linen
Custom Bar Off Dance Floor With Low Floral Arrangement
A whimsical outdoor reception with a hanging floral installation with pastel flowers and chandeliers in different shades on a drooping tree over a long table with velvet chairs and low eclectic centerpieces with taper candles for a boho wedding.
Garden Reception Space With Bright, Whimsical Colors Under String Lights and Trees, Flowers and Chandeliers
Professional Mariachi Band Playing at Garden Wedding
Guests Toasting With Glasses Over Long Reception Table
Four-Tier Wedding Cake With Panels in Shades of Pink, Designs and Fresh Flowers
Black-and-White Photo of Bride and Groom Kissing Under Silver Streamers