Stephen McLaughlin and Erica Sunkin first met while attending their mutual friends’ tailgate at The Hunt horse race. Their relationship took off, and four years later, Steve planned an elaborate surprise for Erica.
Steve enlisted Erica’s friend, Lauren Browning, for help with his plan. She invited Erica on a girls’ weekend to scope out possible venues for Lauren’s wedding in Newport, Rhode Island. Unbeknownst to Erica, however, their girls’ trip would be short-lived. When Erica stepped foot onto the event lawn at Gurney’s in Newport, Steve was already waiting for her on one knee with an engagement ring in hand. The newly engaged couple spent the rest of the weekend in Newport and then traveled back to New York City, where they met their parents for a congratulatory dinner.
The two began planning their wedding and immediately decided on the venue—Erica’s family’s country club in Los Angeles. The club was practically steeped in her family history—several generations were members. Numerous important milestones took place here like her parents’ wedding, her sister and her cousin’s Bat Mitzvahs, and her cousin’s wedding. Now, it would be where Erica hosted her wedding.
She and Steve always wanted an outdoor wedding, especially after COVID precautions made al-fresco ceremonies the norm. Plus, it was imperative that Steve’s family traveling from the East Coast see Los Angeles’s picturesque views.
“My aesthetic has always been quite classic with touches of California casual and some glamour; I also love everything French,” Erica explains. “Since the entire party was going to be outside, we wanted the event to feel like a summer garden party in France but also a natural extension of us.” Equal parts sentimental and romantic, Erica and Steve envisioned an evening where guests would dance underneath the cover of stars, surrounded by carefully picked flowers and swinging music.
The night before the wedding, Steve’s parents hosted the rehearsal dinner and welcome reception overlooking West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Over The Moon head stylist Anny Choi expertly suggested the bride wear Alexandra Grecco’s Odette midi dress with Nicola Bathie pearl drop earrings. And to get ready with her bridesmaids, Anny highlighted Sleeper’s Party Pajamas.
When Erica was a little girl, she would look at cinched dresses with full skirts and call them “twirly” dresses. When the sales associate at her bridal salon showed her Monique Lhuillier‘s Lakely dress, Erica knew it was the ball gown of her childhood dreams. Romantic, classic, with a fitted waist silhouette to boot, the Lakely was the ultimate “twirly” dress. She paired the gown with lace and pearl Jimmy Choo heels.
For the latter half of the evening, Erica slipped into Roger Vivier white sneakers with shimmering embellishments. By the end of the night, Erica would change into a bow-adorned Carolina Herrera mini dress, also styled by Anny.
Valerie from Valerie Beverly Hills applied Erica’s makeup, which was special because Val has always been prevalent throughout many milestone moments. She not only did Erica’s makeup for her high school prom, but Val also applied Erica’s grandmother’s makeup for events. Erica from 10.11 Beauty styled the bride’s hair.
Both Erica and Steve thought that while so many people prioritize the bride’s white wedding day look, they could also make Steve stand out as the groom with white accents. He wore a beautiful cream dinner jacket with matching tuxedo pants from Ralph Lauren Purple Label. His tuxedo shirt showcased mother-of-pearl button details and a black silk bowtie. His custom Stubbs & Wootton velvet slippers proudly displayed the newlyweds’ new monogram. The finishing detail was the sparkling “XO” Tiffany & Co. cufflinks Erica gifted him for the wedding.
For the wedding party ensembles, Erica again turned to Anny to help coordinate her bridesmaids’ dresses. “I wanted to enable each bridesmaid to pick out their own dress within a specific palette of light blues for the black-tie affair,” Erica elaborates. “I absolutely love the mix-and-match aesthetic and that everyone felt so comfortable and happy in their dresses!” She gifted each bridesmaid a Nap Dress from Hill House Home for the day-of and a pair of earrings to wear during the wedding. “All from OTM!” Erica adds.
On September 4, 2021, the entire bridal party—including Steve, who was escorted by his parents—walked to the altar to the tune of “La Vie en Rose.” To combat the California heat, every seat was equipped with hand fans that featured the couple’s crest. With her parents beside her, Erica made the journey down the aisle while a string quartet played “Moon River.” Steve mentions, “When Erica started to walk down the aisle is when it really hit me, but luckily it was a long enough processional that I could get my composure back.”
One of Erica’s dearest family friends, Jon Berger, officiated the truly personalized ceremony. “I come from a Jewish family, and Steve comes from a Catholic one, so it was really important to us to have a blended ceremony that recognized both of our religions, family traditions, and heritages,” she shares. “Song of Songs” from the Torah was ready by Erica’s uncle, and “Corinthians 13” was recited by Steve’s aunt and godmother. A unity candle, a classic Catholic tradition that happened at Steve’s parents’ wedding, was also incorporated. The service even had a wine ceremony and stomping of the glass, two signature Jewish celebrations. Erica and Steve then exchanged their own personal vows.
The newlyweds joined guests for the outdoor cocktail hour, which coincided with the glowing golden hour sunset. The drink menu featured an illustration by Ashley D. Studio of the couple’s precious pup, who stayed in New York City. Her visage was also depicted on the cocktail napkins. Everyone sipped on the spicy margaritas or lime gin concoction while stirring with a stick that showed the couple’s custom crest.
Dinner followed with an heirloom tomato and burrata tower, and guests’ choice between miso sake black cod and prime New York strip steak. The couple’s wedding planners, Kristen and Taylor of KED & Co., suggested that guests light sparklers, while the newlyweds cut the cake. Erica lauds that idea and says, “The light emanating from the sparklers just gave off such a warm glow that felt really special.” Erica personally prefers savory to sweet, so even after the cake was served, french fries and sliders were passed out.
Each table overflowed with flowers from The Hidden Garden and candles of various sizes and arrangements. “We had a mix of round and rectangular tables to make the event feel a bit more intimate and casual,” Erica shares.
The seated portion of the night began with welcome toasts from Erica’s parents, Nancy and Howard. They then led a reprise of their first dance to “Just Because” by Anita Baker. “It was the cutest little surprise to us all, and to honor the fact that they were also married at the same venue we were,” Erica says. This was followed by the traditional Jewish song “Hava Nagila,” which prompted the couple to be lifted in chairs by their strongest family and friends.
Erica and Steve had their first dance to “Conversations in the Dark” by John Legend. And the father-daughter dance began with the handshake from The Parent Trap, followed by Bruce Springsteen’s “When You Need Me.” The groom and his mother then danced to Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The spectacular band, Midnight Special from West Coast Music, kept the dancing going all night long.
“Other than being married and celebrating our love, the thing that was the most important to us was that our guests have a great time and feel so taken care of and thought of,” Erica confides. Steve agrees, “The best part of the reception was the people celebrating with us. Our wedding the only event where we could not turn left or right without running into someone that cared about us and we were excited to see.”