Panama Marquand and Victor Arribas met at the University of Michigan in September 2011, when they were rushing the same co-ed business fraternity, Phi Chi Theta. “We were always friendly in our pledge class, but never close until we happened to get active leadership positions in Phi Chi Theta the same semester,” Panama shares. “During that semester, we ended up having to spend a ton of time together working on various initiatives and got to be close friends.” Their friendship soon evolved into something more.
Five years after making it official, they were back in Ann Arbor for Victor’s younger brother’s graduation. “We took a walk around campus, stopping at our favorite old spots like Mighty Good Coffee,” Panama remembers. “When we got to Rackham Library, where we used to study together all the time, Victor proposed on the steps outside.”
They put off wedding planning for a couple of years, hesitant to dive in because nothing quite felt like them. “Picking our venue felt impossible; nothing felt right,” Panama says. “We didn’t want to just follow the wedding rule book. I was always hesitant to do a big event where we were the center of attention, and touring venues where everything was already figured out made the whole wedding day feel prescribed.”
It was a matter of perspective, she learned. “During one of our many wedding venue conversations, Victor helped reframe the day completely for me,” Panama recalls. “‘It’s not about us, it’s a chance to honor everyone else in our lives who have supported us to this point.’ This simple mindset shift changed my entire attitude. It wasn’t about putting on a show. It was a way to give back to everyone who has given us so much throughout our lives, in the form of an epic party full of love, joy, and gratitude. It made the planning process and the day itself so much more rewarding.”
So, the duo set out to create their own traditions, and offer a unique experience for guests that reflected their relationship and celebrated the region they now call home. “Because most of our guests traveled for the event, with Victor’s family based in Michigan and mine in New York City, our wedding was a chance to introduce what we love about Southern California—the nature, the food, the vibes—to those we love.” And, one thing was certain: “We didn’t want a wedding day, we wanted a wedding week,” Panama says. “We split it into two parts. The first few days only had parents, siblings, and a few cousins, keeping the group to around 25 people. We had a bridal brunch, a groom’s brunch, an intimate Catholic ceremony, a celebratory dinner with speeches, and a day to lounge and enjoy the bliss of Santa Barbara with everyone.” She goes on: “By the time Friday rolled around, we had had so many special moments with our immediate family, and we were all ready to welcome our 120 closest friends and family to join the fun!”
After a nearly three-year engagement, the couple said “I do” in their own special way on July 2, 2021. Read on to see all the unique details planned by Tyler Speier—“our man in a cape, our superhero,” raves Panama—and photographed by Natalie Bray Photography.
While Panama put off decision-making after getting engaged, Victor began peppering their apartment with bridal magazines to get her inspired. “I remember so clearly getting back from an early COVID run to Whole Foods, masked up, wiping down cereal boxes, and Victor was laying on the couch, his head deep in a bridal magazine,” Panama says. “To this day I laugh out loud remembering the image.” It was in one of the magazines that they discovered Dos Pueblos Orchid Farm, and “something about the rawness of it attracted us,” Panama says. “When we visited the venue we had high hopes, and it exceeded them. It felt like the perfect blank canvas to create the wedding day we envisioned—no one telling us what, where, how, when. The landscape, the greenhouses paired with the ocean, the animal farm, the gravel floors. We loved every inch. There were so many different magical spaces to create different chapters of our wedding day.”
An invitation suite set the tone and nodded to their color palette of soft blues, taupe and beige, with hints of blush and burgundy.
The couple began their day with a spiritual cleanse on the beach. It was led by Panama’s aunt, a shaman who also served as their officiant.
The bride opted for a “simple, natural, glowing” beauty look, she says. “I always feel self-conscious in heavy makeup or hairspray. I wanted something I could feel myself in.” A friend sent an idea to Panama for her hairstyle. “I loved that my hair could be down but out of my eyes. I never did a trial, but my bridesmaids gave the green light on the wedding morning. By that point, I was too stressed to make decisions, so I happily went along!”
One of the couple’s most memorable moments was actually before the celebrations even began. “We got each other dressed and ready for the big day, instead of waiting for a more formal first look,” Panama shares.
Much like the venue choice, Panama let her gown decision go until nearly the last minute. It was eight weeks before the wedding, and she flew to New York to go dress shopping with her mom. They biked across the city from appointment to appointment. “Nothing was feeling right and I was at the point of feeling like I would have to compromise,” Panama remembers. “Then we went to Mark Ingram Atelier and I met my fairy godmother of wedding dresses, Tammy.”
“She put me in a dressing room and brought out all Elizabeth Fillmore dresses. I was obsessed with every one of them,” shares the bride. “I went from wanting to elope in sweatpants to wanting to get married ten times, each in a different Elizabeth Fillmore dress.” It got even better. “Tammy called up Elizabeth while we were in the dressing room and told her about the rush order. Next thing I knew, we were in Elizabeth’s insanely gorgeous studio meeting the designer herself. Gotta love New York.”
Panama’s accessories were equally as special as the ivory silk gown. “My amazing husband designed earrings for me as my wedding gift,” Panama says. “I had no jewelry prepared so thank god he did! It was a blissful surprise. He worked with by Musti to bring his design to life. I cherish them.”
“The groom’s prep was pretty easy,” Panama says. “He woke up and did a group workout with his groomsmen, showered, and shaved with a double-edged razor.” He donned a made-to-measure navy tuxedo with a shawl collar, and a silver diver watch gifted from the bride. “He wore black boots as a tribute to his father-in-law, and custom gold cufflinks with the calendar of our two wedding ceremonies and corresponding birth stones on each date of significance.”
Panama’s two cousins Izzy and Ellie, and her best friend, Maya, served as bridesmaids. “These ladies have been with me in every phase of life and feel like my sisters,” she says. “One of my favorite parts of the planning process was an excuse for the four of us to chat more.” For their attire, “I had a rough vision for simple silk dresses that were the colors of the sunset. I didn’t want matchy; I just wanted them to feel like the sexy women they are.
Groomsmen wore black tuxedos with low cut vests to offset Victor’s navy one.
Panama carried a textural bouquet of quicksand and cappuccino roses, tweedia, astilbe, antique and star carnations, and chocolate lisianthus; bridesmaids carried smaller, similar versions. Pinned to each groomsmen was a star carnation boutonniere with dried elements mixed in.
It was the officiant’s idea to ground the spiritual ceremony in the earth’s elements and connect the space to Mother Earth.
“For the ceremony, our vision was something soulful and personal, connected to the beautiful landscape and elements surrounding us,” Panama says. They hung traditional Mexican prayer flags around the ceremony space overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the Gaviota Coast. “Since we were getting married on the bluffs, the prayer flags helped the space feel more like an enclosed, sacred area,” Panama describes. “At each of the four corners of the space, a unique arrangement of flowers was created to represent the four elements: red and orange flowers to represent fire, blue flowers to represent water, textured greenery to represent earth, and twigs and delicate wildflowers to represent wind. This was the officiant’s idea to ground the spiritual ceremony in the earth’s elements and connect the space to Mother Earth.”
The wedding ceremony was a family affair. The bride’s aunt officiated, her uncle served as videographer, and her cousin, Chloe Southern, played live music for the procession. “Chloe was sensational and helped us pick songs that we found meaningful to us and our heritage,” Panama says. “Victor walked to ‘Bésame Mucho’ and I walked to ‘La Vie en Rose.’”
“Writing our own vows and reading them out loud in front of everyone we love most was an unforgettable experience,” Panama says. “We thought about sharing them with each other only privately, but there was something so intimate about sharing our vows with everyone who knows us best in this world. Our vows made the ceremony our own and made our marriage feel solidified. It was impossible to get through our words without choking up. We just kept our eyes on each other; everyone in the crowd was an emotional puddle.”
“We’re so lucky to have met very young in college,” Panama says. “Since then, we both have not just grown up independently, but we’ve really grown into each other. Every year feels like a new relationship, a new adventure, and new love.”
At the end of the ceremony, a mariachi band jumped out of the bushes and started playing, leading a big parade to cocktail hour up the hill. “It was a Love Actually moment,” Panama says.
Margarita shots served as escort cards, complete with hand-painted paper limes with each guest’s name and table assignment.
Beef and basil on toasted rice crisps, artichoke tacos, and gazpacho sips were passed during cocktail hour. “Since Panama is from the East Coast, a special ‘East Coast and West Coast’ oyster bar was incorporated into cocktail hour as well,” the couple shares. Two signature cocktails were on offer: a tequila and blackberry drink with pink mezcal foam, and a bourbon concoction dubbed “Lasting Impressions.”
While the ceremony was all about spirituality, the couple’s vision for their greenhouse reception was “colorful, vibrant, and fun—while also being elegant and timeless,” Panama says. Lush white, beige, taupe, and burgundy flowers were arranged in ceramic compotes, and soft blue candles sat in vintage candlesticks. Brown pears were calligraphed in white as table numbers, and custom menus reflected the style of the Mexican prayer flags from the ceremony. “The entire greenhouse was blanketed in twinkle lights overhead, and a taupe drape framed the door,” Panama describes. “Over the dance floor, basket lanterns, modern glass pendants, and disco balls adorned with greenery created a dramatic focal.”
The couple danced to “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli. Their live band included musicians specializing in Latin music.
During a dinner of white fish with Moroccan salsa and chicken tagine with dried apricots, the couple and their guests listened to five speeches. (Though, looking back, the bride recommends no more than three to keep guests engaged.) “My father’s speech was one for the ages,” Panama says. ”He captured everyone in that room with his stories, his words, his expressions, and his heartfelt oratory. Midway through the speech, my dad started sharing this word of endearment we use in the family, a ‘moosebear.’” Suddenly, planner Tyler Speier and his team start walking around handing our moose antlers. “My dad’s message: Everyone here is part of the moosebear clan now,” Panama continues. “The amount of moosebear antlers on the dance floor later that night was truly sensational. Not to mention, at the end of his speech, to honor our French heritage, my dad sabered a Champagne bottle.”
The whole purpose of our wedding day was to give back to everyone we loved most in the form of an epic, joyous party. We did it.
“There was one moment that Tyler pulled Vic and I aside and said, ‘Just look at your party right now,’” Panama remembers. “Everyone was on the dance floor—there was no one sitting down. The band, the vocals, and the songs were electric. The whole purpose of our wedding day was to give back to everyone we loved most in the form of an epic, joyous party. It was a moment of, ‘We did it.’”
The day after the wedding, the newlyweds invited guests to an all-day pool party and barbecue, then took a minimoon to Paso Robles. “During our minimoon, we made various audio recordings asking each other questions about the wedding day, night, and overall experience,” Panama shares. “There’s so much jam-packed in so little time, and we didn’t want to forget the small things. It was also such a fun way for us to share with each other things we didn’t even realize the other had seen, heard, done, or thought!”