Brannan Biffar and Brian Kelly met on Bumble in March 2017, and hit it off instantly. “Our first date was to a San Francisco restaurant called Horsefeather,” Brannan recalls. “That was quickly followed with a Giants baseball game a few nights later. The rest is history!”
Two years later, in June 2019, Brian proposed on the beach in the Cayman Islands, signaling their new life together in more ways than one. “We were living in San Francisco at the time, but moving to the Caribbean island of Saint Kitts in August for Brian to start school to become a veterinarian. So, it was a nod to our big new life adventure together,” Brannan shares. “I later found out he had the ring for over three months, but was waiting for the trip to propose in our new home.”
For their wedding in San Diego—the bride’s hometown—the couple envisioned not just a single day, but an entire party weekend. “We wanted everyone to enjoy a wonderful weekend full of love, laughter, good food, drinks, music, and ambiance,” Brannan says. They’d made their move to the Caribbean by then, and anticipated the difficulty of planning from afar. What they didn’t anticipate was the difficulty of planning during a pandemic. “Our original wedding date was August 2020. We pushed out our celebration a full year, but were still dealing with the many unknowns up until what felt like the last minute—definitely not the ‘wedding stress’ we thought we would face!” Brannan says. They pegged Dani Blasena of HauteFêtes to help bring their dream wedding weekend to fruition despite the challenges.
The vibe was “modern garden with a touch of Spanish elegance,” Dani says. They took cues from the venue—Rancho Valencia, the very first space the couple toured—leaning into the terracotta warmth and sprawling outdoor space. Read on to see all the details from each event, culminating in their August 28, 2021, wedding day, planned by HauteFêtes and photographed by Beatrice Howell.
The weekend kicked off with a tropical-inspired rehearsal dinner filled with bamboo accents and monstera leaf décor.
They went tropical with their attire, too; Brannan donned a Shona Joy dress and wore beachy waves for the occasion.
The nights leading up to our big day couldn’t have been more perfectly ‘us.’
The following night, they welcomed guests with a party at Viewpoint Brewing Co. in Del Mar, California. “Brian owns a brewery in the San Francisco Bay area, so this felt like we were back at his brewery with all our old friends,” Brannan says. “We hired a bluegrass trio, which played mostly tunes from Jerry Garcia and Grateful Dead all night. Both nights leading up to our big day couldn’t have been more perfectly ‘us.’”
Brian looked sharp in a blue Brooks Brothers suit. “He wore what appears to be a simple navy tie, but it had a small embroidered lightning bolt in the bottom corner as a nod to his favorite band, Grateful Dead.”
Brannan’s beaded tulle Lihi Hod gown “had everything I was looking for,” she says. “It was form fitting with delicate texture and beading to create sparkle throughout, giving it the perfect understated glam’ look. It checked all the boxes.”
She wore and repurposed a few of her grandmother’s accessories for the big day. “I worked with the designer Jillian Sassone at Marrow Fine to create an updated, modern ring with diamonds from my grandmother,” she says. “I also wore an heirloom blue sapphire and diamond ring of my grandmother’s, and used a vintage beaded purse of hers. Needless to say, she had great style, and it was special to have those reminders of her.”
A sweet first look before the ceremony guaranteed the couple had more time to celebrate later. Brannon carried a soft bouquet of ivory and brown florals, including cappuccino and Koko Loko roses, that tied in the terracotta tones of their color scheme.
“Bridesmaids wore a few different styles of champagne and rose gold satin dresses,” Brannan shares. “I loved the modern but simple silhouettes along with the midi length. The colors not only looked great on my bridesmaids, but went perfectly with the wedding color palette and venue.” Groomsmen wore blue suits like the groom. “We didn’t want to go extremely formal with tuxedos, and loved how the color looked on the men.” Brannan’s 6-year-old nephew, however, couldn’t be swayed. “He refused to wear a suit to the wedding, and told his mom he would only wear a tuxedo,” she laughs. “He was one of the stars of the night.”
“The ceremony was set on the Sunrise Terrace of the venue, against a pergola backdrop,” describes their planner, Dani Blasena. “We decided to incorporate the existing trumpet vine into the design, creating a central focal point with florals that seamlessly blended with the pergola and vines.”
“We were lucky enough to have two close friends, who also happen to be professional musicians, perform as part of our wedding music,” Brannan says. “My childhood friend, Charissa Houser, is a harpist who performed as guests arrived and during our ceremony. She took the time to learn one of Brian’s favorite songs, ‘Ripple’ by Grateful Dead, for him and his groomsmen to enter to.”
Then Brannan entered with her dad, to “Here Comes the Sun,” and the couple exchanged personal vows in front their 135 guests. “Brian’s brother, Tom, was our officiant,” Brannan says. “He actually kept this a secret from his wife and the rest of the family until he was up in front of everyone! His wife and kids were telling him to sit down, that he was going to interfere with the ceremony, until it started and they realized he wasn’t joking. He also made our ceremony very special and full of laughs!”
Brian’s longtime friend, Justin Hylton—a folk singer known musically as Reverend Hylton—performed during cocktail hour, where signature cocktails named for the couple’s pets were served.
“The escort card board took inspiration from Spanish tile designs, with each of tile colors also picked up in the wedding menus that were personalized to each guest’s meal choice,” Blasena describes.
The massive reception lawn was anchored by a dance floor and stage for the live band, as dancing was paramount for the couple. “We flanked it with two wooden pergolas that provided a structure base from which to hang fairy lights, and positioned tables in and around the pergolas to create symmetry and a natural flow,” Blasena says.
Bare wooden tables were lined with linen upholstered chairs, while tableclothed tables got black wooden crossbacks. “Silver-accented stemware, wood-handled flatware, and terracotta-colored ceramic plates extended our color palette,” Blasena adds. “Unstructured garden florals in terracotta footed urns gave the reception an organic feel with lots of movement.”
“My dad gave a very touching welcome speech at the start of dinner,” Brannan recalls. “It was sentimental and full of memories from the past. During the speech, he referenced Brian’s friends, whom he had met over the last couple of nights, and referred to them as ‘interesting.’ Nearly every guest, especially the ‘interesting’ crowd, was cracking up laughing.”
The newlyweds cut into a minimalist cake flavored with chocolate salted caramel and lemon blueberry. “We also served up our absolute favorite dessert with an ice cream and cookie bar!”
Then, the newlyweds kicked off the dance party with their first dance to “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young. “We are still hearing from guests what an amazing dance party it was, with a lot of our guests out of their seats dancing before dinner was even over,” the bride says.
Looking back, the easiest part of planning was “being able to truly enjoy the weekend,” she adds. “After so much up in the air, when it finally arrived, we were both just over-the-moon happy to actually have all of our family and friends present and ready to celebrate.”