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An Unconventional and Retro Wedding Full of Color in San Diego

by Staff

Floral designer Natalie Gill and artist Steven Topham met on Tinder in 2015 and had the sweetest proposal five years later. “We were alone in our home; I wore sweats,” remembers the bride, the founder and president of San Diego floral shop Native Poppy. “Steven animated us as stick figures watching a slideshow of our five years together. I had just gotten home from doing a small elopement in Santa Barbara and he said he had a video for me to watch. I said, ‘Please just let me put on sweats first.’ He begged me not to but I did.” 

As they began to plan their own nuptials, the wedding boom began. Unfortunately, that meant Natalie was swamped with other people’s weddings. “Being in the industry myself, during 2021 my clients took precedence over my own wedding,” she says. “I was so busy with running our retail shops and events I barely had time to think about our own wedding.” Luckily, she had fellow vendor friends to lean on. “Overall, the planning process ended up being simple because I know so many amazing vendors here in San Diego that I was able to hire my friends. It was so fun to ask my friends to just do what they do best and let go! I knew I was in the best of hands.” They especially leaned on their friend Brogen Jessup, a photographer who is launching a wedding styling business. “We worked with her to help us hone in on our style and find all the elements to pull it together.” 

The vision was clear: “Fun, funky, playful, silly—and, like, really, really pretty!” Natalie says. “I started with a very general mood board of a few images that fit the vibe I thought I wanted. It helped as a great jumping off point for our stylist. It was colorful, fun, lighthearted, sophisticated, and a little wacky. Even though the details changed a lot over the year, the first vision captured the feeling of the event we were creating.”

Natalie and Steven undoubtedly made every detail their own, beginning with the day of the week they held their wedding. “We chose Tuesday because every Tuesday night for the last seven years we have had date night together,” Natalie says. “It’s a very special day to us.” 

And so, on Tuesday, January 11, 2022, 80 guests gathered for their very special wedding at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma, San Diego. Read on to see all the unique details, planned by Laurel Street Events and photographed and styled by Brogen Jessup. 

“I really cared about the invitations—they’re the first impression after all,” Natalie says. “We started with a retro green envelope with a selection of vintage stamps: dinosaurs, tiki idols, outer space, and flowers. We wanted people to get the vibe right away.” She clarifies: “We didn’t want the wedding to feel themey, but we did want it to feel cohesive.”

The color palette was primarily purple and peachy orange. “We chose a lot of lilac and peach tones in the flowers and the rest of the decor complemented in shades of green, pink, and terra cotta.”

“Do flowers count as a DIY if I do it professionally?” Natalie says with a laugh. “Our event team at Native Poppy is incredible and I trust them with our most important events. So, it was easy to step back and have them make magic for me.” She couldn’t help but be a little involved, though. “I worked with my floral wholesaler to bring in the most gorgeous product—which was not easy in the middle of January during a pandemic! We got Japanese sweet peas, clematis, orchids, garden roses, and tons and tons of mums and carnations.” 

Natalie’s eye for florals is innate. “A few days before the wedding, I was driving to get a manicure and I spotted some orange marigolds in someone’s front yard,” she remembers. “So I pulled over and knocked on their door and asked if I could buy some, explaining how desperately I needed them for my wedding flowers. Originally I was told no way—they were special flowers—but I ended up with a few handfuls worth for $60 cash. I’ll do anything for my vision!”

Florals weren’t the only thing on her mind, though. Natalie was doing beauty prep, too. “I get monthly facials at my favorite holistic spa, Shop/Good; I got one a week before the wedding,” she says. She also used Tan-Luxe’s The Body self-tan drops for a few weeks leading up to the wedding to get a good glow. A peach manicure and lavender pedicure completed the look and played off the color palette. 

The couple spent the morning getting ready together, rather than doing a formal first look. “It was actually really sweet since we chose to get ready at home,” Natalie remembers. “We wanted the day to feel low-key and comfortable. No better place than in our home with our pets.” 

“Steven’s suite suit was custom designed through a bespoke process with Randy Reisman,” Natalie says. “We chose a tan birds-eye pattern with opal green buttons and a deep brown velvet collar accent.”

I bought him vintage tiki cufflinks to celebrate one of our favorite hobbies together,” Natalie says. “The lining of the suit was a tiki print, and we sewed the words ‘Tuesday Everyday’ on the inside of the jacket for our Tuesday wedding and seven years of uninterrupted Tuesday date nights.”

“I went to only one dress shop for fun, but always knew I wouldn’t end up in a traditional wedding dress,” Natalie says. “I love color and texture. I’m surprised I ended up wearing white, actually.” She came across the Cult Gaia Shannon dress on Instagram—through an ad, no less—and ordered it right away. “I tried it on and it felt so fun and sweet. I loved the way it moved with me.”

I wanted to look like the best version of myself,” Natalie says of her beauty look. “My makeup artist went for a natural look with a nod to a retro cat eye.”

“When I first tried on my dress and veil, I just automatically pulled my hair back into a low bun,” Natalie remembers. “It just felt right. I totally trusted my hairstylist Amber to figure out the specifics. She tried out three styles and we landed on this messy but elegant tied knot with fun pearls glued in.” Unfortunately, Amber got sick right before the wedding, but “we were so lucky to find the most wonderful stylist last minute who was able to execute the trial hairstyle perfectly.”

“My shoes ended up being my favorite statement,” Natalie says of the Chloe Gosselin Jean. “Platform, green velvet heels with two bows and pearl clasp! The prettiest shoes I’ve ever seen. I had to have them.”

“I finished the look with a fingertip veil, Dior pearl earrings and a wavy gold bangle I found on Etsy,” she shares. The bride also made sure to get in a bite before all the festivities began.

It was fun to be together the entire day.

The couple opted to do wedding portraits before heading to the venue to maximize their party time with guests. “Despite claiming several times that I didn’t want to take one posed photo on our wedding day, I was really happy we made time for it,” Natalie says. “Not just for the amazing photos but for us to have some quality time before the ceremony. It was fun to be together the entire day.” 

Natalie made her own bouquet the day before the wedding. ”It was a sweet moment of calm and creativity,” she says. “I used my found marigolds from the San Diego front yard, lavender sweet peas, purple clematis, and princess aikido garden roses. We wrapped the bouquet in a rose gold Tono + Co. velvet ribbon.”

It was like we threw the wedding rule book out the window and just planned our dream party.

Literally every detail was us,” Natalie says. “It was like we threw the wedding rule book out the window and just planned our dream party.”

“We knew we wanted an untraditional wedding,” Natalie shares. “I didn’t want to walk down an aisle or do formal dining. The Pearl allowed us to have more of a cocktail party atmosphere.” She recommends this outlook to other couples. “Forget what you know about weddings and feel completely free to pick and choose which traditions feel right for you.” The signage said it all: “Have fun okay?” 

“As a florist I felt like I really just wanted to do something different,” Natalie says of the ceremony decor. “I get to make my dream wedding flowers every weekend for my dream clients, so I wanted to play around with something most people don’t want to do. Since space was limited and I wanted to keep the vibe very casual, we opted for a hanging carnation garland backdrop. I hear so many clients say they ‘hate’ carnations and thats just crazy! Carnations are beautiful. They come in every pretty color and are so ruffly. I adore them.”

Poofs of florals around the pool complemented the colorful garlands. “My favorite part of the ceremony setup was that guests stood on the balcony and pool deck. It kept the vibe so casual and light—cocktails in hand and all.”

“I chose not to walk down an aisle; it was one of those traditions that I just didn’t feel fit me,” Natalie shares. “When it was ceremony time, our DJ made an announcement and we just both went and stood at our altar with my sister, who was officiating. Our friends and family cheered when the ceremony started and it put us all at ease and set the tone for a celebration.”

“One of the only things Steven really wanted for the wedding was for us to write our own vows and for them to be a surprise—no pressure! Ours were each a little sweet and a little silly; surprisingly neither of us cried,” shares the bride. “My sister did an amazing job officiating and it will be one of my favorite memories for my whole life.”

They recessed out to “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen. “Steven texted me years before we were engaged that when we got married someday, that would be our song,” Natalie remembers. “It was perfect.” 

The atmosphere shifted to cocktail hour. “Since the hotel is centered around a pool, we saw the potential to bring in the Aqualillies synchronized swimmers,” Natalie says. “We had a nod to synchronized swimmers on our invites but their performance was a big surprise.”

“Our signature cocktails were a Figgin Love You, which was vodka, fig, vanilla, thyme, bitters, and sparkling rose; and Tuesday Everyday, a classic daiquiri with spiced rum and lime,” Natalie says. “We have our own laser cutter and opted to create our own drink stirrers for the signature cocktails. They looked like synchronized swimmers’ legs in the drinks.”

Steven and Natalie worked with a local family jeweler to create her unique engagement ring. “We bought a loose stone—a Montana sapphire—and set it in a gold band made from melted down jewelry Steven’s mom had,” Natalie says. “His band and my engagement ring are from the same gold mixture.” For her own band they worked with Natalie’s best childhood friend, the jeweler behind Waffles & Honey.

“Since our reception was cocktail party-esque we only decorated two long tables; they are fixtures at the hotel,” Natalie says. “I love good table settings, so I really wanted to set the table to the nines even though not every guest would sit there. We added place cards to the table that said ‘anyone.’”

“We filled the tables with as many flowers as they could hold and tons of candles in mismatched colors,” she continues. “The squiggle candle holders were a must-have element for me.” Squiggle elements were featured throughout, in fact, with napkins, invitations, Natalie’s jewelry, and more.

While the drinks were flowing, guests could also nosh on a variety of yummy bites. “Cocktail hour started with charcuterie boards with warm grilled bread, and tray-passed apps of seasonal vegetable toast and chicken skewers,” Natalie says. “We had a taco bar that was self-serve.”

“At 8 p.m. we opened up a secret speakeasy in Room 8,” Natalie remembers. “It was a cat-themed tiki bar; we named it The Kitty Cat Lounge. We had a smoke machine and tropical tiki music playing. There was a bartender in there serving a batched Signal Fire, which is a drink from Hale Pele in Portland, Oregon; it’s coconut, rum, apricot liquor, and lemon.”

She tackled a few DIY projects to drive home the theme. “I made tons of yarn balls for baskets in our cat-themed tiki speakeasy. We collected random cat art for a year, and thrifted bamboo frames.”

I had people call me a week later telling me they never like cake and they loved this one.

The cake was one of the many elements Natalie entrusted to her vendor friends. “I didn’t even know what it was going to look like until I got to the wedding,” she says. She was not disappointed—and as beautiful as it was, it tasted even better. The vanilla sponge cake had passion fruit curd, coconut buttercream and a rum simple-syrup drizzle between layers. “I had people call me a week later telling me they never like cake and they loved this one.”

The speeches were easily a favorite moment for the couple. “They made us laugh and cry,” Natalie remembers. “It was so special to have our loved ones share funny stories and well wishes to us.”

At the end of the evening, everyone joyously jumped into the pool. “It was the sign of a fantastic night,” Natalie says. “From the cat-themed tiki speakeasy in Room 8 to the synchronized swimmer performance to the unconventional ceremony and timeline, every minute of the day was filled with joy.”

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