Karen Sarahi Gonzalez, the beauty content creator behind @iluvsarahii, met her future husband, Sebastian Robles, in an unlikely place: on a party bus. The two were celebrating a mutual friend’s 21st birthday in September of 2009, and while making the trek from Temecula to San Diego, they instantly hit it off. “That day, we formed a friendship and connected through MySpace and Facebook, where we chatted for a few months, and the rest is history,” Karen reflects. Over a decade later, Sebastian was ready to take the next step in their relationship. To conceal the surprise proposal, he told his girlfriend to get ready for a picnic with her friends, but when Karen walked through the Japanese bamboo garden, she just saw Sebastian, down on one knee.
The planning process was a fairly seamless experience for the couple because they had a clear vision in mind: a garden-like wedding doused in neutral hues. “I knew exactly what I wanted, so it was easy to make the décor and design decisions,” Karen says. The pair also made sure to incorporate touches that represented their fun-loving relationship, such as a mariachi band at cocktail hour and a pizza station at the reception. Finding an idyllic backdrop for their nuptials, Hummingbird Nest Ranch in Simi Valley, California, likewise helped turn their dreams into a reality. “Hummingbird Nest Ranch is a gorgeous lush green open canvas that perfectly fits the romantic floral garden aesthetic that we wanted to achieve for our ceremony and reception,” the beauty guru explains.
On June 17, 2023, Karen and Sebastian tied the knot in front of 250 guests. Keep scrolling to see the stunning details behind their big day, which was planned by Gonzalez + Helfon, photographed by Danielle Determan, and shared exclusively with Brides.
The couple envisioned a romantic garden wedding infused with ivory and champagne tones and decorated with roses and greenery. “I felt that this look would be timeless and that when I look back at photos 30 years from now, I’d be happy with the decisions I made,” Karen shares. To set the tone for their lush celebration, the couple mailed deckle-edge invitations etched with gold script and stamped with their custom crest.
Karen stunned in a Galia Lahav mermaid wedding dress, complete with floral appliqués, a corset bodice, semi-sheer detailing, and detachable sleeves. Although the bride always knew she wanted to sport a fitted gown on her big day, it took her several tries to find the right style—she even purchased (and later returned) another look. “I went to Galia Lahav and tried on ‘Maya’ and immediately knew it was the one,” she recalls. “I felt so beautiful and confident in this gown. I couldn’t stop staring at every detail of the dress—to the point that I didn’t want to take it off.” Karen topped off her look with a cathedral-length veil by the bridal designer and satin platform heels from Aquazzura.
After following a detailed pre-wedding skincare regimen, which included frequent facials and monthly skin treatments, Karen woke up on her wedding day with a flawless base for makeup. The bride went with a “soft glam” look, which translated to a radiant complexion, neutral eyeshadow, pink blush, and glossy lips. For her hairstyle, the beauty aficionado wore her locks in loose waves that cascaded down her back. “Hair is such a personal thing that I wanted to wear it in a style that felt like me and that I knew I would feel confident in, and I ultimately feel my best when my hair is down,” the bride notes. She finished off her look with a sheer champagne color and a pearl chrome on her nails—which was inspired by her mother’s wedding manicure—and a spritz of Parfums de Marly Delina Eau de Parfum.
For their ceremony setup, which took place in a field, a hedge of white roses and delphinium bordered the aisle, leading to a double arch adorned with white roses.
Instead of doing a first look, the couple opted to save their grand reveal for the ceremony. While making her way to Sebastian—who stood at the altar in a black Tom Ford tuxedo—Karen was escorted by her father, which was a magical experience for the bride. “I have dreamt about this day since I was a little girl, so to have my dad walk me down to my husband, surrounded by all of the people that I love, was truly a moment I will never forget,” Karen gushes. “I can’t explain the feeling, the joy, and butterflies that you feel leading up to it, but I could redo it again and again.”
During the service, Karen and Sebastian recited personal promises. “Writing our own vows was a must,” the bride remarks.
After sharing their first kiss, violinist and vocalist Leah Zeger played a melody for the newlyweds’ recessional.
Once they were pronounced husband and wife, Karen and Sebastian snapped portraits around their venue. The bride’s beautiful bouquet of white peonies was often a focal point of the photos.
Each of Karen’s bridesmaids donned a long black dress for the occasion, but instead of prescribing a specific look, Karen gave her group the autonomy to select a gown they felt confident in. “I didn’t want the traditional bridesmaids’ look, where the group wears the same dress, and instead, I let them pick their own dress because everyone’s body type and style is different,” she explains. Meanwhile, the groomsmen were all clad in black tuxedos with matching bow ties.
Hanging greenery, white blooms, and gold wind chimes suspended from the ceiling transformed the reception space into a lush oasis. The duo dined beneath the statement-making installation and on the perimeter of their monogrammed dance floor at a sweetheart table decked out in more white buds and white votive candles.
Rectangular and round tables draped in white linens were scattered throughout the rest of the space. The rectangular tables were lined with white candles in glass holders and low floral arrangements, while the round tables showcased tall centerpieces: a towering candelabra, a round assortment of roses, or a tree-like structure affixed with hanging globe candles and mini chandeliers. Gold-rimmed lucite chargers, gold flatware, and a menu sealed with their custom crest brought a touch of elegance to each place setting.
“We had the opportunity to walk into our reception before everyone entered, and it was an intimate moment for us—a major ‘wow’ moment,” Karen reminisces. “We couldn’t believe it! When you work on an idea for so long and then see it come to life, it’s just surreal.”
After they officially made their reception entrance to “La Bota” by Mi Banda El Mexicano, the newlyweds spun around the dance floor to “Te Quiero Tanto, Tanto” by OV7. After their first dance, the curtains opened, revealing a hidden stage with Banda Machos, who brought the energy. “It was iconic and amazing to see everyone run to the dance floor, singing and dancing,” Karen reveals. “We grew up with their music, and to have them perform at our wedding was major.” Music also played an important role in the rest of the festivities, from mariachi band Mariachi Espuelas De Jalisco at cocktail hour to Latin DJ Jaime DaGreat playing reggaeton at the reception.
The bride decided an outfit change was in order for the reception. She changed into another Galia Lahav piece: a long-sleeved beaded mermaid dress with fishnet, fringe, and floral details and a plunging neckline. “As for the second dress, I wanted something sparkly and fun but still elegant,” she notes. “I came across a TikTok video of another bride wearing ‘Estelle’ from Galia Lahav, and my jaw dropped. The way it sparkles in the light while still bringing elegance just wowed me. I tried it on and fell in love immediately.” She also swapped her ceremony shoes for Rene Caovilla strappy heels. Sebastian likewise sported a second look for the reception, which was a white Tom Ford blazer.
The couple spent the rest of the evening dancing with their friends and family and noshing on late-night tacos. Even though executing their dream day was a huge undertaking, the couple couldn’t have imagined a better expression of their love for one another and their guests. What made it all possible? An amazing vendor team, the right organizational tools, and patience. “We all know wedding planning can be stressful, but try to take it one day at a time and a few tasks at a time,” Karen recommends.