Meet The Villas!
If you’ve been following our adventures, then you may have already met Erica Parras and Frnch Villanueva. No need to engage your spellcheckers, Franchel writes his name shorthand and without a vowel. In a funny way, that’s somewhat indicative of Erica and Frnch as a couple—together, they’re short and to the point, but unique and whimsical as well. On March 11, 2017, we were excited to see all of their unique characteristics converging on a wedding day we knew would be one for the ages.
We often ask couples to describe their ideal wedding with a small handful of adjectives. Erica and Frnch seemed to have a bit of trouble narrowing it down. As creatives, we understand how difficult it can be to distill all your hopes and dreams into a small set of words. They wanted a wedding day that was at once romantic and trendy, entertaining and heartfelt, soulful and simple. Designing an event with that much intimacy that still provides a lot of memorable ‘wow’ factor for family and friends is no small task. But if you ask us, they pulled it off beautifully. Their wedding maintained focus on the friends and family that matter most, yet it involved enough elements that were creative, fun, and different to ensure that no one would ever forget it.
It all started with the location. The beautiful Yester Estate in Morongo Valley near Joshua Tree, CA was an absolutely perfect setting for Erica and Frnch’s ideal wedding. The estate is nestled down in the valley and was surrounded on almost all sides by rolling hills and ridges. This being a brand new venue and our first time photographing at this location, we made sure to get there early to do some looking around. It’s a good thing we did! We left our gear in the car and went on a 30-minute hike through the hills. After finding several incredible spots, we knew there would be no way we could incorporate them all on a packed wedding day. Hopefully we’ll get to return another time to try out some of the ones we didn’t use.
Before long, the quiet desert getaway became a hubbub of makeup application, decor assembly, and small boys trying to put on small suits. When everyone had arrived, there wasn’t as much time to utilize the grounds like we’d hoped. But with great views wherever we looked, it wasn’t hard making the most of what we had right in front of us. Erica and Frnch enjoyed a few quiet moments away from the commotion when they saw each other for their First Look. She was breathtaking in her dress, and he had to try really hard to stay cool.
We hid Erica away and made our way to the ceremony lawn, nestled into a hill behind the estate. Ascending the wooden steps, we emerged through the flowered archway to find the guests all settling in for the ceremony and admiring the beautiful surroundings. Pair-by-pair, the wedding party followed us and took their places on either side of an excited Frnch, still trying to stay cool. Erica’s twin boys led in with a hand-made “Here comes your bride” sign, and finally Erica and her father stepped through the arch onto the grass and toward her groom. Their ceremony was full of personal touches and meaningful moments. Erica’s brother officiated, offering heartfelt sentiments and memories illustrating just how suited they are for one another. He led them through the vows they had prepared, and they watered a plant together, symbolizing their new life and growth. When they sealed it all with a kiss, it was a fitting end to a perfect moment.
After the applause and the recessional, the guests all made their way down to the patio where an array of hors d’oeuvres were waiting, along with a lemonade stand serving assorted varieties of tequila-infused refreshments, and a photo booth complete with a vibrant homemade backdrop full of quirky knickknacks. Already, we could smell the mouth-watering aromas wafting from the tacos being made around the corner at the reception lawn.
But before dinner could be served, we all had to wait for the happy couple’s big entrance. The wedding party was introduced and began to fill the air with bubbles waiting to great the newlyweds. Erica and Frnch stepped onto the lawn to have their first dance, sung by Erica’s sister. For a moment, though they were watched by two-hundred smiling eyes, there was no one else around.
As the sun began to slide behind the hills, we seized the opportunity to steal Erica and Frnch away for some twilight portraits overlooking the valley. Hiking up onto a ridge, it became clear what lengths these two will go to for fun, originality, and romance. They enjoyed the serenity in the cool evening air, hovering above the lights and the sounds of their party down below. Amid the chaos of the wedding day—even right in the middle of a reception—this peaceful interlude seemed to last for hours. We did our best not to disturb them. Hopefully the memory will be as idyllic for them as it is for us. It certainly provided us with a chance to capture some breathtaking images.
But what goes up must come down. We practically slid back down the hill in the dark and fell straight into a flurry of festivities to end the evening. They kicked things off with a money bucket race. Rather than a money dance, they each held a bucket and as their buckets were filled with cash, they stepped forward. Erica won by a landslide. Next, all the single ladies had their moment to fight over the bouquet. And Frnch put on quite the show sliding in to steal his bride’s garter. But the clear highlight of the reception came last. In keeping with their fun, romantic, trendy, and heartfelt vision, Erica and Frnch led their guests in a lantern release. It was simultaneously inspiring and comical. Lighting the lanterns did not proceed as smoothly as anticipated, as a couple of them caught fire and disintegrated. Still others were released a tad prematurely, sending a handful of guys out into the desert to catch the low-floating lanterns wafting into people’s cars and saving the dry brush from being lit on fire. Yet, after the humor and mayhem had passed, there remained a handful of bright lights slowly drifting off into the tranquil distance. What an incredible metaphor for a wedding full of gleeful commotion punctuated by joyful serenity.
And then they danced the night away. Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Villanueva!
Ceremony and Reception Venue: Yester Estate
Day of Coordinator: Friend
Floral: Groom’s Aunt
Hair and Makeup: Friends
Cake & Cupcakes: Pastry Swan
Tacos: Los Tio’s Tacos 760.449.6995
Photography: Jennifer Yount Photography
Officiant: Bride’s Brother