In an incredibly moving gesture on their wedding day, one California-based couple decided to honor members of their family and late loved ones who’ve served in the military with a thoughtful “memorial table” at their reception.
Stephanie Walters and Ryan Kim of Santa Clarita, California, have many close friends and family members who’ve served the country, including the groom’s brother, Raymond, as well as three of the groomsmen (one of whom has received a Purple Heart and another currently stationed in Japan). The couple, who first met through a mutual friend, wanted to spotlight their courageous acts of service with their nuptials.
“I love Ryan’s compassion and his big heart for his family and his country,” Walters tells The Knot in an exclusive interview of her husband. “He loves America so very much, and he is so proud to be an American… He is so protective and proud to be my husband too—and I love that.”
Kim and Walters first met both as members in a friend’s bridal party—one was a bridesmaid and the other was a groomsmaid. The pair realized they had more in common in their respective roles, but it was on the wedding dance floor that they truly connected. A week later, the future spouses went on their first date. He eventually proposed at their local wine club in Los Olivos, where he presented Walters with a custom bottle that read, “Will you marry me?”
“When I looked down, Ryan was on one knee,” she added. “It was such a dream!”
The pair chose the Santa Barbara Club in downtown Santa Barbara for their wedding venue. “It was the very first venue that Ryan and I visited, and we instantly felt this connection with the space,” the bride recalls. “It felt so intimate for our guests. We loved the string lights, the quaint patio, and the amazing huge palm trees surrounding the perimeter. Inside the club, they have these amazing fireplaces, leather couches, and moose heads above the mantle. It had that old American feeling to it, and you could just feel the rich history when you stepped inside.”
The bride and groom, with a desire to spotlight their American pride with their wedding, enlisting the help of planner Charley King from Bluebell Events to help execute the details. “My wedding planner did a phenomenal job helping me design the reception space,” muses the bride.
The couple also praises their wedding photographer Jenny Quicksall for documenting the day. “I honestly feel blessed to have worked with such A-list vendors,” muses the bride. “Most of my vendors had worked together before and I got recommendations from Charley and Jenny for my other vendors, which really helps… [especially as they all] think highly of one another.”
Of course, the wine enthusiasts also wanted to implement their favorite beverage into the symbolic day as well—having held such a significant role in their love story too. (Remember how he proposed!) “We are big wine drinkers, so we had an area of the ceremony where our moms combined red wine and white wine to symbolize the two families coming together,” Walters adds.
At the reception, the pair set up a table in memory of those who’ve sacrificed their lives for America. “It was to honor those who have fallen in the line of duty, and to show respect to our friends and family who have served,” the pair adds of the sweet and sentimental gesture.
“One of my favorite moments was my dad’s toast,” she concludes. “He set up his toast in three sections, including God, family and country. It truly was a great way to represent what both of our families value and treasure. My dad asked for those who served our country to stand up, so we could recognize them, and I got goosebumps when I looked around and saw our grandfathers, Ryan’s father, Ryan’s uncle, and our friends standing up, proud to serve this country. We had men stand up who also served in the Korean army. It was an incredible moment.”
She muses, “Our best man, Ryan’s brother Raymond, set up a Fallen Soldier Table at our reception. We wanted to pay our respects for those who had lost their lives while protecting this country. It meant a lot to our friends and family.”
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