Duane and Daniel’s Del Mar Destination “I Do’s”


June 26, 2023
Words by Lauren Ertl
Photos courtesy of Villa Visuals

For Duane and Daniel, fate intervened in a bustling dermatology clinic in September of 2017. Daniel, a medical student from Oklahoma, had just started his rotation at Saint Louis University, where Duane, a senior dermatology resident, was working at the time. Upon meeting, Duane’s infectious smile caught Daniel’s attention immediately, and he couldn’t help but hope their eyes would meet once more. As the morning progressed, Daniel found an excuse to strike up a conversation with Duane, asking for directions on where to fill up his water bottle (which he already knew). It was a small interaction, but it started a flame that would build into an eternal fire in the years to come. On Valentine’s Day 2021, in Puerto Vallarta, Duane asked the love of his life to marry him. It was a moment filled with joy and excitement, setting the stage for their dreamy Del Mar wedding.


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Choosing to have a destination wedding came down to two factors. First, with the grooms being from two different states, travel would be in the cards no matter what. Secondly, their hearts were set on a wedding with an ocean view behind the altar. 

“Our talented wedding planner, Jason (of Rheefined Company), created a list of potentials, including some destinations in Hawaii!” the couple says.

Ultimately, the picturesque beauty of Southern California, coupled with Duane’s close circle of friends in the area, made Del Mar the perfect fit. Despite the potential financial hurdles, the grooms were determined to make their wedding day a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Daniel and Duane found their dream venue in L’auberge Del Mar, specifically the Pacific Terrace. Its breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the sunset perfectly complemented their vision for an unforgettable ceremony.

When it came to decor and special touches, Duane and Daniel decided to forgo any DIY projects due to their busy schedules. However, their focus was on creating a beautiful altar adorned with exquisite orchid floral arrangements. 

“Wedding invitations incorporated the wedding day’s theme of ‘Something Blue,’” Daniel says. “Our website provided a style guide for all guests so that everyone would wear blue of some sort, which turned out truly beautifully.”

As guests arrived, they were greeted with glasses of champagne and directed to the Pacific Terrace on the hotel’s rooftop. The open bar offered a selection of beverages, but the specialty cocktails, named “The Duane” (Tanqueray Cucumber Spritz) and “The Daniel” (Belvedere Berry Lemonade), stole the show.

When it came to the ceremony itself, Duane and Daniel wanted to personalize it to reflect their unique journey. Instead of a traditional processional, they chose to walk down the aisle together, symbolizing their equal partnership. A heartfelt rendition of Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” played on a harp set the emotional tone for their union.

One of the most touching moments of the evening came during the reception’s mother-son dance. Duane and his mother began the dance to Luther van Dross’ “So Amazing,” a song with deep meaning for them. Midway through, Duane’s mother invited Daniel to join them, creating a powerful symbol of acceptance and love. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Duane witnessed his mother and his beloved partner dancing together.

“Without question,” the couple says, “having a dedicated, organized, skilled wedding planner was most helpful in creating our perfect wedding day.”

Despite the initial uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, they were able to visit the venue and finalize details, including a memorable food tasting.

Had they chosen to hold their wedding closer to home, Duane and Daniel believe it wouldn’t have been the dream wedding they envisioned. The beauty of their Del Mar destination allowed them to create a magical experience that truly represented their love and commitment to each other.

Reflecting on their journey, Duane and Daniel offer advice to other couples preparing for their special day. First and foremost, they emphasize the importance of making the day about the couple, not succumbing to outside pressures or opinions. 

“Finally, this can be even more challenging for LGBTQ+ couples. Sadly, homophobia, ignorance and hate can burden same-sex marriages,” Duane says. “Although it may be more challenging in the LGBTQ+ community, the same advice stands. You are free to do WHATEVER you want- whether it be perfectly traditional in a church or something so unique, and that freedom is exactly what you should do on YOUR day!”

Vendors: Photography & Videography: Villa Visuals; Planner: Jason Rhee of Rheefined Company; Venue: L’Auberge Del Mar; Cake: Nicole Bakes Cakes; Hair & Makeup: Dorado’s By Tony Studio; Grooms’ Clothing Designer: JB Clothiers; Photobooth: Hashtag Photobooth; Stationery: Minted; Rentals: Bright Event Rentals; Band: Dart Collective; DJ: KYWO Media

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