“In August of 2015, I threw a joint birthday party with my friend Sandey Kang at Break Room 86, an ’80s-themed karaoke bar in L.A.’s Koreatown,” says Esther Song. “I was newly single, and Sandey said she had invited three cute boys to introduce me to. She famously stated, ‘Rudy [Lopez Negrete] is the best looking, but you probably won’t marry him.’ Little did she know that I would, three and a half years later!”
But their relationship wasn’t without its hiccups. Early on, Esther, who is now the vice president of VIP public relations and partnerships at Tory Burch, moved from L.A. to New York City for two years. “After a lot of cross-country flights, breakups, and a commitment to be long distance, Rudy proposed two and a half years after the day we met,” Esther remembers.
Back in December of 2015, the couple went to Napa Valley on their first trip together. “We always say that’s where we fell in love,” Esther explains. “During the course of our long-distance relationship, we still made time to visit Napa as we viewed it as our special place.” So when Rudy planned a trip there in early December of 2017, it wasn’t out of the ordinary—but Esther’s “spidey senses” were buzzing. “I started thinking, this is it!” she laughs.
The two had an established routine in Napa. They had their favorite hotel (The Meadowood) and wineries they always visit, so the first day went according to routine. The next day, however, Rudy organized a sparkling wine tasting at 9:00 a.m., followed by a five-mile hike and a late lunch. “The whole time I was thinking: Oh my god I hope he doesn’t do it at this tasting because how will I tell my mom we are drinking at 9:00 a.m. Oh my god I hope he doesn’t do it on this hike because I am starting to sweat. Oh my god I hope he doesn’t do this at lunch because I just ordered ribs.”
Just as Esther was starting to feel ready for a nap, Rudy announced that they were going to stop by Ovid, a winery in Pritchard Hill, to see a friend. “It didn’t seem out of the ordinary. In fact, it sounded like the best way to end the day,” Esther says.
When they arrived, Rudy walked Esther out to the terrace. Just as the light was beginning to dim at sunset, he got on his knee and proposed. “It was all a blur, and on top of that, right after he placed the ring on my finger, he ran inside. I assumed it was to get some wine to celebrate, but he brought out our best friends who had flown there to be with us on our special occasion. It couldn’t have been more perfect!”
Initially, they toyed with the idea of getting married right there in Napa Valley. It was where they’d cemented their relationship, after all. But Rudy was born in Mexico, and his father used to be the CEO of tourism, so after some deliberation, they decided on a destination wedding there instead. Rudy’s dad offered up a myriad of venue suggestions, but when he mentioned his friend was the general manager of the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, they felt like they had to check it out. “As soon as we arrived, we knew this was it,” Esther says. “The people, the food, and the beautiful location sparkled.”
They knew they didn’t want a traditional wedding though. “I was looking at tuxedos or for a simple white pantsuit to wear,” Esther explains. “Then I went to Bergdorf’s for a fitting, and that’s when it all changed.” Just like when Carrie Bradshaw was gifted that custom Vivienne Westwood in the Sex and the City movie, the dress upped the ante. “I texted Rudy a photo of me in a traditional dress, and he loved it because it was so different from my everyday style, which is super casual and relaxed. That’s when we decided to throw a big Korean Mexican ‘Mexi-rean’ fiesta.”
The couple worked with wedding planner Karen Morlet, who is based in Mexico City, and Meg Clay, who created the invitations, day-of suite, tablecloths, and the seat card mural. “Initially, I didn’t expect to print tablecloths, but when I saw the day-of suite, Meg had created an incredible print—merging both Mexican and Korean elements in green, purple, navy, and whites. If you look closely, you can see Asian vases with Mexican flowers. Once I saw it, I knew I wanted to get tablecloths made.” Six weeks before the wedding, Meg got it done. “She even created a mascot,” Esther adds. “The donkey on the invite, which was a nod to the tequila donkey that walked the city with us during the traditional callejoneada on Friday night before the welcome dinner.”
The morning of the wedding, the vibe getting ready was relaxed. “We had our favorite tarot card reader, Angie Banicki, read tarot cards and bless the dress,” Esther says. Stylist Lee Harris zipped the bride into her Christy Rilling gown. The beauty memo was “fresh and clean,” and makeup artist Mai Quynh executed perfectly. Hair was by Travis Hopfenspirger. “I trusted both, and frankly, didn’t question their vision,” Esther says. “Mia did her research and found a perfect bridal nude lipstick—Pillow Talk from Charlotte Tilbury, and a nude lipstick from Clé de Peau.” Knowing the altitude in San Miguel de Allende would dry out her skin, Esther used her favorite Korean masks from Skinesque and retinol from Shani Darden daily to keep her skin hydrated and exfoliated.
Overlooking the San Miguel de Allende skyline and the famous pink cathedral, Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, below, bridesmaid Sandey Kang, the friend who originally introduced the couple, officiated the ceremony in Rosewood’s lavender garden. “We asked Sandey because without her, we would’ve never gotten together,” Esther says. “Also, we knew she could blend both Korean and Mexican traditions and do it well.” The bride’s close friend actress Amber Heard also surprised the couple with a reading of a Pablo Neruda poem, which she read in both Spanish and English. “I didn’t expect to be so emotional, but I cried like a baby,” Esther remembers. “Also, seeing my mother in traditional Korean hanbok in San Miguel de Allende just cemented that we were bringing two vivid cultures together.”
Because of the strong winds in San Miguel, all outdoor venues have to be tented; Esther and Rudy sourced a clear one so as not to obstruct the view. They worked with a Mexico City–based, woman-owned florist called Taller de Tallos. “Working for a female entrepreneur, it is important to me to support and celebrate other women who are building their businesses,” Esther says. “So from the wedding planner to the florist to the caterer, we actively chose women-led businesses.” The inspiration behind the flowers, tent decor, and the tablecloths was to bring Provence to San Miguel. “I didn’t want the decor to look like a typical wedding,” Esther says. “So we kept the flowers light, in different shapes of vases, and hanging from the ceiling.”
The reception kicked off with the couple’s first dance, followed by speeches and a four-course dinner of Novo Mexican cuisine. Esther changed into an Oscar de la Renta dress and earrings modified from a 19th-century brooch by Jewels by Grace. To finish off the wardrobe change, Mai added more drama to her eyes, and Travis put extensions in her hair in 15 minutes. “I don’t even know how he did that!” she laughs. “We had 15 minutes for the change, and somehow we had time leftover for tequila shots.” Speaking of which, the bar was stacked with tequilas, which was the only part of the wedding planning Rudy really focused on, according to Esther. There was Casa Dragones, Clase Azul, Don Julio 70, Don Julio 1942, and Rudy’s favorite, Reserva de la Familia, all served alongside Mexican wines.
“During dinner, we went to all the tables to take photos with our guests but quickly realized people were ready to party,” Esther laughs. “Rudy had to ask everyone to stop dancing as he gave a speech, which started off with a birthday cake surprise for our friend Zoey Deutch as our wedding day was her actual birthday, and ended with thanking our guests for traveling to celebrate with us, especially acknowledging my 103-year-old grandmother who couldn’t make the trip.”
After Rudy’s speech, they newlyweds cut their dulce de leche cake, and guests were treated to a surprise fireworks show. “The fireworks were lit right in front of the tent and against this incredible skyline,” Esther says. “It was absolutely unforgettable!” A Mexican roulette drinking game from mixologists Calavera was then wheeled onto the dance floor, and some, like the groom, were unlucky and had to eat a tequila-infused jalape?o. “DJ Syphe kept the party going, and I changed into Tory Sport ruffle sneakers,” says Esther. “Thank god I did, because we danced until 4:00 a.m.”