The stunning celebrations paid tribute to the couple's love story of long distance courtship
Praya Lundberg and Quoc Cao’s love story has all the makings of a Hollywood romance. They were introduced via Praya’s mother, who happened to sit next to Quoc at a hair salon. After getting into conversation with this nice young man, Praya’s mother discovered that he was single – like her daughter – so she set them up. “I agreed to speak with him on the phone to see if there was any chemistry,” Praya reveals. “We instantly connected and continued our relationship, starting off as friends.”
Separated by continents, with Praya in the USA and Quoc in Vietnam, they fell in love on the telephone, with the pandemic making things even more difficult. “We kept in touch by writing and phone calls where we would share our hopes, dreams, and passions to fill up time during quarantine,” Praya remembers. “We really got the chance to get to know each other in the old-fashioned way. A favourite saying of Quoc’s is, ‘slow and steady wins the race’, and I guess that was true because we are now married after a long courtship.”
Quoc was sure to nod to Praya’s matchmaking mother when it came to his proposal, choosing her adopted hometown, Rome, as the setting. “In my family, we always held Rome as a special place in our hearts and one that brings luck,” Praya reveals. “My mum would take me to visit Rome as a kid and I really fell in love with the culture, the people and architecture.” Praya suspected engagement might be on the cards after Quoc asked her about her ring preferences, but was still surprised when he got down on one knee at the rooftop of the Six Senses hotel. “He timed it so perfectly,” she shares. “When he asked for my hand in marriage, it was the exact time when all the cathedral bells started ringing, with birds flying all around.”
Praya in her Valentino dress before the wedding.
The couple called upon close friend Lisa Lafferty to help plan the wedding, which saw 200 guests travelling from around the world to Los Angeles. The week-long itinerary of events included a welcome luncheon of sushi and omakase on the beach at Nobu Malibu, as well as a rehearsal dinner at Sunset Tower, for which Praya wore an Old Hollywood style Schiaparelli gown. In lieu of gifts, guests were asked to donate to a cause close to the couple’s heart, the charity I Stand With My Pack Dog Rescue, with their own pup, Little Chicken, helping to collect donations in a suit and bowtie.
The ceremony took place on 11 November 2023 at the Hotel Bel-Air, which the couple had chosen for its lush gardens and Swan Lake setting. There was a 72-foot aisle lined with fragrant garden florals, while the altar was made to resemble Italian columns decorated with cascading flowers. There were yet more flowers at the reception, with the staging taking five days to construct. “We loved the idea of being fully engulfed in flowers, especially at our reception,” says Praya. “Guests entered through a custom-made floral dome and were greeted with warm candlelight and twinkling lights, which were reminiscent of stars in the sky, while the scent of fresh flowers filled the air.”
Praya worked with her long-time stylist and friend Jill Jacobs on her wedding looks. Choosing Valentino for the ceremony was a no-brainer, after the couple got engaged in the designer’s hometown of Rome. She worked with the brand’s current creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli to create a classic gown featuring a show-stopping floral lace veil, which took hundreds of hours to make. “Pierpaolo wanted the veil to resemble snow and flowers floating on the clouds,” Praya shares. “He even chose the song I walked down the aisle to, ‘Snow In The Garden’ by Alekandre Desplat, to evoke this. One day, I’ll pass it on to my daughter for her own wedding.”
Walking back up the aisle as husband and wife. Photo: John & Joseph
For the reception, Praya changed into an elegant and modern Vivienne Westwood gown, in a nod to her father’s British heritage. In a particularly sweet touch, Praya incorporated some jewellery from her aunt, who suffers from dementia, into her dresses. “During my final fitting, my uncle gave me a pair of my aunt’s earrings,” Praya shares. “As they couldn’t attend the wedding, I wanted them close to my heart, so we asked Valentino and Vivienne Westwood to sew one earring into the lining of each of the dresses.”
She complemented her elaborate bridal look with Piaget jewellery from the HJ collection (“the gorgeous diamond rose design went perfectly with the floral theme of the wedding, and my Valentino lace veil”), and a simple up-do and makeup, focusing on a natural no-make-up make-up look with defined eyes.
Cocktails were served on the hotel’s Garden Terrace after the ceremony, before a four-course dinner of Bel-Air classics, such as Maine lobster salad, wild mushroom risotto and pan roasted filet mignon, served on a custom-designed china set inlaid with 24K gold and napkins embroidered with the couple’s wedding monogram. After the speeches, Praya surprised Quoc with a performance from their favourite poet, IN-Q, who recited, ‘The Only Reason We’re Alive’ as Praya’s gift to her new husband. “As Quoc and I spent time apart during the pandemic this was the one poem that I would send to him time and time again,” Praya explains. “It was so special to have this recited at our wedding live in person, and to share this special moment together and with our friends and family.” Guests then took to the dancefloor as the live band performed “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston.
As fans of all things Old Hollywood, the couple opted to transform the ballroom into a sexy speakeasy, dubbed Cao’s in honour of the groom, for the after-party. “We had go-go dancers and a cigar bar on the terrace with an ultra-premium whiskey-cognac cart,” Praya reveals. “The room was dressed in emerald green with gold accents, with lots of inviting leather and velvet, and we dined on late-night bites, like diavolo pizza and truffle fries, with 1942 Don Julio tequila and Dom Perignon to drink.” She changed into an Alexandre Vauthier dress for the party, which she had custom-dyed.
“One of the most magical moments for us was seeing both of our parents celebrating on the dancefloor,” Praya concludes. “How many times in our life do we get to have every single person that is special to us in the same room to celebrate with?”
Originally published on British Vogue.