We greet life’s events with celebrations and, years later, look back at the photographs. So the next time you’re planning a party to mark a major turning point—whether it’s a family birthday, a graduation or a wedding—remember that your festivity’s setting and décor will stay with you for years to come. View your party as a chance to share your personality with others. Choose a theme that you make concrete with decorations, food and music to create a multi-sensory experience for your guests.
For Armando and Leigh Ann Coñate, choosing a personal theme meant opting for an eclectic, Southwest ranch-style wedding. “Everything about me—my clothes, my home—is eclectic,” Leigh Ann says. “So I wanted a Western-themed wedding where you could wear any hat you wanted—not just a cowboy hat.” Leigh Ann worked with her best friend, designer Melissa Strukel of PowWow Vintage, to craft a reception area that guests would find comfortable and engaging. Together, the two designers created a “fun, interactive experience” that guests would never forget.
Originally, Leigh Ann and Armando wanted to be married in a barn, but, as Leigh Ann laughs, “There are no barns in San Diego!” In lieu of a barn, they choose Los Peñasquitos, a historic ranch house in a public park owned by the county. Built in 1823 and fully restored, the lovely white home and its picturesque grounds lent itself more towards a classy, nostalgic celebration than the “Western kitsch” feel the couple wanted to avoid.
To give the 90 guests plenty of room to roam, Leigh Ann and Melissa structured the reception area so that it wrapped around the house from the ceremony area towards a grassy area, where they provided horseshoes and other lawn games. “There’s nothing worse than going to a party and feeling like all you’re doing is sitting, eating and talking to the guest next to you,” Leigh Ann says. “Give your guests an interactive experience.”
For Melissa, the turquoise open-faced armoire is a statement piece, highlighted by the turquoise hues in the vintage wool blankets on the flanking tables and the “SWEETS” sign to the right. When designing a vintage party on a budget, Melissa recommends “putting your funds towards one or two high-impact areas, such as this dessert bar, a sweetheart table or a lounge.”
Written by Elaine K. Phillips
Styling by Melissa Strukel of PowWow Vintage
Photography by John Newsome Photography