Shantel VanSanten and Victor Webster’s love story is quite literally straight out of a rom-com: They met on the set of one in 2016. “We met while playing love interests on a movie that shot all over Belgium,” Shantel remembers. Her character owned a perfumery and Victor’s was “the nose.” “While it felt like it was set up to create pure love—from filming in a foreign country to the castle we were staying in while shooting to the name of the film, ‘Love Blossoms.’ While working, we were just friends and in fact I helped him with his dating life.” It wasn’t until the following year that their relationship took a romantic turn.
Following Victor’s mountaintop proposal in February 2021, the couple knew they wanted two weddings: one closer to home in California, and one in Shantel’s hometown of Luverne, Minnesota, for her elderly family to attend. What they didn’t plan on was having three. “When my grandfather unexpectedly passed away on Father’s Day, the heartbreak was unbearable; I had been planning on him walking me down the aisle in Minnesota,” Shantel says. “In the midst of my grief, I looked at Victor and said I wanted to do a spontaneous civil ceremony on my grandparents’ wedding date, August 9. The idea of my grandparents being reunited and watching over our ceremony from above gave me some peace. They were married for 63 years had such a special, deep love. They were the example to me of how love is a choice and takes work. It wasn’t perfect, but their love was always pure.”
So, Shantel and Victor were married three times, each special celebration honoring her grandparents in countless personal ways. As a result, their story has become even better than any on-screen romance. Read on to see this incredible trio of weddings, planned by Alexandra Kolendrianos and photographed by Harmoni Everett of Inspired Muse Photography, Emma McIntyre Photography, and Caitlin Harle of Cait n’ Her Camera.
When I put on this dress in the fitting with my family, I never wanted to take it off.
The first of their three ceremonies was planned in less than three weeks to honor Shantel’s late grandparents’ anniversary date. The bride wore the dress she felt the most herself in: Danielle Frankel’s Charlotte gown. “When I put on this dress in the fitting with my family, I never wanted to take it off,” she says. “It spoke to me through the simple elegance of immaculate design, beautiful material, and perfect tailoring, which Danielle executes in all her wedding dresses.”
For glam, she turned to friend and makeup artist Jess Anderson Crocker and gave her free rein. She adds, “The only thing I knew I needed was waterproof mascara!” Crocker used a subtle coral shade on Shantel’s lips and cheeks for that bridal glow.
Shantel selected Los Angeles’ The Petal Workshop to design her bouquet. “I trusted them to create something with unexpected flowers but that was still classic—not trendy but with an edge,” Shantel says. “They included 103 stems of flowers ranging in textur,e but keeping with the white tones.”
For his civil ceremony outfit, Victor wore a Ralph Lauren suit he already owned. “It was classic and fit him well,” Shantel says. “We wanted this to feel timeless.” He shaved his quarantine beard for the occasion, wore a nigella boutonniere wrapped with twine, and donned a meaningful accessory: A Movado watch Shantel had gifted her grandfather and got back after he passed.
The ceremony took place outside Pasadena City Hall, and the vibe was “timeless, classic, and simple,” Shantel says. “[For] the car ride over to City Hall, Victor drove alone and I rode with my parents, who flew in to be there. They were so nervous that they kept talking and asking me questions, which made me more nervous. I had to shut them up by putting on ‘Chapel of Love’ by the Dixie Cups, which we all sang together. I am so grateful for this spontaneous decision to do a civil ceremony with my parents present—it was the only opportunity my mother had to be a part of our union, as she was in ICU for the other two weddings, fighting for her life.” Fortunately, her mother is now in recovery.
“We had seen photos of Pasadena City Hall and knew the architecture and gardens offered beautiful photo opportunities,” the bride remembers. “The fountain in the middle looks like we were in Europe; we wanted to be close to home but look like we might have eloped!”
We knew this was going to be a very intimate ceremony where we could be as honest and real as we wanted to.
Shantel and Victor exchanged personal vows. “We knew this was going to be a very intimate ceremony where we could be as honest and real as we wanted to,” Shantel says. “It wasn’t about entertaining anyone or telling any stories; instead it was about the raw, real and honest road that we have taken to get to this special day.” There were homages to her grandparents, including the closing line of Victor’s vows. It pulled from a letter her grandfather wrote her grandmother during World War II: “With all my love and kisses, I remain your ever loving sweetheart and faithful husband.”
The ring exchange was the most special moment of all. “I had called my mother and asked if there was a ring of my grandfather’s I could give to Victor. She found an old vintage turquoise one from the ’40s and—unbeknownst to me—gave Victor a band of my grandmothers’, which he surprised me with. I was shocked when we went to exchange our rings and we each pulled one out from my grandparents.”
We didn’t overthink it—just went with our hearts wide open. It was beyond memorable.
The guest count for the civil ceremony was just three: Shantel’s mother and stepfather, and Victor’s mom. But, the love was felt by many who FaceTimed in. Her grandparents’ energy was there, too. “In so many ways, I felt their presence with us,” Shantel says. “Although it was not planned, it ended up being the most beautiful day. We didn’t overthink it—just went with our hearts wide open. It was beyond memorable.”
Two months later, on a Sunday in October, the couple’s second celebration came to life. “Sunday was always a day my grandmother would invite friends, family, and strangers together in her home for a fresh-cooked meal,” Shantel remembers. “Growing up it was a day we would be together as a family, so I loved the idea of doing our wedding on a Sunday.”
The vision? “Thoughtful, romantic, intimate, magical, grounded, sentimental, inclusive,” the bride says. “I kept coming back to the emotionality of it and not a particular look.” This time they enlisted a planner: Alexandra Kolendrianos. “Alexandra helped me find the perfect artists and vendors to create this day with. I love to design and knew it would come down to choosing details that had meaning for Victor and me. Everything we chose had a reason and was grounded in memories or a story, so it felt so personal.”
“My dear friend Jess, who always does my makeup, knows me best and I trusted her,” Shantel says. “The most important thing to me is always to feel like me after makeup. So, I always keep it simple.” For hair, she let stylist Michael Silva decide day-of. The bride shares, “I find when you allow creatives the freedom to be inspired they do their best work!” Even her nail color held significance: “I found a color by OPI called The Chief, which is the name of the mountain we got engaged on,” she says. The final touch: a spritz of Midnight Toker by Heretic.
Shantel went all in on Galia Lahav, selecting multiple gowns by the Israeli designer with the help of her stylists Brit and Kara Elkin. For the main event, she went with Giovanna. “It is a celestial ball gown that is fully embroidered and scattered with crystal beads that replicate a galaxy,” Shantel describes. “When I put it on, I was reminded of stargazing in the cornfields of my grandparents’ home in Minnesota. I knew we would be under a star-filled sky on the wedding night and it would feel seamless. The veil had a huge North Star embroidered on it to remind me of Victor, who is my light guiding me home.”
The wedding was held at Zakin Family Estate, a private winery in St. Helena, California, owned by Shantel’s best friend’s aunt. “We kept coming back to the feeling of wanting it to be an extension of our own home in L.A., where we bring lots of people together for backyard movies, game nights, and potluck cookouts. It was the perfect space to host our intimate wedding outdoors: We could see saying our vows as the sun sets, feasting at a communal family table, and dancing the night away under the star-filled sky.”
“The only thing Victor insisted on was a three-piece suit he could ‘cut a rug in,’” Shantel says. They found a sophisticated Favourbrook suit in a shade called Cardamom. “It changed colors depending on the light,” notes the bride. “It went from a golden bronze to brown to almost a forest green. The velvet texture brought out all the fall vibes.”
She looked stunning, and knowing she was about to become my wife made me feel so lucky.
Victor’s most special memory from the day? “Seeing Shantel for the first time during our first look,” he says. “She looked stunning, and knowing she was about to become my wife made me feel so lucky.”
“We chose our dog, Nova, to be ring bearer,” Shantel says. “She had a simple white velvet ribbon tied around her neck with the rings on it. Our fur baby is an important part of our life and we wanted to include her in the ceremony.”
“We knew when we saw these two trees on the perimeter of the property, we had to get married under them,” the bride remembers. “It felt like they represented Victor and myself. Here were two trees which, when planted, were left to set a strong rooted foundation—and now after growing they found their branches intertwined and reaching to find sunlight together.”
A dozen long benches provided seating, each adorned with crystals collected from around the world: pyrite, apophylite, and quartz. “The semicircle of floral and foliage surrounded a vintage rug I purchased from Broomhill Antique Rugs,” Shantel says. “We used it to set the foundation for the altar, and it will now be the foundation of our living room and hold all the memories and energy from that day.”
The palette included muted earth tones with dusty blush accents, “Inspired by the fall colors found in nature around the area, I wanted to blend into the scenery and exist in the space seamlessly,” Shantel says.
“I remember telling Nancy, the florist [from Oak & the Owl], I wanted some elements of whimsy, like a Dr. Seuss book would have,” Shantel says. “She did a garden-style bouquet with an emphasis on different textures.” The arrangement included quicksand and toffee roses, assorted grasses like bunny tail and great burnet, butterfly ranunculus, crocosmia, and rattlesnake grass.
I was beyond grateful for this moment with him.
“My stepfather—I call him Dad—has been in my life since I was four,” Shantel says. “He wasn’t going to be able to come as my mother was in the ICU and he didn’t want to leave her side. We had a conference call Saturday morning with the doctors, and she was stable enough for him to come. So he got to be there to walk me down the aisle. I was beyond grateful for this moment with him.” Just before the ceremony, the bride shared a private FaceTime with her mother. “Those few minutes I will treasure forever. The memory and her words will live forever in my heart and we know she was there in every heartbeat throughout the day.”
“We are fans of live music and when you have talent in your family the world should experience it,” Shantel says. “I knew from the start I wanted my sister and her husband to sing for the ceremony.” Her brother-in-law, Zac, sang “Time After Time” as the groom and immediate family processed in. When it was Shantel’s turn to walk down the aisle, her sister, Jessye, took up Etta James’ “At Last.”
“I wanted to incorporate something I did on my grandparents’ farm: I would take dandelions—or as I called them, wish flowers—and make lots of wishes,” shares Shantel. So, guests received seeds to “make a wish with for us as a couple, then blow them to the heavens where [my grandparents] could go to work on making them come true!”
Victor and Shantel expanded on the vows they had written for their civil ceremony to recite at the California wedding. “They were a mixture of serious and inside jokes between us, like ‘I vow to always eat Snickers ice cream bars with you,’” Shantel says. “When I met Victor, he wasn’t a huge romantic, but in moments like this I love seeing how open his heart has become.”
Shantel’s aunt beautifully officiated the ceremony. “Shortly after we decided when and where [to get married], we asked Diane to officiate and she very excitedly agreed,” Shantel remembers. “Then a few weeks later, she was hospitalized and we got debilitating news that she had terminal renal cell cancer and it had already spread to her brain. Victor and I flew to South Dakota to be at her side. We wanted to help give her strength as she began the fight and we bonded even more closely. In the midst of all the radiation and treatments, she kept gathering quotes and details from friends and family; she kept planning her speech. She has the best spirit and warrior’s attitude; she has been a shining example of resiliency to us through everything this year.”
The marriage was sealed with an epic first kiss. “At the end for the recessional, we asked everyone to chime in as ‘All You Need is Love’ played and we walked down the aisle as husband and wife,” shares the bride.
The wedding was small with just 48 guests. “It was a reflection of our history with our loved ones,” Shantel says. “It felt like a reflection of our journey and our relationship manifesting in the details of this day.”
Make it your own. Infuse your story, traditions, and heart into each part of the day.
After the ceremony, the couple took portraits on the grounds of the property, the setting sun lighting everything aglow. “Remember what it is all for,” Shantel advises other brides- and grooms-to-be. “It is a day to celebrate and commit your love to one another. Make it your own. Infuse your story, traditions, and heart into each part of the day.”
The groom’s advice? “Start early, keep detailed lists, and be prepared for Mr. Murphy to rear his head,” Victor says in reference to Murphy’s Law. “But most importantly, hold onto the love you share.”
At the outdoor reception, vignettes of vintage sofas and ottomans on shearling rugs offered a place to relax and mingle. “The main dinner table was one long, black, dramatic wood table for 48 guests,” Shantel says. “The color of the table allowed the softer tones and metal elements to pop.”
Centerpieces were garden roses and assorted grasses in earthenware vessels. For the tablescape, the emphasis was on texture. “The tabletop included layers of California stoneware in an earth-tone palette,” the bride describes.
Crystals were displayed throughout the table and seven chandeliers—dubbed “Little Dipper”—were suspended above the dining table and cast a glow over the dining and lounge areas. Shantel says, “It blended beautifully into the night sky as the stars came out.”
For the meal, “we wanted a nontraditional approach that could also accommodate everyone’s specific dietary restrictions, so we worked with Janice, our private chef, to see what was in season,” shares the bride. “I wanted a few certain things that brought back memories of travels or childhood; for example, serving paella was to honor our Spain trip with friends who were there.”
The couple and their guests did a toast with bubbly from Mumm Napa. They worked with a local bartender to develop a few signature cocktails, including the Marry Me Margarita with El Tesoro tequila and the First Dance Penicillin with Maker’s Mark and Laphroaig. They also served wines from Zakin. “Thank goodness we did the wedding at the winery itself, because we ended up drinking through all the cases and needed to purchase more!” Shantel says with a laugh.
“I decided, being celiac, I didn’t want to do a traditional gluten-free cake and instead worked with our chef to come up with a special dessert everyone could indulge in,” Shantel says. “We took fresh harvested peaches and pistachios to add the fall flavors in a decadent three-tier pavlova. It made a fun mess as I mushed it on Victor’s face!”
“We allowed everyone to request songs ahead of time on our website and then hired a DJ who did an amazing job of playing and blending almost all of them,” Shantel says. “It was so fun to guess who chose which song.”
The couple also gave back to the guests. Shantel curated some of her favorite items and brands into gift bags for each guest, and even designed some of her own pieces, like white cashmere throws with a sunset-and-arrow embroidery. “I wanted people to take them home and be able to use them again,” she says.
Of course, there was a dress change—and Shantel stuck with Galia Lahav. “I wanted a dress I could feel like a dancing queen in. I loved the satin and bows, which look like they are sweet. But then, it had a high slit to make it fun. When I put it on. I went skipping around the store and knew it was the perfect party dress.”
We shared some kisses and tears as we realized we did it! This was the moment it really sank in: We were husband and wife!
“At the end of the night, we didn’t do an exit before everyone,” the bride remembers. “We let the guests leave in the shuttles and we stayed behind. We stood in the silence under the stars on the dance floor and took it all in. We shared some kisses and tears as we realized we did it! This was the moment it really sank in: We were husband and wife!”
We knew for this wedding we wanted it to feel more like home.
The couple spent three days in Big Sur—an adventurous and romantic retreat at Post Ranch Inn—before heading to Minnesota for the finale celebration near Shantel’s hometown. “We knew for this wedding we wanted it to feel more like home,” she says. “Less glamorous and more grounded; lots of handmade elements and influences from my childhood inspiring our choices. Rustic, approachable, intimate, and, as always, romantic.”
Once again, Shantel turned to Galia Lahav for a gown. From the moment she tried on the Charlie dress—a sculptural French lace mermaid style with mutton sleeves—“I knew,” she says. “It was so clear this was the exact vibe I wanted for that wedding. It was the one thing I kept coming back to for inspiration as I designed the rest of the wedding and reception elements. I could envision the whole wedding when I saw myself in this dress.”
“One of Victor’s favorite designers is Scotch & Soda and when my stylist told us they had a contact who worked with them, we knew it was the perfect fit,” Shantel says. “The color matched the surrounding rocks and fall palette we envisioned. It was a burgundy wool suit, which he paired with a vintage herringbone vest he already had.” One big difference for this down-to-earth affair: no first look. Instead, the couple got ready in the same house, even sharing the bathroom mirror as they primped. “I loved having that moment together in the midst of all the madness,” the bride says.
“The theme of this wedding was vintage and prairie-inspired,” Shantel says. “We wanted to blend into the nature around Blue Mounds Park. The leaves on the trees were vibrant fall colors, so I wanted to play with those tones and let nature inspire the colors: dusty rose, mauve, blush, burgundy, beige, tan, caramel, and toffee.”
All of the sudden, the wind picked up and I instantly knew it was my grandparents’ way of letting me know they were there.
The ceremony took place at the base of a rock quarry in Blue Mounds State Park. “I have visited there since I was a kid and climbed to the top of the quarry many times to see the views and my grandparents’ farm in the distance,” Shantel says. “It has a lot of meaning for me.”
Her Aunt Diane officiated again, and called on the 60 guests to take a moment of pause to ground themselves and capture the moment. “Victor and I stood for that minute taking it all in, when all of the sudden the wind picked up and I instantly knew it was my grandparents’ way of letting me know they were there,” Shantel remembers. “I whispered this to Victor; not five seconds later out of the sky fell a bright yellow leaf, which landed on Victor’s right shoulder. There were no trees around us in the area and he kept looking for where it came from. We now know it was their blessing.”
“We didn’t have a formal wedding party, but I did make sure the immediate family all wore softer tones with pops of burgundy so it felt cohesive,” Shantel says. “I found almost all my siblings’ attire on The Real Real and wanted to support sustainable clothing purchases.” Her biological father, Steve, walked her down the aisle in a Paul Smith suit.
“The ceremony flowers, designed by Olive and Grace Floral, were inspired by the native vegetation, prairie grasses, and pink quartz rock found in the park and surrounding landscape,” Shantel says. “Many of the ingredients were foraged from local gardens and grasslands.” The arched altar installation and the bride’s bouquet featured indigenous switchblade, millet grass, smokebush, dried hydrangeas, and blush larkspur.
After the ceremony, guests were welcomed to the reception with an entrance table which held photos, a welcome book, vintage suitcases, and candles. For all three of the weddings, Shantel says, “It was important to incorporate pieces with a story, just like what is found in our home. I gravitate toward anything with history, vintage elements, and mixing masculine and feminine. Mixing opposing textures and colors is a fun way to create feeling.”
“We chose the reception hall, Big Top Tents & Events, because it is a new business in town and we wanted to show our support,” Shantel says. “We didn’t bring anyone in from L.A. and instead supported local businesses, which was very important to us in such a small town.” Rustic red oak tables were arranged in a U shape and the room was lit with hundreds of flickering candles and four vintage chandeliers.
Shantel wrote each menu card by hand and, even more impressive, her stepmother cooked all the food for their 60 guests. “We let her set the menu because all her food is amazing,” Shantel says. “Victor and I got to be a part of the prepping of the food when we got to town. A lot of the vegetables came from my dad’s garden and meats from the local butchers. Carla found ways to make a lot of it gluten-free for us.” Some favorites? The macaroni and cheese and fresh green beans.
“Almost everything was a DIY project for this wedding,” the bride says. “Almost all of the decor was purchased from local vintage stores, one in particular called Farmhouse Market in Edgerton, Minnesota. The menus, place cards, and signage were all handwritten on recycled paper. I wanted it to have all the elements of feeling like a lot of time, love, and effort went into the details of this wedding.”
Before the cake-cutting—gluten-free vanilla with buttercream icing and fresh raspberry filling—Shantel changed into one final Galia Lahav gown, the Luca. “It complemented the wedding dress in such a beautiful way,” she says. “It is also a mermaid style, but this one has a plunging V-neckline and open back. It felt like the party-loving version of the wedding dress.” She layered on diamond necklaces that highlighted the beading.
The couple’s first dance was to “Die a Happy Man” by Thomas Rhett, and the party was on. “We hired my brother’s best friend, who is a DJ,” the bride says. “He kept us dancing until 12:30 when I couldn’t feel my toes anymore.”
“Through all of this, the biggest lesson Victor and I have learned is the resiliency of the human spirit and our hearts,” Shantel says of the nearly three months of celebrations. “As I looked at my side, when the world felt like it was falling apart, there stood my rock, my home, my husband. As there are unwritten chapters ahead, we will surely experience more hardships on this grand adventure. I couldn’t be more sure we can overcome anything together.”