After an engagement lasting just over a year, Derek Hough and Hayley Erbert wed on Saturday, August 26, 2023 at Santa Lucia Preserve in Carmel, California. The special details of the big day were exclusive to PEOPLE and BRIDES and photographed by Amy and Stuart Photography with the wedding planning by Troy Williams of Simply Troy Lifestyle + Weddings.
“The feeling of the entire day was just joy, celebration, and love,” Derek says. “It was so special to see everybody there for us and realizing what a beautiful group of people, family and friends, we have in our lives. And, for me at least, there was such a clear sense of future. This was really just the beginning for us as a couple.”
Wedding Theme of “Regal Redwoods”
“We’re in a redwood forest, but we got married right in front of this mother tree that’s surrounded by all these smaller trees,” Erbert said of the spot they chose for their ceremony. “They drop all the seeds, and it plants kind of like an army of children to protect the mother. The symbolism of it was beautiful. We’re here, planting our seeds to grow our family.”
“When we were thinking about a location we asked ourselves, ‘What’s important to us?'” Hough said. “Nature was the first thing. We want to be around trees and plants and Northern California kind of spoke out to us. We just want people to experience this place that we love, this nature, but also, it just feels incredibly romantic.”
The couple invited their loved ones to the celebration with a custom invitation suite by Minted. The design featured a watercolor tree motif, vellum overlay, and monogrammed belly band.
The Wedding Party
Hayley’s maid of honor, Kristy Sowin, wore a custom blush silk Marchesa dress for the ceremony. “All the bridesmaids wore custom Marchesa silk dresses. I wanted them to be sleek and simple, yet still beautiful,” the bride explains. “I had one bridesman who wore a custom Marchesa silk two piece that was to die for. I knew I didn’t want him to be in the typical suit in a matching color as the women so I came up with this design to have him be a little more sleek and cohesive with the other bridesmaids.”
Derek’s best man, Dancing With the Stars’ Mark Ballas, looked handsome in a Brooks Brothers tuxedo alongside the rest of the wedding party in matching attire.
The bride and her wedding party all carried bouquets of white and pink flowers, including ranunculus and roses, studded with greenery.
Instead of a traditional boutonnière, Derek accessorized with a floral pocket square created by the couple’s florist, Jimmy Hartman of In Blume Flowers.
The pair shared a first look ahead of the ceremony, something that was very important to both Derek and Hayley. “I’m one of those girls that have dreamt of my wedding for as long as I can remember, and it’s funny because I never thought I would do a first look because I thought I’d want my husband to see me walking down the aisle for the very first time,” Hayley explains. “But as we got closer and closer to our own wedding, I realized that a first look was actually extremely, extremely important to me.” In the end, she says she’s “so happy” that they made time for it. “It was a moment that was literally just for the two of us, and we didn’t get a lot of those moments throughout the entire wedding weekend really. It was a chance for the two of us to be together and recognize that this was really what we were doing. We were committing to each other, and it was the start of our beautiful life together.”
For his part, Derek had a very practical reason for wanting to have the first look: “I knew I’d be so emotional seeing her for the first time, so I wanted a buffer between when I saw her and when she walked down the aisle,” he explains. And emotional is exactly what he was. “That’s when it all hit me. In that moment, it became real that it was actually happening and that were were going to be marrying each other. It was amazing.”
The ceremony took place in Santa Lucia Preserve’s redwood grove. There, wooden chairs were arranged facing a lush floral altar; the aisle was lined with grounded arrangements of pink roses, white delphinium, and ferns. Derek and the wedding party processed to “Imagine” by Ben Platt. Hayley began her walk down the aisle on her own before being joined by two important men in her life, her father and step father, all to the tune of “Unconditional” by Richard Walters, which the artist re-recorded specifically for the bride and groom. “The music for our entire wedding was amazing,” Derek says. “Some of the lyrics to the original version of Hayley’s entrance song weren’t the best fit for a wedding, so I reached out to Richard before the wedding and he was gracious enough to re-record the song with different lyrics just for us. I cried every time I heard it.”
The Officient / Exchanging of Vows
The pair exchanged vows they wrote themselves during the ceremony, which was officiated by Derek’s brother-in-law, Michael Poole. Custom vow books that read “Grow as We Go” held their meaningful words.
Declaration of Husband and Wife
After being pronounced husband and wife, the duo shared the first kiss while white confetti floated around them, then recessed back up the aisle to the sound of “I Love You Always Forever” by Mike Mains & the Branches.
Bride’s Wedding Dresses
For her ceremony wedding dress, the bride chose designer Georgina Chapman from Marchesa to design a duchess satin number with off-the-shoulder sleeves for her walk down the aisle. “I tried on so many different styles, silhouettes, and fabrics, and I went to Marchesa with my vision of my dream dress,” Hayley explains of the process. To accompany the wedding dress, she also wore a long Marchesa veil for the occasion.
For her second look for the reception, Hayley stayed with Marchesa wore a fitted dress with spaghetti straps and a tulle train.
Derek donned a classic black Tom Ford tuxedo for the wedding ceremony, which he accessorized with a black bow tie. Instead of a traditional boutonnière, Derek accessorized with a floral pocket square created by the couple’s florist, Jimmy Hartman of In Blume Flowers.
After arriving to the reception in a convertible, Derek used this as an opportunity to show off his second look of the night which was a white jacket and black pants from Brooks Brothers. The groom accessorized with a handmade brooch by Mindy Lam. “She custom made it to signify mine and Hayley’s love story over the years,” Derek explains.
The bride and groom tied the knot in front of 106 guests, including Julianne Hough, Jenna Johnson, Shawn Johnson, Nina Dobrev, Shaun White, Robert and Kym Herjavec, Frieda Pinto, Amy Purdy, Maria Menounos and Alfonso Ribeiro.
“I was so excited to see our reception décor in real life,” Hayley shares. “It took place in a century old barn, and it was decorated with these gorgeous chandeliers. Our lighting vendor had sent us amazing renderings of the entire thing, so we had the perfect vision of what it would look like, but seeing it all come together in real life was such a wow moment.”
The First Dance
It was in the “Old Barn” that Derek and Hayley shared their first dance, but as two expert performers, they knew that newlywed spin needed to be a bit more unexpected. “We did it differently than most couples,” Hayley explains of the special moment, which was set to the tune of “Fall Into Me” by Forest Blakk. “Instead of getting called out onto the dance floor, we started dancing and then the doors to the barn opened, so it was the first time guests saw the space but also the first time they saw us dancing.”
Unsurprisingly, the dance floor was packed all night, and guests enjoyed entertainment provided by Jordan Kahn Music Company and DJ Derek.
The Wedding Cake
For dessert, the couple served a five-tiered wedding cake filled with white chocolate lavender huckleberry cake. “We chose large fondant ruffles on the bottom three tiers and white birchwood texture on the top three tiers, and had blackberry branches and large open peonies going all the way up the cake,” Hayley explains. “Each flower, branch, and blackberry was handcrafted in sugar by Kelly Gray.” Choosing that cake, Hayley says, was one of the easiest parts of the entire process. “That was super fun!” she laughs.