Celebrations: Carolyn Thamkul of Belle Étoile’s Pirate-Mermaid-Theme Wedding

How do romance experts—aka jewelers—celebrate their own life events? In fashions as unique as the couple’s love. 

Carolyn Thamkul of Belle Étoile and Bryce Harenburg got married last September near Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco on the ship Balclutha with an overall pirate-mermaid theme. Nine bridesmaids wore mermaid-like gowns in jewel tones—sapphire, amethyst, emerald, and ruby—with seashells and flowers set in their hair, while groomsmen wore buccaneer coats à la pirates.

Carolyn Thamkul and husband Bryce marry in a pirate- and mermaid-theme wedding.

Courtesy Russ Levi Photography

Carolyn Thamkul and Bryce Harenburg marry in a pirate- and mermaid-theme wedding.

The couple. Bryce and Carolyn met at the University of California at Berkeley, where both sang in a cappella groups. On their first date, Bryce took Carolyn to the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley for a picnic lunch. They continued dating, and Bryce eventually took a sales job with Belle Étoile shortly after Carolyn and her mom founded it. Both of Carolyn’s parents still run Mee Seng Gemcutters, in Emeryville, Calif., having opened it after emigrating from Thailand and securing an education at the GIA. Carolyn’s grandfather was a stonecutter in Thailand.

The proposal. Bryce took Carolyn back to the same spot of their first date. “I was suspicious when he was trying to get me there, because he packed his briefcase,” recollects Carolyn. Inside his case, Bryce had made a book of pictures chronicling their relationship through images and handwritten notes. After the last page was turned, he got down on one knee and proposed. “I knew what was happening, so I put my phone on audio record!” exclaims Carolyn. “But all you hear is at the end when he said, ‘Carolyn, will you marry me’? and me screaming ‘Yes!’”

The rings. Bryce went to Carolyn’s parents at their jewelry store for an 18k white gold, unbranded halo style, while Carolyn bought wedding bands for them both—his in platinum and hers in 18k white gold, both from Christian Bauer.

Carolyn Thamkul and husband Bryce's rings

Courtesy Russ Levi Photography

The couple’s wedding rings

The wedding. “I have always been a fan of Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean and The Little Mermaid, so we decided we would throw a big fun theme party,” she explains. Plus, a cappella folks like to dress up when they perform, and their entire wedding was a cappella—no instruments were used. “We’re very nerdy,” Carolyn giggles. Among their song choices: a version of “The Book of Love” by the Magnetic Fields, “Sweet Caroline” (sung by Bryce), and “Rainbow Connection” sung by friends for their first dance.

The groomsmen were outfitted by a pirate-specific costuming company—complete with swords and hats—all of which they got to keep and later used in multiple a cappella performances. Bridesmaids secured their dresses from David’s Bridal, and a friend made the seashell-and-flower hairpieces. “One of my best friends is a genius with a glue gun!” proclaims Carolyn. Even the families got festive—Bryce’s dad donned Captain Jack Sparrow–style dreadlocks. “I was very proud of my family that day,” she notes.

Bryce, meanwhile, scored even more points with his bride when he sewed all the men’s sashes himself while Carolyn was away on a business trip.

Carolyn Thamkul and husband Bryce's bridal party

Courtesy Russ Levi Photography

Carolyn and Bryce’s bridal party

The wedding jewelry. Carolyn’s mother selected unbranded 18k gold and diamond earrings and a necklace with a seaweed-type aesthetic for Carolyn to wear during the themed ceremony (the pair also had Catholic and Thai ceremonies, which sandwiched the pirate wedding over a weekend). During the Catholic ceremony, Carolyn wore jewelry from Belle Étoile. Even the guys were interested in the jewelry.

“It’s an interesting culture change to see how men are reacting differently to wedding planning now,” observes Carolyn. “All of my guy friends were talking about what they were wearing and were trying on Bryce’s ring for themselves.”

Bryce and Carolyn on their wedding day

Courtesy Russ Levi Photography

Bryce and Carolyn after the I-do’s

The bridal party gifts. Sisters of the bride received Belle Étoile pearls, while the rest of the bridesmaids got custom-made seashells in silver and enamel that matched the colors of their gowns and that revealed pearls when opened. The pieces were so popular that they are now part of the line Jewel of the Sea.

The guys, meanwhile, received personalized stainless steel flasks—“and one of the groomsmen may or may not have filled them with Fireball whiskey,” laughs Carolyn—and vintage-looking wooden and brass telescopes from a non-jewelry industry wedding merchant.

Jewel of the Sea necklace from the Belle Etoile line given to bridesmaids

Courtesy Russ Levi Photography

Jewel of the Sea necklace given to bridesmaids

The takeaway. “All in all, we had a wonderful and magical time,” says Carolyn. “Like my mom says—and she has a lot of great sayings—anything worth doing is worth overdoing! Our friends like to joke that in every picture, everyone has ridiculously giddy smiles, and that’s really what made it awesome for us. Everyone had a great time, and the night ended with a massive group hug with all our amazing wedding guests.”

Groomsmen gif made by the photographer Russ Levi

Courtesy Russ Levi Photography

Groomsmen GIF made by photographer Russ Levi

Click here to view Bryce and Carolyn’s video highlight reel.

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