A Chic, Modern Southern California Wedding
Jess and Kevin
Jess Levin and Kevin Conroy were in the same finance club during their first year of business school. Not the most romantic setting for sure. But a friendship blossomed, and the following year they started dating. Not long after that they both realized that they'd found their future spouse. Two years later they moved in together and now, Jess is the Founder and CEO of Carats & Cake, and Kevin is a derivatives trader at a hedge fund.
Around their fourth anniversary, on a quintessential fall day in Laguna Beach, when the temps were in the 70s and a light breeze blew down the coast, they made things official. On November 14, 2015, Jess and Kevin fused the aesthetics of New York City (where they live) with Southern California (where they wed) for their big day at the Montage Laguna Beach hotel. With 100 of their nearest and dearest, the formal affair was part of an intimate wedding weekend that brought everyone together, beginning with a fiesta-themed welcome party.
Though the nature of Jess's business and one of the things she loves most about her online wedding platform is the relationships she's built with all of the incredibly talented vendors in the industry made it daunting at first to start the planning process, she took the advice from a close planner friend and went with her gut, picking collaborators with the ability to pull off the vision and whom she wanted surrounding her for the big day, like Debbie Geller of Geller Events, who helped the couple highlight their favorite foods, favorite flowers, and favorite colors for one of their favorite days ever.
The Stationery Suite
Stationery was a timeless mix of classic with a modern twist thanks to Bliss & Bone. The suite was foil-printed in gunmetal gray and letterpressed with clear varnish before getting tucked into a marble-printed vellum pocket with an angled top and then a navy envelope with marble-printed liner.
A Significant Setting
The wedding location held special significance. After about three years of dating, the couple was heading to California to spend the weekend with Jess's parents back in Laguna Beach. The Montage Laguna Beach is one of their favorite spots for lunch, and right before the couple and her parents were supposed to head over there, Jess's father said he had an emergency at his office and that he and Jess's mom would meet them there.
When Jess and Kevin arrived, Kevin suggested a trip to the tide pools and before Jess knew what was happening, he was down on one knee on the beach. The whole thing was an elaborate plan, complete with a photographer hiding in the rocks to capture it all. After the momentous occasion, it was back up to grab a bite by the pool, where the bride-to-be's entire family was waiting, along with her favorite bubbly, and a bounty of white flowers (the bride's favorite).
The duo decided to tie the knot at the hotel, on the cliff overlooking the proposal site. Furthermore, the spot was even more significant as it's in the bride's hometown, and bringing Kevin's family from the East Coast was a way of blending their lives with everyone together.
Kevin got help designing the engagement ring (a marquise-shaped stone in an east-west setting) from Russell Kwiat. "I wanted to create something unique," Kevin says. "I had a ruby, diamond, and sapphire embedded on the inside as a tribute to my military service and the American flag."
For the wedding bands, they went back to the same jeweler to choose Jess’s solid gold band and thin eternity ring, as well as Kevin’s band.
A Pajama Party
As a special thank you, Jess gave each of her bridesmaids monogrammed pajama sets from J.Crew. She and her mom sported silk sets from Equipment, which were a bridal shower present. The group donned the loungewear while they got ready on the big day.
Kevin gave his groomsmen, his dad, and Jess's father a flag pin to wear on their lapels in honor of the men and women that have made the ultimate sacrifice during their time in the military.
Gifts for the Girls
The First Look
Jess and Kevin first saw each other as a bride and groom on a bluff near their ceremony site. "When we first saw each other we couldn't speak for a few moments," Jess remembers.
Jess tried on more dresses that she can count, and points to finding the dress as the hardest task during planning. She had previously fallen in love with a Mira Zwillinger gown when she saw it on the runway during the designer's bridal show and returning to the idea of it. The problem? It wasn't available yet. But luckily, Mark Ingram and his team were able to track it down. "I loved that it still felt modern yet classic at the same time," she says. "Especially with the silver netted overlay and train. I hadn't seen anything like that."
The Ceremony Site
Views of the California coast (from Laguna Beach down to San Clemente) were seen from the ceremony spot. A cement structure adorned with cascading white roses and greenery was designed by Debbie Geller of Geller Events to look as if it belonged in the landscape. Executed by The Hidden Garden, it was enhanced by concrete risers holding arrangements of mono-floral white blooms and with a slight California Riviera feeling.
The Flower Girls
The bride and her father followed, walking down the aisle to an acoustic version of "All You Need is Love" by the Beatles—a favorite band of the father-of-the-bride.
A close friend of the couple officiated the al fresco service, during which Jess and Kevin almost skipped a step and were nearly pronounced husband and wife before exchanging rings. When the trio realized the misstep, they all looked at each other and burst out in laughter.
A Special Surprise
As a wedding gift (and total surprise) from the owner of Élan Artists, whose musicians played throughout the celebration, a gospel choir sang Ray LaMontagne's "You Are the Best Thing."
The Bridal Party
A mix of family and friends served as the wedding party, with the ladies choosing their own long, black dresses and the groomsmen donning black tuxedos. The bride once again played up her love of white flowers, with a mix of roses donning lapels as boutonnieres and forming bouquets for the ladies thanks to The Hidden Garden, who created the seemingly effortless pieces.
Cocktail hour took place on the nearby lawn before the sun set—maximizing the backdrop of the ocean. "You don't realize how lucky you truly are until you get all of your friends and family in the same room on your wedding day," the groom recalls of having everyone together to celebrate.
This Idea Rocked
A Seating Card Display
A petite tree made of magnolia branches and pears anchored the table, along with a mix of lanterns and single-variety floral arrangements.
Kevin's parents had been married for 38 years and Jess's for 35 at the wedding—setting a great example for the newlyweds.
The plan for the reception was to create a space that was equal parts elegant and relaxed—like guests were at a really fun dinner party. The ballroom at Montage Laguna Beach was transformed to feel like everyone was in a chic New York City loft, with lots of candlelight and all-white flowers dotting the tables.
Right before the reception began, the couple's wedding planner snuck the newlyweds into the ballroom. It was the first time they saw the design she'd created. "As we were walking around the room looking at all the details, the band started playing a song and Kevin and I had a pre-first dance just the two of us," Jess says of the most memorable moment of the event.
Slabs of marble added dimension—and identified the tables.
Jess and Kevin and the chef at the hotel worked together to create a menu that spotlighted the couple's favorite foods, and to serve items that guests would really be excited to eat. The result? A trio of sliders that included a cheeseburger, a fried chicken biscuit, and a lobster roll. Since the pair is happiest sharing a burger and fries, they loved the idea of a formal setting with the more relaxed food.
I'll Have Fries With That
What's a burger without fries? A trio of fries (sweet potato, waffle, and classic) was served with the sliders as a communal side at each table.
The First Dance
Elton John's "There's Something About The Way You Look Tonight" played during the couple's first dance.
At the end of the reception, Kevin asked the band to play "Piano Man" by Billy Joel, which is a tradition among his groomsmen. "We brought all three grandmas out onto the floor to dance with Jess and I, and the entire crowd made a circle around us," he recalls. "Everyone was on the dance floor!"
Kevin's favorite flavor combination of vanilla cake with vanilla icing was enrobed in gray fondant with a brushed silver detail. But even though the flavors were traditional, the presentation was a bit more surprising. The layers inside were red, white, and blue as a play in the colored stones embedded on the inside of Jess's engagement ring and as a nod to Kevin's service in the military. As another way of honoring his time in the military, a donation was made to the Bob Woodruff Foundation—an organization the supports veterans and their families, with which Kevin has worked closely in the past—on behalf of each person at the wedding.
Photography, Tec Petaja
Location, Catering, and Cake, Montage Laguna Beach
Event planning, Geller Events
Room décor & draping, Revelry Event Designers
Flowers, The Hidden Garden Floral Design
Stationery, Bliss & Bone
Calligraphy, Anne Robin Calligraphy
Cake, Montage Laguna Beach
Music, Élan Artists
Rentals, Classic Party Rentals
Bride's jewelry, Kwiat
Hair & Makeup, Mar R. of Team Hair & Makeup
Flower Girl dresses, David's Bridal
Groom's tuxedo, élevée
Lighting, Lighten Up Inc.