A Fiesta-Inspired California Welcome Dinner
Jess and Kevin
Following their engagement, Jess Levin, the Founder and CEO of Carats & Cake, and Kevin Conroy, a derivatives trader at a hedge fund, planned an intimate destination wedding weekend in Laguna Beach, California. The wedding destination is a special spot for the couple because it's where Kevin proposed.
On a mid-November evening, as the sun set on a beautiful day, about 100 guests kicked off what would be the most memorable weekend of Jess and Kevin's lives and the official start to their happily ever after. The groom's parents hosted a welcome party, which was intended to be a contrast to the next day's formal event. So things were kept super relaxed and the vibrant color palette popped at the fiesta-inspired soirée at a local restaurant. But before the celebration kicked off, the bride- and groom-to-be also a few private moments to revisit their proposal site, seen above.
Five miles down the Pacific Coast Highway from their wedding venue, Jess and Kevin were joined by most of their guest list at Las Brisas restaurant in Laguna Beach. "We loved the idea of a fiesta theme because it's very Southern California and the perfect low-key way to welcome everyone for the weekend," Jess explains. The venue is known for some of the best views in town that span the coast from Newport Beach down to Santa Clemente. In addition to the sights, guests also got to mingle and bond and really get a chance to get to know each other.
Kevin wore a custom suit by élevée, and kept it casual by skipping a tie. Jess donned an Inbal Dror gown from Mark Ingram Atelier, Givenchy shoes, and some of her mother's jewelry. Jess fell in love with the gown the second she saw it and even considered it for a wedding dress—swooning over the lace sleeves and intricate detailing on the back. When plans started coming together for the rehearsal dinner, Mark suggested she wear it then. "It was the best of both worlds, and it had a little fiesta feel to it," Jess says.
The soon-to-be-newlyweds carved out a little time between the actual ceremony rehearsal and the welcome dinner to hit Treasure Island Beach for some pre-sunset portraits.
Playing up the fiesta theme and keeping things laid-back, the tables were set with colorful centerpieces of ranunculus, roses, and tulips, amber-hued glass goblets, and modern gold flatware. They mixed up the place settings, with some being a bit more formal, like this pairing of white plates topped with a napkin and pairing of ranunculus and kumquats.
In addition to bold flowers, the vessels themselves played a part. Modeled after classic salsa jars, tin cans were wrapped in personalized designs to fit the fête.
Other tables were set with custom placemats designed by the couple's event planner, Geller Events. They incorporated the couple's monogram, a pair of birds, and colorful flowers.
Guests dined on typical Mexican fare—from tacos to enchiladas to beans and rice. And chips and guacamole were devoured while an acoustic Spanish guitarist played traditional music befitting the event.
Jess notes that seeing everyone that had traveled to celebrate with them was her favorite part of the night. "Kevin and I stood at the door and greeted everyone as they came in, and it was overwhelming to see friends and family come together," she recalls.
Location and Catering, Las Brisas
Event planning, Geller Events
Flowers, The Hidden Garden Floral Design
Tabletop Rentals, Casa de Perrin
Music, Rico Espinoza
Groom's suit, élevée
Hair & Makeup, Mar R. of Team Hair & Makeup
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