A Gorgeous Sunset Matched the Flowers at This Stylish Ranch Rehearsal Dinner

bride and groom kissing with california ranch backdrop at sunset
Anna Delores Photography

After Jeremy Loeppke proposed to Emily Reiter in February 2019, he suggested a memorable wedding date: April 3, 2021 (4/3/21). For more than a year, the couple organized the details of their 110-person wedding in Santa Margarita, California—until the state closed down due to COVID-19 just after they sent their save-the-dates in March 2020. Over the next nine months, the couple weighed postponing their wedding against cutting their guest list, and finally decided to move forward with their lucky date and a reduced guest count of just 29 friends and family.

Emily, a wedding photographer, had her ceremony and reception wish-list ready, so for the rehearsal dinner, she and Jeremy gave their event planner, Erika Bellitt of Array Creative Design, few guidelines. "I was exhausted by decisions about the wedding itself, so Erika took the reins, designing and planning the evening in a way that complemented the wedding the next day, but felt distinct in design and vibe," says Emily.

Emily and Jeremy chose Riata Ranch for their wedding weekend, in part because it offered on-site accommodations where they could stay before and after the ceremony, and took advantage of the property's multiple event spaces to give their rehearsal dinner for 19 guests a different atmosphere than their wedding celebration. "We wanted the rehearsal dinner to be a little more laid-back and feel more intimate than the wedding day," says Emily. "Erika put together a gorgeous mood board and worked with our florist and caterer to fine-tune the details, and all we really did was approve whatever she showed to us. She nailed it!"

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White Night

bride and groom holding hands california ranch backdrop
Anna Delores Photography

Emily chose a nontraditional black wedding dress for her big day, so she opted for a white BHLDN maxi gown at the rehearsal. "I wanted to have a more classic 'white dress' moment, even a small one, before the wedding day, so the rehearsal dinner was the perfect opportunity," she says. "I wore my mom's diamond earrings and necklace, too, as well as comfy Rothy's Mary Janes—the terrain at our venue was pretty treacherous, and even though I brought heels, I didn't trust myself not to trip and fall, so opted to stay safe with flats." Jeremy donned custom charcoal gray pants and a jacket from No. 33, with a pale purple shirt, contrasting pocket square, and Olukai loafers.

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Dinner Al Fresco

outdoor rehearsal dinner setup at california ranch beneath tree
Anna Delores Photography

Planner Erika Bellitt of Array Creative Design wanted the rehearsal dinner to "bring a high-end ranch style, while utilizing a separate space that would not be used for the wedding day," she says. "With the trees starting to bloom, it was the perfect first impression to make during a fun wedding weekend with an intimate group."

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Light it Up

outdoor rehearsal dinner setup beneath tree
Anna Delores Photography

The minimalist color scheme added to the atmosphere. "We loved the neutral color palette Erika chose, with black accents; the design was really focused on lots of luxurious texture and was executed beautifully," says Emily. Glass pendants and rattan lanterns overhead were "subtle but gorgeous," says the bride. "I'm glad we left them up after rehearsal dinner, too, because they were a fun backdrop to some of our formal portraits the next day."

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Handled with Care

rehearsal dinner tablescape pink drum roses and white velvet tablecloths
Anna Delores Photography

Marble-handle flatware, amber-hued glassware, and blackberry-filled wooden bowls added texture and interest to the tablescape. "Our guests were really impressed with the attention to detail and the overall impact of the design," says Emily.

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Just Peachy

rehearsal dinner centerpieces comprised of drum roses
Anna Delores Photography

Cheery flowers from Coco Rose Design stood out against the white velvet tablecloths. "I love distant drum roses, which have shades of peach, coral, and pink," says Emily, "and Nina used that color palette as her guide for putting the centerpieces together. We didn't give her much direction and were so delighted with what she created!"

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Paper Perfect

rehearsal dinner menu atop white plate
Anna Delores Photography

Menus and place cards from Papel & Co. had a "simple, modern, minimalist vibe" that spoke to the stationery seen throughout the next day in design and palette, notes Emily.

Erika surprised Emily on the day of the rehearsal dinner with fresh blooms the bride used to style her own detail photographs. "To be honest, those are my favorite memories from Friday—spending the day doing flat lays with Erika," says Emily. "I was totally in my element! When my good friends—who also happen to be our photo and video team—arrived around noon, we were so excited and had so much energy! They literally screamed when they saw my wedding dress hanging up in the bedroom. It felt like such a magical kickoff to the weekend."

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Cohesive Glassware

rehearsal dinner glassware atop outdoor wood bar
Anna Delores Photography

Streamlined glassware transformed the bar top into a design moment.

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rehearsal dinner appetizers on white plate
Anna Delores Photography

Emily and Jeremy booked Field to Table shortly after choosing their venue—almost two years before their wedding. The Italian-inspired three-course meal included Zuppa Toscana, which the bride calls "absolutely the tastiest soup we've ever had," chicken piccata, and sea salt and caramel gelato. "We wanted the rehearsal dinner to have a bit of its own personality, so we gave Tracy, the chef, a lot of flexibility to create whatever he thought best for our menu," says Emily. "Our guests raved about the food all weekend!"

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All Together

outdoor rehearsal dinner at california ranch
Anna Delores Photography

A custom playlist made by the bride and groom provided background music for dinner, conversation, and toasts given by Jeremy's father, mother, and stepfather. "I loved having our closest friends and family in one place, even though it was smaller than we originally planned, and it made me so happy that everyone was having such a good time, enjoying the food and ambiance," says Emily. "We were also treated to a gorgeous sunset that day."

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Taking It All In

bride and groom holding hands california ranch backdrop at sunset
Anna Delores Photography

After spending the day photographing wedding details, Emily had to remind herself to savor every moment of the rehearsal dinner. "It hadn't hit me yet that this was our wedding weekend, so the rehearsal dinner zipped by like a weird dream," she says. "After our guests left following rehearsal dinner, I took a little bit of quiet time by myself to get in the zone and really focus on being the bride and being present. I'm so happy to report that it worked—I felt so much better the next day and was truly present for every little moment of our wedding!"

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bride and groom kissing in front of outdoor rehearsal dinner space
Anna Delores Photography

Photography, Anna Delores Photography
Venue, Riata Ranch
Event planning, Array Creative Design
Catering, Field to Table
Flowers, Coco Rose Design
Videography, I Heart Creative
Stationery, Papel & Co.
Rentals, La Tavola Linen; Party Pleasers; Table Method; Onyx & Redwood
Bride's gown, BHLDN
Bride's shoes, Rothy's
Groom's suit, No. 33
Groom's shoes, Olukai
Lighting, Bella Vista Designs; Elan Event Rentals

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