The Bride Wore Black to This Unique, Personal Celebration in Santa Margarita, California

bride and groom kissing on gravel path
Anna Delores Photography

Three years after they met on eHarmony, Jeremy Loeppke proposed to Emily Reiter during a 2019 trip to New Orleans where Emily, a wedding photographer, had been hired to capture another couple's nuptials. "Jeremy met me at the venue and surprised me with a hotel upgrade to the Ritz Carlton; while I was busy working that day, he'd checked into a suite on the top floor and covered the room in rose petals," says Emily. "He's done sweet surprises like this before and had tricked me into thinking he didn't have the ring yet, so I didn't suspect a proposal until we stepped out onto balcony overlooking Canal Street and he asked me to marry him—with the ring of my dreams!"

Jeremy chose the wedding date, April 3, 2021, for its memorable abbreviation—4/3/21—and the couple spent the next year planning their 110-person wedding at Riata Ranch in Santa Margarita, California, with the help of Erika Bellitt at Array Creative Design. But three weeks after sending their save-the-dates in February 2020, as the COVID-19 response forced couples to postpone or cancel their weddings, Emily and Jeremy began to consider how they might change their plans. "We gave ourselves a deadline of December 2020 to decide whether we needed to downsize or postpone," says Emily. "We really considered the possibility of postponement so we could keep our original guest count, but we knew we wanted April, and couldn't imagine planning for an extra year. So, we made the decision to downsize to just 20 of our closest family members and a couple of friends (just our wedding party)."

By keeping their date and venue, they were able to move forward with many of the design elements they'd already chosen: a color palette of muted blues, deep green, black, and pale yellow; custom papers with a recurring half-circle shape; and unexpected, personal takes on everything from dessert (churros, not cake) to Emily's wedding dress (stunning black lace, not white). "We didn't feel like many of the traditional or dramatic overtures that might be expected were authentic to our relationship, so we skipped anything that didn't have special meaning or otherwise resonate with us—and kept the things that did," says Emily, who owns Anna Delores Photography. "A big priority for me was to try and make design choices that were unique, but also wouldn't read too trendy in five, 10, 50 years. I've seen a lot of design repetition in my years in the industry, and I wanted the aesthetics of our wedding to be a little unexpected and a little unlike most of what I'd seen before."

Though safety procedures, vaccines, and the potential for last-minute changes made the process more stressful than it would have been, Emily centered herself on the true meaning of the day. "As excited as I've always been about planning the details, I made an effort to keep focus on the whole point of the wedding: marrying Jeremy!" she says. "In the end, we were so happy with an intimate celebration, even though it wasn't what we thought we wanted. Everything turned out exactly as it was supposed to."

01 of 22

Stamp Act

wedding in invitation suite with blue and green hues
Anna Delores Photography

Emily designed the paper suite with Lazy Creative Designs. "Our vision for the stationery was to keep it modern and minimalist," says Emily. "We wanted to stick with serif lettering, simple but impactful design, and negative space." The couple chose velvet envelope liners, a unique half-circle closure on the outer envelope that paralleled the reception paper goods, and a custom alcohol-ink painting that backed the detail card and save-the-date.

A thoughtful collection of stamps included nods to important people and places in the couple's lives: a hummingbird to honor Jeremy's grandmother, who loved them; Alaska highway stamps referencing a road trip Jeremy took with his grandparents in high school; and New Orleans trolley stamps to commemorate the couple's engagement. "The colors of our invitation suite were very consistent with the palette we used for the wedding day—racing green paper stock, dusty blue envelopes with a navy velvet liner, and black envelopes for our save-the-dates," says Emily. "I loved the dimensional impact of the finished suite."

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02 of 22

Back in Black

bride in black wedding dress holding bouquet
Anna Delores Photography

After photographing countless weddings, Emily had a few requirements for her own attire. "I knew I wanted my wedding dress to be something different, to feel special and unlike anything I'd seen before," she says. "I was considering a wardrobe change to a blue reception dress or simply finding a silhouette I hadn't seen very often, but when I found Sottero & Midgley's 'Zander' gown in black during an Internet search, I fell in love." The tulle and Chantilly lace ball gown skirt was paired with a sheer bodice covered in floral lace appliqué; garment engineer Sara Rothan lined the bodice with black tulle. "I tried on many other dresses and kept thinking I should wear white, but couldn't get the black dress out of my head—so I went for it," says Emily. She did, however, loop the groom in on her unexpected look. "I didn't keep it a secret from Jeremy; I didn't want him to be totally shocked with such a nontraditional choice, but he loved the dress when I showed it to him!" she says. "I was surprised he'd be open to something so unexpected."

03 of 22

All in the Details

Bride's wedding day accessories and shoes
Anna Delores Photography

Christian Louboutin pumps in a slate blue-gray (that matched her bouquet's ribbon!) completed her ensemble.

04 of 22

High Contrast

bride with bridesmaids under tree
Anna Delores Photography

Since Emily opted for a black gown, she asked her bridesmaids to wear ivory—but let them pick their own styles. "My maid of honor chose a long-sleeved wrap maxi dress from Lulu's, and my bridesmaid (and cousin) wore a V-neck cap-sleeved maxi from Show Me Your Mumu," Emily says.

05 of 22

Lush Blooms

Bride holding bouquet with pink and yellow flowers
Anna Delores Photography

Coco Rose Design crafted Emily's oversized, asymmetrical bouquet to include the bride's favorite flowers—peonies—alongside blackberry and jasmine vines, white Iceland poppies, tulips, anemones, and sweet peas. "I also made a special request for distant drum roses," says Emily. "I love their delicate shape and beautiful colors, and even though we didn't have pink anywhere else in the color palette, I thought the bridal bouquet would be a fun place to go rogue."

06 of 22

Field of Dreams

bride and groom kiss in field
Anna Delores Photography

Emily and Jeremy chose to take their portraits before tying the knot, but, says Emily, "We didn't make a big deal of not seeing each other before the ceremony. We didn't separate the night before the wedding or during the getting ready process in the morning. Jeremy had already seen my dress, so that wasn't a big secret, either, and we kept our first look reveal pretty low-key." The couple met in the same spot they'd chosen for their ceremony to spend a few minutes together before the wedding began. "I think we both just felt pretty relaxed!" says Emily. "We'd spent most of the morning in the ranch house together so I wasn't even anxious about seeing him. I was excited we both looked so good in our wedding ensembles!"

07 of 22

Going Green

bride and groom smiling under tree
Anna Delores Photography

Jeremy chose a custom wool blend three-piece suit from No. 33, and put his own twist on tradition by opting for a dark emerald green color.

08 of 22

Staying Safe

hand sanitizer and face masks for guests
Anna Delores Photography

Emily and Jeremy offered their guests hand sanitizer and masks during their event, displaying the safety items alongside glasses of Champagne and ice water. "The uncertainty of the pandemic made me incredibly anxious and we didn't know if some of our VIP guests would even be willing to come if a vaccine wasn't available by then," says Emily. "As any couple planning a wedding in 2020 and 2021 now knows, it was an entirely new dimension of stress."

09 of 22

On the Bench

ceremony set with white pews on the grass
Anna Delores Photography

The sunny field and majestic trees where Emily and Jeremy held their ceremony drew them to the venue immediately. "When we first visited, the venue manager told us we could have the ceremony anywhere we wanted, gesturing to an open field with several oak trees to choose from as a backdrop, and that was pretty much it for me," says Emily. "Tell a wedding photographer she can choose her ceremony spot based on backdrop and lighting? Sold." The couple offered their guests seating on specious white pews surrounded by floral accents.

10 of 22

So Grounded

wedding ceremony ground arch with flowers and greenery
Anna Delores Photography

"Nina from Coco Rose Design created a beautiful curved pathway of greenery, berries, and roses at the back of the aisle, with a grounded half-moon arrangement beneath an oak tree for our altar," says Emily.

11 of 22

Family Matters

bride and father processional across grassy lawn
Anna Delores Photography

Before Emily's father escorted her to the altar, she and her parents had their own private first look. "I didn't plan to do that, but our videographers suggested it, and while I thought it was kind of cheesy at first, they talked me into it. It ended up being a great decision—it was really special. My dad is a big softie and we got some really great photos of the two of us feeling a little emotional. I'm glad we did it!" One of the bride's favorite moments of the day came a few hours later, as Emily and her father waited for the musicians to begin her processional, "Canon in D." "We were alone in the house watching everyone else line up for the ceremony outside. He told me that he and my mom are so proud of me as an artist, a business owner, and now an almost-wife. Then we took a selfie on his iPhone. It was perfect," says Emily. "My mom also walked down the aisle to "Canon in D" when she and my dad got married almost 40 years ago, and she started to cry as soon as she heard it at our ceremony."

12 of 22

Saying "I Do"

Bride and groom exchanging vows
Anna Delores Photography

Emily and Jeremy asked a close friend, Marlene Bernstein, to officiate their ceremony. "We chose not to write our own vows and instead repeated traditional vows as prompted by our officiant," says Emily. "We didn't have any readings, either—we wanted to keep the ceremony short and sweet!"

13 of 22

Having a Good Time

bride and groom walking hand in hand down the aisle
Anna Delores Photography

After the ceremony, Emily and Jeremy walked down the aisle as husband and wife. "Our recessional song was 'Don't Stop Me Now' by Queen, which is one of our favorites," says Emily. "We turn up the volume and sing it to each other while cooking dinner."

14 of 22

Perfect Harmony

seating chart board with brass instruments, flowers and cocktail table
Anna Delores Photography

Array Creative Design put together an escort display with half-circle cards and iconic instruments in an ode to Emily and Jeremy's New Orleans engagement. "The Cajun French phrase 'Laissez les bons temps rouler' is often used in celebration of Mardi Gras in Louisiana, and the festive sentiment felt like the perfect fit for our wedding day," says Emily. "The English translation, 'Let the good times roll,' was printed on the escort cards themselves."

15 of 22

String Theory

tables set on patio with floral arrangements
Anna Delores Photography

Guests sat in small groups at the outdoor reception, while Emily and Jeremy shared a sweetheart table on the raised terrace. "We fell in love with dramatic displays of string lights we'd glimpsed at other weddings, so Jake from Bella Vista Designs conceptualized the custom-built structure that draped hundreds of twinkle lights over our reception space," says Emily. "It was so special and dreamy!"

16 of 22

Flower Power

table setting with tall black candlesticks accented with grey napkins and plates
Anna Delores Photography

Emily remembers watching the reception setup from her room on the morning of the wedding. "Everything looked lovely, but the real impact of our months of design work wasn't complete until the organic, lush floral arrangements were set on the dining tables," she says. "Nina incorporated so much texture, and I particularly loved the use of butterfly ranunculus, tulips, and Japanese pieris. The centerpieces added just a hint of the soft antique yellow tone, mostly through double tulips and mustard carnations, that rounded out our color palette."

17 of 22

Plate Class

table setting with personalized menus and seating cards
Anna Delores Photography

The couple's "modern and romantic minimalist" theme came to life in their tablescapes, with chic black plates and flatware, modern half-circle menus and place cards, and French blue napkins. "I had a lot of fun picking out tabletop items, and my favorite picks were the elegantly moody smoke glassware, the stately marble chargers, and the playful ink edge salad plates as a subtle injection of color," says Emily. Unique circular table number cards, suspended in black holders, were a cohesive part of the overall paper suite.

18 of 22

Table for Two, Please

floral table centerpiece
Anna Delores Photography

Backlit by string lights, the couple took their places at a table for two, marked by a bowl burgeoning with blooms.

19 of 22

From Drinks to Dessert

cocktail hour appetizers on wooden board
Anna Delores Photography

For the cocktail hour, Field to Table modified the couple's planned charcuterie board, replacing it with individual cones of salami, cheese, and crackers that guests enjoyed while sampling the couple's signature cocktails. The dinner menu was inspired by Emily and Jeremy's favorite dining spots, and included coconut milk and yellowtail ceviche, macadamia nut-crusted mahi mahi, and maple-bacon Brussels sprouts. "We skipped cake in favor of The Churro Cart!" says Emily. "Jeremy loves churros and this was one of his biggest requests during wedding planning. We also both love ice cream, so Field To Table did an ice cream sundae bar."

20 of 22

So Happy Together

bride and groom giving reception speech
Anna Delores Photography

As the sun went down, Emily and Jeremy snuck away for a few more private photos—one of their favorite parts of the day. "We whispered silly things to each other to get great smiles and laughs for photo and video, and it just made me so happy in that moment to have the same strange sense of humor as the man with whom I'm spending the rest of my life," says Emily. "And we had a lot of fun during that portrait time with our photographers and videographers, who also happen to be four of my closest friends."

21 of 22

On the Dance Floor

bride and groom dance
Anna Delores Photography

Backed by the glow of the string lights, Emily and Jeremy shared their first dance to Joseph Vincent's "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" before their parent dances: His with his mother to Van Morrison's "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You," and hers with her father to Taylor Swift's "The Best Day." "I also danced the second verse of "The Best Day" with my mom because that part of the song really resonates with our relationship," says Emily. "My dad surprised me with a transition to a song he picked out himself, "Letting You Go" by Jason Isbell—there wasn't a dry eye in the house!"

22 of 22


bride and groom embracing
Anna Delores Photography

Photography, Anna Delores Photography
Venue, Riata Ranch
Event planning,
Array Creative Design
Catering, Field to Table
Bar Service, Liquid Cult
Coco Rose Design
I Heart Creative
Lazy Creative Designs (design); Czar Press (printing); Paper Event Press (printing)
DJ Zeke
The Ark; Avenue Twelve; La Tavola Linen; Onyx & Redwood; Party Pleasers; Table Method
Bride's gown,
Sottero +Midgley
Bride's accessories, Christian Louboutin shoes; Jennifer Behr jewelry
Hair and makeup,
Blushing Beauty
Bridesmaids' dresses,
Lulu's; Show Me Your Mumu
Groom's suit, No. 33
Groom's shoes, Crockett and Jones
Lighting, Bella Vista Designs
SLO Safe Ride
Sara Rothan
The Churro Cart
Escort display
, Delovely Details
Invitation painting, Abby Parana
Everett Fine Jewelry

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