Though their first meeting might be up for debate—she doesn’t remember the exact date they met through friends in 2013, while he’s adamant they connected multiple times prior—Grace Hartley and Robert Shilton’s chemistry was undeniable. So much so, that when Robert proposed in 2019, he pulled out all of the stops and planned a day of activities.
“I almost ruined the whole day by getting food poisoning the day before, so it was hard to get me out of bed,” Grace shares. “But once he did—he tricked me saying we had coffee in the kitchen, which by the way, we did not—my adrenaline kicked in during the proposal and we did the full day of activities!“
When the couple first planned their June 4, 2021 nuptials, they settled on a venue in downtown Santa Barbara. However, the ongoing pandemic forced them to switch gears and select a smaller venue.
“Our wedding planner called us up at the start of 2021 with an idea. We popped up, toured a new place called Klentner Ranch, and fell in love,” the bride shares. “It was better than the first venue—it had the best of that coastal glam Santa Barbara has to offer!”
Filled with 74 of their nearest friends and family members, it was a day (and night) to remember, carefully bridging the gap between sleek and sentimental. Keep reading for an intimate look at the special day, as planned by Jess Kuipers of Onyx and Redwood and photographed by Ashley Ludaescher.
The couple envisioned a wedding that felt connected, creative, and tailored. “We’re minimalists at heart, so we knew we did not want a lot of ‘fluff’—we wanted every flower, sign, napkin, and piece of furniture to feel like you were part of one clean storyline,” the bride shares. “That being said, we didn’t want it to feel boring either. So, we really leaned into mixing modern with mid-century, textures, colors, and throwing in personal touches wherever possible.” The couple offset their sleek invitations, courtesy of Lazy Creative Designs, with personalized books to write their vows in.
It meant something to me to make sure his mom was by his heart the whole day.
The groom looked dapper in a tuxedo from Enzo Custom. He accessorized his look with Gucci loafers and cufflinks, a Tom Ford pocket square, and a custom pin with a picture of his late mother. “We knew we wanted Robbie’s mother’s memory to be as much a part of the day as possible,” the bride shares. “It meant something to me to make sure his mom was by his heart the whole day. So to be able to surprise him with that, and know she was there for us both, it meant more than we can say.”
Meanwhile, the bride stunned in a fitted number by Sarah Seven. “It was the first dress I tried on—no joke,” the bride recalls. “It was the opposite of what I expected to love, but every dress I tried on after failed in comparison. I knew it was the [dress] the second I had to take it off and immediately wanted to put it back on.”
Stuart Weitzman heels, diamond and pearl drop earrings from Ring Concierge, and a veil borrowed from her sister-in-law completed the look.
After the couple shared a first look, they snapped pictures alongside their wedding party. The groomsmen sported tuxedos from The Black Tux, while Grace’s bridesmaids wore a mélange of dresses. “I knew I wanted a natural, champagne color to blend in nicely with our color palette,” she shares. “However, knowing all skin tones are not alike, I left it up to each bridesmaid to find a version of that color that worked best on their skin in a style of dress they liked! I wanted them to pick a dress they felt positive in versus prescribing one unified look.”
Grace and her bridesmaids clasped onto custom bouquets, arranged by San Luis Obispo-based Idlewild Flowers.
“Klentner Ranch has this stunning stone staircase that most couples use as their aisle, and then face a bluff overlooking the ocean,” the couple shares. “We, however, thought the staircase itself was a work of art and wanted to utilize it as a natural backdrop for our ceremony. We flipped the script, walked down the stairs, and then stayed facing it for the ceremony. All that was left was to add in some additional florals, and an in-memory-of table with a candle for those who were not with us that day!”
The bride walked down the stairs to an acoustic version of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” with her father in tow.
Naturally, the family ties did not stop there. The bride’s brother officiated the wedding, which featured personal vows from the couple. “We agreed ahead of time to a structure of what to say, so there was some type of mirroring,” the bride shares. “We started with why we loved each other, then called out special moments in our relationship, and ended with a series of ‘I promise’ statements.”
Though the couple did not have a particularly religious wedding, they incorporated aspects from Catholic and Jewish ceremonies. “One in particular was the idea of the Seven Blessings that are read out in traditional Jewish ceremonies,” the bride shares. “We took that inspiration and asked seven groups of our family and friends to read seven blessings during our ceremony, where we would hear them for the first time. Each reader was able to pick whatever they wanted—whether a custom speech, a quote, or religious verse. It was by far one of the best and most memorable ways to celebrate our wedding. Hearing funny stories, loving quotes, and the well wishes they felt for us as a couple was one of a kind.”
Pick your few things that really matter, and the rest will fall into place.
When it comes to planning a wedding during a global pandemic, the couple says it’s important to look at the big picture. “The wedding day is not the only day that matters; it’s every day in between and after,” the bride shares. “Pick your few things that really matter, and the rest will fall into place.”
After the ceremony, the party moved over to the reception area, where a signature drink called the “Lady Bug” was waiting for thirsty guests. “During the pandemic we became obsessed with making simplified palomas, so we knew that was the drink for our big day,” the bride shares. “We worked with our bar service Liquid Cult to craft the perfect version of the drink. It was a hit!”
“Our menu was so much fun, a true representation of the two of us,” Grace explains. “We decided we did not want a traditional sit-down dinner with a few options. Instead, we really wanted our food to be one of those key memorable moments that you actually walked away remembering!” The couple kicked off the feast with appetizers like mini Chicago-style hot dogs, Frank’s red hot chicken bites, truffle fries, mini deep dish pizzas, as well as watermelon and feta skewers.
Klentner Ranch was dressed to the nines in lush florals and string lights above the dining area. A modern escort chart from Wildhouse Ink lead guests to find their seats.
“We divided the menu up into two sides—his and hers—which were full of our personal favorite types of foods,” Grace shares. The groom’s menu was packed with Asian influence, featuring dishes like kung pao chicken, beef and noodles, poke tacos, and a spicy avocado side. As for the bride? She kept it traditional with salmon, quinoa, and lots of potatoes. The couple met in the middle for dessert, choosing a smattering of ice cream sandwiches from The Wild Posy over a classic cake.
The newlyweds shared their first dance to an acoustic rendition of Chvrches x Marshmello’s “Here With Me,” while Grace and her father opted for “Seasons” by Steve Miller Band. “Robbie’s mother passed away from Ovarian cancer in 2013, but he remembered her loving the Martina McBride song, ‘I Hope You Dance,’” the bride recalls. “His maternal Aunt Liz stepped in on the day—and they remembered his mother Ami in a very emotional but wonderful first dance.”
The guests joined in on the fun with a lively setlist from Lucky Devils Band.
Since the party showed no signs of slowing down by the end of the reception, the couple continued the festivities elsewhere. “We knew we wanted to keep the party going, but that we had our fill of the fancy for the evening,” the bride shares. “We decided to regroup at a local Santa Barbara classic, Dargan’s Irish Pub & Restaurant—where we all ate late night fries, played pool, and danced around the bar in our fancy clothes! Some of our guests even walked home, which must have been a site to see!”
Looking back, the couple says they were gifted with the day of their dreams: a seamless, sleek celebration that felt like them. “For the most part, we’re a very decisive couple and knew we wanted to lean simplistic but with a through line of unique and memorable moments that our guests would notice,” they share. “We worked with our planner to identify the few key areas that felt very us, and then simplified the rest!” Mission accomplished.