Melanie and Jake met through a Yale study abroad program in Siena, Italy, in 2012 and began dating a few months later. Eight years later, on March 8, 2020, the couple was in Aspen, Colorado, for a weekend of skiing. “Jake found a secluded picnic table halfway down the mountain and asked a family friend to decorate with roses, Champagne, and chocolate covered strawberries,” Melanie remembers, “He asked me if he could lead us down for a run and took me right to the spot!” Jake popped the question—and when Melanie enthusiastically said yes, he led her back up the mountain where their parents were waiting at the lift to celebrate. “We got very lucky that he got to do the proposal he had been planning for months—the world shut down only a few days later,” Melanie says.
With pandemic lockdowns looming, Melanie and Jake had about two years to plan their April 30, 2022, wedding. They invited their wedding party and immediate families to their outdoor rehearsal dinner with an Italian high-tea theme and then opened it up to guests for a welcome reception at a private estate in Montecito, California, on Friday evening. “Since we had fallen in love in Siena, we wanted to use that part of our story as our Friday theme, and the incredible landscaping made us feel like we were transported to a magical Italian garden,” Melanie says.
The next day, the couple’s guests joined them at Rosewood Miramar Beach in Montecito for their wedding. The décor drew inspiration from Monet’s artwork, watercolors the bride painted, and Melanie’s vision of an overgrown garden breaking through the venue’s modern white doors. “I knew I wanted it to be colorful, but in a very purposeful, artistic way,” Melanie says. “I wanted it to feel like you had walked into a painting.”
I wanted it to feel like you had walked into a painting.
They rounded out the weekend with a Sunday brunch, where guests were given postcards with a coloring book style flower image the bride created and custom colored pencils as favors. Melanie and Jake worked with Paige and Debbie of Gellar Events to navigate the unknowns of the pandemic and plan a memorable art-inspired weekend. You won’t want to miss the colorful details in Jose Villa’s photos below.
The fall before the couple’s wedding, Melanie created a floral painting that ended up being used on their invitation suite—as well as on the doors at the end of their ceremony aisle. The invitations gave guests their first indication that Melanie and Jake’s wedding would be full of florals, personal touches, and custom art.
The couple’s rehearsal dinner and welcome party took place on the lawn of a private estate in Montecito, California. One area of the property was set up for high tea and toasts from six of their friends and family, which ended up being a major highlight. “It was the perfect way to start the weekend,” Melanie says. Then, more guests joined the party for dinner and cocktails.
Melanie wore a white Oscar de la Renta mini dress with embroidered floral details, Vivi Embellish flower statement earrings, and Bella Belle sandals with pearl details. “I wanted to wear something all white since my wedding dress had so much color,” Melanie says, “I just felt like a fashion work of art!” Jake chose a Brunello Cucinelli suit paired with a navy and cream cashmere short-sleeve polo. “Jake felt very Italian in it!” Melanie says. He accessorized with black loafers with lemons from Stubbs & Wootton to play off the centerpiece décor.
Melanie and Jake served Italian bites like arancini, bruschetta, burrata, and charcuterie for their high tea rehearsal. Later, they served passed appetizers, including pizza, an Italian buffet dinner, and cannolis with chocolate chips (Melanie’s favorite!) for dessert. They used blue and white chinoiserie patterned tablecloths, mini topiaries in ceramic pots, yellow and white flower centerpiece arrangements, and lemon place cards to incorporate elements of Italy, where their love story began.
“We didn’t want the wedding day itself to be Italy-themed, but we thought this night would be the perfect one to lean into that part of our story,” Melanie says. As another nod to the summer they fell in love with in Italy, they added their respective Siena neighborhood flags to their signature cocktails and the event staff wore bandanas with the two different flags on them.
Melanie got ready with her bridesmaids and her mom’s dog, Lucy, at the hotel—and though her groom was off getting ready on his own, his presence was felt in the bridal suite. Jake, a talented singer, wanted to give Melanie a song without the pressure of a wedding day performance. He recorded himself singing the couple’s first dance song and enlisted one of Melanie’s bridesmaids, Gracie, a graphic designer, to create an album sleeve for the record. “Saturday morning after I had my hair and make up done, they secretly set up a record player in the bedroom and I walked in to his songs playing,” Melanie says. “It was such a special memory that made everyone tear up!”
Melanie went dress shopping during the heart of the pandemic, so she Facetimed her mom and her maid of honor, actress Beanie Feldstein, when she fell in love with a Monique Lhullier gown with floral embroidery. “When I sent pictures to everyone, the most common response was that it just felt so Melanie,” she says. “Even though it was sad not to have that experience surrounded by my friends due to Covid restrictions, it made the reveal on the actual wedding day that much more special.” She wore a matching Monique Lhullier veil, Harriet Wilde shoes, her late grandmother’s diamond bracelet, and diamond butterfly earrings to match the embroidered butterflies on her dress.
Melanie had pastel pink highlights in her hair, so she kept her makeup simple and went with a loose updo with a ribbon threaded through the bun. “Since I no longer work in the art world, but am still an art history nerd, I express that love via nail art with an incredible nail artist, Ama, at Vanity Projects in New York,” Melanie says. “I brought her my floral watercolors and an image of the dress and she copied them on top of a classic white French.”
Jake wore a custom midnight blue Brionii tuxedo, Santoni shoes, donkey cufflinks as a nod to the two miniature donkey pets he grew up with in New Hampshire, and an IWC watch that was a wedding gift from the bride. He knew he wanted some stubble on the wedding day, so he did some test runs starting clean shaven to figure out the ideal timing. “It led to some very funny intensive calculations as to when the perfect hour would be to shave before the big day,” Melanie says.
Melanie and Jake shared a private first look before the ceremony. “Given this was a large wedding, it was really important for us to make as many smaller-scale, private memories as possible throughout the day,” Melanie says. “I actually based my vows on the idea of a first look. Jake and I spent 6 years of our relationship long distance, so that time was often marked by ‘first looks’ where we would finally see each other after being apart for so long.”
Jake’s older brother, Kyle, served as his best man; Melanie’s maid of honor was Beanie, who has been her best friend since seventh grade. “I asked her to be my maid of honor via an elaborate Mamma Mia-themed box as a deep love for that musical/movie has always been at the core of our friendship,” Melanie says.
Her bridesmaids wore light pink Amsale dresses in their choice of style and held colorful bouquets. “Jake similarly told his groomsmen to wear any black tux style of their choosing so that they didn’t feel like they had to go get a new tux if they already had one and so that renting would be easy if necessary,” Melanie says. Jake and his groomsmen accessorized with colorful pocket squares instead of boutonnières to play off the watercolor theme.
Melanie wanted to have a barrier between the ceremony space and the rest of the hotel to create some privacy. The team at Revelry recreated the image she painted for the invitation suite on doors placed at the end of the aisle. Pulling inspiration from Monet, a bridge was built over the aisle with a pond of flowers—instead of water underneath.
Guests were seated in white chairs and benches. Ahead of them, a chuppah overflowed with colorful flowers; the aisle and altar were lined with ground arrangements to accomplish Melanie’s magical garden vision.
For the ceremony, live musicians played some of the couple’s musical theater favorites. As Jake, the couple’s family, and the wedding party walked down the aisle, they played “Till There Was You” and “On The Street Where You Live.” Melanie made her big debut solo to “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George, a painting and musical she wrote her college thesis on.
The bride’s mom accompanied her for a part of her walk towards the altar. “She used an anonymous donor to have me, and met her wonderful partner, Gary, while I was in college,” Melanie says. “So he walked her halfway down the aisle, she waited for me, and then I met her before crossing the bridge in the aisle.” As a special touch, Melanie held a bouquet of greenery wrapped in old handkerchiefs that belonged to her grandmother and grandfather.
Melanie and Jake wrote their own vows and pulled from moments throughout their 10-year relationship. Jake read some of their old messages and Melanie talked about each apartment she visited when they were dating long distance. “Aside from the occasional pun and promises about fresh-baked bread, they were very emotional, and guests kept telling us they were their favorite part of the wedding,” the bride says. The musicians played “I Do” from Mamma Mia as the couple recessed back up the aisle.
Melanie and Jake served signature drinks during the cocktail hour. Hers was a French 75; Jake chose a whiskey smash made with bourbon, lemon juice, and mint. They customized the cocktail napkins with their monogram and trivia questions about their relationship on the other side.
The pair’s escort card display featured another watercolor illustration created by the bride.
Melanie and Jake enlisted Celio of Celio’s Design to help them transform the reception into an overflowing, art-inspired garden. “Celio used an image of the Monet painting, The Artist’s Garden at Giverny, as the base for an incredible floral backdrop for the band,” Melanie says. He layered flowers on top of the painting to create dimension.
“We also partially opened the sets of doors on either side of the band and Celios filled them with flowers to look just like my watercolor scene,” Melanie says. One of the bride’s watercolor designs was used on the dance floor, as well—and another version was used on the front of the bar.
Half of the reception’s mirrored tables were covered in aqua—Melanie’s favorite color—linens, while the rest were left bare. They choose aqua-hued candles, plates, and napkins, which were embroidered with a custom monogram that Jake created. Each place setting had a 3D flower dinner menu with each guest’s name printed in gold.
Melanie and Jake shared their first dance to “Annie’s Song” by John Denver. “He wrote the song while sitting on a chairlift on Aspen Mountain where we got engaged!” Melanie says. Melanie danced with her mom to “When You Wish Upon A Star” and Jake and his mom shared a spin to “Rainbow” by Kacey Musgraves.
During dinner, guests listened to heartfelt toasts from Beanie and Kyle before the couple cut into their tiered wedding cake. The confection featured watercolor floral designs and real flowers and vines climbing up each tier. As for its flavors? Melanie chose banana chocolate chip and Jake chose chocolate cherry flavored cake.
Melanie changed into a Carolina Herrera mini dress with a heart shaped neckline and heart pattern and leather Kurt Geieger sneakers for the after-party. Jake threw on some comfortable loafers that said “I Do” and let his bow tie hang loose around his neck. At midnight, they switched the entertainment from JB Project band to DJ Best—and continued to party the night away.
The next day, guests gathered back at the private estate in Montecito for a Sunday brunch catered by Duo. The tables were topped with vibrant aqua and yellow patterned tablecloths; pale blue umbrellas provided shade. The centerpieces included white and yellow flowers in white vases of varying sizes.
Guests took home postcards with one of Melanie’s drawings on it and a container of colored pencils as a favor, along with scarves printed with her artwork (which her mother coordinated).
To couples planning their wedding, Melanie recommends spending time on Pinterest and Instagram to find out what you do—and don’t—like. “Walking into vendor meetings with some ideas to start made it that much more productive, and gave time for Jake and me to chat candidly about what we liked without the pressure of a bunch of other people around.” As far as Jake’s advice? “Make sure that you budget in moments for just the two of you to be alone,” he says. “The day goes by in such a blur, and it’s easy to get caught up in everything that’s going on, but the most special moments are taking it all in together.”