“Ben says it was love at first sight when he saw me sitting on a chair in the lobby of the bar,” Emily Levinson shares of the moment she met her future husband, Benjamin Strauss, at a rooftop bar in Downtown Los Angeles. “We talked and laughed for over three hours, and our relationship never looked back,” she adds of their perfect first date. 

Five years later, Ben planned a surprise proposal in the backyard of Emily’s childhood home in Calabasas, California. “I obviously said yes!” confirms the bride, who notes that a photographer had been hiding in the bushes to capture the moment unfold. Afterward, her parents and new fiancé had planned a beautiful engagement brunch to celebrate. 

As the couple lives on the west side of Los Angeles, they planned to have loved ones join them at a country club wedding featuring breathtaking views. “We wanted our out-of-town friends and family to get to experience the beautiful Santa Monica lifestyle,” describes Emily of their venue location in nearby Pacific Palisades. “The atmosphere and surroundings [of our venue] were everything we dreamed about when envisioning our wedding.” 

Since they were getting married during the pandemic, the betrothed knew they would need to have back-up plans in place. “I put a lot of trust in my planner, Rikki [Ladenheim of Rikki Ladenheim Events], to bring our vision to life!” affirms the bride, who wanted the décor to evoke a romantic, elegant, and modern feel with a color palette of blush, white, and pink with gold accents. “The twinkle lighting, romantic flowers, and my dress all contributed to the magical look I was after, while the fonts we chose for the [paper goods] and the [tablescapes] evoked a modern feeling as well. It was the perfect blend!” 

“We were able to take advantage of the beautiful September weather, dance underneath the stars, and dine under the branches of a beautiful tree.”

Both Emily and Ben are Jewish, so it was important for the couple to honor the traditions of their faith throughout the celebration. Prior to the vow exchange, they took part in a ketubah ceremony led by their rabbi with their parents and wedding party. Next, they joined loved ones outdoors for the “I dos.” The bride made her way down a well-manicured grass aisle covered with blush flower petals to meet her groom beneath a stunning chuppah embellished with lush florals and fresh greenery by The Hidden Garden, as well as the tallis of the bride’s grandfather. 

Following the couple’s handwritten vows, Ben broke the ceremonial glass, and they became husband and wife in front of their family and friends. During cocktail hour, the bride’s father surprised the couple and their loved ones by chartering an airplane to fly across the sky to congratulate the new Mr. and Mrs. with a banner that read, “Happily Ever After. Emily & Ben” with a heart between the two phrases. “That was probably one of the most unexpected and cool things I’ve ever seen at a wedding – and definitely unique!” exclaims the bride of the welcome addition. “Our guests got a kick out of that surprise, and it was a special moment.” 

Though the reception was originally going to be hosted in the ballroom, it was moved outdoors one month before the wedding due to Covid; however, it ended up being an even better option than they could have imagined. “We were able to take advantage of the beautiful September weather, dance underneath the stars, and dine under the branches of a beautiful tree,” says the bride of the alfresco celebration. Centerpieces showcased roses and hydrangeas in shades of pink, mauve, and vanilla, along with gold and rose gold details. “We opted for an array of lower floral arrangements instead of tall centerpieces, which contributed to the modern look and feel we were after,” says Emily of the décor. 

After a sit-down dinner service, loved ones enjoyed dessert, drinks, and dancing. “The cake was breathtaking!” confirms the bride, which featured gold speckles and a cascade of rosy florals and anemones. “I left Rikki to take the lead on design, and it blew me away.” To top the night off, the parents of the bride surprised the couple again with an ice-cream cart and sundae bar. “Anyone who knows us, knows we love our sweets,” smiles Emily. 

“There was so much love, happiness, and joy throughout the whole wedding,” muses Emily of their special day. “I felt especially connected to my husband and family during the hora. That moment when everyone was gathered on the dance floor and included in the wedding celebration – even if from afar or wearing a mask – was so special. There was a strong feeling of love and support, and lots of laughter and dancing!”