Jonathan Gudai had recently moved to Las Vegas and was looking forward to connecting with other professionals in the Jewish community at a youth leadership mixer; meanwhile the event’s host, Alexandra Epstein, was preparing for the casual 70-person fête at her family’s hotel. What the two were not anticipating that evening was to meet their future spouse at what became – due to lackluster attendance – an intimate 10-person sit-down dinner. “The sparks between Alexandra and I were evident,” confides Jonathan. So much so that her sister, Katie, and best friend, Natalie, immediately took interest in the affable stranger. “Within minutes of our introduction, Katie and Natalie playfully predicted that I would be Alexandra’s future husband,” says Jonathan, who smiles, reflecting on the unique memory.
After several months of courtship, Jonathan asked Alexandra’s parents for her hand in marriage. He then wisely consulted with Natalie – who is a jeweler – to design a stunning custom engagement ring. The ring was made of platinum and rose gold with sparkling pavé diamonds and an oval-cut center stone. A special inscription – “J♥A∞” – was accented by Alexandra and Jonathan’s respective birthstones on the inside of the band.
To celebrate the first anniversary of the night they met, Jonathan whisked Alexandra away to Laguna Beach, California, for a romantic getaway. “We love spontaneous weekend trips,” Alexandra explains, remembering that she wasn’t initially suspicious of a proposal. Though Jonathan had carefully planned out the logistics, he was met with a few challenges. As they made their way to the beach for a picnic, Alexandra observed a professional photographer and overheard a hostess tell another guest that a proposal was about to happen. “Rather than relaxing on the sand, I was completely distracted, looking for that other couple,” adds Alexandra, who then also noticed her dad in the window of the beach club, binoculars pressed to the glass. Finally, an airplane flew over and spelled out “J♥A∞,” prompting Jonathan to get on bended knee and propose. Afterwards, the couple and their families dined on the terrace and celebrated the “perfectly imperfect proposal.”
Alexandra and Jonathan were certain they wanted a destination celebration. Since they both love Southern California and wanted a central location for their guests traveling from all over the world, Los Angeles seemed like an ideal fit. At the suggestion of Alexandra’s father, they selected the Hotel Bel-Air because of its charm, nostalgia, and luscious alfresco setting. “We wanted our venue to feel private and like ‘ours’ for the weekend,” elaborates the bride.
Months of planning and weekend trips for meetings with famed event planner Mindy Weiss proved to be a fun and great bonding experience for the couple and their families. With the assistance of the groom’s family, who own a stationery business, a custom invitation suite was created. The invite incorporated deep blue paint stroke designs and each component showcased engraved gold lettering on ultra-thick paper edged in bullion. “They were gorgeous,” Jonathan describes.
The outdoor, evening vow exchange took place beneath a stunning hand-stitched quilt made by a family friend, which was suspended from an impressive chuppah intertwined with colorful magenta and ruby flowers, as well as fresh pomegranates and citrus. “We wanted our chuppah to represent a celebration of life, love, nature, and happiness, so we intermingled bright colors, fruit, and lots of texture,” reveals the bride of the pièce de résistance. The aisleway was edged in a lovely floral pattern, while collections of tall crystal vases and planters brimmed with jewel-toned blooms.
String musicians serenaded loved ones with contemporary melodies throughout the processional, including “Safe and Sound” by Capital Cities and “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley. Alexandra looked resplendent in a strapless A-line gown and carried a romantic vanilla-colored bouquet. The couple incorporated a number of Jewish traditions, such as circling the groom, the seven blessings, and the breaking of the glass. And after their first kiss, a 12-person gospel choir surprised onlookers with three soulful tunes.
A dinner tent was festooned with thousands of flickering string lights. The seven-piece band – dressed in white jackets – played 1940s and 1950s music for a true supper-club feel, while attendees dined at place settings featuring gilt-rimmed chargers and glassware, in addition to cobalt blue goblets. Tables were adorned with both high and low centerpieces inspired by the arrangements found at La Grenouille in New York City (a legendary French restaurant decorated with magnificent florals) and showcased bright fuchsia and violet flowers, including orchids, roses, and hydrangeas.
Following the sit-down dinner service, family and friends moved inside the ballroom for an enchanting night of merriment. Velvet-upholstered booths and tufted lounge furniture were arranged for those in need of a break from dancing. “Several of our guests have shared with us that they felt like they were walking into an old Las Vegas [hot spot],” says Alexandra.
After cutting the first slice of the red velvet wedding cake, Jonathan had yet another surprise in store for his beloved. He and his groomsmen joined professional twin tap dancers, Sean and John Scott from the hit Las Vegas show Absinthe, on the white-and-gold checkered dance floor for an elaborate, choreographed performance. “Seeing Jonathan’s excitement and satisfaction at pulling it off made me fall in love all over again,” she recalls. “Plus, he was really good!”
To keep the party going Las Vegas-style into the wee hours of the morning, the newlyweds provided sandals, vodka-filled flasks, and snacks, such as sliders, chicken wings, pizza, and French fries, for the revelers. “The best weddings are those that capture the personality and style of the couple,” Jonathan advises. Alexandra agrees, “Try to invest in moments that capture the essence of who you are – that’s what people talk about!” And for the next three weeks, the newlyweds enjoyed new adventures together while traveling throughout Italy, India, and Israel.