They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but in the case of Ashley Zisook and Neal Snitz, it was actually through Ashley’s stomach that a true romance was confirmed. The couple met at a mutual friend’s wedding, and the morning after their first date (a fabulous meal at a restaurant in Neal’s hometown of Detroit), Neal texted Ashley asking her to look outside her hotel room. She opened the door to find room-service carts filled with every breakfast food imaginable. “The deal was pretty much sealed,” Ashley remembers, smiling.

Because Ashley resided in Chicago, seven months of long-distance dating followed their unforgettable first date. “We fell in love spending time in the car,” she explains of their drives to and from their respective homes. Finally sharing the same zip code, Neal popped the question in the lobby of their Windy City apartment building to the romantic sounds of an acoustic guitarist. The couple wasted no time beginning their wedding planning. They were thrilled to discover a lush outdoor venue near Palm Springs, a favored vacation spot where Ashley’s parents own a home. It’s also the same location that hosts the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. “That was a major reason we picked it – both Neal and I are huge music fans,” adds the bride. Another deciding factor: “Most of our guests would be traveling from Chicago, so a destination wedding weekend [in Southern California] seemed like a lovely place for [them] to visit. Plus, we knew that the weather would be perfect!” Ashley affirms.

The site’s sprawling lawns, charming lake, and clusters of palm trees served as an ideal backdrop for the couple’s design inspiration: rustic and vintage with a modern flair. Alternating rows of wooden pews and mahogany chairs were arranged adjacent to the peaceful waters of a lagoon, with bunches of white flowers and greenery embellishing the aisle. Bridesmaids – who Ashley gushes “looked like models” – wore mismatched dresses in complementing shades, and entered the ceremony beneath a lavish arch of hydrangeas, orchids, and roses. The aisle culminated in an even more remarkable floral-encrusted chuppah constructed of twisted branches and neutral-toned foliage.

After a procession of adorable flower girls, Ashley arrived looking radiant in a strapless ball gown with a skirt covered in a lace-embroidered tulle overlay. The 450 guests were wonderfully surprised when the service – conducted by the couple’s rabbi from Chicago – concluded with a stirring performance by 10 gospel singers.

The cocktail hour unfolded on an expansive field outfitted with pearly white furniture, a lace-patterned ice sculpture that served as a seafood station, and an old-fashioned carousel to entertain loved ones. The huge reception tent was hidden by a hedge and hand-carved door. Two trumpeters played a fanfare to signal the start of the merriment to come. “The door opened into a magical place where the party went wild, the catering was delicious, the music was amazing, and every décor element was stunning,” Ashley describes. Guests took their seats at rectangular wooden farm tables mixed with round tables covered in lace tablecloths. Centerpieces consisted of either low arrangements of eggshell, blush, and celadon flowers, or tall manzanita branches interwoven with floral bouquets. Other tables featured iron stands showcasing cascading blooms and amaranthus, while lighting projections of lace designs shone overhead.

Since Neal is a professional chef, all of the delectable cuisine served received his stamp of approval. “We attended a tasting months prior to the wedding, critiquing every morsel of food,” Ashley explains. An 18-piece band performed all of the couple’s favorite songs, and the bride and her brother even hopped onstage to sing along. Rustic beams surrounded the dance floor, supporting a towering wooden ring in the center of the space that was embellished with florals and crystals. Though guests danced the entire night, they managed to take a break long enough to enjoy the stunning red velvet and chocolate cake, bedecked with fondant lace and sugar roses, as well as a whimsical sweets station offering treats like cake pops, cookies, cupcakes, mini pies, and tarts.

At midnight, partygoers were surprised with invitations to a second celebration: the carnival-themed after-party, complete with games, kissing booths, a dance floor, food trucks, and more fun snack stations. A DJ kept revelers partying until 2AM. “The end-of-the-night carnival was crazy,” confirms Neal. “Oh, what a night it was…” Ashley muses.

With so many exhilarating aspects of their special day, it’s no wonder Ashley says her only wish is that she could experience her “out-of-this-world” event all over again. “Our wedding weekend was so amazing and thrilling, but it was a blur,” she confides. “I would love to do the entire wedding again, so I could relive every detail!”