I knew as soon as I got engaged that I wanted to have my wedding in Santa Barbara. Though I had moved to New York a few years before, Santa Barbara was the place I returned to when I needed to reconnect with my roots and my sense of self. My fiancé loved spending time in Santa Barbara too, having fallen for my hometown the first time he visited my mother’s house and looked out the window at the Montecito hills sloping down to the Pacific. So with his enthusiastic approval, I set about planning our wedding.
I bought armfuls of bridal magazines, but the articles about hometown weddings gave me no ideas at all — the bride’s home was treated as a source of kitschy theme possibilities with prose that gushed about using checkered cloths and hay bales in farm country, serving clam chowder in Boston, or decorating tables with images of famous skyscrapers in New York. That was not the way I wanted my guests to experience Santa Barbara; I wanted an intimate wedding that would highlight the area’s overwhelming beauty, the freshness of the local produce, the exquisite weather. I planned to do most of the work myself, so that every aspect would be unique and reflect the personalities of both my fiancé and me.
I traveled home a few months later to begin implementing my ideas. However, it quickly became apparent that I was not the only one with thoughts about my wedding. Marianne and Jim Poett, the owners of Los Yridises ranch and my unofficial godparents, were the first to speak up. They were so enthusiastic about my wish to get married on the ranch that they decided it was the perfect opportunity to put in a garden. They immediately set about drawing up plans for the roses and cosmos that would surround the ceremony site. They cleared out rocks, created tiers for the garden, and on Christmas morning, Jim waded out into the dark sticky mud of the field near the house and spread the grass seed that would become a beautiful sweeping lawn.
Each of our vendors, all old friends, contributed to my plans as well. Kim Schiffer, our caterer, took our idea for dishes made of summer produce and added her favorite baked salmon to the mix. Celeste Wiedmann, our planner, added her signature silk flags to our décor, and Leslie Lembo and her band took our request for jazz standards and swing and added classic rock favorites to get our guests dancing. My mother’s friends were also eager to celebrate with me and so added an additional event to the festivities — a bridal shower, at which they bestowed on me their wisdom and relationship advice as well as their love. Within a few months it became clear that although the wedding would still primarily revolve around my desires, it would also reflect the ideas and wishes of the many people who were to share in the occasion — a hometown wedding in the truest, deepest sense of the term. As the wedding approached I realized that I would not be doing most of the work myself as I had imagined; in fact, I would only be contributing a fraction of the total labor. Putting in the Poett’s garden, for example, was a huge effort. Most of the work was meant to be done during Christmas when our friends and their families would be in town, but the uncharacteristically heavy rains kept us indoors. When Mother Nature finally did let up, it was well into the New Year and there was a rush to get things planted so that the flowers would be blooming by the end of June, when the wedding was to be held. My parents recruited their friends to help in the garden, and by late spring, dozens of friends and co‑workers had traveled to the ranch to plant roses, move rocks, paint window frames, and even put handmade adobe bricks on the side of the house.
Our vendors also went to extra lengths: Rabbi Arthur Gross‑Schafer took time to call each of our relatives and address their concerns about the wedding; Trace Robinson, our florist, made extra bouquets for my mother and mother‑in‑law; and Kim Schiffer sat me down at her dining‑room table and treated me to two test‑runs of the corn and mascarpone lasagna she was creating for us. By the week of the wedding, as out‑of‑town guests arrived to help me bake cookies, tie ribbons on favors, and roll out lasagna noodles with Kim, it felt like everyone I had ever known had had a hand in the wedding. With this abundance of generous help, it was only natural that our wedding was beginning to feel more like a city‑wide event than the intimate affair we had expected.
The afternoon of the wedding, everything went beautifully. The garden was in full bloom, the sky was clear, and the thousands of details fell into place perfectly. We said our vows surrounded by the people we love, and as night fell, we sat under a canopy of red paper lanterns and listened to our friends toast us with poems, songs, and skits. Every few minutes my new husband and I leaned over to each other and whispered, “I can’t believe this is all for us.”
As I looked at the people around us, I realized that the reason the wedding was more wonderful than we could have imagined was because of the one thing I had forgotten about while I was planning — the community. That is what makes Santa Barbara such a special place to me: the friends who helped raise me, the kids with whom I grew up, and the many others who had shaped my life. Fortunately for me, these people had not forgotten this important fact. They gave their love and a wedding that showed me the very best of Santa Barbara. And in doing so accomplished what I alone could not have: the perfect hometown wedding.