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

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

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.


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