I’ve read a lot of school sweetheart love stories, but I don’t think I’ve ever read one quite like this. You see, Emma and Riley’s first meet-cute was in kindergarten, long before their love blossomed during their college days—but, this love story goes back even further. These two are actually ‘birthday buddies’ as described in the Groom’s sweet story below. They were born in the same hospital just two hours apart! Truth… this is the stuff of romance movies you guys, and as I pore over their wedding day images from Rachel Solomon, I feel as if I’m experiencing the most darling story. Thanks to LVL Weddings & Events, every detail matches up to their love. See it all here.
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From the Groom… Only a few weeks after getting engaged at picturesque Boathouse Row in Philadelphia, where Emma had spent her afternoons and weekends as a high school rower, the first decision we made was to hold our wedding at Scripps College in Claremont, California. This was an easy decision for us. Emma went to Scripps, I went to Claremont McKenna across the street, and we have ten total alumni of the Claremont Colleges between our two families. Plus, both of our families and many of our friends live in southern California. Scripps is full of beautiful Spanish Colonial Revival buildings from the 1920s, interspersed with immaculate groves and hedges. It had multiple spaces of different size and character, and could accommodate our ceremony and reception in adjacent spaces. We knew Scripps would be the perfect backdrop to our outdoor wedding on a warm June evening and would help us to strike just the right tone of beautiful and stately without feeling formal and stuffy. It also helped that in an outdoor venue, we wouldn’t even come close to bumping up against space constraints.
Emma and I first met in kindergarten. We were birthday buddies – coincidentally, we were born in the same hospital only two hours apart! After being friends for that year, we went off to different schools and didn’t reconnect until years later. Shortly after we had a chance encounter as teenagers, Emma’s family moved to Pennsylvania. We lived on opposite coasts and wrote letters to one another all through high school. A series of coincidences brought us both to the Claremont Colleges, where we became a couple in the fall of 2008 during our second year.
I’m not on Instagram or Pinterest, so I wasn’t aware of many of the wedding trends that are popular these days. Instead, my thought process began by reflecting upon some of the awesome parties that Emma and I have been fortunate enough to attend over the past few years, then putting together a list of the elements that truly mattered to us and that we thought would make for the best possible experience for our guests who were making the trip from near and far to celebrate with us. First, we wanted good food and lots of it. Second, we wanted everyone just having a fun time in an unfussy setting. The point of the event was to celebrate our marriage, but we didn’t want it to be the “Riley & Emma Show,” nor did we want people to have to sit through too many formalities. Third, we wanted to bring together a meaningful group of family and friends, draw upon the narratives within and between each of our lives, and create an unforgettable atmosphere of togetherness. Guests won’t remember which champagne you served, but they’ll never forget the stories they heard and the experience they got to be a part of.
The Food: From our first visit to Made by Meg, where they prepared a six-course showcase of their capabilities, we knew they were the right choice for us. Their food was delicious, colorful, and creative. But even more importantly, Alysa at Made by Meg worked hard to understand our vision, then executed it perfectly. Her work is innovative and thoughtful, and in over 60 emails and 10 phone calls between us (we had some complicated ideas), she never once said ‘no’ to a single thing – only, “I bet there’s a way we can make that work.”
Good food is a focal point of our families’ gatherings. Our favorite meals are ones served family style where everyone gets a taste of many different items. Moreover, we’re constantly trying new cuisines because we believe in the ability of unique food to keep events interesting and open your eyes to new perspectives. Made by Meg helped us bring this same sense of excitement and culinary discovery to our guests by creating a buffet of four stations, with each station representing a different moment in our lives. Our wedding guests dined on kabobs like the ones each of our two families barbecued at the beach when we were kids. The next station offered tacos, a classic staple for anyone who has grown up in southern California. Then we had a seafood station serving, among other things, bagels and lox, a family classic that my grandparents got me hooked on from a young age. Finally, we had a Korean station dishing up the favorites that had become our comfort food during two years that Emma lived in Los Angeles’s Koreatown. Our stationers, Copper Willow Print Studio, printed menus that explained to our guests the significance of each station.
The Fun Party: It was important to us that we give our guests a fun time. We started the evening with the bridal party walking down the aisle to an entertaining arrangement of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” with accompaniment on the violin and piano from our musicians Summer Swee-Singh and Yasmeen Al-Mazeedi. The Beatles are Emma’s favorite band, so their music featured heavily throughout our ceremony and reception, particularly George Harrison’s work. Emma walked down the aisle to “Here Comes the Sun” with her two older brothers. After the ceremony, we all danced down the aisle to “What is Life?” by George Harrison. Our first dance was “Something.” Immediately after our first emotional dance, we got the party started with the Hora, where we got lifted into chairs above the crowd. After the Hora, the dance party was officially underway!
It was also important that the party be inclusive and fun for everyone. We have a lot of young relatives, and we worked to make the event kid-friendly, offering on-site daycare (via the incredible Noteworthy Nanny) for kids while their parents got down on the dance floor. Britt and the team at Dolphin Rentals created a beautiful lounge area – complete with corn hole and a three-foot tall Jenga set – for anyone who wanted a break from dancing, but still wanted to feel like they were a part of the party.
The People: We were acutely aware that, in addition to celebrating our union as husband and wife, this event would be so important because it would bring together a collection of people from all stages of each of our lives who would probably never all be in one place again. From Riley’s 95-year-old grandmother to Emma’s four-day old niece, we assembled an incredibly meaningful group of family and friends, and Rachel Solomon did an impeccable job of capturing each moment on film.
Our ceremony was officiated by Emma’s former boss, a US magistrate judge. The ceremony was deeply personal – it told the love story of us, honored our family members who are no longer with us (notably, Emma’s father),and included a reading from Riley’s aunt. We decided to sign the ketubah during the ceremony with all our friends and family present.
Riley works in real estate and is a geography enthusiast, so the idea of place is especially significant to him. We named each table after a place we’ll remember all our lives (like The Beatles song). We printed out sheets with old photos and stories and left them near the centerpieces so our guests could learn more about their table name’s inspiration and why it mattered to us.
The Flowers: Heavenly Blooms did an incredible job of bringing Emma’s vision to life. Always a fan of simple elegance, Emma wanted to enhance the natural beauty of Scripps College. Choosing a white and green palette, Heavenly Blooms did an amazing job of incorporating beautiful blooms that amplified the beauty of an already stunning space. Emma’s bouquet featured white peonies, her absolute favorite.
The Favors: Emma had the idea to give all our guests a sentimental keepsake that was both beautiful and (potentially) useful. Emma’s favorite cocktail is a Moscow Mule, and decided that those beautiful copper mugs would be an incredible gift. Perhaps they could be part of the escort cards too? This whim became one of the focal parts of our wedding (and definitely a ton of work!). Riley designed a wedding crest to imprint onto the mugs and then worked with a manufacturer in India to create them. The results were well worth it! These glimmering mugs not only served as a beautiful memento to a meaningful day in our lives, but it was so fun (and beautiful) to see everyone drinking out of them throughout the night! Even now it is still exhilarating to go over to friends’ houses and see our wedding copper mugs getting good use. Emma still uses hers on an almost daily basis.
The Dress: Emma initially struggled when it came to a wedding dress. After going to several boutiques in New York City she decided to check out this great local boutique that everyone had recommended. Little did Emma realize (having never watched “Say Yes to the Dress”) her “local boutique” was a titan in the industry. Yes, our local wedding boutique (a mere four blocks from our apartment) was Kleinfeld’s. Emma made an appointment and just brought her mother. The experience itself was surreal and incredible. After finally getting a grasp of what she wanted, Emma ended up with a custom-designed Pnina Tornai gown that will always make her giddy. Emma’s dress was soft, flowy, comfortable, and delightful to the touch. Emma employed her self-created “spin test” to see how the dress would spin when she danced—needless to say the Pnina Tornai dress passed with flying colors as Emma spun the night away.
Emma and I lived in New York while planning our southern California wedding. Britt Kingman of LVL Events did a superb job of planning everything and creating exactly the sort of celebration we’d envisioned. She was a consultant, sharing best practices from her experience and serving as a problem solver; a muse, helping us to more fully form our ideas and bringing in countless ones of her own; a therapist and mediator, helping to calm us and reminding us that everything would work out; and so much more.
Britt was the proverbial conductor of an orchestra of countless moving parts. We had no idea how many vendors it took to pull off a big wedding. At each point in the process, Britt brought us great recommendations and made the impossible happen. She helped us come up with an aesthetic that perfectly brought together the tradition and solemnity of a wedding with the casual, relaxed vibe we wanted to permeate our outdoor SoCal celebration. She kept us on track, bringing to life our favorite ideas (“Can we have fruit integrated into our centerpieces as a tribute to our area’s citrus-growing history?”), helping realize the unique elements we wanted to try (“Can we give everyone a Moscow mule mug stamped with our wedding logo?”), and keeping us focused when some of our ideas got a little too ridiculous (“The Hora is over five minutes long and can get repetitive by playing the same few lines over and over. Let’s drop a Lil Wayne verse into ‘Hava Nagilah’ to spice things up.”). Britt made our dream wedding come to life. Planning a 300-guest wedding involves making a thousand decisions, big and small, and Britt expertly handled about 970 of the details, saving only the most fun ones for us.
Photography: Rachel Solomon Photography | Event Planning: LVL Weddings & Events | Floral Design: Heavenly Blooms | Stationery: copper willow paper studio | Reception Venue: Scripps College | Catering: Made by Meg Catering | Makeup: Glam by Nilo | Hair: Creative Hair by Juliana | DJ: Elevated Pulse Productions | Transportation: VIP Best | Childcare: Noteworthy Nanny | Gown Boutique: Kleinfeld Bridal | Gown Designer: Pnina Tornai | Photobooth: Focus Photo Suites | Rentals: Dolphin Rentals