A Romantic Garden Wedding at California's Ojai Valley Inn

In August 2017, Ariel Burman decided to propose to his girlfriend of two years Alissa Koller. To do so, he whisked her from her home in New York City to Santa Barbara, California for the weekend, where he popped the question overlooking the lily pond at the Belmond El Encanto as the sun was setting.

To pay homage to that romantic weekend on the American Riviera, the pair returned to the area last July for a four-day wedding celebration complete with a pool party, golf outing, Jewish ceremony, and dance-filled reception. “We envisioned a wedding weekend where our friends and family were able to spend time together and bond,” Alissa says. “We loved how picturesque and lush the Ojai Valley Inn was. It felt very us.”

The property’s verdant gardens and pastoral vibes set the stage for the couple’s garden party aesthetic. Fruits like pears and figs accented the floral arrangements and the signature cocktails came adorned with fresh herbs from the resort’s garden. A massive, 200-year-old oak tree marked the ceremony location, while the central California weather meant alfresco dining at the reception was a must. It was all capped off with the tunes from an eight-piece live band, which Alissa says didn’t stop playing all night. “We wanted everyone to have the best time and we succeeded,” she adds. “No one was sitting in their seats the entire reception.”

Keep reading for all the details on the couple's California nuptials, coordinated by LaFleur Weddings and photographed by Ryan Ray.

Alissa and Ariel’s invitations included a custom crest. The design took inspiration from tiles at the Ojai Valley Inn as well as the property’s orange groves.

Alissa admits that one of the day's most memorable moments was getting ready with her mother, mother-in-law, and four bridesmaids. “It is rare that you have the most important people in your life all together at once like that,” she says.

Alissa chose her chantilly lace Reem Acra dress based on comfort because she knew she wanted something she could dance in. She paired the A-line gown with vintage Manolo Blahnik shoes and a pear-shaped emerald ring that belonged to her late paternal grandmother.

Alissa carried a bouquet of Lily of the Valley, astilbe, astrantia, and myrtle. Her glam squad, Team Hair & Makeup, added a few blooms to her low ponytail as well.

Alissa’s bridesmaids wore simple white dresses, which she also choose for comfort. They each carried bouquets of distant drum, koko loko, astilbe, and astrantia with fresh herbs.

Despite the tradition to not see each other before their nuptials, Alissa and Ariel woke up with one another on their wedding day. “We had a beautiful breakfast together as the sun came up,” Alissa says. “We didn’t want to leave each other!”

Ariel and his groomsmen donned classic black tuxedos and black bow ties with one casual twist: They wore no socks with their loafers!

The ceremony took place under the shade of a 200-year-old oak tree on the property. Upon arrival, parasols were on hand for guests to grab as extra sun protection during the afternoon proceedings. The couple’s flower girl, London, also wore a white dress accented with a flower crown and typical childish antics.

Alissa couldn’t find a chuppah large enough to complement the oak tree for their Jewish ceremony, so she had a custom one built and covered with florals and fresh herbs.

Since it’s customary to exchange a Kosher gold band during the ceremony, Alissa honored her maternal grandmother by using hers as the band.

As part of Jewish tradition, the couple spent 18 minutes alone together immediately following their nuptials. Alissa and Ariel tucked away to the resort’s artist’s cottage for a few private moments. “We basically just held each other the whole time,” Alissa says. “It was very magical.”

The couple’s outdoor reception included Tuscan-style farm tables topped with vintage floral chargers, gray taper candles, crystal goblets, and plenty of blooms.

Compass Florals included seasonal fruits like plums, figs, and pears with the arrangements of dahlias, roses, amaranthus, and nigella. Ariel was in charge of the food for the event, focusing on a California coastal-inspired menu of crab cakes, watermelon salad, ancho chili-rubbed Arctic char, and short ribs. It was paired with gin fizz cocktails.

The newlyweds took their first spin on the dance floor to their band’s cover of Mumford and Sons’ “There Will Be Time.”

Alissa and Ariel really wanted a dance party, and that’s what they got. Not only did the band play continuously for their entire reception, but “our guests really brought 110 percent effort to the dance floor,” Alissa adds.

The couple's cake featured cascading distant drum roses from a local rose farm and two standout flavors: Mexican vanilla cake with raspberry filling and banana cake with a peanut butter frosting.

If Alissa could offer one piece of advice, it’s to “take it all in because it goes by so fast,” she says. “It was truly a very special day.”

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