When Madeline Rosenthal traveled to Sydney, Australia in January 2015, she planned on staying four months. However, thanks to Clayton Whittaker, she ended up staying five years. The couple met Madeline's first week there when they were introduced at a party for new team members of the water polo league they both played on. As Madeline says, "The rest is history."
"As the season came to an end, we realized we weren’t ready to say goodbye," she recalls. "Just like that, a four-month trip turned into five amazing years together in Sydney.
In August of 2018, Clay told Madeline he was taking her on a birthday weekend trip up the coast. “Oddly, we didn’t leave the city! Instead, we pulled up to one of our favorite spots in Sydney: a walk that leads to the Hornby Lighthouse at the harbor’s opening to the ocean," she says. "Clay had packed a picnic, and when he pulled out my favorite wine, I had a feeling something special was happening. He proposed there at the base of the lighthouse, and it was perfect.”
With friends and family all over the world—from Australia to New Zealand, Israel, Singapore, Canada, Spain, and England—the couple knew guests would be flying in no matter what, so they decided to marry in Napa Valley, a location they often visited with Madeline's family in San Francisco. This would be some of their guests' first time in California, so they settled on a location that they knew would truly reflect the Golden State and designed a weekend of celebrations that did the same.
“When we were looking for a venue, we wanted to find a place that truly put California’s beauty on display," explains the bride. "October is such a beautiful time of year in Northern California, and we wanted to find an outdoor venue that would let us take advantage of the incredible weather. Beaulieu Garden ticked all of our boxes and then some.”
They planned everything while living overseas; however, with the help of the experts at Shannon Leahy Events, it all came together beautifully on October 13, 2019. Keep reading to see more of this gorgeous wedding in Napa Valley, as captured by Rebecca Yale Photography.
Elsa Murray-Lafrenz at Elsa Madeline Design created the couple's custom monogram, which combined their first initials. "It was one of the first design elements that fell into place," Madeline adds. "We loved it so much we included it everywhere we could – on our save the date cards, on our cocktail napkins, on our escort cards."
In general, the day's paper goods were important to the bride. "Growing up, my Grandma owned a stationery business," she says. "As a little girl, I loved peeking through all of the invitations samples and seeing what she was working on. I’ve always had a soft spot for paper because of those memories with my Grandma."
Murray-Lafrenz also created a custom sketch of the venue that was then printed on the weekend's welcome bags, which included some of the couple's favorite California goods.
The couple gave themselves plenty of time to plan and tapped Shannon Leahy Events to lead their team from the U.S. "We were engaged for 14 months, so we had plenty of time to get our ducks in a row," Madeline says. "Having a planning timeline was super helpful for us and helped us manage our time backward from our wedding."
Madeline and Clay wanted to spend as much time with their loved ones—who were traveling from around the world—and organized the wedding itinerary around that. "Having a welcome barbecue with all of our guests was an amazing way to have everyone meet and greet each other ahead of the big day," Madeline says. "When our wedding day finally rolled around, it was all about our union and celebrating our marriage alongside our nearest and dearest."
Creative touches extended to the party's details, which included a monogrammed cornhole game and custom cocktail napkins.
Designed to be a more casual welcome event, tables were dressed with printed linens, woven chargers, and potted plants in the weekend's signature red hue.
On the big day, Madeline got ready with her 'maids. She gifted them matching pajama sets, while Clayton sent her a very on-point card.
The dress made me feel like me, but bridal. I fell in love with the lace embroidery, the neckline, and how I felt while wearing it.
Madeline ended up choosing the exact type of dress she went into dress shopping thinking she’d want: an embroidered lace gown by Monique Lhullier. The garment featured a soft, trumpet silhouette, and a plunging V-shaped neckline. “The dress made me feel like me, but bridal. I fell in love with the lace embroidery, the neckline, and how I felt while wearing it.”
The floral team at Shannon Leahy Events incorporated fall foliage and color into Madeline’s bouquet, while still making it feel soft and romantic. The bouquet was comprised of hellebore, garden roses, and chocolate cosmos accented with green foliage.
“A group of my bridesmaids got together and tried on a handful of different dresses at Bella Bridesmaids in Los Angeles," Madeline says. "They Facetimed me from Sydney, and it seriously felt like I was there!"
Everyone agreed that the Amsale dresses in crepe were perfect—Madeline describes them as "stunningly simple, romantic, and flattering"—but once the designer and material were final, she let her bridesmaids choose whichever neckline they were most comfortable with.
The groomsmen all wore classic black tuxedos from The Black Tux, which was convenient since all flew in from Southern California or Australia.
"When it came to choosing our bridal party, my husband and I agreed straight away that neither of us should have to adjust our bridal party size to mirror the others," Madeline explains. "It wasn’t important for us to have the same number, but it was really important to have our best friends by our side. Our 'uneven' bridal party was perfect for us!"
"Our venue was fully outdoors and offered an incredible flow for the whole day," Madeline says. "We loved how each part of our wedding, from guest arrival through to the reception, flowed perfectly from one part into the next. Having everything at the one venue was important to us as it allowed us to spend as much time as possible with all of our family and friends."
Madeline and Clay's dog Winnie acted as their "flower pup"—and they admit she "stole the show. "She moved with us from Sydney to California and is a big part of our lives, so we were excited to have her be a part of our special day," adds the bride.
Family was a large part of the celebration—a fact that Madeline also honored with her bridal jewelry. She wore her mother's pearl drop earrings, purchased on a trip to Australia (Clay's home country), and her grandmother's diamond bracelet, which was a gift from her grandfather. "It made me feel so special that she wanted me to wear it," she says. "My Grandpa wasn’t well enough to travel to our wedding, so knowing I was wearing something he bought for my Grandma made me feel like a part of him was able to be there with us."
Her other grandmother lent Madeline her great, great grandmother’s wedding band to use during the ceremony. “That ring has been worn by five generations of women in my family, and I was honored to keep the tradition going," she says. "I was blown away when she gave it to me."
Madeline and Clayton wanted their wedding design to be warm and relaxed. At the ceremony entrance, guests were greeted with folded programs and parasols.
We loved our venue so much! We wanted to make sure the design vibe felt like us while complementing but not competing with the natural beauty we were surrounded by.
The couple wed in the Sunken Garden at Beaulieu Gardens, which was not hard to dress up because of its inherent beauty. "The spot doesn't require much dressing up," admits the bride. "We brought in casual canvas folding chairs that felt more special and unique than a standard folding chair and focused our attention on creating a gorgeous, natural chuppah that was grand in size."
"Our vows were the traditional Jewish vows, but we wrote the text of our Ketubah together and read it aloud during the ceremony," she says. "A Ketubah is a traditional part of Jewish weddings, similar to a marriage contract. We made this tradition our own by writing promises to each other in the Ketubah. We had both of our childhood best friends serve as our witnesses, which made it even more special."
The lush greenery of the beautiful gardens definitely impacted the design choices, admits the bride. "We loved our venue so much! We wanted to make sure the design vibe felt like us while complementing but not competing with the natural beauty we were surrounded by," she says.
The couple’s dog Winnie waltzed in wearing a custom-made flower collar. Adds the bride, "The florist team at Shannon Leahy Events made Winnie the most perfect flower collar. She looked so stinking cute!"
The bridal party and groom walked into the ceremony as a string quartet played “Wonderful Tonight," while Madeline walked in to “Canon in D”. The couple walked out during their recessional to “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes.
We made this tradition our own by writing promises to each other in the Ketubah. We had both of our childhood best friends serve as our witnesses, which made it even more special.
Madeline is Jewish and Clay was raised Christian, so it was important that they have all of the traditions of a Jewish wedding while incorporating Clayton’s Christian upbringing.
“No two weddings are the same and they shouldn’t be,” Madeline admits. “Each and every wedding is perfect because it’s perfect for the couple." Her advice? "Have the best time figuring out how to bring your day to life in the way that is perfect for you two as a couple!”
The couple's planning team was inspired by their "very cool California coastal meets Australian style. "They loved color, so we started by identifying a color palette that felt uniquely them—coastal navy blue and gray-blues accented with the beautiful fall berry tones of the Napa Valley," Leahy shares. "We brought in rustic natural wood tones to make the design feel casual and cool and the white bridesmaid dresses felt like such a fresh, beachy nod."
Cocktail hour featured two signature drinks named the "Miss America" and "G’Day Mate" to reflect the couple's roots. "Miss America" had gin, cucumber, elderflower, mint, and ginger beer, while the "G’Day Mate" had bourbon, spiced cordial, mint, peach bitters, and fresh lemon juice.
Guest found their seat assignments on navy escort cards accented with gold calligraphy and a gold wax seal.
Wooden tables and vibrant florals resulted in a romantic, natural look at the reception. Tables were accented with custom runners dyed indigo, while place settings included gold accents and denim blue flatware to tie everything together.
Ceramic tags were created for each guest and tied around menu cards with a burgundy silk ribbon.
Clay’s obsession with tomatoes was reflected in the menu by Paula Le Duc Fine Catering & Events, which featured a first course of heirloom tomato and burrata salad made with tomatoes grown onsite in the garden. Later in the evening, an assortment of mini desserts was tabled not too far from the dance floor so guests could nibble away and enjoy.
The DJ played a mix of feel-good, mellow songs while dinner was served by some of the couple’s favorite artists, including Van Morrison, Kacey Musgraves, and Ed Sheeran.
To incorporate the wedding's color palette into the cake design while still looking regal and not "too dark," Flour and Bloom created an indigo wash with a natural gold leaf. It was accented with sugar flowers reflecting the hellebore from the bride's bouquet.
The dinner tables served more than one purpose at the reception: After the final course, a group cleared the place settings and brought an empty table to the dance floor. "Next thing I know, Clay and I are on the table, being lifted up and down all over the dance floor," recalls the bride. "Once we got off, he jumped back on and was legitimately surfing on the table!"
Venue Beaulieu Garden
Planner & Floral Design Shannon Leahy Events
Hair and Makeup Marisa Perel
Shoes Alexandre Birman
Welcome Party Attire Reformation
Bridesmaid Dresses Amsale
Bridal Party Pajamas Masini Sleepwear
Mother of the Bride Dress St.John Collection
Groom’s Attire Joe Button
Groomsmen Attire The Black Tux
Officiant Rabbi Mark Kula
Engagement Ring A.G. Designer Jeweller
Wedding Bands Mancuso Fine Jewellery
Invitations and Paper Goods Elsa Madeline Design
Guest Book Artifact Uprising
Music Fox Sounds
Catering Paula Le Duc
Cake Flour & Bloom
Favors A Signature Welcome
Transportation Pure Luxury Transportation
Accommodations Indian Springs Calistoga
Videography Reel Eyes Media
Photography Rebecca Yale