An Elevated Italian-Inspired Rehearsal Luncheon and Welcome Party in Montecito

The couple hosted a day full of celebrations inspired by their travels.

Jake van Leer and Melanie Borinstein rehearsal dinner in Montecito

Photo by Jose Villa

Even though they were in the same class at Yale together, Melanie Borinstein and Jake van Leer first met in Italy in 2012. "Both of us decided to complete our language requirement through a summer study abroad program in Siena, Italy after our freshman year," they share. "After a few months studying together, we started dating there!"

Their relationship strengthened over the years and Jake made plans for a surprise proposal in Aspen during March 2020. "Skiing is my favorite thing to do in the world, and I had grown up visiting Colorado during every school break possible," shares Melanie. "Jake found a secluded picnic table halfway down the mountain, and asked a family friend to decorate with roses, champagne, and chocolate-covered strawberries. He asked me if he could lead us down for a run and took me right to the spot! Our parents were waiting at the top of the hill when we came up the lift. We got very lucky that he got to do the proposal he had been planning for months as the world shut down only a few days later."

The couple decided to bring together friends and family for a weekend full of celebrations in Montecito, California. With the wedding taking place at the Rosewood Miramar on Saturday, April 30, 2022, the pair invited guests to a charming private estate in the town to kick off festivities that Friday. "Since we were having a larger wedding, we wanted a smaller rehearsal dinner with just the wedding party and our immediate families, followed by a larger welcome reception," share Melanie and Jake. "We used one area of the property for an 'Italian high tea' with toasts from friends and family, and we mixed up the tables so that our wedding party could all get to know each other. We then invited all our guests for cocktails and dinner on the other side of the property."

"The venue really matched our vision for the Friday event—both in terms of layout and feel. Since we had fallen in love in Siena, we wanted to use that part of our story as our Friday theme, and the incredible landscaping made us feel like we were transported to a magical Italian garden," they recall. "We didn’t want the wedding day itself to be Italy-themed, but we thought this night would be the perfect one to lean in to that part of our story. It also had so many different outdoor areas for us to play with for different parts of the night."

Ahead, see how all the details came together, as planned by Geller Events and photographed by Jose Villa.

Jake and Melanie walk on grass to rehearsal dinner

Photo by Jose Villa

Melanie in short floral lace dress and Jake in blue suit

Photo by Jose Villa

As Melanie planned to wear a unique colorful gown for her wedding day, she decided to go with a classic bridal white for her rehearsal events. She donned a short Oscar De La Renta dress with long sleeves and floral appliqué. "I loved that this dress still felt so cohesive with my wedding dress as they both featured incredible embroidered or fabric flowers," she shares. "It just felt like a fashion work of art!" She topped off her look with Bella Belle shoes and floral earrings by Vivi Embellish Earrings. "They seemed like a perfect statement earring to match with the dress and their jewelry is so beautifully hand-crafted," she says.

Jake looked classic in a Brunello Cucinelli navy pinstripe suit. For a fun nod to the Italian theme, he wore black loafers with lemon embroidery from Stubbs & Wootton.

Bride and groom hold hands showing engagement ring and nail art

Photo by Jose Villa

One unique touch of Melanie's beauty look was her nail art. "Since I no longer work in the art world, but am still an art history nerd, I express that love via nail art with an incredible artist, Ama, at Vanity Projects in New York. I’ve documented it all at @mels.nailarthistory on Instagram. Ama can truly copy any piece of art and translate it in miniature to your nails. I brought her my floral watercolors and an image of my wedding dress, and she copied them on top of a classic white French."

Rehearsal luncheon on lawn with umbrellas and blue print tablecloths

Photo by Jose Villa

The smaller rehearsal high tea came together with the help of Debbie Geller and Paige Blatt at Geller Events. "Since we got engaged right before the start of the pandemic, we ended up having a two-year planning period," share the couple. "We spent a lot of time on Zoom with Debbie, Paige, my mom, and vendors, and then made the most of a few trips to Los Angeles and Santa Barbara leading up to the weekend."

Rehearsal luncheon table with blue print tablecloth and wood chairs

Photo by Jose Villa

Tablescape with lemon place card, menu, and cheese plate

Photo by Jose Villa

Both celebrations featured beautiful blue and white print tablecloths that grounded the design. Yellow and white floral arrangements and lemon place cards helped bring more color and an Italian feel to the high tea tablescape. Guests enjoyed an array of bites including charcuterie boards, arancini, bruschetta, and burrata.

Rehearsal luncheon at Montecito home

Photo by Jose Villa

It was the perfect way to start the weekend.

Jake and Melanie at rehearsal luncheon

Photo by Jose Villa

"We asked six friends and family members to make toasts at our 'Italian high tea' smaller event and they were definitely a highlight of our whole wedding weekend as they ranged from incredibly heartfelt to absolutely hilarious," remembers Melanie. "Since Jake is a lawyer, his sister pretended to be in court and made the case for why we should be together with full poster board 'exhibits.' My friend Natalie was already known as an incredible toast giver, and she went above and beyond telling stories from when the three of us lived together one summer. I thought I was going to look absolutely absurd in our photos because I was smiling and laughing so hard. It was the perfect way to start the weekend."

Wedding welcome party around pool in Montecito

Photo by Jose Villa

Welcome party banquet tables with print tablecloth and small trees

Photo by Jose Villa

Lounge seating area with wood table and seats

Photo by Jose Villa

"For the larger welcome reception, we had a lot of light wood and white lounge furniture along with cocktail tables and longer tables without assigned seating for dinner," explains the bride. "We felt like the string lights and long tables added to the feel of being at an outdoor dinner in Tuscany."

specialty spritz cocktails with flags

"In addition to Italian food and drinks and the general feel of the venue, we also incorporated decor specific to Siena itself. Siena is known for a biannual horse race called the Palio in which various neighborhoods compete every summer, and each neighborhood has distinctive colors and flags," explains Melanie. "Jake and I lived in separate neighborhoods the summer we fell in love—my neighborhood is called L’Onda (The Wave) and Jake’s is called L’Istrice (The Porcupine). So, that’s what we called our signature drinks of limoncello and Prosecco and Aperol Spritz. We put the flags of these neighborhoods in each drink, and the event staff wore bandanas with the two different flags."

Cocktail napkins with trivia about couple

Photo by Jose Villa

"In addition to all of the Italian decor, Jake and I also love puns, so our cocktail napkins had a series of trivia questions about us along with punny answers involving our names," shares Melanie.

Guests at wedding welcome party

Photo by Jose Villa

Pizza on wood board

Photo by Jose Villa

Beanie Feldstein and Bonnie Chance Roberts at wedding

Photo by Jose Villa

Guests filled the celebration and enjoyed sips and slices of pizza during cocktail hour. "There was an incredible chicken appetizer that we tried at our tasting and I was so excited to have it again that night," says Melanie. "I told my bridesmaids their main job was to make sure I got as many of those skewers as possible. One of my bridesmaids even got the catering team to spill on all the ingredients!" Her bridal party included actress Beanie Feldstein, who attended all events along with her fiancé Bonnie Chance Roberts.

Welcome party in Montecito with string lights and pool

Photo by Jose Villa

Guests at dinner for welcome party

Photo by Jose Villa

Guests sat down for a delicious buffet meal as music from a playlist curated by the couple played around the venue. "Jake and I created a playlist of our favorite music and made sure to include some Italian pop songs we had to learn in class," shares the bride.

custom printed cookies with couple in Italy

Photo by Jose Villa

Near the end of the night, the couple gave out a personalized sweet favor to guests. "For our first anniversary, I had given Jake a painting I did of the two of us in Siena," shares Melanie. "We used that as the background for an explainer card about the flags, and as an image on cookies at the end of the night!"

Italian zeppole desert at welcome dinner

Photo by Jose Villa

Bride Melanie eats zeppole at welcome dinner

Photo by Jose Villa

The evening ended in a classic Italian fashion with gelato and cannolis. "I love cannoli and insisted we have it as a dessert," shares the bride. "The one thing I was picky about on our menu was making sure that the chocolate chips go all the way through the filling and not just on the ends of the cannoli!"

One piece of advice from the bride to others planning their wedding events? "I found it so helpful to spend as much time as possible on Pinterest or exploring wedding Instagram accounts to figure out what I liked and what inspired me," she says. "Walking into vendor meetings with some ideas to start made it that much more productive, and gave time for Jake and I to chat candidly about what we liked without the pressure of a bunch of other people around."

Wedding Team

Venue Private Family Estate

Planner Debbie Geller and Paige Blatt of Geller Events

Bride’s Outfit Designer Oscar de la Renta

Jewelry Vivi Embellish Earrings

Shoes Bella Belle Fabiola

Hair Styling Laura Rocha

Hair Color Danielle Peters

Makeup Marja Webster

Groom’s Outfit Designer Brunello Cucinelli

Groom’s Shoes Stubbs & Wootton

Bride’s Engagement Ring and Wedding Band Custom from Valentin Magro

Groom Wedding Band Rebecca Overmann from Greenwich St. Jewelers

Floral Design Sweet Pea Beverly Hills

Invitations and Paper Products Lehr & Black

Catering Duo

Rentals Revelry Event Designers

Videography East West Films

Photography Jose Villa

Related Stories