“Planning during Covid-19 was incredibly difficult with the climate changing by the day,” admits bride Jenna Ushkowitz, now Stanley, who got engaged to fiancé David Stanley in July 2020. “There were times we thought we wouldn’t be able to do it at all or would only be allowed to have 20 guests.”
Rather than stress about the uncertainty of it all, Jenna, an actor, singer, and producer, says she and David, an executive at an education non-profit, took things “week by week.” They hired With a Flair Events and a team of flexible vendors. They called on newlywed friends for advice. They cut their guest list and asked everyone to be vaccinated. They made a list of what mattered to them and did it, even if it meant breaking the mold. “We tried to have as much fun as possible while also heading into it knowing that there would be challenges and obstacles,” she explains.
We really had a strong sense of what we wanted to feel like on the day—romantic, special, and intimate.
Through it all, the couple’s vision was clear: They wanted an intimate setting; a small guest list; neutral, minimal décor; lush floral arrangements; an epic champagne tower. But it wasn’t so much about what the day would “look” like when the time came. “We really had a strong sense of what we wanted to feel like on the day—romantic, special, and intimate,” she adds. “I had vision boards set up as soon as we locked in our venue!”
There was also a list of priorities that weren’t on a vision board. Writing their own vows. Opting for no wedding party. Doing a first look. Enjoying cocktail hour. Making time for themselves. “I think, overall, every choice we made was ours. We really stood our ground, and we really did what we wanted to do,” explains the bride. “My advice is really to stick to it because we didn’t regret anything we did!”
Keep reading for every detail of Jenna and David’s dream day, from the couple’s emotional vows to the stunning barn setting (in Los Angeles, no less!) and a toast-to-remember from Jenna’s Glee castmates, as captured on film and video by For the Love of It.
Finding the right venue was a top priority for Jenna and David. After scouting a few options locally, they toured Lombardi House and immediately knew it was “the one.” “We could both see ourselves getting married inside this historic property that made us feel at home—it really did live up to its name,” Jenna says.
The venue set the stage for the “look and vision of the day,” which translated to a palette of crisp whites, neutral hues, and pops of gray and green to complement the setting, “oasis in Los Angeles.” “We wanted the vibe to feel intimate and romantic and we wanted to highlight that feeling and ambiance as much as possible,” she adds.
The couple lives in L.A., but opted to stay at the Four Seasons Los Angeles in Beverly Hills the night before the big day—as Jenna tells me, “did not separate!” The next morning, she headed home to start her morning, just as she’d do any other day. “It felt like a normal morning,” she recalls. “I got ready with Bear; did a trampoline workout. It was very important that I got a trampoline workout in!”
When it was “go-time," she called an Uber to meet Dave Stanwell, her close friend and “hair and makeup guy,” for glam. It was just the two of them for most of the morning, prepping in the bridal suite, listening to music, and watching Whitney Houston videos. “I know what kind of chaos can ensue, so I intentionally planned for a quiet morning,” she explains. “It was actually really nice having personal, intimate time and getting ready on our own.”
Jenna knew the moment she’d found her dress—it just happened to be the first one she tried on! “As soon as I put it on and walked out of the dressing room, I felt exactly the way I wanted to feel walking down the aisle: romantic and elegant,” she says. “It was more ornate than I had imagined but it was a feeling that I went with.”
The gown, the “Reef” by Netta Benshabu from Kinsley James Couture Bridal, is a classic A-line silhouette featuring a corset bodice and tulle skirt with 3-D floral appliqué all over.
Looking back on the shopping experience, Jenna has a few pieces of advice to share: “I was able to bring some friends along, safely, and I didn’t think it would be as much fun as it was,” she admits. “My friends had me try on some things that I never would’ve tried on and those other dresses, even though they weren’t the right dress, ultimately helped me in my final decision.”
On the big day, Jenna worked with stylist Amanda Reno to complete her look with even more jewels, adding diamond drop earrings from Neil Lane Couture and the “Picasso” by Toni Federici, a fingertip-length veil lined with tiny pearls, to match the detailing on her Jimmy Choo heels. While not shown, there was also a special detail inside her dress: “My tailor put a blue bow inside my dress for my ‘something blue,’” she adds.
Jenna carried six long-stem white roses by Stella Bloom Designs in lieu of a traditional bridal bouquet. While this was always in the design plan, Jenna says her florist showed up on the big day with a “backup” option—just in case she’d changed her mind or second-guessed her decision! She didn’t, of course, but the second bouquet came in handy as a backup prop during portraits so the roses were in prime condition (with no wilting!) come ceremony time.
The groom wore a classic tux by Hugo Boss, which he paired with two gifts from his bride: bow tie cufflinks from Jenna, one of the first gifts she ever got him, and a Larsson and Jennings watch, also a gift from Jenna in 2019.
Once ready, Jenna actually posed for photos in her second look first—she didn’t want to waste time later in the night—before heading outside for her official bridal portraits. “Putting the dress on really sealed the deal for me,” she recalls. “It was like, 'Oh, here we are now! It feels like my wedding day!”
Because of the ceremony's afternoon start time, these photos (and our cover shoot!) took place in the heat of the afternoon. Jenna and the talented team at For the Love of It made it manageable with “short breaks over the air vent.”
Looking back, she has a word of advice for fellow brides: “My dress was really heavy—people didn’t warn me about that! They say think about summer and the heat, etc., but I might warn people about the weight of the dress! I weighted mine. It was 6 lbs thick with layers!” she says. “I asked for a big train and I got what I asked for but, man, that was something.”
“We were so nontraditional but David was so passionate about doing the first look,” she says. “He felt like he was the only one who hadn’t seen the 'infamous dress' yet!” While this decision wasn’t as important to Jenna, she says it was really nice and special. “As you can tell, we couldn’t stop laughing,” she adds.
"It was important to me to have an intimate moment together when I could see Jenna in her wedding dress for the first time," says David of the first look. "I wanted to experience that moment as a surprising 'reveal' where I could take in the full picture of her as a beautiful bride, and where she could fully absorb my joy in seeing her. I was blown away when she tapped me on the shoulder and I turned around and finally saw her. She was stunning and I was awed seeing her in that moment."
In designing the day’s schedule, it was important to Jenna to make the hour-or-so of photos as enjoyable for David as possible. To help, they scheduled breaks throughout and even popped a bottle of bubbly together. “It was a lot easier than I thought it would be,” she admits. “It was casual, organic, in-the-moment. How do they capture something so perfect when you're walking?!”
The couple opted against a large wedding party and instead only had Kevin McHale, Jenna’s Glee costar and man of honor. Also, in their group: Jenna and David’s French bulldog, Bear, who wore a custom-made tuxedo from Italy fitting for his special role. "We felt like we wanted the feeling of the wedding to be inclusive of everyone and to choose a particular group that felt exclusive in ways," Jenna explains. “We also didn’t feel like we needed it—we were still both able to gather the troops for our bachelor and bachelorette and do all the things with our friends leading up to the wedding.”
The ceremony took place in front of a set of oversize barn doors, which were framed with asymmetrical florals by Stella Bloom Designs alongside one side of the window and set with “complimentary, wispy, and lush” floral arrangements on either side of the altar. “It was just the right touch, letting the venue stand out and making that space feel special and almost 3D,” says the bride. “Traditional, romantic, neutral, minimal—our concept revolved around the idea of these gorgeous concrete vases we wanted, and it came to life so beautifully at Lombardi House.”
Jenna’s man of honor walked their adorable “ring bearer” down the aisle, and, unsurprisingly, he was the star of the show. “I was waiting to go down the aisle with my dad and heard big cheers, but I couldn’t hear what they they cheering for,” Jenna admits. “Apparently, David got a big cheer, but Bear had the loudest cheer ever. We had a rowdy crowd!”
It was only fitting that the strong woman who raised me was able to walk me down the aisle and hand me off to the strong, incredible woman I was marrying.
David walked down the aisle with his mom, Elizabeth. The song section? “Angela,” by the Lumineers, which he says reminds him of Jenna. "It was very special to walk down the aisle with my mom. She was a single mother for much of my life," he says. "Her values, passion, and strength played a huge role in shaping me and how I see the world. It was only fitting that the strong woman who raised me was able to walk me down the aisle and hand me off to the strong, incredible woman I was marrying."
“We made sure our DJ knew our music style to make sure everything from our cocktail hour music to the dance floor reflected us,” says the bride. “Making sure our music selections were personal for the processional, first dance, mother and father dances, etc. was a priority.”
As a nod to the couple’s first concert together, “Something Beautiful” by NEEDTOBREATHE, played for the processional as Jenna walked alongside her father, Brad. “Walking down the aisle, I was like, ‘Don’t get emotional! Don’t lose it! I couldn’t look anyone in the eye,'" she admits. “Then, it was like, 'Oh shit! We’re getting married—this is really cool!”
“We always kept reminding ourselves what the day is really about, exchanging vows, making a promise to one another in front of our friends and family,” says the bride.
“We spent a long time on our vows, probably the most important time,” Jenna says. “They were very personal to who we are. We very much sounded like us.” In all, they spoke for about 4 to 5 minutes each, a significant amount of time that Jenna, again, stressed about as she knew they were longer than the “average” vow.
“I was very nervous; he’s the writer in the relationship,” she admits. “I felt like he had high expectations for himself, too.” In order to make sure they were aligned, they shared their drafts with David Omenn, their officiant and dear friend, ahead of time. His advice? Make David add more jokes! (Jenna is the jokester of the two.)
“The speeches and vows were incredibly important to both David and me but our guests seemed to love and appreciate them just as much as the party/celebration," reflects the bride.
As Jenna and David exchanged wedding bands, Jenna added a vintage-inspired band from Marrow Fine to her engagement ring by L.A.-based jeweler XIV Karat.
The first kiss!
“Once the vows were done, the rings were on, you take a deep breath, and, then, I could finally look people in the eye on the way down the aisle!” says Jenna, who admittedly danced the entire way.
Following the ceremony, the newlyweds took a minute to themselves to make things official, yes, but also to celebrate alone before joining the crowd. “Making sure we had time to ourselves throughout the day was something important to Jenna,” David explains. “There were so many people that advised us to take time to look around, and we were successful in being present in each moment.”
The moment was intentionally short-lived, though. “We both wanted to do pictures before the cocktail hour so we didn’t miss out on the time with our guests and have time to enjoy ourselves, have a drink, and enjoy the food," she adds.
I feel like we saw everyone at the wedding—and more than that, we got time with everyone at the wedding. We were on a high at cocktail hour, like floating.
Jenna says the vibe went straight to “party mode” as guests mingled with each other, made new friends, and waited on the newlyweds to officially open the champagne tower (by J Vineyards) with a toast. “I feel like we saw everyone at the wedding—and more than that, we got time with everyone at the wedding," she says. "We were on a high at cocktail hour, like floating.”
While “incredibly difficult,” the couple says that by cutting their guest list, they were able to create such an environment. “We always dreamed of a wedding on the smaller side, but with Covid, we definitely had to scale back more than we anticipated,” Jenna explains. “But, also, thanks to Covid and us holding our ground, we looked into the crowd, and we knew every face. We did it right.”
In addition to the epic tower of bubbly, the couple had a colorful selection of drinks from LA Speakeasy on tap. On the menu: classic old-fashioneds, margaritas, and vodka martinis, as well as a Negroni cocktail and a selection of wine. "We love wine and champagne and to have J Vineyards for our champagne tower and to serve was so special, considering we have visited that vineyard together and the wine served at dinner was also two vineyards we had visited together from Paso Robles: Justin and Daou," Jenna adds.
“Being taken into the dining room before all the guests were invited in, getting to see our vision brought to life and having a moment together in the space where we had stood remembering what it looked like completely empty when we visited the venue and deciding that was the one, was really special,” reflects the bride.
To highlight the dinner party portion of the evening, rectangular tables were set up along the reception space with a sweetheart table in the middle. "This decision made the room feel connected and intimate," explains the bride. "With us sitting at the head of the room, we could fully see all of our guests all across."
Once the tables were set, the couple's design team really worked with the space, playing up existing elements and utilizing the in-house lighting system ("one less thing for us to think about," Jenna says). "The barn already came with such a minimal, clean look and feel that, in and of itself, really aligned with our vision, and our design approach centered around that concept," she adds.
From a décor perspective, Jenna says their team "knocked it out of the park!" Tables were decorated with neutral plates, cheesecloth napkins, gold chargers, and lush centerpieces in concrete vases. "Our favorite part was seeing how our family-style menu tied into the centerpieces and the table runners," adds the bride. "It was a gourmet dining experience, and every vendor played a role in making sure there was space for food and design on the table." Each place setting was complete with a custom menu from Minted and a hand-tied napkin.
"We had never had a song to dance to or a song in general, but we listen to Motown on the reg, so we considered some of our favorites," Jenna says. "We're both lovers of music it's a big part of why we connected." Their ultimate pick: "You’re All I Need to Get By" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.
At the recommendation of their wedding planner Evelyn, the couple tapped Ladybugz to handle the night’s menu. She and David call themselves “big foodies” and thought, if your wedding planner recommends the caterer who did her own wedding, you’re in good hands. (We’d have to agree.)
“The menu itself was very familiar and fresh, shareable and enjoyable, with a touch of Mediterranean” describes Jenna. It included several summer salads, such as grilled antipasto veggies, couscous, and chicken caesar, alongside the bride’s must-have dish: shrimp cocktail served over ice, raw bar-style. Between courses, there were also charcuterie boards set up on each table for guests to nibble on as they awaited the main event: a family-style serving of branzino, eggplant parmesan, chicken roulette with spinach and beef lule skewers, David’s favorite. “We wanted to cover all proteins and options to satisfy the many palettes and dietary restrictions for our guests,” adds the bride.
Getting "table photos" is high on Jenna's list of advice to couples planning. It's a tip that was passed down to her by a friend. To execute, the newlyweds basically make a lap around the reception and pose for a photo with, you guessed it, every table.
“There are very few people who know me better than Kevin McHale—probably only my husband!” Jenna says. “His speech was an inside look into knowing me and knowing me and David together. He’s gotten really close with David as well.”
But Kevin didn't stop there. Instead, he called on the Glee table, opening the mic up to "the troops" who Jenna calls "her second family." Jenna is a big fan of Friends, so they went around the table telling stories of "The One Where..." in an effort to give back to Jenna, who Kevin says is "the most giving."
The newlyweds had mini pies from Sirel instead of cake, as "David is a professional pie consumer,” says Jenna. The varieties? Pecan pies, chocolate ganache tarts, cardamom apple pies, and triple berry lemon pies, all of which were "freaking delicious."
“Our goal was really to have a great party,” Jenna says of planning a "coming out after Covid" celebration. “People said it felt surreal to be in that setting again.," she says. "t’s cool to think that we were facilitators of something like that.” In fact, the newlyweds planned ahead and added an "extra" hour before the wedding even began. "We were like, 'Why are we trying to cut costs with friends and family?'" she says. "That extra hour was magic."
“My first concert as a kid was Elton John and Billy Joel,” says the bride. “So I gave my dad two ‘East coast’ options: ‘Just the Way You Are’ by Billy Joel and ‘Your Song’ by Elton John, and let him decide.” Meanwhile, Jenna says David and his mom mulled over their song choice “forever.” “They are huge music junkies!” she says. “Music is massively important to both sides of the family.”
"My mom instilled in me from a young age a profound love for music, especially pop and rock music," David says. In the end, they chose Stevie Winwood's "Higher Love," a song they used to listen to together when David was growing up.
"It always brought joyful tears to my mom's eyes for its unapologetic ode to the ideal of love, and it always made my mom want to dance," he says. "Whenever I hear 'Higher Love,' I think of my mom. It was the perfect, joyful song to celebrate the love between my mom and me, and the love Jenna and I were elevating together in our marriage."
The entire event was "unplugged," and, as Jenna puts it, "the camera thing really worked." "It truly kept everyone in the moment, and that was really, really special," she says. That said, the couple wanted the night documented, too, so they had a photo booth from Selfie Booth. "It was important so people could take some photos home,” Jenna says. "It was so silly and so fun."
"I knew before we were engaged that I wanted to change at my wedding, " Jenna admits, "I wanted it to feel like a party and I knew that I would want to be able to move around and dance later in the evening."
To bring this vision to life, Jenna teamed up with Watters to design a custom look. She shared silhouettes and ideas she liked; they presented a number of options, complete with swatches and sketches, and what they landed on is now the "Jenna" jumpsuit.
"I shared with them my vision of what I wanted to feel like on the day and they hit it out of the park," she says. "I loved the bell-bottom with the gorgeous beaded illusion bodice—it was my Beyoncé dreams come true."
As soon as Jenna changed, she says the "real party" began as their friend and DJ John Lock, the drummer for the Glee band, knew exactly what to deliver (this wasn't his first Glee wedding, after all)." Beyoncé is always a big hit for the Glee crew," says Jenna, laughing as when she mentions that there were actually Beyoncé dancers at the wedding. "We danced until literally the second they needed us to go."
At one point, the party extended beyond the dance floor into the barn. "Our friends saw the opportunity for a 'runway' and took advantage!" Jenna explains. "Our reception space had big open barn doors that stayed open throughout the night and people decided to take over. We had some really incredible dancers so, why not?!"
And, in the end, the couple pulled it off by sticking to what they knew best. So much that the guests are still raving. "The overarching messages were: 'best party; great food; best speeches and best vows we’ve heard.'" Jenna says. " And I'm like, 'We did it! Raving review!'"
WEDDING PLANNING AND DESIGN With a Flair Events
BRIDAL GOWN Netta BenShabu and Kinsley James Couture Bridal
BRIDAL JUMPSUIT Watters
PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEOGRAPHY For the Love of It
FLORAL DESIGN Stella Bloom Designs
TABLETOP RENTALS Soirée8
FURNITURE RENTALS MTB Event Rentals
WEDDING VENUE Lombardi House
ENTERTAINMENT The John Lock
CATERER Ladybugz Inc
CUSTOM PIES Eat Sirel
BARTENDING LA Speakeasy
HAIR AND MAKEUP David Stanwell
CUSTOM SIGNS Woodland Custom Design
WEDDING BANDS Marrow Fine
BRIDAL JEWELRY Neil Lane
ENGAGEMENT RING XIVKarat
CHAMPAGNE TOWER J Winery
GROOM’S TUXEDO Hugo Boss
PHOTO BOOTH Selfie Booth Co.
PRINTED MATERIALS Minted
BRIDAL NAILS Nails of LA