In May of 2008, Ashley Lewis, her parents, and her then-roommate were apartment hunting, and stopped by a mutual friend’s place to look into taking over the lease. “Our friend lived with Jim, and as soon as my mom realized Jim was flirting with me, she and my dad hightailed it out of there,” Ashley says, laughing. The pair started dating almost immediately—but four weeks later, Jim headed to Chicago to join Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. What followed was an eight-year courtship with moves to Chicago, Washington, D.C., Palo Alto, and, ultimately, Venice Beach, California, where they put down their roots together. It was there that Jim took Ashley back to the restaurant where they’d had their first date—and they even sat at the same table. “Uncharacteristically, Jim asked the waiter to take a picture of us when we were done with dinner,” Ashley remembers. “It was then that he got down on one knee and asked, ‘Shall we do this?’!”
The couple wanted the feeling of a destination wedding but wanted the location to be easily accessible for their 280 guests, most of whom were coming from the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas. “We love Santa Barbara because it’s not too far, but it feels like a world apart,” Ashley explains. With a massive guest list, they knew they’d need space for a crowd and determined that a large tent was their best bet. They found the perfect location in Villa Sevillano, a magnificent home on the hill that features a private polo field (perfect for that tent!) and amazing flower and sculpture gardens. “We fell in love immediately,” says Ashley. Planning firm Laurel & Rose brought the couple's vision to life, opting for a palette of white and green to let the property’s gardens really shine. Lush tendrils of ivy, fragrant gardenias, and a bevy of personal touches—from a sense of humor on the ceremony program to a needlepoint chuppah that Ashley’s parents were married under—came together on July 2, 2017 for an event that combined a black tie dress code with totally fun details.
Photographed by Kate Holstein, Jim and Ashley’s wedding was elegant, unfussy, and totally stunning. Keep reading for more!
Manicured gardens, lush palms, and towering cypress trees made Villa Sevillano an irresistible choice for Jim and Ashley’s big day.
How fun is all the color on this hand-painted invitation suite?! The couple’s monogram featured palm trees and their dog, Misty, while the bright pink map showcased the venues for the weekend’s festivities. “We had the map printed on beach towels, which we put in everyone’s welcome bags so they could bring them to the beach for our pre-wedding beach party,” says the bride.
Jim’s only request for Ashley’s wedding gown was that she show off her shoulders, so she originally envisioned a strapless dress with a princess skirt. “I almost didn’t try on the dress I chose because it looked so plain on the hanger,” she reveals. But she did put it on, and couldn’t get the Vera Wang design out of her mind. “After a particularly unsuccessful outing trying on dresses covered in lace and jewels, all I wanted was to be wearing that Vera Wang dress. We got in the car and drove 45 minutes back to the salon to buy it on the spot!”
The dress combines structure and simplicity, pairing tailored silk crepe with an architectural notched neckline. To accent the modern design, Ashley carried a cascading bouquet of calla lilies, tulips, scabiosa, gardenia, and stephanotis, surrounded by lush greenery.
A strand of pearls was wrapped around the handle of the bride’s bouquet. Her ‘maids carried smaller white nosegays, each featuring a different white flower like tulips or calla lilies. “It was the perfect way to tie their unique dresses together,” Ashley says.
Each bridesmaid chose her own blush dress, with some opting for solid colors and others choosing floral prints. “I was really looking for a summery yet formal feel,” says the bride.
The flower girls, each a daughter of a groomsman, wore white princess dresses with blush bows and floral crowns. “They walked down the aisle with their fathers, which was so adorable,” Ashley remembers.
The focal point of the ceremony was an elaborate needlepoint chuppah that was made in the 1970s. Each panel reflects a different Jewish wedding symbol, and the names and wedding dates of those married beneath it are embroidered on the inside. In addition to using her parents’ chuppah, Jim and Ashley also marked the occasion with the bride’s great-grandparents’ Kiddush cup. “It was given to them as a gift on their 50th wedding anniversary,” Ashley explains. “They were married on July 2, 1916 – exactly 101 years before we were!”
So as not to distract from the stunning surroundings, guests were seated in Lucite ghost chairs. The washed wood aisle was flanked with organic greenery.
To say Jim was thrilled to see Ashley come down the aisle would be an understatement. Seriously, every groom should make this face!
The couple exchanged personalized vows that acknowledged the long and winding road that led them to the altar. “We talked about what it took to get us there, the adventure we want for our lives, and the kind of parents we want to be,” Ashley says. The front of the program featured a quote from Edward Albee: “Sometimes it’s necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly.”
The couple’s florist created a field of candles that led to the entrance of the tent. Nearly 1,000 candles were spread through the field, creating a beautiful path that glowed as the sun set.
The entrance to the tent was flanked by two walls of gardenias, where long-stemmed flowers were tied with guests’ escort cards. Each guest brought their flower to their table, filling the tent with a sweet scent.
The couple also made a grand entrance to their big, beautiful tent.
Ashley wanted to create a glamorous jungle vibe inside the tent, so strands of vines were strung from the ceiling. Mirrored tables and gold chairs added a subtle Art Deco vibe, kept in check with organic arrangements that featured tendrils of greenery sneaking around the place settings. “We wanted our wedding to be a mix of elegance, chic simplicity, and fun,” says the bride.
The menu was local and seasonal, and is definitely one guests remembered. From an ahi and watermelon first course to a choice of miso-glazed black cod or New York strip steak, every bite was fantastic. “We had a very ‘healthy California’ crowd and a mid-summer wedding, so we kept the menu light and refreshing. It was incredible that our caterer was able to produce such fantastic food for nearly 300 people!” Ashley says.
Ground Control, a band out of L.A., had everyone on the dance floor all night. “I think the sign of a great wedding is a full dance floor, and that was my biggest hope for ours,” Ashley says. “As Jim and I started our first dance, everyone was there cheering us on. Then, after a few verses, the entire crowd came onto the dance floor to finish the song with us. The party was off and running, and it was exactly what I wanted!”
At the end of the night, guests followed the path of candles to the after party, held in the villa’s basement.
“Take the time to think through the details that will make the evening feel meaningful to you and your guests,” says Ashley. “Those little things are what make all the difference and make your guests feel very much a part of your relationship.”
Wedding Planner: Laurel & Rose
Venue: Villa Sevillano
Bride's Dress & Veil: Vera Wang
Bride's Shoes: Aquazzura
Bride's Jewelry & Engagement Ring: Coady Culha
Day of Stylist: Style Me Jean
Hair & Makeup: Team Hair & Makeup
Groom's Attire: Dolce & Gabbana
Floral Design: Toast Santa Barbara, High Camp Supply
Paper Products: Shannon Kirsten Studio
Catering: Duo Catering & Events
Alcohol: Wine Grotto
Ice Cream: McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream
After Party Music: DJ Bobby French
Transportation: Limo Link Santa Barbara
Photography: Kate Holstein