Though Alexandra Cheek and Christopher Scholem went to the same small university in Texas, they never met on campus. “We both moved to New York City after graduation, and a mutual friend from college introduced us there,” Alex says. “It took moving to a huge city to bring us together!” The couple dated for nearly five years, moving back to Texas along the way, but Chris wanted to bring Alex back to where it all started so he could propose. “We spent the day doing the things we loved in New York, then he got down on one knee in Central Park. The first friends we made as a couple in the city were there to celebrate with us!” the bride recalls.
But neither Texas nor New York City won out when it came time to pick a venue for their wedding on May 19, 2018. Instead, they headed west to Santa Ynez, California. “We wanted a romantic and timeless outdoor wedding, and Kestrel Park had everything we were looking for,” says Alex. From the sycamore-lined allée to the hedge-trimmed gardens, Kestrel Park has the ambience of an English estate and a dose of sunshine that’s all California.
The couple worked with Toast Santa Barbara to arrange their wedding long distance, and loved that their planner, Kim Curtis, was able to translate their ideas into stunning reality with the help of some of the region’s best vendors. “The idea of planning from afar was daunting, but as soon as we met Kim, we knew we were in good hands,” says Alex.
The white and soft gray invitation suite featured clean lines and accents of gold engraving, including a chic frame on the invitation and a garden-inspired monogram.
With 13 bridesmaids in tow, Alex knew a single dress in a single color wasn’t the way to make her besties feel, well, their best. “Instead, I chose three dresses and three colors, then had each of my bridesmaids rank their favorite color and style combinations,” Alex explains. From there, she assigned each bridesmaid one of her top choices while making sure there was an even number of colors represented.
Alex’s organic bouquet was a stunning combination of cream and blush garden roses, blush peonies, lily of the valley, gardenias, Hanoi ranunculus, blush astilbe, plum-star clematis, and chocolate cosmos. Her bridesmaids carried smaller hand-tied bouquets of garden roses, peonies, clematis, and ranunculus, while Chris’s boutonniere featured a garden rose and Fair Bianca.
The garden ceremony took place next to the stone turret of Kestrel Park’s stable, surrounded by fruit trees and a lush garden. A moss-filled display held cones of white rose petals for guests to toss after the couple’s first kiss.
Alex wore an Alençon lace sheath by Ines di Santo, complete with an illusion neckline, plunging sheer back, and detachable Watteau train. Before she and her stepfather made their debut, the bride had a bout of nerves—but her veil quickly calmed them. “It was so windy, and my veil was all over the place!” Alex laughs. “I nearly lost it, and while it made my entrance less dramatic, it definitely helped to break the tension.” Knowing it would be an emotional moment, Chris and Alex opted to exchange traditional vows instead of writing their own. Instead, they wrote love letters to each another and sealed them in a wine box to share on their first anniversary.
The couple’s signature cocktails were a huge hit. Alex’s was a blackberry mojito, Chris’s was a blood orange margarita—and, of course, they offered a drink in honor of their beloved cat, Leo! “We are obsessed with Leo, and were enamored with the idea of having his likeness and cute sayings (think ‘Hair of the Cat’ and ‘Purr Me Another, Please’) on cocktail napkins,” Alex recalls. “We were blown away by the watercolor illustrations our planner surprised us with!”
Guests enjoyed a crostini bar, fennel sausage flatbread, and grilled squash and prosciutto skewers as they wandered among the lavender and trimmed hedges.
When it was time to sit for dinner, they found their seating assignments tucked between bud vases holding peach roses and vibrant greenery.
A series of feasting tables made a dramatic statement, all while providing ample room for Chris and Alex’s 95 guests. Crisp linens were surrounded by whitewashed chairs, keeping the focus on the gold vine chargers and lush centerpieces. Gold footed bowls overflowed with café au lait dahlias, peonies, plum-star clematis, peony tulips, garden roses, ranunculus, astilbe, jasmine, and Camilla.
After a burrata and tomato salad, guests were treated to a California-inspired dinner of branzino with citrus and herbs, red wine-braised short ribs, and wild mushroom ravioli with brown butter and sage. The couple’s wedding cake was topped with a cascade of blush and cream garden roses and peonies over textured buttercream frosting.
“We also had a fantastic chocolate display for dessert,” says Alex. “My father passed away a few years ago. He was a chocoholic, so Joe’s Chocolate Station was a way to have him there with us.” The display included spicy chocolate and ginger bark, ganache bites, chocolate hazelnut bread pudding with dried fruit and brandy, Mexican chocolate mousse, and McConnell’s double peanut butter–chip ice cream, a Santa Barbara favorite.
Alex donned a faux fur wrap to fend off the spring chill during dinner.
When it was time to dance, Alex changed into a lightweight lace sheath with spaghetti straps—ideal for a dramatic dip with her new husband to “Our Love is Here to Stay” by Ella Fitzgerald.
Looking back on her big day, Alex had this planning advice to share: “It’s important to not get wrapped up in the little details, whether it’s while you’re planning or on your wedding day," she says. "We had an 18-month engagement and got to really revel in that happiness, and on our wedding day we were able to really live in the moment and enjoy it!”
Wedding Planner: Toast Santa Barbara
Venue: Kestrel Park
Officiant: Jon Ireland
Bride's Dress: Ines di Santo
Bride's Veil: Julian Gold
Bride's Shoes: Manolo Blahnik
Bride's Jewelry: Family Heirlooms
Hair & Makeup: Team Hair and Makeup
Bridesmaids' Dresses: Fame & Partners
Groom's Attire: Armani
Groomsmen's Attire: The Black Tux
Engagement Ring: Bock Jewelry Co.
Wedding Bands: Bock Jewelry Co.
Floral Design: Toast Santa Barbara
Paper Products: The Stationery Collection
Catering: Seasons Catering
Cake: Enjoy Cupcakes
Ceremony Music: Santa Barbara String Quartet
Reception Music: DJ Bennett of Gavin Roy Presents
Lighting: Spark Creative Events
Transportation: LL Transportation
Accommodations: Montecito Inn
Videography: Aaron Novak Films
Photography: Rebecca Yale Photography