On September 25, 2016, during a warm autumn day in Southern California, Matthew Pierce could hardly hold back tears as Cara Levy walked down the aisle, arm in arm with her parents. Five years earlier, the two of them met on a fortuitous night in Baltimore, Maryland. Cara was out with her nursing school friends, and Matt was spending time with friends from medical school. “He told our mutual friend that he thought I was cute, and we were introduced!” reveals the bride. “I was immediately attracted to Matt’s humble and incredibly kind nature.” The pair instantly hit it off, and two years later they moved to California together. 

As medical professionals, Cara and Matt both found themselves working Christmas night in 2014, so they elected to have their joint Christmas and Hanukkah celebration the night before. “One of my gifts from Matt was a really nice sleeping bag that I had wanted for when we go camping together,” Cara explains. “He told me he had to run upstairs to get one more thing, and I decided to hide in the sleeping bag and pop my head out when he came back.” Little did she know, her beloved was setting up his phone to record a proposal. Instead of surprising her beau with a jump-scare, she popped out of her sleeping bag to find him down on one knee, ready to pop the question!

With her family across the country, Cara knew she would need a top-notch wedding planner; and she found just who she was looking for with Tessa Brand of Tessa Lyn Events. “I’m truly in awe of her talent, dedication, and ability to multitask with such efficiency,” the bride praises. After hearing from an acquaintance that a nearby estate was the most beautiful venue they had ever seen, the bride and her mother planned a visit and instantly fell in love with the place. To be sure, Cara took a look at 20 other locations with Tessa, but she always went back to the first site. She took Matt on a tour and the decision was made. “He felt like the garden/tropical setting was such a perfect fit for us too!” the bride exclaims. 

To complement the garden estate, the couple selected florals in deep colors such as burgundy and cranberry, with accents of blush and heavy use of verdant greenery. “Walking into the venue on the day of the wedding and seeing our beautiful floral chandelier, our romantically decorated chuppah, and my gorgeous bouquet actually brought me to tears!” Cara gushes. Among that bouquet were two picture-frame charms for her recently departed grandparents. The bride also used a book of matches from their wedding – 62 years prior – to light a memory candle. The groom’s family was represented by his uncle, a minister, reciting a blessing during the service. “Matt was raised Southern Baptist, but he was very excited about the Jewish custom of the groom breaking the glass and everyone shouting ‘mazel tov!’” laughs the bride. Her own kiddish cup and tallit from her bat mitzvah were a part of the ceremony as well. “Although Matt and I were raised in different religions, we wanted to incorporate both,” Cara notes. 

Though she considered a reception dress as more of a “nice to have” than a must, the bride was quite relieved to change from her ball gown to a lightweight frock, as it was 100 degrees on her wedding day. However, once the dancing began, the heat was no longer on her mind. The vast majority of songs played during the cocktail hour and reception were hand-selected by Cara and Matt in order to represent their diverse taste. “So many guests came up to us that night to mention how much they loved the music selection – from the '80s, to funk, to today's hits to Broadway and movie theme songs, we had it all!” shares the bride. From entering the beautifully draped tent in novelty sunglasses to relaxing on the vintage sofa at their sweetheart table, gazing at their friends and family who traveled across the country to celebrate their love, it was clear to all that Cara and Matt were having the time of their lives.