One would think that the brightly hued purple-and-gold Lakers Christmas sweater that Matthew Phelps wore to a mutual friend’s New Year’s Eve party is what would have received the attention of Jessica Priel, but she admits, “The most memorable thing about him was his outgoing, friendly personality.” Matthew’s only thought: “How lucky I am to spend time chatting with this indescribably stunning stranger.” 

A couple of years later, the two moved into their new apartment where Matthew would not only have plenty of opportunities to spend time chatting with Jessica, but also to surprise her with a memorable proposal. After excitedly agreeing yes, Matthew led his beloved to the balcony to take in the view. “I looked down, and I heard a bunch of cheering and clapping,” she illustrates. “Matt had arranged for both of our families to be there too, waiting outside to surprise me!” 

The affianced pair began planning a gorgeous Beverly Hills celebration with 275 loved ones in attendance. Then, the pandemic hit. “Not wanting to really wait for some unknown potential wedding date in the future, and with the help of our brilliant planner Linda Howard, as difficult as it was to let go of our original wedding plans, we decided to move forward and plan something much smaller within the confines of the Covid restrictions,” explains the bride. 

Electing to host their nuptials in a town that is sentimental to both the bride and groom’s families was an easy choice. “Santa Barbara has always held a special place in our hearts,” shares Jessica. “There is a unifying thread for us all, and it felt right.” The hotel garden area served as the ideal site for the bride’s final vision for the affair: a romantic, intimate, enchanted garden. 

“It was a 2020 wedding with 18 people... The result though, was an incredibly intimate experience, at a single table, where every person was able to create a genuine memory with every other person there. It was magical.”

Lanterns and vanilla blooms adorned the aisle, which crossed over a pond sprinkled with rose petals, while a grand floral arch designated the spot for the vow exchange. Jessica was stunning in a timeless strapless gown with a lace bodice. “For my walk down the aisle, we selected an acoustic version of ‘Higher Love’ by James Vincent McMorrow. “The lyrics have always been a favorite of ours, and especially during these unprecedented crazy times, the lyrics ring true more than ever,” Jessica expresses, adding that an upbeat cover of the song was played for the recessional. 

Collections of candles alongside varying floral centerpieces bedecked the romantic tablescape. Each place setting showcased an elegant bullion-rimmed charger plate, a silky champagne linen, and a hand-carved wooden nameplate. Dreamy twinkle lights were suspended all around the terrace where guests were able to take in incredible views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Barbara mountains. 

Though Jessica initially felt nervous dancing in front of a small group of people, it was more important to her and Matthew that traditions from a “normal” big wedding were incorporated. After the first dance and the father-daughter dance, family members toasted to the new spouses. “The speeches were all so heartfelt and amazing,” notes the bride. For Matthew, one of his favorite moments of the day was, in fact, his 93-year-old grandma’s speech. “We were so proud to have our three living grandmothers there with us,” he says. 

As festivities began to wind down around 11PM, a special treat was being prepared. “The one thing Matthew wanted was late-night pizza, so he totally took that into his own hands and made sure that we were able to all have Rusty’s Pizza Parlor slices – a Santa Barbara favorite – delivered to the hotel,” Jessica reveals. Meanwhile, fresh Krispy Kreme Doughnuts boxes sealed with a photo sticker of the wedded were being placed in guests’ rooms. “After a long night of festivities, it was the perfect late-night snack!” she adds. 

The new Mr. and Mrs. agree they wouldn’t change a thing about their big day. “It was a 2020 wedding with 18 people, unlike any wedding I had ever attended. The result though, was an incredibly intimate experience, at a single table, where every person was able to create a genuine memory with every other person there. It was magical,” affirms the groom.