Jessica Batten went on the television show Love Is Blind to find love without ever seeing the other person. However, when she later met podiatrist Ben McGrath—the man she was going to marry—it was love at first sight. “It all started initially via a Netflix reality television appearance and an Instagram DM. We met for the first time in Venice the night before L.A. shut down for COVID. It was truly love at first sight–funny enough,” Jessica tells Brides. “We decided to meet for a bike ride the next day. 15 miles later, we had a good feeling that we had something special. We got to know each other over the next couple weeks in isolation via phone calls and Facetime.”
The couple grew close over the next year and by September 2021, Jessica and Ben decided to make it official. “Ben rented out a vineyard for a surprise engagement and evening party with friends. He was tucked into the grapevines with a big surprise in hand,” the couple recall. “Jess had no idea!”
Originally, the couple planned to have a larger wedding celebration with friends and family, but they needed to make a pivot. “Our planning process was all over the place based on several personal factors. Bless our wedding planners for hanging with us,” express Jessica and Ben. “We both went through COVID following the engagement and we had to move residence shortly thereafter. This unexpectedly pushed us out in the planning process. Once we started diving in after the beginning of the year, we realized there were more complexities than we planned for.”
“Amidst COVID and with family health and logistics with travel, we found ourselves between a rock and a hard place in trying to plan the wedding in 2022,” they continue. “We tried to make it all work. We considered pushing out our date or moving the location to Chicago. Ultimately, we decided that we needed more time to pull off the massive celebration that we thought was worthy for our family and friends. Considering the timing we are looking for in terms of family planning, we came to the conclusion that we would elope in 2022 and make big plans for a celebration down the road.”
Jessica and Ben tapped the team at Crowned Events to orchestrate both their elopement and their planned wedding in August 2024. “As we transitioned to planning the elopement, we knew we would be able to keep the focus on our intent to be married and that’s exactly what we did,” share the couple. “We had everything completely wrapped up and the wedding planners were so dialed in that we were solely focused on our special day. We felt very present and relaxed, truly able to enjoy each moment.”
As for the location of their wedding, the duo decided to tie the knot at the Santa Barbara Courthouse with two couples as their guests. “We also had the opportunity to stay at a private residence in Montecito that became our after-ceremony dinner and also our week-long extended stay,” the newlyweds say. “We fell in love with the Spanish architecture and antique furnishings in the home. The peace and privacy were perfect for our intimate event. The villa’s vibrant landscape and bountiful gardens made for a stunning backdrop for our first look and for spending our first days as husband and wife.”
The architecture helped informed their dream of a modern romantic day with Spanish touches.
“My planners made it easy to select vendors because they completely got the vision (and made it even more dreamy). They have extensive knowledge of wedding planning in Southern California from Santa Barbara down to San Diego,” note the couple. “We ended up using vendors from everywhere in between! I stood by in amazement and watched it all come to life!”
Jessica spent the morning getting refreshed and ready for the big day. After prepping her skin—”Wander eye patches for the win”—the bride’s had her team give her a natural beauty look. “My HMU dream team has been with me for quite awhile, so they had strong opinions about keeping my look simple in contrast to my statement dress and they were spot on,” she shares. “The trial was key as I decided to go for more of a natural rather than bold photoshoot-ready look we originally planned for.” While she donned a nude lip for the ceremony, Jessica put on a coral shade at the reception. “It’s a classic staple in my makeup drawer only worn on special occasions when I feel like being spicy.”
For her hair, the bride’s stylist convinced her to wear it in a low bun. “At first, she swept the hair back but this reminded me too much of my Love Is Blind bridal look, so I asked for a side part which is much more ‘me’ and I’m glad we went with that,” says Jessica. “I also wanted a flower in my hair to add that Spanish flair.”
While Jessica got ready with her friends, the groom stayed at the other side of the residence. “Staying apart the night before was very important to Ben. The way it worked out at the villa was Jess was in the grandiose master suite and Ben was across the lawn, opposite the pool in the villa’s casita,” explain the couple.
“It felt very cinematic, each going to our respective corners of the estate and winding down alone. We each took video of the other leaning out the window to say goodnight. This allowed us to be mindful and present going into the following day, to focus on our vows, and fully relax into the most beautiful day of our lives! It gave us both butterflies finally being able to see each other after what seemed like an eternity and major buildup to the moment!”
Jessica donned a figure-hugging lace number with an overskirt from Reem Acra’s 2023 Spring collection to say her vows. “I did not plan on a lace dress. In fact I was vocal about that,” says the brides. “But Reem’s lace is different, a very modern lace and silhouette, and the appliques were absolutely dreamy. I liked the versatility of the removable overskirt. I could have an over the top moment for a first look, and a much more casual (and comfortable!) look for the courthouse.”
The bride continues, “The combination of traditional and modern that this dress encompassed blew my mind. Also, my 6-year old future bonus daughter’s eyes got very big and her jaw dropped. I went back for the dress shortly after!”
Jessica spritzed Gucci Flora Gorgeous Gardenia as a final touch to her look. “Once I smelled the clean gardenia-based fragrance, I knew I had to have it for my wedding. I’m preserving it and not wearing it again to remember our special day,” she notes.
Ben kept his wedding day look light and neutral to fit with the modern palette of the day. He donned a tan Italian suit, a white tie, and Ferragamo loafers. The groom also wore Jessica’s father’s watch, which the bride and her dad gifted him that morning.
The couple wanted a special moment with just the two of them together before saying their “I do’s” so they opted for a first look. “I knew I didn’t want to tap Ben on the shoulder. It didn’t feel like us,” explains Jessica. So, they found a solution at their beautiful reception venue. “Our photographer Alex had the perfect idea that Ben would walk through this grandiose standalone door that was located at the back of the property and enter into the courtyard, to see Jess for the first time,” the bride and groom shares. “It was the perfect idea and made for a dramatic moment.”
The couple continues, “Ben knew Jess was there when she yelled, ‘Marco.’ He opened the door with a ‘polo’ and immediately cried. He looked so handsome, the scenery was beautiful, and the song ‘#34’ by Dave Matthews was playing through the surround sound (as planned) as friends looked on from the patio. Jess told him he couldn’t spin her because of the fullness of the dress’s overskirt so he dipped her instead. In our eyes, it couldn’t have been more picture perfect.”
On the day of the wedding, our planners found a private nook in the courtyard, completely surrounded by palm trees–the perfect site to share our vows.
The couple soon made their way to walk down the aisle at the Santa Barbara Courthouse. “A classic landmark in our favorite city; the city where we fell in love,” note the couple. “As we started to plan our elopement, the courthouse became an obvious choice. We found the only date available in August. On the day of the wedding, our planners found a private nook in the courtyard, completely surrounded by palm trees–the perfect site to share our vows.”
The couple’s pastor advised the couple to write their vows the morning of the wedding after they spent the night apart. “It gave us each time alone to clear our heads and really be introspective about the vows we wanted to exchange and the sentiments we wanted to share,” says the couple. “Father Jerry insisted that we write on something other than classic paper. The bride penned her vows across several colorful post-it-notes. The groom wrote on what appeared to be a used napkin. Knowing that these words were top of mind made it even more special.”
After exchanging rings, the couple said their heartfelt words they wrote. “Ben delivered his vows, but Jess had to pass hers off to Father Jerry to finish,” they remember. “We were so glad we spent time getting to know him. He reprised our story beautifully!”
We wanted our elopement day to reflect where we come from individually and where we’re going together.
“We wanted our elopement day to reflect where we come from individually and where we’re going together,” share the couple. “With Jessica’s Scottish heritage and Ben’s Irish background, it was a given that a bagpiper would be on hand to lead the recessional. Many of our favorite Chicago weddings include an epic bagpipe jam.” Ben also included an Irish blessing within the ceremony.
“Our witnesses surprised us (after we were pronounced husband and wife!) with a vintage Porsche that was parked out front waiting for us. While our bagpiper Tom led a recessional down the block, we zoomed off just the two of us,” says the couple. “It was a really special way to take in those first moments as husband and wife. We were thankful our friends know us so well.”
The bride shares some reflections on their elopement. “Making a decision like eloping is a huge trade off for being surrounded by our loved ones on our special day. It was important to both of us that we felt our family’s presence at our elopement ceremony and throughout the day,” Jessica notes.
“I spoke with my mom (who was a big part of wedding planning!) at length over the phone in the morning. I FaceTimed my dad before I was about to step out the door to see Ben for the first look. I incorporated heirloom jewelry from both of my Grandmother’s into the ribbon of my floral bouquet. I had spent time writing a letter to Ben’s parents (Thank you for raising the man of my dreams!) that I planned to send the evening of our wedding. Ben passed along a family blessing to Pastor Jerry to read at the ceremony. His family had a text string going and we were keeping them updated on the play by play,” she says. “We felt the support of our families very much on that day.”
The couple and their friends returned from the courthouse to a charming scene for the rest of their celebrations. “Our elopement was a bite-sized version of a vision that we have planned for our 2024 celebration that will be worthy of our dear family and friends,” the couple shares. “Dinner was hosted on the patio of a private residence overlooking the fountain, pool, and lush landscaping of the backyard. We selected a neutral, textural table linen paired with bamboo and seagrass chairs and filled the tablescape with modern, romantic rentals from Catalog Atelier and Bright Rentals.”
The couple embraced a warm palette with light pink accents to embrace a romantic mood. “Each place setting contains a woven charger topped with neutral stoneware, terracotta linen napkins, gold flatware, and blush glassware,” notes the couple of the tablescape.
“Glenna Joy designed a centerpiece overflowing with greenery and abundant blooms highlighting the warm, peachy color palette,” they continue. “The centerpiece was flanked by dainty ikebana arrangements and candles that added a soft, ambient lighting to the setting.”
“For our all-important cake vendor, we were looking for a very specific cake,” shares the couple, who chose a two-tiered vanilla cake with passionfruit curd, mascarpone, blueberry sauce, and cream cheese frosting. “Our planner located a baker Peggy Liao in San Diego who is known for very modern cakes like the cake we were looking for. This particular cake required additional equipment and she was willing to go out on a limb for us! Our planner offered to transport it from San Diego all the way up to Santa Barbara. It was well worth it. It all worked out beautifully and our cake was straight out of our dreams.”
“We are big foodies so we worked with Chef Johnny Weber on a well-thought-out five-course menu. The menu reflected our many individual homes and also showcased our newly shared home state of California,” the newlyweds explain. “Our chef curated dishes from Atlanta, Chicago (you know there was pizza!), and Washington, as well as dishes from local Santa Barbara. He even threw in a few surprises including our favorite amuse bouche, gruyere biscuit, and a palate-cleansing celery sorbet that was out of this world! Our main course was a smoked prime beef tri-tip with cactus, tomato vinaigrette, and cilantro. We paired this dish with Napa’s Belle Glos.”
For the rest of the celebration, Jess slipped into a vintage Elliatt high neck halter gown with buttons down the back.
“We kicked our dinner party off with a Champagne sabrage! We selected Tsarine Cuvee Adriana Champagne from France. Ben did the honors.” The couple adds, “We enjoyed practicing for this fun celebratory moment. ”
At the end of the evening, the couple swayed to “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. And, the music would continue on after that first dance. “Ben and our guest Andi played us out with gorgeous piano music (classic Coldplay!) long into the night,” Jessica says.
After their week-long stay in Santa Barbara, the newlyweds put their family first. The couple shares, “Instead of a full honeymoon where we would jet away from California, our celebration continued with solidifying our complete family. We wanted to spend the day with Ben’s kiddos—Jess’s bonus kiddos!”
The bride adds, “With kids being involved, it is important to find a special way to incorporate them into the elopement. I gave them each a ring to match their dad’s wedding band. We had a magical wedding picnic with them and they will both be a huge part of our extended celebration.” The two continue, “Celebrating officially becoming a family of five, including our golden retriever Payton, was incredibly important to us. Ben even formally adopted Payton by signing a very official certificate that night.”