Matt Stein and Sydney Levinson’s first encounter had a fairly daunting audience. “We were introduced by Matt’s sister,” Sydney recalls. “Our first meeting was at a dinner attended by both our families [in Los Angeles], where everyone knew it was a potential setup; however, we barely spoke more than a few sentences.”

Understandably so – it’s hard to get to know someone in a pressure cooker. Geography was another issue. Matt lived in San Francisco, and Sydney lived in New York City, and neither was interested in a long-distance relationship. Then a Facebook friend request led to exchanging phone numbers, and after many FaceTime calls, Matt booked a trip to NYC two months after the couple’s initial meeting. Within a week, he was back again, after convincing his boss that he had important “business” in New York, and the young romance blossomed.

Sydney and Matt’s engagement took place in San Francisco, where Matt arranged for Sydney to meet him at their favorite neighborhood landmark, the Palace of Fine Arts. There she found him down on one knee, asking for her hand in marriage. The location, with its stunning rotunda and sweeping pillars reflected in the lagoon, is also a popular tourist destination, so the couple’s engagement was witnessed by many convivial strangers.

The two of them then walked to dinner, where Sydney got her second surprise of the night – both sets of parents had flown from St. Louis and Los Angeles to celebrate with the newly betrothed couple. “It was a very memorable weekend spent together with our families, filled with much love and laughter,” Sydney says.

Sydney and Matt worked with Simcha Lourie of Simcha’s Events to create the perfect blend of their two visions for their wedding day, in the bride’s hometown of St. Louis. “Matt’s vision was a room filled with our families, friends and a band – which was easy to achieve!” Sydney says. Her vision was warmth and love – she wanted something different, and having inherited her mom’s artistic creativity, she worked closely with Lourie to bring her unique vision to life. “Simcha was able to execute on our inspiration and out-of-the-box ideas,” Sydney says. “We envisioned bright colors in the ceremony and neutrals in the reception.”

The couple’s ceremony last September, held at Meadowbrook Country Club in Ballwin, was striking, with an aisle thickly covered in bright flower petals. Sydney and Matt also incorporated the traditions of their faith in a creative way. “Rather than having a traditional chuppah, we wanted to find something unique,” Sydney says. “We had been to a wedding in Israel where the chuppah was carried in by loved ones – we thought it was so special and meaningful, and it truly symbolized that we would have an open house and the love and support of our family and friends as we entered into marriage.”

For the reception, also held at Meadowbrook Country Club, Sydney wanted a contrast to the brightness of their ceremony and brought A Midsummer Night’s Dream-inspired color palette of silver, gold and cream-toned vision to life, complete with tall tree centerpieces, tabletop terrariums, hanging vines and plenty of candles – both set in place and suspended from greenery installations – to set the mood.

The couple spent a memorable two-week honeymoon traveling through Japan. Sydney and Matt currently live in San Francisco.

THE DATE: Sept. 4, 2016

THE BRIDE: Sydney Levinson

THE GROOM: Matt Stein

THE BRIDE’S PARENTS: Caryn and Bruce Sandweiss and Marc Levinson

THE BRIDE’S GRANDPARENTS: Saline Spencer and Marvin and Phyllis Sandweiss

THE GROOM’S PARENTS: Norma and Arthur Stein

THE BRIDESMAIDS: Wendy Leung, Esther Chung, Erin Rubin, Jamie Heldman, Lauren Foster, Amanda Silbert, Stephanie Levinson, Rebecca Stein

THE GROOMSMEN: Sauly Cohen, Adam King, Sam Raoof, Liron Yahdiv, Alex Shein, Moses Benny, Jeremy Levinson, Jake Sandweiss

THE OFFICIANT: Rabbi Amy Feder

THE CEREMONY: Meadowbrook Country Club

THE RECEPTION: Meadowbrook Country Club

THE WEDDING DRESS: Mia Grace Bridal

THE MAKEUP: Kathy Morrison

THE HAIR: Kim Khotsyphom

THE BRIDESMAIDS’ DRESSES: Bella Bridesmaids

THE RINGS: Laura Lakal

THE FLORIST: Belli Fiori

THE CAKE: Kaked by Katie

THE BAND (MUSIC): Charles Glen

THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Mike Cassimatis

THE VIDEOGRAPHER: Brian Gaadt Productions

THE INVITATIONS: MHaley Designs

THE WEDDING PLANNER: Simcha Lourie, Simcha’s Events

Denise is a contributing writer at Ladue News. She is a Chicago native, wife to Vince, mama to two and Chicago magazine dining team alum. She hopes to one day live in a world where semicolons are used responsibly.

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