Start Slideshow View Grid Start Slideshow 24

How Alli Holzmann and Ben Forde Eloped at a Santa Barbara Courthouse

By Shayna Seid | Photography by 

Emily Jane Furney

Now that it’s crystal clear that hosting a big wedding at this time is just not possible due to the spread of COVID-19, we’re sharing the experiences of real couples navigating the re-scheduling, cancellation, and civil and commemorative wedding processes in an attempt to help others make informed decisions and to spread our support to all during this time.

Alli Holzmann had to postponed her June 6th wedding in Temecula due to the spread of COVID-19 and is sharing how she and her now husband, Ben Forde, made the final call and decided to elope at a Santa Barbara courthouse.

Alli, senior content manager at Lunya, and Ben knew they had to cancel their wedding at the end of March. “Ben is Australian, and international travel restrictions with half of the wedding flying in was the deal-breaker,” Alli explains. “Ultimately though, we thought about a loved one getting sick and the path forward became clear.”

Although they haven’t rescheduled their celebration, they hope to get everyone together sometime next year. In the meantime, they knew they wanted to honor their original date, and Alli reached out to the Santa Barbara courthouse to check their availability for a quick ceremony. The clerk informed them that they had availability six days before their date, and they jumped on the opportunity. The couple was allowed one witness, so the bride’s dad was called in, and they got to planning.

With two weeks to put everything together, Alli ordered a Johanna Ortiz dress from Matches and Sania D’Mina shoes—both arrived the day before the wedding and fit perfectly. On the day-of, Charlotte Prevel and Drew Danvers handled the bride’s makeup and hair, and one of her best friends, Kelly, gave her “the sketchiest pedicure in the history of brides everywhere.”

Ben wore a navy J.Crew suit that he already had in his closet, and she got Cartier cufflinks, via curbside pickup, to go with his outfit. Florist Krystal Chang Projects made the bride a bouquet of white lisianthus and matching boutonnieres for Ben and her father.

The couple woke up to a surprise, 20-minute-long homemade video from family and friends. “We both had tears rolling down our cheeks, so it was a good thing it was prior to makeup,” Alli says. Then they left in separate cars for the courthouse—the bride’s father picked her up for one last ride as a Holzmann.

They weren’t allowed in the building because of COVID-19, so they were married on the grassy knoll in front of the Sunken Garden with the iconic 1920s Spanish Colonial courthouse as the backdrop. “The officiant sat six-feet apart and served us the paperwork on a pizza oven peel,” Alli says. “Our grip on each other’s hands tightened as we said our vows to one another, and tears rolled down our cheeks behind our face-masks. I’ve seen Ben cry maybe a handful of times in our relationship, and behind my own teary eyes and my face mask, I wasn’t able to see that he was welling up, until we were able to take off our masks and kiss!”

After the service, the newlyweds said goodbye to her father and headed to San Ysidro Ranch to check into the Pepper Cottage, which was filled with flowers and champagne. They were allowed to have two guests on the property—her best friend, Chelsea, and her husband, Billy.

With all of the restaurants closed on the grounds, the hotel set up a private picnic, and Alli was able to DJ the evening. Gjusta‘s pastry chef created a beautiful blackberry naked cake for the couple, and they celebrated until the sunset around 8:00 p.m.

“Waking up on my first day as a Forde, I had a ferocious hangover, which was only downgraded by room service, outdoor showers, and lunch at the pool with a cold beer,” the bride says. When looking back, Alli and Ben definitely think they made the right call, but it’s still bittersweet. “When life deals you lemons, make lemonade,” Alli adds. “And, the worst experiences make for the best stories.”