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An Elevated Dinner Party at Napa’s Auberge du Soleil

By Alexandra Macon | Photography by 

Emilia Jane Photography

Over a decade ago, Brea Slubowski, an interiors showroom associate, and real estate broker Josh Levey, were both attending Ohio State University yet managed to never cross paths—considering there are over 45,000 undergraduate students enrolled during a school year, a chance meeting was highly unlikely. Thankfully, during a summer break from school, fate intervened when Brea was visiting a friend in Ohio and they ran into Josh, one of her childhood pals. “We made impromptu plans for a group dinner that evening and hit it off,” Brea says. “We spent the rest of that summer talking and finally reconnected once we were back on campus for the new school year.”

The two went on to date for almost ten years before Josh proposed during a Fourth of July weekend getaway. They had been relaxing by the pool, when it was time to walk their dog, Lexy, and Josh asked Brea to join him on the stroll around the hotel’s property. “A couple of minutes into our walk, I finally realized our dog had a new tag on her collar,” Brea recalls. “I reached down and saw it read: ‘Will you marry me?’ Next thing I knew, Josh was on his knee and I don’t remember what he or I said next!”

When it came time to choose the location for their wedding, the couple was torn between two very different options: Their hometown of Chicago or across the country in Napa. “It really came down to those two, very opposite, locations,” she explains. “Ultimately, we chose Napa because we love the serene, happy, and carefree vibe there.” As for the venue, the couple decided on the Auberge du Soleil, a beautiful resort with a 33-acre olive grove they had stayed in a few years before. “I loved the classic French feel around the property and I took inspiration from the natural light honey tones the venue provided,” she adds.

When looking for her dress, Brea was also split between two opposite designs, both by Vera Wang. “I loved this avant-garde tulle ballgown with sheer elements complete with a Watteau,” she says. “But ultimately I chose my gown after decided that I really wanted to go for a simple, elevated dinner party look. My dress was a timeless, light-ivory silk with a double shoulder strap that went into a halter. The one element that I loved the most was a removable, wispy tulle bow piece that attached to the back of the halter and streamed down the entire length of the gown.” She accessorized with pearl and diamond stud earrings and strappy, lace heels by Gianvito Rossi.

For his big day, the groom chose a black Giorgio Armani tuxedo with a white, custom monogrammed tuxedo shirt from Suit Supply, and patent leather tuxedo shoes by To Boot New York.

On a September afternoon, guests gathered outside a large terrace connected to Auberge’s Michelin-starred private dining room for the ceremony, where they were greeted with sparkling lemonade, parasol umbrellas, and panoramic views. The bride kept with tradition and walked down the aisle to an acoustic version of Canon in D, and later the couple read traditional vows and a non-denominational Nan Witcomb poem. “Our goal was to have it short and sweet, but meaningful,” says Brea.

Once the ceremony was over, guests stayed on the terrace for cocktail hour, where Napa Valley wines, cocktails, and hors d’oeuvres were served. Once the sun started to set, guests made their way into the dining room, where the newlyweds later walked for the first time as husband and wife. “We made our way to the cake table for the cutting of the cake and then took to the floor for our first dance,” Brea remembers. (The couple chose Jason Mraz’s “Won’t Give Up.”) Then, dinner was served, which included quail en demi, roasted chicken, and risotto. “I remember everyone flooding through the French doors behind our table out to the terrace for one last photo opp in the terrace with the beautiful sky as it lit up an intense pink just before disappearing,” she adds. “That was the type of wedding we wanted; not overly formal or regimented. One where taking an impromptu 15-minute break to spend with loved ones among the final moments of sunset wasn’t a big deal. This was the elevated dinner party I hoped for; a place that felt like a home away from home.”

After dinner and speeches, it was time for dancing and dessert. Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and milkshakes were provided as a late night treat, and at one point, the groom and his friends even had a cigar-smoking session out on the terrace. As for the last big dance of the night? Everyone regrouped for “Hang on Sloopy,” a nod to the couple’s alma mater.

Late-night, the newlyweds walked back to their suite at the hotel for a small after party with about 30 people. “Some guests were on the terrace with cocktails, others were in the living room with music and the fireplace going,” Brea reminisces. And later the couple discovered a touching surprise from their friends and family. “They wrote us sweet love notes on Auberge stationery that we found and read the next morning,” she says. “We’ll have those forever.”