It may not come as a surprise that one of America’s greatest imports to the U.K. in recent years, the charming Hayley Bloomingdale (Moda Operandi’s Communications Director) came to London and met her match, Alexander Stileman, better known as Dada—the affectionate childhood moniker that has stuck, as it does with all good English men. But it’s perhaps more of a revelation that such a paragon of chic got engaged wearing Lululemons and a beanie whilst being blown about in England’s rugged Lake District. “We had a trip planned to the Amalfi Coast in April so when we went for a hiking weekend to the Lake District in February, I did not think a proposal was in the cards,” Hayley smiles. A misstep in orienteering foiled Stileman’s planned summit proposal. “I almost gave up about three times and finally I sat down and said, “Why do we need to get to the top? Let’s just take this rock as a memento and tell everyone we made it up there! Little did I know, I’d given him the perfect line.” Cue windswept selfies and joy.
The “rock” was a bespoke Jessica McCormack, designed by Stileman after he’d been guided there by Hayley’s pals who knew her love of the London-based diamond designer’s modern heirloom aesthetic. The three diamonds sit on a classic gold band. “He had done sketches ahead of time and Jessica helped him tweak it and make it perfect,” Hayley says. Then on a perfect sunny May evening (“rare for London!”), the engagement was toasted at a cocktail in the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, hosted by the groom’s parents David and Debbie Stileman. A surprise three-piece orchestra played, alongside “sweet speeches from father-in-law and hubby-to-be, plus an impromptu speech from my mother [Justine Bloomingdale], who loves a good quote and poem which she couldn’t resist reciting.” The couple buzzed around the room, Hayley in a crisp white jacquard Emilia Wickstead dress with spaghetti straps, laughing with guests including Serena Hood, a (pregnant) Pippa Matthews, and Caroline Sieber. “We all ended up at 5HS until verrrry late and had pizza circa 2:00 a.m. which I think is always a sign of a good party!” Hayley adds.
When October arrived, all eyes were on sunny Santa Barbara. Hayley grew up in Pacific Palisades but has family further north, so the Biltmore in Montecito was the chosen venue—a childhood beachside favorite, perched over the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands. “I have many happy memories of weekends there with my cousins and grandparents. I took Dada there last year as part of his “induction to California road trip” and he fell for it too. I find so many people in London are obsessed with California. Whenever I say that I am from California and moved to London, I find Brits are always astonished and want to know why I would ever leave!” Many of the British guests who had never been to California plotted road trips around the wedding.
In true Cali-style, the laid-back Hayley also picked up her own nickname, “Bride-chilla” on account of her relaxed approach to her wedding. Wedding planners par excellence Stefanie Cove and Co. oversaw the proceedings, and an understated current ran through the chic affair—“I wanted to let the ocean and sunshine to be the main attractions for the cocktail hour—Californian casual.” The natural beauty of the setting (think crashing waves as margaritas clinked), was complemented with a festive color theme of blues, oranges, and greens. London illustrator Finn Fellowes created the joyous invites, chosen as “the perfect person to help combine my colorful, more quirky California ideas with Dada’s more traditional English ones. We used the view from our reception area as the backdrop for the save the date, and I loved how it turned out. Dada is very creative and artistic, so he drew some initial sketches for our crest.”
The proceedings kicked off with a Mexican fiesta. Guests gathered on the deco-feel rooftop of the Hotel Californian, greeted with an idyllic 360-view and a mariachi band. “We arrived as the perfect pink sun set with palm trees and ocean one way and pale pink mountains the other. My brothers gave a hilarious roast of me in which they claimed to have written a speech about all my ex-boyfriends but then were told that was taboo and so chucked it—‘all 17 pages of it.’”
For the ceremony, Hayley’s elegant organza Carolina Herrera dress was designed by the bride’s dear friend Wes Gordon and embroidered with California poppies. “I’ve always loved their dresses but also because my grandmother was friends with Mrs. Herrera and both my cousins wore her for their weddings. Even though my grandmother wasn’t present at my wedding, it felt like a nice touch to wear something I know she would have approved of from above.” Extra poppies were added to the bodice by Wes and the team: “I loved the easy, classic shape of the dress.” Her friend, and Vogue-alum Cynthia Cook Smith, now a wedding stylist went to the first fitting and talked Hayley into doing a longer train. “I’m so glad, I loved the way it looked as I walked down the aisle and in the church on the altar.” Gordon also chose a simple veil to highlight the train but not overshadow it. Hayley continued a family tradition by carrying a classical Lily of the Valley bouquet, working with local florist Mindy Rice.
Stileman wore a Lora Piana suit (“in a fabulous blue, so fabulous in fact that my father copied him and got the same suit!”) picking up the blues of the majestic delphinium arch that dressed the entrance of the 160-year-old parish of Our Lady Mount Carmel Church. An intimate service followed, punctuated with warmth and humor. “Father Lawrence was great in that he very much was in tune with our relaxed vibe, towards the end I asked him if it was finally time for the kiss and he laughed and said I had to wait a few more minutes!” Hayley says. The newly pronounced Stilemans then departed in her father Robert’s vintage snowberry Porsche, a coup for the pair, and a hum of approval from the new father-in-law: “We often joke he loves it like a child. He did make Dada have ‘driving lessons’ beforehand, of course—even though he only drove it around the block!” The couple were waved off by the excitable and adorable pageboys and flower girls wearing Spanish label La Oca Loca; the girls in organdy and lace white dresses and flowered espadrilles and the boys in linen tops and shorts.
Celebrations moved onto a cocktail reception at the legendary Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club. “We snuck off towards the end of the cocktail reception before dinner started and looked out over our guests to the ocean. It was so magical to see all of our favorite people laughing and drinking and having so much fun.” Food and restaurants have played a memorable part in their relationship, so they decided to name the evening’s tables after some of their favorite places. “We sat at L’Enclume, a spectacular spot in the Lake District where we went after we got engaged, and also had Frenchie, Le Sirenuse, The Ladbroke Arms, Septime, Portland, J.G. Mellon, and of course, In-N-Out!” The menu nodded to American classics: the burrata and heirloom tomato salad was followed by surf and turf options, then chocolate truffles, warm chocolate chip cookies, and wedding cake. “I was honestly counting down until the moment the late-night snacks came out!” Hayley says. “I can never find classic American grilled cheese sandwiches in the U.K., so I had to have those (with good yellow American cheese) and pulled pork sesame sliders—perfect sustenance for dancing the night away!”
As the band played and the dance floor filled, the bride made a quick change into a tiered, flapper-style Carolina Herrera. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted in a second dress, but Wes insisted I try on this one and I fell for it immediately. The light blue bows and pearl details are so sweet and playful,” Hayley says. The personal finishing touches came care of friends Tabitha Simmons (blue satin bridal shoes customized with the wedding date) and Rebecca de Ravenel: “white heart earrings with pearl detailing that matched the details on the dress. I wore them my entire mini-moon too.” The couple escaped to Las Ventanas in Cabo San Lucas before their official honeymoon over Christmas. “It was Dada’s first time in Mexico, so he had to be shown the ropes of tequila and tacos on repeat; pretty much my ideal week. I also loved waking up the next morning and seeing my husband with his wedding ring on.”