Though Rachel Witenstein was born and raised in Encino—and her parents, Julie and Greg Pittler, still reside there—neither she nor her family had heard of Quail Ranch, a hidden gem in Simi Valley. But after Rachel got engaged, Julie discovered the private estate while searching for a wedding venue for her daughter.
With 70 acres of avocado and citrus trees, extensive gardens and lawns, and whimsical, meandering paths connecting them, Quail Ranch is immersed in natural beauty. Once the couple visited the venue, it immediately struck a chord with Rachel, a pediatric language pathologist, as well as her fiancé, Matthew Witenstein, a business consultant. “I was walking around the ranch, knowing I loved it,” Rachel recalled. “Then Matthew looked at me, pulled me aside, and said, ‘This is it.’”
The college sweethearts made a plan to marry in October 2023, and the ranch became their canvas on which to paint. Annette Kirkhuff of Wheat & Honey Events came on board to help the bride and groom bring their vision to life.
“Rachel and Matthew’s wedding design was what I call romantic garden. Quail Ranch is so beautiful that you don’t need to add much. It’s all there naturally. Our job as the event planner was to enhance that natural beauty with items like florals, candles and stands to create a beautiful dessert display,” shares Annette.
The first order of business was florals. The couple hired Unique Floral Designs to help enhance the setting with a “muted fall” palette. The chuppah they were married under was adorned with white roses and hydrangeas, eucalyptus, and the occasional red or ochre rose. Quicksand roses—with champagne, pink and lavender undertones—and white dahlias were used in the bride’s bouquet. In lieu of a traditional boutonniere, Matthew wore a “living” pocket square, real flowers attached to a small cardboard square. The square is slipped into the groom’s pocket with the flowers peeking out. For photos, Heirlume Photography came on board.
“Documenting our day was the most important thing,” Rachel says. “My grandmother is a professional photographer, so I’ve grown up with a camera at all events and family gatherings. We loved that Heirlume has two lead photographers, so we felt confident that they would be able to capture both myself and Matthew throughout the event—to get that 360-degree view.”
With the visual aspects of the event in order, Matthew and Rachel focused on their next big goal: to throw an unforgettable party, complete with top-notch food, and music that would keep more than 200 guests on the outdoor dance floor. Quail Ranch’s preferred culinary vendor, Command Performance Catering Group, was chosen to serve tray-passed hors d’oeuvres, including short rib on potato pancake with crème fraîche. The cocktail hour included two stationary charcuterie tables. Later, at the reception, guests enjoyed a sit-down feast that included rosemary-flecked filet mignon with cognac demi-glace and crispy onion.
“Our catering company crushed it, from the cocktail hour bites to the full dinner,” Matthew said. “We loved each bite we took, and our guests raved for weeks about how delicious everything was.”
Second Song handled the music, comprising a DJ and three live musicians on electric violin, saxophone and bongos; the musicians played along with the DJ’s tracks. Rachel shares that the entertainment worked wonderfully for “getting the crowd riled up.” Turns out the performers were also skilled at rolling with the punches.
“We blew a fuse three times, and I remember the first time so well,” the bride recalls. “We were in the middle of the dance floor, with guests all around us, and the music just cut. But we kept dancing to ‘Baby Got Back’—which I happen to know every word of—and the live musicians came out and kept us going.”
While Rachel and Matthew had their guests’ experience top of mind, for them, personal touches were paramount. In honor of their Jewish heritage, they had a semiprivate ceremony minutes before the main ceremony, with just parents, grandparents and bridal party in attendance. A rabbi close to the bride’s family led the ketubah ceremony, marrying the couple under Jewish law.
“It was very sentimental, and everyone was in tears,” Rachel says. “We were technically married, and then it was off to the ceremony with our guests.”
For dessert, another personal decision. “Matthew and I didn’t want to do a formal cake cutting, but we did end up having a small cake from Skiff’s Cakes in Simi Valley that we served guests later in the night,” Rachel notes.
Laughter, more tears and plenty of dancing commenced, and the newlyweds left Quail Ranch happy to have made this cherished memory near Rachel’s childhood home. They now live in Phoenix, Matthew’s hometown.
“I look back and I see how great it was to grow up here,” Rachel said. “It will always be home to me. And who knows? Maybe one day we’ll be back.”
Paying it forward.