Every now and again, a truly extraordinary wedding with few reception details, but with many heartfelt emotional details, comes across my desk. Sarah and Matt’s gorgeous South Lake Tahoe wedding, artfully captured by Madeline Druce, is about family, friends and love. Sarah shows that you don’t need a bunch of reception details to have an amazing wedding, and Madeline Druce shows the power of great photography to capture the most precious moments of teh day. I especially love that family and friends made fresh, homemade strawberry short cake for dessert.
Why a Mountain Wedding?
We live in Meyers, CA, which is about 4 miles south of South Lake Tahoe. I wanted to have a simple, small wedding that our families and friends would enjoy. It seemed way simpler to plan a wedding where we live rather than a destination wedding or a wedding at my parents’ house in Georgia; moreover, Meyers is a beautiful location (also considered a “destination”) in the Sierra mountain range and a place with which both Matt and I have a history. We decided to keep it simple and get married near our house.
Where did you find your inspiration?
My guiding principles when planning the wedding were hospitality, family and nature. My mom and my aunt made a special trip from Tennessee and Georgia to help me get the big planning out of the way in April. (We were married in August.) They helped me settle on a location, decorations, flowers, and registry. The biggest help was probably deciding on a location for the ceremony. Together we visited a few places I had in mind for the ceremony and took pictures of ourselves there. I’m so glad we took pictures, because after looking at them it was a no-brainer to have the ceremony at the top of the hill behind the house my parents had rented for the week of the wedding. The granite peaks and trees turned out gorgeous in our wedding photos. Matt liked the site because he has skied nearly all of those mountains, and I had hiked through those hills on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2009.
Since family was the focus, planning it with my mom and aunt (and my sister via the phone) was perfect. My vision for the wedding was for it to be hospitable. I wanted folks to arrive at the wedding and the reception and feel welcome. We had water and some chairs at the ceremony site, as well as flowers for our guests. At all the tables at the reception, which was held in our backyard, we put out little bowls with nuts and crackers and cheese, and fruit. I wanted our friends and families to walk in, get a drink, and eat a snack as soon as they got there. I wanted it to be a party where everyone would stay and hang out together.
My friends and family felt comfortable at our house, and it seemed like everyone pitched in to keep the bar stocked with margaritas and beer, as well as clearing off the tables, putting out the dessert (which my mom, sister, friends and I made in the morning), and keeping an eye on all the kids running around. I’m glad that our party had that kind of family-style feeling.
Nature was a part of the plan, too. We held the ceremony and party outside. Matt and I are both outdoorsy types, and most of our friends and family are, too. Nature also seems to be a unifying spiritual anchor for all of us, so it was the perfect cathedral for covenant and celebration.
The weather in Tahoe in August is dry and sunny during the day with cool evenings. We planned a big fire and we had one! The fire department even came by, and as my friend Sara would say, “You know it’s a good party when the fire department shows up!” My dad yelled to my sister Hannah when he saw them, “Get the cupcakes–fast!” so that we could bribe them. But no bribery was needed. :) The best man and my husband knew the firemen, so we didn’t get cited. They were happy for Matt and said congratulations and good night.
What were some personal details you incorporated?
I basically wrote our ceremony, but not from scratch. I utilized the basic outline of the Moravian church’s marriage ceremony, which was very simple and classic, and added some quotes from Wendell Berry, one of my favorite writers/thinkers. The way Matt and I think about our marriage is that we two are not the only ones involved in our marriage. We know that our marriage will need and enjoy support from our family and friends. During the ceremony there was an opportunity for everyone there to pledge their support and encouragement of us in our enduring relationship as a husband and wife. Just as Matt and I said “I will” that day, it was beautiful to hear our dear ones say those words, “We will,” too.
Also, I requested blessings from my mother and Matt’s mother to conclude the ceremony. As they spoke their blessings to us I was nearly gutted by the words of love, advice and tenderness they shared.
Your favorite moment of the day.
One of my favorite moments of the day was spending time in the kitchen with my momma and my girlfriends baking and eating together.
The ceremony was a favorite, too; especially the vows and blessings.
Another great moment was our arrival, which was greeted by spontaneous toasts from my dad, my brother, my sister and the best man. Although we didn’t plan any formal things for the reception like toasts, dances, etc, those all happened. My dad and I ended up dancing together to one of my favorite Bob Marley songs and Matt and I danced to our love song by John Prine (“In Spite of Ourselves”). I am sure some people stole glances but we weren’t the center of attention. And the dances were very informal, sprung from our joy.
Also at arrival I got to notice how gorgeous our backyard had become with the addition of twinkly lights, flags, flowers, wreaths, food and our beautiful family and friends. My brother and his girlfriend, as well as my sister Hannah, headed up the crew who spent hours creating an inviting backyard that was just perfect for a party.
Three things I’m glad I did:
- Had a wedding at our home (i was home nearly all day, which was very relaxing).
- Used classic language for vows (I think it lets everyone in better and ties us to the past, present and future).
- Got married outside in Tahoe to Matt.
Anything you wish you hadn’t done?
I wish I had gotten my make up started earlier.
What was the best piece of wedding advice you got?
The best piece of wedding advice i got was from my Aunt Jeannie to do a registry. It may have saved me from getting some random gifts that either were not my taste or that were something we already had. Registries are helpful.
How did you choose your vendors?
I chose my vendors a variety of ways. My photographer, Maddie, I met through mutual friends. She actually lived in my house as a subletter for a month. The caterer I met at the local farmers’ market. Matt’s niece did my make up. And the florist was one of two in South Lake Tahoe; I chose them based on their website and our initial consultation.
What is your very best advice to other mountain brides?
My advice: Just be yourself and don’t get caught up in glossy magazines that might be selling you something you don’t really want (and maybe making you feel bad in the process). The wedding industry is huge these days and the aim is to try to get you to spend tens of thousands of dollars for one day. Don’t stress over losing weight (because you are perfect the way you are). Don’t do party favors (they end up in the landfill anyway). Just focus on the purpose of your marriage: to love, be loved and enjoy every moment with people.