Tahoe Donner Lakeside Destination Wedding in the High Sierra

High Sierra Late Summer Wedding | Evantide Photography | Donner Lake California

There are some weddings that come across my desk that have me smiling ear to ear. Not because they are filled with a gazillion details but because they are filled with a gazillion amazing moments. This wedding certainly has some pretty details and is set amid the pines of a beautiful mountain lake, but what sets this mountain wedding apart, is the shear emotion and exuberance of the bride. I love that Evantide captured the sequence of Ashley walking down the dock to have a first look with Aaron. Her arms go up in a joyful victory stance. I adore her wide-eyed, open mouthed joy and surprise at all of the amazing moments of her wedding. (I swear the flower girl must be related because she has the same joyful expression.)

All in all, you find lovely mountain details in this wedding, but you'll also find powerful displays of love and emotions. I hope you are equally inspired by those details, today. And as you look through this real wedding, stop for a moment and ask yourself, “How do I want to feel on my wedding day?” Imagine how you'll feel the first time you see your spouse; when you say your vows at the alter; when you dance together for the first time as a married couple; and when you steal away from the crowds to have a quiet moment or two together. What will those moments look like for you?

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Ashley + Aaron
Tahoe Donner, CA

September 13, 2014

Why did you choose the Mountains for your wedding?

If you know my husband, the first thing that comes to mind is “Mountain Man.” He is a mountain enthusiast (to say the least). Climbing, hiking, mountaineering, camping, he loves all of it. When we met his enthusiasm for mountains rubbed off and our best (and worst) memories were made while hiking and climbing.

It only made sense to have a magical mountain wedding as it completely fit our personalities.

Wedding Day Weather

Perfect (clear skies, no wind)

Number of guests that attended

150

What was your theme for your wedding?

The theme was mountain-chic. We had crystals at the alter, little wood rounds for the seating cards, and tree-stump vases that my dad and brother created for us.

Where did you find your inspiration?

While Pinterest and Etsy helped with inspiration, most of my inspiration came from personal experiences and our “style.” I was very adamant throughout the wedding-planning-process that I wanted a unique wedding. I didn't want cookie-cutter. I didn't want “the latest rage.” I wanted timeless and chic, and I wanted every little aspect to reflect our personalities.

Ultimately, at the end of the day I wanted our guests to leave the wedding and say, “That was so Aaron and Ashley.”

…And they did.

Your budget

$10k-$15k

How did you choose to personalize your wedding?

Absolutely everything was personalized.

  • Our name cards were little wood rounds I purchased from Etsy.
  • The vases were galvanized buckets coupled with mini-tree-stumps.
  • Each table was named after a different mountain that Aaron and I had climbed (or hiked) with a photo from that hike.
  • The bridesmaid vases (for bouquets) had their first initial in rhinestones.
  • I purchased coral and white dahlias from Swan Island Dahlias in Portland (where we currently reside) and brought them from Portland to the wedding for centerpieces (dahlias are my favorite flower).
  • Aaron and I made a cornhole set with our name on one, and the wedding date on the second.
  • I made sure to stock the women's bathroom with yummy lotion, soap, hairspray, and body spray. And the men's bathroom included body spray and scented lotion as well.
  • And one of my most favorite ideas was my tissue girl. My friends and family all understand that if I'm overly excited/happy, or incredibly sad, I'm crying. It was clear I needed a box of tissues so I created the “tissue girl” role. My little cousin was perfect for this, and she walked down the isle with a box of tissues (instructed to provide assistance to anyone tearing up – including the bride). She took her role very seriously and came in handy several times during the ceremony :-)

What was your favorite part of the reception?

We chose to have a band at the wedding instead of a DJ, and this was by far one of my most favorite parts of the reception.

What was the biggest challenge in planning your mountain wedding and how did you overcome it?

We had several challenges in wedding planning.

My biggest wedding obstacle was planning my dream DIY mountain wedding long distance. I currently reside in Portland, and my wedding was taking place 600 miles away in the Lake Tahoe area (Donner Lake to be specific) where I had to deal with “Tahoe Time.” You know – you schedule a meeting for 3:00pm, but in Tahoe Time this is actually anywhere from 3:00pm-6:00pm. Or let's talk about the time I flew into town to meet with wedding vendors for an entire day, and the coordinator for the venue I was considering at the time decided to go golfing instead.

Tahoe time.

Flash forward a bit to six months prior to the wedding. My logistics are worked out and I'm planning a gorgeous-beachy-mountain-lake-chic wedding. Everything is falling into place and plans are beginning to solidify when the largest obstacle decided to present itself. My mother, who was vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, took a blow to the head (by a hot tub cover) and was paralyzed from the neck down causing quadriplegia.

Time stopped.

Plans stopped.

Work stopped.

Life stopped.

My tiny mother received emergency surgery in Mexico, then after what seemed like forever was finally life flighted back to the states.

I knew immediately we had to call off the wedding. There was no question.

But then my mother was shipped off to one of the top rehabilitation centers in the country and began an incredible recovery journey. It seemed like overnight she went from life support and immobility to re-learning how to swallow and regaining muscle control.

The wedding was back on! However, our beachy-lake-wedding wasn't quite ADA compatible. So, with a few phone calls (and deposits) we were able to secure another mountain-esque location that could accommodate my mother's new disability.

The last obstacle we ran into was the day-of logistics. Part of having a mountain wedding are the gorgeous mountain-views that make amazing photos. We knew from the beginning we wanted photos at the top of Donner Pass with the lake in the background. Then, we find out the day of our wedding that the road had closed and WOULD NOT open. We adapted and took photos at a rest stop, which turned out great, but still wasn't our Donner Pass photos. So how does a photographer make a hopeful bride over-the-moon-excited? By offering SUNRISE Donner Pass photos overlooking the lake. Yes – not only did our photographers travel from Washington state down to Donner Lake, but they also offered to wake up at 5:00am the morning-after-the-wedding to take sunrise photos. This girl got to have her cake and eat it too.

How did you find and choose your vendors?

Vendors were the most difficult part of the wedding. Either my vendors didn't return phone calls, didn't adhere to meetings, or didn't have my same vision (and budgetary constraints).

I used Yelp, personal recommendations, and a ton of research to find my vendors.

What is your best piece of advice to other mountain brides who are planning their weddings?

Learn to accept sacrifices and compromises.

  • Some vendors charge extra to transport from the city to the mountains.
  • Some guests won't be able to attend, and those who do may leave early.
  • And most items may require you to go out of your way more than a typical location in the city.
  • A mountain location isn't always a one-stop-shop with tables, chairs, food, etc. So you'll need to be okay with managing multiple vendors.

 

Tahoe Donnor Wedding Vendors

Photographer:  Evantide Photography | Dress Store: Enchanted Bridal Shoppe  | Event Planner: Living the Dream | Cake/CupcakesLovely Flours | Reception Venue: The Lodge at Tahoe Donner | Caterer: The Lodge at Tahoe Donner | BandDecoy  | FlowersSwan Island Dahlias and Safeway (for bouquets)