Stylish Story Telling with Raw Emotion
I remember sitting in the sand on the southern shore of Lake Tahoe at the age of 5, eating a bowl of ice cream and thinking how nice it’d be to dip my toes in the lake to cool off. It’s one of my most vivid childhood memories. For us, that was a “day at the beach”. At over 1600 feet deep and situated a mile above sea level, Lake Tahoe is our nation’s largest body of water by volume west of the Mississippi. It is incredibly blue, and incredibly beautiful…but absolutely freezing cold year-round.
As much as we love the area, we don’t get up to Lake Tahoe enough, so we were extra psyched for Nina and David’s Homewood wedding weekend. The festivities kicked off with a sunset welcome dinner at Homewood Mountain Ski Resort atop the quail chair lift. It was great to finally meet David, Nina, and their gorgeous boy Remi. Headed up the chairlift, the serenity of the panoramas behind us were breathtaking. As the sun dipped behind Ellis Peak, the veiled evening light hinted at the two wildfires which earlier in the day, had begun raging to our west. The Howard Wiley jazz quartet added the perfect soundtrack to this ethereal dinner setting as friends and family greeted each other and shared a family-style dinner together high atop Big Blue.
The next morning we met Nina at the home that has served as their families getaway spot since she was just 10 years old. In the breakfast nook, the girls were finishing hair and makeup, down in the laundry room dad was wrapping up some last minute ironing, while in the upstairs bedroom, Nina’s brother was revising his final draft for his part in the ceremony. It was family at its best. Over at the boys cabin, David (a savvy music lover as well as a full time music producer) kept the playlist jazzy while friends sipped single-malt scotch on the balcony, overlooking the clearing in the pines where guests would soon begin to congregate for their ceremony.
Friends and family play such an important role in our lives, shaping the people we become and giving us inspiration, hope, laughter, and love. Nina and David’s ceremony acknowledged the major contributors in their lives and assigned them formal roles which they brought to life through words and song. There were The Connectors (the one’s responsible for the meeting of David and Nina), The Bard, The Wandering Sage, The Scientist, The Humorist, The Balladeer (and evoker of tears), The Midwife, The Guardian, and The Wild Rose. Whether through a funny anecdote, a song, or a shared memory, each provided a new layer and perspective on Nina and David’s life; past, present, and future. In between speakers, the only thing that could be heard was the gentle wind dancing through the pine needles overhead and there was a ubiquitous feeling of combined love and tranquility.
As the ceremony concluded, Howard Wiley and his players led a jazz procession down the windy path to the cocktail reception which was held over Lake Tahoe on the Chambers Landing Dock Bar. Here, guests were treated to freshly shucked shellfish (try repeating that five times), local favorites, and a multitude of libations whilst taking in the ineffable beauty of this special corner of the lake.
The sun set over the Pacific Crest and dinner was served. There were no speeches during dinner, rather a lot of great conversations punctuated by bursts of laughter and smiles filled the room. The family spirit of the day carried through. Remy sat on mom’s lap as she and dad shared their wedding dinner with him and just before turning into a pumpkin, he reluctantly made his way back to the house for some well-deserved snuggle down time. This is when the attention shifted to speeches, cake, and one sumptuously comprehensive cheese board, amongst other things. Friends and family donned props and got their sillies out at the photo booth before the dj directed everyone back inside for the apex of the day’s events: the family band. It seems that everyone in this family is incredibly talented at at least a few things, and the musically gifted members of the family continued their tradition of spontaneous jam-lesions, this time welcoming Nina and David to their first dance with a heartfelt – and slightly more folksy – rendition of I Wanna Dance With Somebody by Whitney Houston. As they danced close, surrounded by friends, family, and band, all singing together, I couldn’t imagine ending a wedding day on any sweeter a note.
Angie and Charlie first met over a decade ago during their freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania. They became instant best friends, bonding over a shared, silly sense of humor and a deep love for music.
There’s something magical about the little bend in Sonoma Valley – sometimes affectionately called Valley of the Moon – that’s hard to put into words but easy to understand when you’re there. Located just 20 minutes north of Angie’s hometown of Novato, Charlie and Angie were drawn to Sonoma for its beautiful scenery, cerulean skies, fresh local fare, and of course…the wine. And in no department did their day disappoint. Amid a weekend packed with barbecue, bluegrass, and brunch, friends and family were gathering atop Kunde’s Boot Hill for the main event.
Their day featured elements of both Jewish and Chinese culture and the ceremony was extra special too as Charlie’s uncle David officiated. The pure bliss across their faces as they walked back down the aisle – freshly pronounced “husband and wife” – it seemed as if that their “first” kiss might actually have been their first kiss.
Angie and Charlie supported the area they love so much by serving exclusively local food and wines. The cocktail hour featured Pt. Reyes oysters, artisan cheeses, local beers, Kunde wines and even a mimosa bar serving Gloria Ferrer bubbles. As Oakland based trio Transit of Venus wrapped up their incredible cocktail hour set, guests were seated for the entrance of the bride and groom. Angie and Charlie danced their way into the reception as their band, the KJ Allstars didn’t miss a beat in kicking things into gear. Dinner and speeches followed but it wasn’t long before everyone found themselves back up on the dance floor and Angie and Charlie found themselves above the dance floor for an extremely entertaining hora (check the facial expressions – those chairs were not light!).
Just before leaving, the catering staff brought out a batch of cookies baked lovingly for the couple by Charlie’s mother and grandmother (her own recipe), truly a sweet ending to a magic day.
Lauren and Jon’s wedding and reception was held at the gorgeous Hammersky Vineyards and epitomized all that a central coast wine-country wedding can be. Translated, El Paso de Robles means The Pass of the Oaks, and the Hammersky property, nestled in the hills west of the main town of Paso Robles, truly embodies the areas namesake.
The wedding ceremony was held under the shade of an immense oak tree that’s rumoured to be over 400 years old and the guests were seated on transparent chairs that allowed the site to blend in inconspicuously with the natural beauty all around. The nuptials were performed by Jon’s slightly nervous sister and were fairly short and very sweet. The couple clearly intended the day to be one that was enjoyed with their guests so portraits and formal photos were kept to a minimum and socializing was the order of the day.
The theme of the day, decor-wise was modern, rustic elegance and the family-style tables in the reception area were covered with mirrored tops, then lavishly appointed with abundant floral arrangements, unique votive candle holders, and hammered steel flatware.
Food was served amuse-bouche style from various stations and represented the freshest and most beautiful selections of food from the sea, the land, and the farm. Speeches led to dancing, which led to more dancing and as the evening went on, the port and desert stations opened for business. Jon, a dedicated house music lover and proponent of taking the underground music experience above ground in the 1990’s had a special surprise in store for his guests. Guests who were dancing under the starry night sky were ushered into Hammersky’s barn where an after-hours themed experience was waiting for them with special guest DJ, Jon himself. After a seamless 20 minute set of some deep-funky-business, good friend and legendary house music icon, DJ Dan stepped up to keep the party going. The early finish time of 10pm was only a minor intermission in the evening and as soon as the music shut down, guests almost instantly vanished…on their way to what was certain to be a legendary after-party in town.
From the stark, monochromatic, urban landscape of the nation’s capital, to the expansive hilltop vineyards and red dust floor of Kunde’s Boot Hill, Dan and Liz brought friends and family to a place that is both naturally beautiful and significant to them as Sonoma is where they went on their first vacation together.
Liz is a political appointee in the Obama Administration, serving in the Department of Energy and Dan works for the National Nuclear Security Administration, within the Department of Energy. Despite having very stressful careers, Liz and Dan are self-proclaimed “fun-loving, balls-to-the-wall” kind of people; lovers of life and each other. Their wedding day was going to be all about having THE MOST AMAZING time with their best people.
The day was rich with personal touches and awash with emotion ranging from tears to laughter. Dan struggled with blurry vision as bridesmaids made their way down the aisle, each one giving him a handwritten note from Liz, before he got his first look at the gorgeous bride herself. The ceremony was long and personal, with friends standing up to speak throughout – it was one of their favorite parts of the day. Though, Liz’s single, happiest moment came during their first dance as the couple held each other close while her brother and cousin’s played their song, “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, in the background as golden sunlight filtered through the giant oak trees.
As another beautiful summer day ended, a brand new party was about to begin and it doesn’t get any better than the couple crowd surfing, the groom doing the worm, AND the bride and groom getting on stage with the band to sing to their fans. Liz and Dan stayed true to their balls-to-the-wall approach and made the reception one of the most spirited parties of our season!!!
We always like to ask if the couple has any advice they’d be willing to pass along, so here’s Liz and Dan’s:
We’re nearing the end of a very busy year of photography and traveling, so when Sapna and Alex decided to schedule their engagement session in our neck of the woods, we were elated. Sonoma county has some pretty diverse places to get out and enjoy nature and a spot we particularly love is Crane Creek Regional Park. Crane Creek features stands of Alder, Buckeye, Bay, Black Oak, and Willow trees and even has meandering through it, an 18 hole disc-golf course. Despite the extreme drought conditions, the trees are still delicately clinging on to their leaves and provide a beautiful respite from the late afternoon heat. We had an unusually pleasant afternoon sandwiched between two heat-waves so we were able to have a great tour of the park, climb some Oak trees, dodge a few disc-golfers and make the loop around just in time to say goodbye to the sunshine. Alex and Sapna will be getting married next spring at Kunde Family Estate, one of our favorite local venues and we can’t wait to be there to document their day!