A Magical Mountaintop Marriage
For their destination wedding, Sara Beth and Sam left behind the hustle & bustle of San Diego for the spectacular Sierra views from the Zephyr Lodge at Northstar California. With expert planning assistance from Cara Bruno at Northstar and Lindsey Johnson with Blue Sky Events, the couple created a mountain-rustic-themed celebration that left everyone enraptured. Fantastic photos of their special day were captured by Theilen Photography.
Sara Beth grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area (Fremont), while Sam was originally from Baltimore. They both ended up moving to San Diego, but it took a cell phone dating app called Tinder to bring them together.
Their first date was at a restaurant in Little Italy in downtown San Diego. Sara Beth’s right foot was in a cast at the time, and she was using crutches to get around. On a good day when she has all 4 limbs working properly, she doesn’t do much in the kitchen. So she was thrilled when Sam said he was willing to come over to her house for a second date to help her prepare stuffing for a “Friendsgiving.” And soon they became much more than friends.
While enjoying a summer vacation in Oregon, Sam took Sara Beth to see the beautiful Multnomah Falls. It was Sam’s birthday and he wanted to make the occasion memorable. So, while standing on a bridge in front of the falls, he got down on one knee and proposed! Sara Beth was very surprised but immediately said “Yes!” For Sam, it was the best birthday present ever.
The couple chose Northstar California as the site for their celebration because they loved so many things about the location! Sara Beth and Sam found the mountains to be breathtaking regardless of the season… whether they were covered with beautiful vegetation or snow. So the mountaintop venue was the perfect place for their celebration. They also liked The Village at Northstar – with its shops, restaurants and lodging options, guests would not need transportation to any of the events once they arrived. A fun added feature was having the guests take the gondola and chairlift rides to the top of the mountain for the wedding.
The beauty and emotion of Sara Beth and Sam’s special day was wonderfully captured in this highlight film from Videoquest Productions.
Jewish Wedding Tradtions
To sanctify their marriage, Sara Beth and Sam chose to incorporate many important traditions from their Jewish faith. Some of these traditions are described below and beautifully illustrated through the images from Theilen Photography.
Prior to the ceremony, the couple, immediate family, wedding party members and the rabbi gather for the ketubah ceremony – the traditional Jewish marriage contract signing.
The chuppah serves as the focal point for the ceremony, under which the couple stands. It represents a Jewish home, symbolized by a cloth canopy and the four poles. It is open on all sides, to represent hospitality to one’s guests.
Male guests, Jewish or not, typically cover their heads with a cap, known as a kippah or yarmulke, as a sign of respect.
Two Kiddush cups are placed under the chuppah and used for the ceremony. The couple sips ceremonial wine from the first cup and receives a blessing from the rabbi. Later, after the exchange of rings, the rabbi reads or chants seven blessings called the Sheva Brachot. These blessings are completed with the sipping of wine from the second cup. Kiddush cups are often kept as family heirlooms – the cups used at this wedding were also used by Sara Beth’s parents when they were married.
According to Jewish tradition, the groom places a gold ring on the bride’s index finger of her right hand because it is believed that the index finger has a direct connection to the heart. For this ritual, Sam and Sara Beth used a wedding band that had been passed down through several generations of Sara Beth’s family for over a hundred years.
In the Sephardic culture, a Tallit cloth is used to wrap the couple under the chuppah, symbolizing their union, as well as the protection of God. If you’re wondering whether God was watching over this wedding, check out the awesome final photo in the batch below.
During the final moments of a Jewish ceremony, the groom breaks a glass (usually wrapped in a cloth napkin or bag to avoid injury!) with his foot. The breaking of the glass signals the end of the ceremony, and guests shout “Mazel Tov!” – meaning “Congratulations!”
One of the highlights of a Jewish wedding reception is the hora. As traditional Jewish music plays, guests dance in circles and the couple is seated on chairs and hoisted into the air. (Lightweight chairs with arms are preferable for safety reasons.)
Congratulations to Sara Beth and Sam for elevating their relationship – and their wedding celebration – to a new level!
Photographer: Theilen Photography | Ceremony & Reception Venue: Northstar California, Zephyr Lodge | Bride’s Gown: Casablanca | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Watters – Wtoo | Hair & Makeup: RAH Hair Studio and Sublime Beauty | Groom’s Party Attire: Kenneth Cole | Cake & Desserts: Flour Girl Wedding Cakes | Flowers: Art in Bloom | Music for Ceremony: Steel & Ivory | Music for Reception: Pop Fiction | Officiant: Rabbi Ethan Bair | Rental Items(Stage, Dance Floor, Linens): Celebrations! Party Rentals | Photobooth: PicBox Photo Booth | Videographer: Videoquest Productions | Wedding Planner: Blue Sky Events
Group Bike Rides for Your Tahoe Destination Wedding
It’s no secret that many wedding couples have their destination weddings in Lake Tahoe so that guests can partake in experiential outdoor activities. A bike “Tour de Tahoe” is a great way for your guests to take pleasure in the region’s scenic beauty, and there are many biking options available.
One of the safest – and one of our favorite – places to cycle is a paved bike path that runs for about 10 miles from Tahoe City along the West Shore to Sugar Pine Point State Park. You can rent bikes at the Olympic Bike Shop or Willard’s Sport Shop, then enjoy the happy trails and beautiful views.
Photo Credit: Laura Allen, TahoeLauraLuxuryHomes.com
Another great paved trail goes from Squaw Valley along the Truckee River to Tahoe City, a distance of about 7 miles. Bike rentals are available from Parallel Mountain Sports and Mountain Mike’s Sports.
Right now, there is major road construction as you reach Tahoe City, so the trail may be closed occasionally at this location. Otherwise, this Truckee River Trail connects with the West Shore Trail described above. So if you have a whole day available for bicycling, you can ride all the way from Squaw Valley to Sugar Pine Point State Park and back. The total round-trip distance is 34 miles.
If your group is staying in the town of Truckee, there is another paved trail along the Truckee River that’s worth cycling – the Legacy Trail. Rent a bicycle from Bike Truckee in the Historic District, and ask for directions to the trailhead.
Perhaps your group wants something more adventurous than a paved path. If so, there are many miles of mountain biking trails in the North Lake Tahoe region. Our all-time favorite is the Flume Trail on the Nevada side of the lake. If you rent from Flume Trail Bikes, you can be shuttled for no additional charge to Spooner Lake, where this epic 14-mile journey begins.
From Spooner Lake, the trail starts with a climb of over 1,000 feet before it descends to Marlette Lake. If your wedding is in the Fall, the aspen trees will put on a spectacular display of color.
After a mile-long ride along the shore of Marlette Lake, the Flume Trail begins. The views of Lake Tahoe are absolutely jaw-dropping!
But there are many places along the Flume Trail where it is essential to keep your eyes on the trail, for safety’s sake.
So if you want to take in the stunning vistas, look for a safe place to stop, then look to your heart’s content.
Finally, think “safety” if you’re cycling on a road with motor vehicles. Our thanks to Curtis Fong, CEO of Bike the West, for providing these “Rules of The Road”:
- Keep your bike as far to the right of the road as possible to allow for vehicles to pass.
- If emergency vehicles are coming, pull off to the side of the road and stop.
- Ride single file except to pass.
- When passing anther cyclist, call out “passing on your left.”
- Stop signs and stop lights apply to bikes, too.
- Yield to pedestrians crossing the road. If you need to cross the road, make sure cars have come to a stop before proceeding.
- Make proper hand signals when turning.
May your path to wedded bliss include a beautiful bike ride in North Lake Tahoe!
Photo: Hoffer Photography
A New Tahoe Trend: Indian Weddings
Like many couples, Amita and Sagar wanted to have a destination wedding to make their celebration memorable – and to have a bit of a vacation – both for their guests and themselves. Since they love being out in nature and by the water, Lake Tahoe was the perfect choice for their wedding location.
Amita and Sagar selected the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe as their wedding venue. Their special day was picturesque, relaxed and fun – as beautifully documented by Tahoe-based Theilen Photography – full of the rich colors and customs of Indian weddings that have existed for hundreds of years. The lake, mountains and evergreens provided a majestic backdrop for the ceremony.
For many years, Lake Tahoe wasn’t hosting a lot of Indian weddings. But that is now changing, as couples like Amita and Sagar have begun to discover that Tahoe provides a spectacular setting for the pageantry of an Indian wedding. As Caity Hunt, Senior Event Sales Manager for the Hyatt Regency noted, “Our wedding staff is now familiar with the traditions and cultures of Indian weddings… The couples we have worked with try to find a balance between meeting their cultural expectations and having it blend with their current American lives.”
Amita and Sagar chose a Hindu ceremony that mixed traditions of both Gujarati and Telugu cultures. They infused rich tradition with a casual fun and playfulness, as seen in these two Indian rituals:
Angulyabharanamu (Exchange of Wedding Rings)
While 200 guests looked on, Amita and Sagar exchanged rings as a symbol of their commitment. Once the rings were exchanged, they were placed into a pot for a game where Amita and Sagar each tried to pull the rings out of the pot first to see who would “rule the roost” at home. Amita won, but Sagar laughed, “Amita cheated all three times!” To which Amita replied, “Without a doubt, I did not cheat during the ring game; Sagar mistakes excitement and exuberance for cheating.”
Talambralu (Showering of Rice)
Amita and Sagar showered each other with turmeric-coated rice, which according to tradition, is supposed to bring the couple a life filled with happiness, love, and laughter. And judging by these photos, they are certainly off to a great start with that!
India’s Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim communities each have their own marriage ceremonies and customs. Typically, Indian weddings are a multi-day celebration with many events. But Amita and Sagar deviated from Indian traditions somewhat for their Lake Tahoe celebration. Sagar explains, “We didn’t want a ton of events, so we and our guests could relax and enjoy the area.”
But one tradition that Amita felt was essential for celebrating their heritage was the Mehendi Ceremony, where a professional mehendi artist applies henna (a paste made from the finely ground leaves of the henna plant) in intricate designs to the hands and feet of the bride. These designs symbolize joy, beauty, spiritual awakening and offering. According to tradition, the darker the color of the bride’s henna, the more her partner will love her.
Amita and Sagar’s main advice for other Lake Tahoe wedding couples – hire a wedding planner (they chose Lindsay Townsend with Cloud Nine Event Company). “The money you spend on a planner will be worth it – the time and stress you save will be worth the cost, many times over!”
Looking back on their spectacular celebration, Sagar remarked, “The whole weekend felt very ‘Tahoe’ – everything was beautiful but not over the top… it was all very relaxed and fun.” And it was perfectly captured in this delightful wedding video produced by Darren Baca of Reel Eyes Media:
Photographer: Theilen Photography | Videographer: Reel Eyes Media | Ceremony & Reception Venue: Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe | Bride’s Attire: Shyamal & Bhumika | Groom’s Attire: Manyavar | Hair & Makeup: r!ah Hair Studio | Mehendi: Henna Blessings | Caterer (Indian Food for Reception): Ruchi | Décor & Floral Design: Red Carpet Events | Music: DJ Tanveer | Hindu Priest: Vinod Dave | Mandap Rental: Avasar Mandap | Stationery: Reno Print Store and Deckle Edge | Wedding Planner: Cloud Nine Event Company
Your Lake Tahoe Wedding Invitation – Getting It “Write”
Your Lake Tahoe wedding invitation should set the tone to elicit a “must-attend” response from your guests. Although electronic invitations may have become more feasible with technological advancements, it is still considered “proper etiquette” to send a beautiful paper invitation through the good old U.S. Postal Service. More importantly, in this day and age of incessant spam in our in-boxes, a mailed invitation shows your guests that you have made the effort to personally request their presence at your wedding, and it will better motivate them to be there.
Union Street Papery is the ultimate destination for sensational stationery. These paper mavens have their pulse on all the latest designs and trends, so you can express your style with pizazz, and get your guests buzzing about your big day.
Here are the typical components of your wedding stationery wardrobe:
- The wedding invitation piece is the main event and should include your names. If your parents are helping to pay for the wedding, it should include their names as well. Other details include date, time, ceremony location and reception if they are in the same location. Since you may want to frame your invitation do not write in the corners “Adults Only”, “Black Tie” or “No Gifts”. Save this information for a separate Information card.
- If your reception is in a different location than the ceremony, you will need a Reception Card with the name and address of the wedding reception. Also include the time the reception starts and provide information as to what type of meal will be served, such as “Dinner and Dancing”.
- A Transportation / Information Card typically is two sided with easy to read font. If you are providing group transportation to and from the wedding from one or more hotel properties, specify the name of the hotel and what time to meet in the hotel lobby for departure. If the guests are self-driving to the wedding, provide detail driving instructions that you have driven, do not rely on directions from Google. If you are having an outdoor ceremony, cocktails and/or reception provide this information, and give average temperatures for this time of year and advise on attire and proper footwear.
- For Pre and Post Wedding Weekend Events, you should have a separate card listing the activities, location, time, what to wear and if transportation will be provided.
- The Response Card should have a space for guests to write their name indicating if they will or will not attend the wedding. If you are offering a meal choice, have the guest indicate their entrée preference by writing their name(s) next to the choices you are offering. If you are providing group transportation, have guests confirm they are taking transportation and if there is more than one hotel in your room block, specify the hotel name. For pre and post wedding weekend events, have them RVSP to all events attending. You will want to pre-stamp all your response cards for your guests convenience (US only not overseas).
- The Envelope Please… It’s gorgeous to line your envelope, so select a lining that will wow and coordinate with your wedding invitation and all the wardrobe pieces going inside.
We caught up with Stacey, the Top Doll at Union Street Papery, to learn more about their approach to creating an inviting wedding invitation.
When and how did you get into the stationery business?
My first high school job was at a beautiful local stationery store that I had shopped at as a kid. I loved paper and stickers, and lucked into landing a job there. I quickly moved from general retail to invitation design and consultation which really captured me.
How do you stay on top of the latest stationery trends?
We have built some amazing relationships with designers and other stationers over the years, and are in constant communication with them. Instagram and Pinterest have been very influential (and helpful to dig into the wedding vibe of our couples), as have a few blogs and publications along the way.
New vendors/designers reach out to us on a daily basis, so we can follow up on what interests us and work for our clientele.
What’s the best way for a wedding couple to prepare for their first stationery visit?
Doing even just a little homework first is somewhat helpful: creating Pinterest board showing color, florals, site location can really help us focus in on their invitation style. Having an idea of budget and items that they want to include in the suite can really set us off in the right direction as well. We understand that this is usually a once in a lifetime experience that they need help and guidance with, so we also are prepared to explain all the options from the beginning. Their invitations are the first true glimpse into their wedding, and we hope that is as important to them as it is to us.
What is your approach to working with wedding couples?
We really try to get to know our couples story: How they met, where they come from, what they do, what is important to them, why they have chosen their venue, etc. We encourage them to put their personality into their paper, just as they will to the rest of the event. We can guide them as much or as little as they want, customize anything with art, graphics, or calligraphy to set just the right tone for their big day.
Other Inviting Tips
We recommend sending hotel information with your Save the Date, not the wedding invitation. Hotel room blocks should be secured as soon as you know your wedding date and reception location, because guests need to make their flights and other travel plans sooner than two months before the wedding. Also, many hotel properties have release dates on their room blocks, so you will want your guests to make their reservations several months before the wedding.
Once your wedding stationery ensemble has been printed, it’s time to take one invitation set to the post office to weigh. With all the components, it will definitely weigh more than your average envelope. Once you know the postage price per envelope, you can select a stamp that you love by either selecting something the post office currently offers, or having a custom stamp created for you. You can also have your wedding envelopes professionally hand addressed by a calligrapher – now that’s attention grabbing!
Finally, please, please make sure you have the stamps hand-cancelled when bringing them to your local post office. Do not drop them into the black hole of a blue mailbox, because the Postal Service machinery may not be kind to your wedding invitation. Then, sit back and experience the excitement as the responses start to roll in!
A Tahoe Wedding Professional Says “I Do”
As the Director of Special Events at the Tahoe Mountain Club, Dana Rivers has helped couples plan their Lake Tahoe weddings for the past six years. Recently, Dana celebrated her own special day. So, having seen the planning process from the perspective of a bride, as well as an industry professional, Dana is in a unique position to offer advice to engaged couples.
Tahoe Engaged is delighted to share the story of Dana’s wedding. Along with this story, Dana also offers her knowledgeable suggestions for a successful celebration.
Never second guess yourself. Never stray from your ideas and decisions. Once you make a decision, stick with it!
So how did this love affair begin? Dana and Jack actually met through an online dating site called Tinder. Jack was living in South Lake Tahoe at the time. Although the drive to Truckee to see Dana was spectacular, it took more than an hour each way. After 9 months of dating, Jack decided Dana was “the one,” so he made the move to be with her all the time.
In October 2016, Jack took it upon himself to ask Dana’s grandfather for permission to marry Dana before he passed away from cancer. (Dana loved and adored her grandpa.) Then Jack conferred with Dana’s mom to select an engagement ring, and he securely packed the ring away for what was to come.
The following month, Dana & Jack, along with two of their friends, took a 2-week vacation to New Zealand. The highlight of their trip was a boat cruise on spectacular Milford Sound. As the boat passed in front of a gorgeous waterfall, Jack pulled out the ring and popped the question. Although it was a cold and rainy day, and Dana was soaking wet, she delightedly screamed “YES!” The two friends who were traveling with them were tipped off about the “surprise” proposal, so they were ready with their cameras.
Finding the Right Site
Over the next 11 months of their engagement, the wedding planning process went quite smoothly for Dana… after all, she is in the wedding industry. But the hardest part was something she had thought that would be easy – the selection of a site for the celebration. She recalls, “I always assumed I was going to get married outdoors at one of our venues. [Tahoe Mountain Club has 4 different wedding locations.] But because Jack’s busiest time is the summer and I’m busy doing weddings in the summer, we wouldn’t be able to get married until October. We had concerns that the weather might be colder then we wanted it to be. We began to think maybe Tahoe wasn’t going to be the location after all.”
Following a recommendation from their photographer, Andrew and Melanie Photography, the couple ended up securing the River Highlands Ranch near Grass Valley for their wedding venue. So this was a destination wedding, as Jack is originally from Idaho and Dana’s family traveled from Southern California. To make it easier for out-of-towners to get to their gathering, the couple arranged for a room block at the Gold Miners Inn in Grass Valley.
It’s never too early to start planning your wedding. My whole goal was to not get stressed out in the last month. I didn’t want to be overwhelmed, and I recommend you try to get things done as soon as you can.
Dana wore a Maggie Sottero sheath bridal gown with a double-keyhole back, and gorgeous lace and beading. “I do love bling! I wanted something sparkly, but not too overwhelming, definitely classic and elegant. I found all of that in this one gown.”
For her hair, Dana definitely wanted to show off the back of her gown. “I made a joke before my wedding that I was going to walk down the aisle backwards because I was just so in love with the back of my dress!” So she chose an up-do for her hairstyle, with little curls pulled around the sides of her face.
Dana’s eight bridesmaids wore off-the-shoulder long burgundy dresses, while Jack and his six groomsmen wore charcoal gray suits with burgundy ties.
I always imagined him seeing me for the first time walking down the aisle. But on such a big day, I knew the time was going to fly by. I really wanted to make sure that I made the most of the timing of the day. I also wanted just that private moment with Jack before the ceremony. So we did do a First Look. We then did our pre-ceremony photos with the wedding party, and I’m glad we did! It relaxed my excitement and allowed us to enjoy our cocktail reception.
Personal Touches and Generous Contributions
Dana loves the color gold, so she knew she wanted to incorporate hints of gold with burgundy blush tones in the color palette, with greenery to keep it natural. Dana personally monogrammed napkins with their initials for all 150 guests, a keepsake that she now has a full set of.
Jack constructed the seating chart using wooden planks, and he also made the signage for the wedding.
One of Dana’s bridesmaids gifted a beautiful leather-bound guestbook, designed by the bridesmaid’s brother-in-law, who has a leather-making company.
As a labor of love, friends from Dana’s work furnished all of her personal flowers, as well as the ceremony and reception flowers. Another co-worker made Dana and Jack’s 3-tier wedding cake, which included a white cake with raspberries, and Jack’s favorite – carrot cake! Four flavors of cupcakes were also baked with love.
The Big Day
With rolling hills and oak trees surrounding the ceremony lawn, the prelude music started at 3:00pm as guests were seated. Dana was escorted down the aisle by her brother, as thoughts turned to her loving grandpa who originally was to accompany her. With her best friend’s dad officiating the ceremony, Dana and Jack exchanged vows that they wrote themselves.
The cocktail reception immediately followed the ceremony and was adjacent to the ceremony lawn, underneath the oak trees. A food station featured the couple’s favorite New Zealand treat – an hors d’oeuvre of potato wedges topped with sour cream and sweet chili sauce – which all of the guests loved.
Then it was time for a sumptuous dinner inside the barn, which included stuffed chicken breast, tri-tip, several salads, mac and cheese, roasted potatoes, mixed vegetables. Dana fondly recalls, “The dinner was a buffet, and it was absolutely amazing. Everyone’s concern about a buffet is that the food will be cold, or the food doesn’t hold-up well. It was a nice feeling that everyone was raving about the food. After all, it’s an expensive investment. The caterer really nailed it!”
Some Final Thoughts from Dana
Dana has worked for 6 years at the Tahoe Mountain Club, and now that she has been a bride, she feels like she can relate better to her couples.
When it comes to selecting vendors for your wedding, Dana recommends that you make sure prospective vendors are really listening to you and offering you custom responses. Look for service providers that respond to you promptly. Choose service providers who have years of experience and know what they are doing. Don’t just go with the lowest price, because you get what you pay for!
Finally, Dana understands that during the planning process, your friends and family may voice their opinions. But she recommends not letting the ideas of others affect you. It is your wedding day, so take pride in what you are planning, and have trust in your vendors to give you the most amazing day of your life!
Photographer: Andrew and Melanie Photography | Ceremony & Reception Venue: River Highlands Ranch | Bride’s Gown: Maggie Sottero | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: LuLu’s and Azazie | Hair: Kolor by Kori | Makeup: Amanda’s Aesthetics | Groom’s Party Attire: Blue Garter Bridal and Tux | Guest Book: Hide Stitch and Hook | Cake & Desserts: Kendra McGargill | Caterer: Antonio’s Catering | Flowers: Kathy Mooney, Jodi Goux and Laura Santamaria | Music: DJ Klick | Officiant: Bob Snyder (Bride’s Best Friend’s Father) | Rental Items: SRC Party Rental and Tin Roof Farmhouse | Videographer: Davey Hibler Productions | Wedding Planner: Wild and Lovely Events
Celebrating the Kentucky Derby Tahoe Style
Even in the Sierra Nevada, you can have a wedding design inspired by the Kentucky Derby. After all, what’s not to love about this steed race that is steeped in history and southern charm?
In 1904, the red rose became the official flower of the Kentucky Derby, and over 400 roses make up the winner’s garland every year. The groom and his party can make a run for the roses and pick the winning red blooms for their boutonnieres! Flaunt your Derby style with bow-ties for gentlemen and complement their attire with fascinators for the sporting ladies.
Photo: Rachel Red Photography
If horsing around in style, and dressed to the nines is your thing, you’ll love Vineyard Vines. They have been the Official Style of the Kentucky Derby for 8 straight years now. Every wedding party should feel this great, with their darling colorful neckties to blazers, pants and more.
Photo courtesy of Vineyard Vines
No Derby-themed wedding is complete without the race’s signature cocktail, the bourbon-based mint julep, classically served with crushed ice in a silver cup with a beaded rim. Here’s how to make the classic mint julep cocktail worthy of a Triple Crown victory:
- Place the mint and ½ oz. simple syrup into a julep cup
- Stir well to dissolve the simple syrup and to release the oil and aroma of the mint.
- Add 2 oz. of bourbon. FYI, Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby.
- Fill with crushed ice and stir well until the glass becomes frosty.
- Garnish with the mint sprig.
Photo: Red Bridge Photography
To accompany the beverages, consider some down-home Southern victuals. For hors d’oeuvres, serve Baby Hot Browns, Shrimp with Smoked Grits and Pimento Cheese deviled Eggs. For the entrée serve Kentucky Country Ham, than top off dinner with Mini Chocolate Pecan Cakes and Bourbon Peach Pie Pops.
Photo: Rachel Red Photography
To entertain guests while they’re dining, cue up a Bluegrass band to add to the southern ambience.
Finally, if you’re looking for a Derby-inspired venue, there’s no better place than the Equestrian Center at Tahoe Donner. How about making a grand entrance to your ceremony on horseback? And don’t forget the red roses for your horse – they will bring out the Southern Belle in you.
Photo: Cassie Schott Photography