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
Be a Tahoe “Green” Wedding Guest
Being green isn’t a trend, it’s a lifestyle, especially in the Sierra Nevada. Environmentalism is the characteristic spirit of our Lake Tahoe culture, and as a wedding guest to our community, you can partake in our beliefs and aspirations too. With just a few ‘in-the-know” tips, it’s not difficult for your wedding guests to be eco-friendly, and help keep Tahoe “green” (and blue)!
As a wedding couple, you can help promote sustainable modes of transportation to your guests. Anyone who is concerned about the impact of driving from the Bay Area to Tahoe for a Lake Tahoe destination wedding should consider riding Tahoe Convoy. A luxury weekend shuttle, Tahoe Convoy brings Bay Area residents to the Lake, traveling Eastbound on Friday evenings and returning westbound on Sunday evenings. Another green alternative is the Amtrak California Zephyr passenger train, which has a stop in Truckee’s Historic Downtown.
Once your guests arrive in North Tahoe, they can be car-free! There is a local bus system – the Tahoe Truckee Area Regional Transit (TART), an extensive bike path network, bike share systems, and multiple taxi operators as well as Lyft and Uber. For the day of your wedding, Reno Tahoe Limousine offers a wide variety of group transportation options to take your guests from their hotel to the wedding location.
Recommend that your guests stay at the Cedar House Sport Hotel, a “lifestyle hotel with a strong environmental consciousness.” The hotel was sustainably built using recycled materials and adheres to LEED environmental standards. (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.) Give your guests a gentle reminder that when they leave their hotel rooms, to please turn off all the lights and power down the thermostat.
Once your guests have arrived in the Lake Tahoe region, it’s important for them to stay hydrated. The humidity is lower, and some of the Tahoe wedding venues are perched on high-elevation mountain tops. So, suggest that your guests bring a reusable water bottle with them during their stay – they can fill up at any of the fountains throughout North Lake Tahoe.
We hope you will make a vow to a green lifestyle and live environmentally ever after. Happy Earth Day each and every day!
Image #2 – Photo credit: Kaleb Norman James Design
Image #4 – Photo: Cayton Photography
Image #5 – Photography: La Dolce Vita
Image #6 – Photo credit: Jamali Garden
Image #8 – Photography: Greg Finck
Image #9 – Photography: Simply Rose | Cake Design: Sweet Naturally Bakery
A Season of Change – Tahoe Spring Weddings
Old Man Winter is a little late in leaving this year, but soon we will be welcoming warmer weather in the North Lake Tahoe region. There’s something spectacular about Spring in the Sierra Nevada. We dust off the biking trails, don our wetsuits to paddle the lake and start working our golf swing again.
And it’s a wonderful time for a wedding! How lucky you are if you have chosen to get married in the season of abundant flowers, pastel palettes and edible garden delights. Here are some inspirations for you to consider.
When it comes to choosing what time of year to get married in the Lake Tahoe area, it pays to check out the value pricing offered during the spring season. While the snow covers the ski slopes from December through Easter, the hotels, restaurants and other services in Tahoe are at their peak season, and pricing is generally higher.
But during the shoulder season in Lake Tahoe – which is after Spring Break but before the schoolkids return to hit the beach in June – prices are typically less expensive. Wedding venues and service providers usually have more availability, making it easier for you to get your first choice. The winter and summer crowds are no longer here, making spring a pleasant time to get around the Lake with ease.
The grounds are awakening with spring and everything is coming up roses… along with your other in-season loves of peonies, daffodils, gerbera daisies, hyacinth, ranunculus and tulips. Selecting in-season flowers is a smart way of saving. Plant your ceremony aisles with potted blooms, garnish your glass of bubbly with edible petals, or adorn your beverage station in a plethora of florals. Always consult with your florist to get the most bang for your buck.
Farm to Table Culinary Expressions
If you have selected a Tahoe spring wedding you’ll be able to offer your guests a fresh seasonal banquet from the garden. Avoid the heavy comfort foods from winter and start with a bright, hearty mix spring salad. Add a colorful pop of rainbow carrots, heirloom tomatoes and top it off with a citrus vinaigrette. Wedding Brunches are perfect for spring, featuring action food stations that offer everything from vegetable omelets to Spring Lamb. Sourcing locally is huge in Lake Tahoe, whether it’s fresh produce or local beers, ask your catering pro to help you create a menu to remember.
So spring forward for a gloriously verdant Tahoe wedding! The members of Tahoe Engaged are here to help you create a delightful celebration.
Image #1 – Photography: Studio Ohlala
Image #5 – Photography: Julie Paisley
Image #8 – Photography: Greer Gattuso
The First Step to an Amazing Celebration
You have never planned a wedding before, so you’re not expected to know what you don’t know… until someone with nuptial knowledge and experience shows you what’s really possible, practical and suitable for your budget. That’s why as a wedding couple about to embark upon planning your special day, it’s important to surround yourself with the best wedding industry professionals.
Photo: Ciprian Photography
Location: Resort at Squaw Creek
Typically, you would start with a Wedding Planner and Designer, whose role is similar to that of a Project Manager. With their extensive knowledge of the Lake Tahoe region, the Wedding Planners from Tahoe Engaged offer expert advice to help you select the right site and service providers for your Tahoe celebration.
(By the way, we refer to your team of wedding professionals as service providers, not vendors. We’re not exactly sure who coined the term “vendor” for a wedding, but this term usually conjures up images of a guy on the street corner selling hot dogs, or a machine spitting out a candy bar after you insert a few bucks.)
A Wedding Planner also develops project management tools such as a timeline, schematic floor plans and a vendor list, in order to efficiently orchestrate your celebration. Finally, the Wedding Planner is on site for your rehearsal and wedding day, overseeing every intimate detail of the wedding, and managing the “dream team” of wedding professionals that you have secured. You simply relax and savor the experience!
A Wedding Planner with design experience can complement your wedding visions and offer ways to make your wedding more amazing than you could ever imagine. A Wedding Designer should have formal training in a relevant field such as Floral Design, Interior Design, Graphic Design or Fashion Design.
Photo: Larissa Cleveland
You should carefully examine the Wedding Designer’s portfolios and other materials that demonstrate how he/she has designed prior weddings. Since the Wedding Designer needs to understand your personal preferences in order to design a wedding that reflects your personal tastes, they should also be asking you lots of questions, so they can begin to understand what’s important to you.
Photo: Chaz Cruz Photographers
So, for the same reasons that professional accountants are used to help with your income taxes, professional Wedding Planners and Designers are hired to help couples with their weddings. The only difference is that a wedding celebration is a lot more fun than Form 1040!
A Picture Perfect Experience
Your Engagement Photos at Lake Tahoe
Hold it. Now say “cheeeese.”
Unfortunately, for many people, this approach to picture-taking can result in photos that are… cheesy. And if you’re an engaged couple with a wedding celebration approaching, this can be a cause for concern, because you want your photographer to capture your big day in a good light.
But some people are naturally camera shy, or they don’t always put their best face forward for photos. If you remotely fit this description, we highly recommend you spend a couple of hours in an engagement photo session with your photographer.
Of all the service providers (vendors) that you hire for your wedding, the one that you will spend the most time with on your wedding day is your photographer. So, not only does your photographer need to be a skilled master of his/her craft, but your photographer also needs to be someone that you are comfortable with.
By scheduling an engagement photo session in advance of the wedding, you will get to know your photographer better and become more familiar with how he/she works. Meanwhile, your photographer will learn from the engagement photo shoot which poses and camera angles work best, and he/she will develop a better understanding of what kinds of photos you like and dislike. In short, you and your photographer both benefit from an engagement session, and that’s why many photographers offer wedding packages with an engagement session included.
So where is the best place in the world to go for your engagement photo session?? Why Lake Tahoe of course!!!
Photo: Ciprian Photography
OK, we may be a bit biased, so we recently chatted with a most darling couple, Jesse and Darren from San Francisco, who got engaged in May 2017. When it came time for them to choose a location for their engagement photos, they quickly concluded that Tahoe was the place to be. Like many Bay Area residents, Jesse and Darren had spent considerable time enjoying all the fun activities that the Tahoe region has to offer. Darren told us he had been skiing and snowboarding at Tahoe resorts “for my entire life.”
So on December 10, 2017, Jesse and Darren drove from San Francisco to Tahoe for the day, and met up with their photographers, Capture Create Studios. They planned to take photos in more than one location, so Jesse brought three outfits with her. (She ended up wearing only two.)
Their first photo-shoot took place at Sugar Pine Point State Park. The lakefront setting, majestic evergreens and some fresh snow provided a beautiful backdrop.
Next, the couple and their photographers drove down to Emerald Bay. There, the late-afternoon natural lighting added a warm glow to the world-famous vistas.
So if you’re an engaged couple considering an engagement photo session, how should you proceed? Jesse and Darren’s photographers, Capture Create Studios, have these helpful suggestions:
- Secure your wedding day photographer first! This photographer should be the same photographer for your photo engagement session.
- Decide on a geographic location and settings that are significant to you. If you are an adventurous couple and love to hike, ski, or kayak on the lake, then Tahoe is the perfect place for your engagement photos.
- Wear clothes that you love and are comfortable. Select at least two outfits and avoid crazy patterns or prints.
- Consider having your make-up and hair done professionally. Makeup evens out the skin tone and gives a nice foundation base. Schedule your hair and make-up trial to coincide earlier in the day with your engagement photo session. During the photo session, have light matte-finish powder or blotter paper available.
- Time it right! Your professional photographer knows the most perfect time of day when the lighting is magical for photos, so let the photographer do the scheduling. Typically, the worst time to photograph is when the sun is at its peak height. Allow for 1.5 hours to 2 hours for an engagement photo session.
- Come mentally prepared to let your love shine…have fun with it!
The Owners of Capture Create Studios, Chelsea and Jon Evans, also offered these final thoughts: “Couples who opt in for engagement sessions actually have better photos on their wedding day – there is more comfort on the wedding day.”
Reflecting on their experience, Jesse and Darren declared, “It was great to get used to the camera and a lot more fun than we thought. If you are on the fence about doing an engagement session, definitely do it! For sure we know our photographers are great, and we love our engagement photos.”
Jesse and Darren’s Photographer: