Real weddings, great group activities for your guests, top tips from wedding pros… we have everything you need to know about a North Lake Tahoe celebration.
Posts Categorized: Real Weddings
Rustic Elegance by the Truckee River
Everything about Ali and Nick’s wedding was joyfully personalized and thoughtfully fashioned. (After all, the groom is a professional jewelry designer.) But what really mattered most to the couple was bringing their loved ones together in one place to enjoy the beauty of Tahoe. Ali and Nick loved every moment of their celebration, and it certainly shows in these photos, creatively captured by Just West Co.
Nick, a skilled jewelry designer and Owner of Nick Engel & Co., first met Ali on Baker Beach in San Francisco. He recalls, “I don’t remember if I shook her hand, hugged her, or both – but I do remember feeling immediately comfortable.” Ali concurs, “When I met Nick, I was instantly smiling and laughing.”
In her work as an auditor, it’s Ali’s job to thoroughly analyze the data she is given and draw logical conclusions. However, in the case of Nick’s proposal, Ali missed a few data points and was caught completely off guard when it happened! But as she later acknowledged, “I loved every second.”
A week before he proposed, Nick asked Ali if she could help one of his friends, Danny, who was building his photography portfolio and needed couples to pose for pictures. Ali recalls, “I happily agreed and started planning what outfit I should wear for a beach sunset photo shoot, completely unaware! When we got to Baker Beach (the beach where we first met…still no clue), I didn’t know why Nick wouldn’t park in the parking lot and instead parked in the nearby neighborhood – which meant we had to climb down some dirt path/stairs to get to the beach. But of course that is the romantic way down.”
This romantic trip to the beach took a crazy twist – literally – when Ali slipped, fell and turned her ankle. Like a good boy scout, Nick was prepared for this unexpected situation, as he whipped out a bottle of chilled champagne to ice down Ali’s swollen ankle. Still not connecting the dots, Ali continues the story. “At this point, I see Danny off in the distance and point in the direction and ask Nick, ‘Isn’t that Danny over there?’ Nick then got down on his knee and asked me to marry him. And of course, I said yes!’”
The perks of marrying a jeweler… the rings and bling. Some women plan the perfect ring and leave hints of every aspect they desire. Ali took a different approach, she knew she wanted an elongated shaped diamond, rose gold, and that was it. The rest was left up to the expert – and Nick hand-fabricated a completely custom, unique diamond engagement ring.
In choosing a location for Ali and Nick’s nuptials, the mountains have always called to both of their families. Ali’s parents met on the ski slopes in the singles line, and Nick grew up going to the slopes with his parents. So, Nick and Ali could think of no other place to get married than in Tahoe. The ceremony and reception were just steps from the trail where they first said “I love you” to each other, and they were inspired by the Truckee River and all the surrounding natural beauty for their wedding theme.
There were many projects and personal touches that transformed a riverside park into a romantic fairy tale. Vintage doors were draped with eucalyptus and flowers centered at the start of the aisle. Birch wood was utilized throughout the venue, collected from a tree cut down at a friend’s house. Recycled wine, whiskey, and gin bottles – all consumed by the bride and groom (now that’s what you call a labor of love!) – were scattered throughout with flowers and eucalyptus. And hand-painted wooden signs displayed the groom’s artistic touch.
Jewelry was all over this wedding! Nick and his team helped make custom earrings for all the women in the bridal party. Ali also commissioned Nick to make the stunning, custom “something blue” earrings of her dreams with diamonds, sapphires, and her birthstone – tanzanite. On the wedding day, Nick surprised Ali with a delicate and beautiful wedding band, and another ring circled with diamonds in a design that Ali had been admiring for months.
The wedding flowers had a soft, gathered, vintage feel, inspired by a field of wild flowers rather than a formal bouquet. The florist used eucalyptus, baby’s breath, spray roses, delphinium, larkspur, eryngium, roses, Queen Anne’s lace, dusty miller, alstromeria, Italian ruskus, curly willow, and more! The park itself also provided a beautiful, natural backdrop and the flowers perfectly accented the outdoor venue.
Keeping with the DIY and repurposing spirit of the wedding, the florist gathered up the flowers after the wedding reception. These flowers were then donated to The Petal Connection, a group of incredible volunteers who gather together to bring love and joy to hospice patients, their families, and seniors in the community. This act of kindness blesses not only the recipients, but also the person whose hands created the floral designs. And of course, it reflects the generous spirit of the newlyweds, too!
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 Kiddushcups 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!
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:
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!
On a picture-perfect Lake Tahoe afternoon, Pamela and Dan blissfully exchanged wedding vows in an awe-inspiring North Shore setting. Featuring a vibrant yellow and “Tahoe Blue” color palette, the beauty and joy of their lakefront celebration was expertly captured by Nick Higman Photography. Nick and his associate chronicled the spirit of the day in photographs to last a lifetime.
While Pamela, a Bay Area native, often spent weekends in Tahoe with her family, Dan grew up in Nebraska where the magic of Tahoe wasn’t known to him until he moved to California after college. However, they both shared a draw to its natural beauty and endless outdoor activities.
During a short vacation from medical school, Dan and Pamela were visiting the sandy shores of Tahoe, beautifully backlit by the sunset and the Sierra Mountains, when Dan dropped down on one knee to pop the question.
This perfect Tahoe proposal deserved the perfect Tahoe wedding – so one year later, they tied the knot beside those same crystal blue waters. The couple selected Gar Woods Grill & Pier as the ideal venue to share their special day with friends and family and enjoy the idyllic Tahoe views.
Their wedding vision started with the sunflower, which laid the foundation for the decor. Pamela had always loved sunflowers. They are bright and cheery, and as warm and inviting as the sweet summer sun – perfect for their Tahoe wedding.
Although they are often do-it-yourselfers, Pamela and Dan also knew when to pull in help from local vendors, who worked together to make their wedding sparkle. Their Wedding Planner, Events of Distinction, orchestrated the logistics of their day to ensure a seamless execution. To ensure an on-time performance, Reno Tahoe Limousine transported wedding party members to the celebration in style.
The waterfront ceremony location at Gar Woods provided an amazing panorama of the Lake’s awesome beauty. Arrangements of sunflowers and wildflowers, creatively designed by Wanda’s Floral and Gift, lined the aisle as Pamela and Dan joyfully exchanged vows.
After witnessing wedded bliss, guests were escorted to the outdoor balcony at Gar Woods, which offered a picturesque location to watch the sunset over the Tahoe Mountains. As a full-service restaurant, Gar Woods allowed guests to select their entrée from their lakeside seats, which added a personalized feel to the delicious dinner.
After dinner, Moonlight Mobile DJ got guests revved up on the dance floor with a festive assortment of everyone’s favorite tunes. To complement the décor and the Tahoe locale, Sugar Pine Cakery provided a cake adorned with flowers, accompanied by cupcakes and assorted desserts displayed upon tree rounds.
When the last song ended, Pamela and Dan were sad to see the festivities come to a close. But they were thrilled knowing they had experienced a magical day, filled with the joy of family and friends coming together, celebrating by the shores of Lake Tahoe.
We are delighted to feature this spectacular wedding produced by TWIG member and wedding planner extraordinaire Kerry Hawk, along with her outstanding team at Blue Sky Events. With the azure waters of Lake Tahoe as their backdrop, this adorable couple enjoyed a sparkling celebration at the West Shore Café, which was beautifully photographed by Rose Street Studio.
Kendra and Carl are a true “Tahoe Couple.” Having grown up in small Northern California towns, they were both drawn to Tahoe by friends to pursue the “Tahoe Mountain Lifestyle.” They met one summer while both working in the Banquet Department at The Hyatt Regency in Incline Village, and life was never the same.
This delightful couple shared their vows with each other on an amazing early summer day in June, surrounded by family and friends at the lovely West Shore Cafe in Homewood. The sweet and very special Ceremony took place on the expansive lawn, overlooking the different shades of Tahoe Blue, complete with a surprise Bagpiper to honor both families.
The bride’s chic vision was beautifully executed with the help of Blue Sky Events, with elegant details and exotic florals from Stems by Diana. Though not the normal Tahoe décor, the tropical theme chosen by the couple blended perfectly with the clear blue waters of the Lake. Explains Kendra, “I wanted something to stand out and not be the typical theme – we liked the juxtaposition. That’s also why we chose king proteas as our main flower – it is so unique and majestic and out of the ordinary.”
For the cocktail hour, mingling and hors d’oeuvres on the deck and pier was finished with an outstanding sunset. Then, guests moved inside the Main Dining Room for a scrumptious dinner. Paying homage to where Kendra and Carl had met, the magnificent cake and delicious whoopee pies were provided by The Hyatt Regency. The celebration continued into the night with joyful dancing, courtesy of Brian Hess Music.
If you were recently married in North Lake Tahoe, or if you are a professional photographer who recently photographed a wedding in North Lake Tahoe, we would love to consider your wedding for publication in our blog. To provide us with more information about your wedding, please, please click here.
In the Industry? Join TWIG!
Tahoe Engaged is a collaborative website of the Tahoe Wedding Industry Group (TWIG), an alliance of creative and experienced wedding professionals serving the North Lake Tahoe area.