Camie and Eric met in a very Tahoe way – skiing at Squaw Valley! Three years later, they got engaged while on a river rafting trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River with Western Rivers Conservancy.
Camie fondly recalls Eric’s proposal. “He’d arranged for us to go out one morning to Big Creek where we were planning to hike and fish. On my first cast I caught a fish, which never happens. I was asking Eric to help me bring in the line and he was scrambling in his backpack getting the ring. After we let go of the fish, he proposed! I was shocked and very, very excited.”
The following August, Camie and Eric were married at their own estate, the Bullshead Lodge near Squaw Valley. Monique Sady with Photography by Monique captured these spectacular images of their special day.
“From the moment we got engaged, we knew we wanted to get married in Tahoe,” says Camie. “We looked around at a few locations but quickly realized that the property we have would provide a perfect venue as it sits right on the Truckee River. We had a lot of work to do to get it into shape to be the venue.”
Chelsea Grabham with Blue Sky Events, who was the full service Lead Planner and Designer for this wedding, recalls first visiting the venue during winter when it was covered in several feet of snow. “Upon seeing the property for the first time, it was hard to determine the scope of work needed to develop the site for a wedding with over 100 guests,” she says. “With so much snow at the first meeting, and a willow glen in the area where they envisioned the reception, it was clear that it would take a lot of work once the snow melted to get everything in order.”
Grabham continues, “Come Spring, there were only a few short months to design the site, landscape and build the ceremony and reception spaces. It took a lot of coordination between all the partners (landscaper, wedding planner, rental company and owners) to come to final decisions. In the end, the property was completely transformed, much of the hard work done by the clients themselves! It made for a very special venue that was extra personal to them.”
It was also a hectic time for the couple – Eric had just started his own company and Camie had started a new job. But with their friends, parents and Eric’s brothers, all the hard work paid off. Camie was delighted, as she remarked, “seeing the property transform was remarkable after working hard many weekends.”
Designer Paul Waters helped Camie and Eric create a custom wedding image for their Save the Date and invitations. The green and white color scheme coordinated perfectly with the natural beauty of the private estate. A pop of coral (the bride’s favorite hue) added some summer spirit to the design.
“It was a perfect representation of us in a canoe (which is my nickname) on a river (given their importance to our relationship) with Squaw Valley’s mountains in the background,” Camie explains.
Camie looked stunning in a Sarah Seven gown, which featured a beaded top and ivory skirt with a slit in the front. She wore gold drop earrings and a gold bracelet (a family heirloom) that her mother had given her. Eric wore a tan tuxedo with a bowtie.
As 130 guests looked on, the bride entered the ceremony area down a large stone stairway, which was built just for the wedding. “It was a special entrance to witness. The bride walked down the stone steps to meet her father at the bottom who took her the rest of the way to the river front ceremony.” says Grabham. The couple’s friend Drew Dougherty (who also helped transform the property) officiated the ceremony, recounting the couple’s courtship and adding humor.
Since Eric had torn his Achilles tendon just one month before the big day and wasn’t able to stand during the ceremony, the bride and groom sat in chairs facing the guests. “It was really nice to hear the ceremony for the first time while facing our guests and each other,” says Camie, noting that she and Eric wrote their own vows. “Exchanging our vows was so much fun. They represented our personalities and humor. They were heartfelt, personal and represented our commitment to each other.”
Following the ceremony, guests followed a short trail through the forest for a cocktail hour at the river’s edge. In addition to savoring tasty treats from Butter + Salt Catering, guests had an opportunity to fish and play games by the river.
Grabham enjoyed seeing the guests having so much fun. “One guest picked up one of the fly fishing rods that were placed by the groom and started fishing while others were playing bocce ball on the river-stone beach. The groom is an avid fisherman and wanted the river to be a big part of the wedding. It all happened so organically and was exactly how the clients imagined it!”
While guests were reveling by the river, the ceremony space was turned into a delightful site for dining and dancing. A sumptuous family-style meal was served, featuring Grilled Peach & Shishito Salad, Sumac Roasted Salmon and Grilled Tri-Tip. To top off the meal, Paris Cakes in Reno created a beautiful two-tiered wedding cake. The top tier was diary-free since Camie could not have dairy.
The couple asked their respective parents and Eric’s brothers to give toasts during the reception. Then, a top Tahoe band, the Dead Winter Carpenters, revved up the music and guests danced the night away. Camie recalls, “The band was so much fun and such a special treat to have them play in the woods with us.”
In the end, the wedding day was a dream come true for the couple. “Getting married at our house in our backyard and see it transform to an enchanted forest with the river, live music and all of my favorite people was overwhelming,” says Camie. “We had so much fun and it felt very intimate and romantic.”
“Some may imagine that it is easier to have a wedding at a private estate and believe there are cost savings, however it takes much more time, resources and planning than if you were to get married at an event center or ‘turnkey’ venue,” says Grabham, noting that being flexible and hiring reputable professionals are the most important things a couple can do to assure a successful wedding.
Before signing any contracts for a “private estate wedding,” you should ask lots of questions. For example, you should not rent a wedding venue that is not permitted or zoned by the county to be a wedding site. You also need to be sure there is adequate electricity for additional property lighting, tent heaters, music equipment, etc. In addition, you should consider things like parking, bathrooms, water supply, and all the other logistics of building an event venue from scratch, while ensuring it’s a comfortable and safe space for you and your guests.
Wedding Planning & Design: Blue Sky Events | Photographer: Photography by Monique | Cake: Paris Custom Cakes | Caterer: Butter + Salt | Flowers: Martha Bernyk Floral Design | Hair and Makeup: The Decorated Bride | Music: Dead Winter Carpenters | Rental Items and Tenting: Celebrations! Party Rentals and Tents | Transportation: Reno Tahoe Transportation | Videographer: Distinctive Video Productions