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