Like many couples these days, Lisa and Ethan’s family and friends are scattered all around the country. As they began imagining their perfect wedding day, they quickly realized their top priority: Make every aspect of the wedding as memorable, comfortable, and fun for their guests as possible.
With that in mind, Lisa and Ethan began planning. First, they reworked their guest list draft from 150+ to just 30 guests, composed of their closest family and friends. Second, they secured Bardessono Hotel in Yountville. This place has special meaning to Lisa and Ethan. Lisa, an executive assistant to Marissa Mayer at Yahoo, and Ethan, a Front Office executive for the San Francisco 49ers, tend to have particularly intense schedules. Over the last couple of years, Bardessono has become their go-to location for weekend getaways together, to the point where it feels like a second home to them. Unparalleled wine, top-notch food and service, and a beautiful space were all aspects of Bardessono that they wanted to share with their nearest and dearest.
Lisa and Ethan then hired Laurel Anderson at Esla Events. Laurel helped them planevery detail large and small, from the moment guests arrived at SFO to the final farewell. Fresh, modern, and personalized design was also a top priority for Lisa and Ethan, so they also hired Laurel to help with their overall event design. “Modern Elegance” was the inspiration throughout, mixing in just enough romantic and feminine details to make everything feel soft and welcoming, while also using clean lines, neutral tones, and beautifully simple shapes to keep it fresh.
The result was a once-in-a-lifetime, three-day affair, stretching from San Francisco to Yountville. During the events (and the downtime in between), their family and friends had the time and space needed to truly get to know one another and develop even stronger bonds. And thanks to a team of all-star partners, including Jessica Burke, Leigh Okies, The Aerialist, Rev Peadar Dalton, and Bouchon Bakery, Lisa and Ethan’s vision came to life. Alongside their family and friends, they enjoyed what became a perfect wedding weekend.
Thinking back, the ocean was a witness to our engagement and ultimately our wedding. The excitement began one unsuspecting evening during our first visit to Maui. Uncharacteristically insistent, Mike led me down the beach in search of a spot to watch the sunset. We found a gnarled tree, just off the sand with welcoming, bench-like branches. Taking a seat in the tree, our ears buzzed with the sounds you associate with Hawaii: ukuleles and the ocean’s waves. Needless to say, the scene was almost too surreal. Then I felt Mike’s weight leave the tree branch and looked down to see him dropped to one knee, with a ring I recognized and had coveted months before, and a proposal equally as personal.
We had immediately decided that we wanted to have a beach wedding and soon thereafter decided on Anna Maria Island, Florida. I had grown up there until I was seven and this little barrier island in the Gulf was forever present in my memory. The color palette and sea life represented such a period of beauty in my young life that I knew it would be the ideal location to gather our friends and family while also providing the perfect backdrop to our wedding. Anna Maria invokes an old-Florida feel with its single-story skyline and its quiet, calm avenues. And once the long anticipated wedding week arrived, these same streets were being navigated by those closest to us as we rode beach cruisers from house to house.
Mike and I spent the days ironing out the details of the big day and the nights enjoying the time with our friends and family who had come from all over the country to celebrate with us. What I loved most about the planning process are all of the creative possibilities a wedding inspires. For my own wedding, I saw the potential of each detail to become an elaborate art project (and many of them did!) but truthfully, I found this the most overwhelming aspect of the process…the endlesspossibilities! Ultimately, what ended up making every detail possible was the contribution from everyone in our lives. Each guest and even those that couldn’t physically make the trip to Florida, lent Mike and I their numerous talents and shaped our wedding into the magical day it was. I get instantly choked up thinking back on the endless phone calls with my closest friends as they listened to my ideas for all the months leading up to the wedding, or thinking about my brother who selflessly intercepted all potential concerns during my wedding week. And what chokes me up perhaps most of all is the unwavering love and support of my Mom and Dad every single step of the way.
I think it was walking down the rickety wooden walkway that was my aisle that I realized all of these things. Linked to my father’s arm and seeing my handsome soon-to-be husband with the vast ocean behind him, I nearly turned into a puddle of tears. I cannot think of a day more swelled with love and am so grateful to have the opportunity to share these moments on this beautiful blog.
It’s always a joy sharing a wedding of a couple we know. Nina and Wes have an amazing story, one filled with many up’s and down’s like most marriages, but it is inspiring to read about how far they’ve come together. I’m so honored Nina shared their incredible vow renewal with Once Wed. You can read more of about their wedding below…
Our marriage, like many marriages, hasn’t been easy. Wes and I dated for 2 months before I left for Nepal to volunteer for 4 months. During my last week in Nepal, Wes surprised me by showing up. On the way back to the States, we had planned to stop in Norway (where my mother is from, and where I spent most of my childhood summers). And it was there, on top of a mountain, in the land of the midnight sun, that Wes asked me to marry him. Three months later, after a whirlwind of planning, and doing nothing the way we truly wanted to, we got married. Yes…it was fast. And it could be said that we weren’t quite ready for what we had just stepped into. But, never the less, we were together…for better and for worse. The next five years or so proved to be extremely difficult, with more lows than highs. We fought hard, though, and worked through each year with great determination. In year seven, after a fight with infertility and cancer, we welcomed 2 beautiful children into our little family….a boy and a girl…twins. They were born in Ethiopia, and we spent three months there with them, waiting for the completion of their adoption. Through those difficult 3 months in Africa, our marriage only grew stronger.
Once we finally arrived home from Ethiopia, after all the crazy struggles we had crawled through, we started to think about renewing our vows. We decided we wanted to renew our vows in our tenth year of marriage. We wanted to make it special and beautiful. And this time, we wanted amazing photographs to capture this miraculous and momentous occasion.
We met Erich McVey at a workshop we all attended in Maui almost two years ago. As photographers ourselves, we knew we wanted this special time in our lives to be documented by someone who knew how to consistently capture beauty and love on film. After getting to know Erich, and his equally talented wife, Amy, Wes and I both agreed that we wanted them to be there to photograph our special day.
Our dream was to go back to Norway to renew our vows. We envisioned saying “yes” to each other again in the middle of a beautiful field, surrounded by mountains, overlooking the sea and the fjords. We knew that most of our friends wouldn’t be able to make it, because of the cost, so we kept things simple. And somewhere in the middle of the year leading up to our vow renewal, I met the incredibly talented Ginny Au, and we became quick friends. And somehow, we got her on a plane to Norway, and she helped plan and style our vow renewal.
Ginny worked with Wes and I to style a simple and organic gathering. We started with what we would wear. I’ve always been a bit of a hippie at heart, at least when it comes to clothing. So I searched for a vintage pattern on Etsy, and found a classic 1970’s pattern to style my dress from. When Wes and I first got married, I wanted my mother, who is an amazing seamstress, to make my dress. But at the time, I got lost in the excitement of trying on dresses and ended up purchasing one instead. 10 years later, I was determined to have her hands stitch together a dress that symbolized so much more than just a fashion statement. And as a finishing touch, I thought a little bit of ribbon would be a perfect addition to the dress. And of course, true to my inner flower-child, I was barefoot. And then there was Wes….Wes is a bit of an old soul…he loves to relax on a quiet evening, sometimes smoking a pipe while sipping on a bit of his favorite bourbon, all whilst reading a little bit of classic literature, like Sherlock Holmes. We really wanted this to play into what he would wear in Norway. I love the final outcome. A slim fit, linen suit, with a plain tee, a scarf, and a driver’s cap. Perfect. All Wes.
And finally, the location. When we all got to Norway, we had no idea where we would have the ceremony. It wasn’t until the day before, that we all went to the tourist information center, saw a picture of some beautiful fjords, asked the tourist guide where it was, he told us, we rented some cars, and drove there the next day. And even once we got there, we still had no clue. I just prayed that it would be that scene we had dreamed about when we first hired Erich. We drove further and further up a mountain, and eventually found some private farmland. Erich, Ginny, and myself snuck onto the farm with great anticipation. And then it happened…we got to the top of a hill, got out of our car, and walked out into what seemed like a dream. We stepped into a field filled with yellow wild flowers. Behind us the mountain soared higher, with rays of sun beaming over top of it. And beyond the field, we looked out over the most beautiful view you could imagine….the breathtaking view of the fjords of Norway, and the beautiful waters that flow between them. It was just what we had imagined. I thanked God in that moment, for that perfect answer to our prayer.
From there, we found the farmer who owned the farm, and without any need for explanations, he waved his hand in the air, gesturing to us that we were free to have our ceremony there.
And in that field, with the late setting sun, and our loved ones surrounding us, we spoke aloud our continuing commitment to each other once again. Both of us cried through the entire thing. It was…perfect.
Afterwards, Erich captured all the beautiful photos we had ached for. And we sat down to the most beautiful picnic with our children. We ate sandwiches wrapped in linen, and laughed and talked until it was time to go.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, it was one of the most beautiful days we have ever had together. I am so thankful to God for this life he gave to me and Wes, and the strength he gave us to fight for our marriage. That joy and commitment was so beautifully captured in each photo Erich took.
How gorgeous is this engagement shoot set in the prairie fields of Flagstaff, AZ from Austin Gros? The couple’s wardrobe choice of neutrals and the bride’s natural makeup complement the gorgeous setting perfectly.