If you are the kind of SMP reader that devours the photographs but sometimes skips the text…this is the day to break that habit. Of course, the images that Tanja Lippert snapped of this lovely, lovely wedding are beyond (as they generally are when it comes to Tanja), but really it’s the story that keeps bringing tears to my eyes. And the thoughtful, hands-on, completely personal approach that this couple took to planning and designing their wedding. Each and every detail was there for a reason and together they built a day that gave their guests a window into their lives. It’s SO beautiful and more than worth a cup of coffee and a mini-break. And if you’re dying to see more like we were…click right here.

carmel valley wedding

carmel valley wedding

carmel valley wedding

carmel valley wedding

carmel valley wedding

carmel valley wedding

carmel valley wedding

carmel valley wedding

click here to see the full, beautiful wedding!

Todd and I sat down at the beginning (before even planning our wedding) and we talked about what we wanted our wedding to FEEL like.  To me, I did not know what I specifically wanted it to look like – but I knew what I wanted the day to feel like.  Real, authentic, unique, organic, warm, natural, full-of-love and meaningful are some of the feelings that come to mind…we did not want to do things for traditions sake – but rather, we wanted to do things that had meaning to US, and that would make our hearts sing.  We are both vivacious and passionate people who love to live life to its fullest.   We wanted our wedding atmosphere to capture our love story and energize and inspire our guests.  This was a huge payoff in the end as the wedding turned out to be a true reflection of us.

We started with WHERE we could capture this warmth and intimacy.  I knew it would be outside as we are both outdoor lovers.  We wanted something in Northern California as we grew up there.  Todd loves the ocean and I love the mountains so we chose Carmel Valley which gave us both.  During the ceremony we could see birds flying and hear horses nay-ing.  It was blissful.

Our wedding ceremony was something that we enjoyed creating from scratch.  We chose Jim Burklo who is my best friend’s stepfather and he allowed us to shape the ceremony as we wished.  I have always thought the lighting of candles was a simple symbolic idea of uniting families but we wanted to do something different that was more meaningful.  We decided to use a tree in our ceremony.  We found a baby manzanita tree which my sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew brought down the aisle in a wagon, then we had our mothers plant some soil in the base of the tree and our fathers watered it.  This was highly symbolic to Todd and I as our parents are still together after 30 plus years and we feel their strong roots and love are values that have brought us to where we are today.  After the ceremony the tree was planted at Holman Ranch in a special location.   Now, for years to come, Todd and I can return to the ranch to see how our tree has grown.  We know it will weather many seasons and changes…(as will we)…but that it will always remain strong and in the location where we started our commitment to each other.  This was incredibly special to us.

My parents travel the world frequently for business and pleasure so my father wanted to collect shells (over the last year) from all of these places.  He brought them to the wedding and we scattered them down the aisle, so that we walked through these “places”.  We also had relatives and friends from distant countries like Australia ……..send us some shells for our special day.  That way, they were there with us in spirit!

At our ceremony site we also had baskets of grapefruits.  The first drink Todd bought for me was a fresh squeezed Greyhound so it was only natural to have grapefruits in the wings and our specialty drink was The Greyhound.

We wanted to make sustainable decisions throughout our wedding day.  Instead of renting dinner napkins for our guests, I found 40 yards of fabric which a family friend, Elisa Cetera, made into napkins.  The wonderful idea behind this is that we were able to take the napkins home after our wedding, wash them, and then gift them to our family members and keep some for ourselves.  This is a wonderful memento from our day that we can share with family for years to come.  Also for place settings we did not print up names on tags which would be thrown out.  I decided to buy river rocks which I wrote guests names on (one per setting).  This also served as a gift as we have seen many friends who took them home to use as decorations, paper holders or have simply placed in their garden.

For table names we had the same sort of idea, we bought wooden frames and placed pictures in them (of Todd and I enjoying places we loved), and wrote the picture location on each one.  These frames can be gifted after the wedding to grandparents, aunts and uncles, and those who could not make the wedding or anybody who might just love a picture of us in one of our most favorite places.  We did not want things to be thrown away.

Homemade streamers, Haybales, homemade wine barrel bar, were some of our favorite sustainable additions. We also had a photobooth, and created a photo book guest book (with pictures inside of us with friends etc.)  Our friends loved finding pictures of places they knew, or had been with us, and signed that page. We also held a private cermony in the hacienda with our immediate family which took place half an hour before the formal ceremony.  This was a wonderful opportunity to gather our family and bless our rings.

The most personal and heartfelt thing I worked on for our wedding day were the escort cards.  I have always loved letters – receiving them, writing them, re-reading them.  When I receive a letter I feel special, appreciated and grateful.  I wanted all of our guests who traveled far and wide to feel that way on our wedding day.  So as escort cards, I wrote each and every guest a wedding note of gratitude.  This was extremely important to me because I did not take for granted the people who attended our wedding day.  I knew that everyone made exceptional efforts to be there…and I needed them to know that with a personal note.

Most of all, I wanted my husband to know how much I appreciated him.  So for months before the wedding I practiced singing the song “The Way I Am” by Ingrid Michaelson.  On our wedding day I surprised Todd (and everyone) by singing him that song with the band playing behind me.  It was an intimate moment…everybody was there watching, but Todd was front and center and I sang for him.  He was touched — and it was a magical moment in time that we can cherish forever.  Sometimes I still sing it to him at night when he asks me too!

The most important thing of all?  Todd and my wedding mantra!  We never showcased it or wrote it down for anyone to see…but we always talked about it and told our families how important it was for us to: “Be Here Now”.  In fact, that was the name of the song for our first dance by Mason Jennings.  We knew, if everybody came together on our day of uniting, and was present – really present – that we would be taken to places we couldn’t imagine.  We wanted to remember to take in all the intricacies and enjoy the moment, and be here now.

Venue: Holman Ranch, Carmel Valley, CA (Hunter Lowder) / Minister: Jim Burklo, Los Angeles, CA / Photographer: Tanja Lippert, Los Gatos, CA / Caterer: Paradise Catering, Carmel Valley, CA / Florist: Christine Cater, Carmel, CA / Band: Keith Johnson Band, Oakland, CA / Ceremony Music: Steve Ezzo, Monterey, CA / Dress: Monique Lhuillier Miranda style / Make-up and Hair: freebird productions, Tia Raegan / Napkin Seamstress: Elisa Cetera / Cinematographer: Weddings on Film

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