Cooper Carras? He’s one seriously talented photog. The kind of seriously talented photog that never ever fails to send us to la-la land with his uber-impressive, uber-romantic images. Case in point? This drop-dead gorgeous Kunde Family Estate wedding, which is kind of like the best.thing.ever with its laid-back meets elegant vibe and heartwarming personal touches woven throughout each and every moment. I’m talking a beautiful Wisconsin bride (+ financial guru) marrying her dapper Swiss beau in a day that features a lemonade stand, a cheese bar (!) and an evening of al fresco dining at its very finest. Soak in every last second in the full gallery. It’s beyond awesome.
From the Bride… From the moment Stefan and I met and fell in love, our relationship has been a melding (and sometimes a collision course) of different cultures and backgrounds. With him from Switzerland and me from Wisconsin, we were accustomed to different traditions, different foods, and very different prospectives on what an ideal wedding would entail. Swiss culture mandated that we marry in a church, make our first dance a traditional waltz, and serve a sit-down dinner that lasted no less than five hours. American culture instructed that we wed with a bridal party (a total no-go in die Schweiz), serve a white wedding cake, and have a father-daughter dance to boot.
When we thought long and hard about where we wanted to marry, the natural choice was California’s wine country. Besides both having an intense passion for wine (especially when enjoyed together), our first real date was a weekend away in wine country and when Stefan was living in Geneva, we spent many a weekend away in the Burgundy, sampling the French countryside’s sweet nectar. When we stumbled upon the Kunde Family Estate in rural Sonoma, we instantly fell in love. Not only was the property European-family-owned and full of rich history, the ruins of their original, historic winery – home to where California’s first varietally labeled Cabernet Sauvignon was crafted and bottled – looked exactly like a church (a nod to that Swiss nuptial requirement), only without a roof. A winery out in nature? Now, that’s OUR kind of church.
We immediately went about crafting a wedding with as much KK-and-Stefan-culture infused into it as possible. Since we were marrying in OUR kind of church, we wanted OUR kind of ceremony. Together we wrote the entire wine-themed service from scratch describing how a good marriage is just like a good wine – you’ve got to start with good grapes (that’s the two of us) which require varied and plentiful terriors (check!), a variety of climates (check!), exceptional farmers (our fabulous parents), extraordinary field hands (all our wonderful friends and family present), and then a lot of hard-work, patience, and commitment. Instead of an officiant, we asked important family members to lead us through different parts of the ceremony (our two mothers welcoming everyone, one grandfather doing a reading, our fathers carrying us through the body of the service, Stefan’s talented mom leading us in a song, my married-for-50+-years grandfather leading us in our vows and pronouncing us man and wife) making the whole event a joint effort, with German, English, and even a little Swiss German.
My eleven adorable little cousins also each had their own role in the event. Before the ceremony, some “sold” lemonade at a wooden stand Stefan and I hand-built using the antique lemonade stand sign I grew up selling behind as a kid. Others handed out homemade paper bag programs stamped with the ceremony’s schedule and filled with traditional Swiss wedding candies, dried lavender to toss, song lyrics, and a thank-you from us. Some helped with a special box ceremony where we packaged up items to remind us of our commitment to each other (love letters, our wedding invitation, little keepsakes from our relationship, a bottle of wine we had bought in the Burgundy to be opened 25 years down the line). Others walked down the aisles with a Here Comes the Bride sign dressed in bowties or with a Hier Kommt Die Braut sign dressed in lederhosen or tossing flowers in an adorable J. Crew flower girl dress. ALL of the little cousins, however, took part in the rating of our first kiss as husband and wife. (I have to say it felt like a total 10.)
Post ceremony, we enjoyed champagne, wine, beer, and Panache (a traditional Swiss afternoon beverage) outside the Ruins before we led guests (via our ancient stick-shift Saab ceremoniously decorated by the kids) up to Boot Hill for dinner and dancing. Besides wine, our other shared love (being from two great, great dairy locales) is cheese. Not only did we have a (almost white) wedding cake composed of our favorite wheels of cheese (the bottom wheel being Stefan’s absolute favorite: Swiss Appenzeller Extra), the Cheese School of San Francisco hosted an after-dinner cheese bar with 20 of our favorite varieties from Switzerland, Wisconsin, California and beyond. And each of our tables was named after one of the cheeses featured. (Think: Lambchopper, Brillat Savarin, and Fat Bottom Girl. No boring bries or havartis at this party.)
We mixed up our guests (hailing from Munich to Maine, Brooklyn to Boca Grande, Canada to Connecticut, Milwaukee to Middlebury, New York to North Hampton, Zurich to Indiana) along long, wooden tables cloaked with burlap runners homemade by my mother, custom-made matchbox place cards, and wooden boxes planted with succulents and fresh white flowers, which went home with various guests and will last for ages. While our three-course dinner (which was featured on menus printed with English on one side and German on the other) didn’t last quite five hours, we did make our first dance a waltz, and even surprised my parents with a first dance of their own, since they never had one when they wed 28 years ago this past September.
The whole evening was a magical meddling of cultures – from the maid-of-honor/best-man tag-teamed-toast where they presented us with a grilled cheese with ½ American cheese and ½ Swiss cheese to our guestbook asking guests to write us postcards from all the places we’ve been to the Directions Signpost with locations of all our guests hand-crafted by my brother to some American-style smores to the gorgeous sunset. It was KK-and-Stefan, Swiss-and-American perfection.
Wedding Photography: Cooper Carras | Ceremony + Reception Venue: Kunde Family Estate | Wedding Coordination: Kelly & Company Events | Floral Design: Grant Avenue Florist | Bridal Party Styling: Melanie of Head Over Heels | Wedding Cake + Cheese Bar: Cheese School of San Francisco | Cinematography: Alicia Oblander | Wedding Invitations: Paper Source | Menus/ Programs/Escort Cards: DIY by the bride | Catering: Elaine Bell Catering | Band + Ceremony Music: A Frontline Band | Photo Booth: Photo-matica | Placecard Matchboxes: Christina M Koon | Wedding Dress + Bridesmaids Dresses + Flower Girl Dress: J.Crew | Shoes: Tory Burch | Groom’s Suit: Custom, Bloomingdale’s | Men’s Ties + Bowties: Two L Creations