No thank you is big enough but I’m going to try…

It was 3 weeks ago when I got this text from my cousin “You booked on 2/2?”  I was.  But, then she sent back “Nate just proposed and I wanted you to photograph my wedding!!”  Come to find out, he literally had just proposed a few minutes before and they were moving ahead with planning at break-neck speed!  Obviously, I canceled my booking and this is the story of what happened next.

There are many parts of this story I could focus on.  The reason for the rush planning is an important part so I’ll explain it.  But, it’s only a side note in this particular version of the story.  About a year ago, Jessica (the bride, my cousin and an amazing fabulous 32 yr old woman), was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.  Initially, she had some very positive results from treatment but found out 3 weeks ago that the latest results were the opposite of the plan.  Her awesome boyfriend (here’s where Nate comes in), immediately asked her to be his wife.  For a long time, he had been waiting for the perfect moment to ask and he was done waiting.  They were going to be husband and wife as soon as possible!  Now, onto the part of the miraculous 10-day wedding planning whirlwind that ended with these two having the most joyful, loving and memorable wedding ever.

Luckily, this couple had people who knew a thing or two about weddings.  The photographer, planner and reception venue were secured by the end of proposal night.  That only left ceremony venue, flowers…well, that still left a lot so we got busy.  And, got shocked, humbled and extremely grateful (like, to the point of no words).  All (literally, all) of the contacted vendors immediately dropped everything and donated all they could the moment they heard Jessica & Nate’s story.  I would ask for something and cringe a little because I knew I was asking a lot and all I ever heard was “Yes, absolutely.  What else can I do?”  It was truly unbelievable.  The generosity with time, talent and product that was shown was one of the most heartwarming experiences I have ever been a part of.  It was as if every single person involved decided they were going to commit to giving these two and their loved ones the happiest wedding possible.  And, they did.

First, I need to introduce the miracle worker who made this all happen.  This woman literally put her life completely on hold to plan this wedding in 10 days.  And, it wasn’t just planning.  It was knuckle biting, last minute decision making, securing of items in gale force winds and more craziness, all for a couple who she wanted to give the world to.  I also want to mention that she did this all after losing her 12 yr old son to cancer just about 18 months before.  To say this was an emotional one would be an understatement.  The strength, laughter, joy, efficiency, generosity and commitment she provided was nothing short of amazing.  Sarah Warner of Warner’s Whole Heart Events, you are an absolute rock star with a golden heart.  There’s no way to thank you enough.

By the way, the chairs are laying down to keep the other rows from blowing away…it’s not just a new style she came up with.  Well, I guess it is, but strictly for functional purposes (and, pretty genius).  Let’s focus on the beautiful scene and the beaming faces on the very very happy bride and groom (she had a huge part in making that happen ;).  Also, I didn’t take her gorgeous head shot but was given permission to use it.

Thank you, Heather Peterson, Greg Anderson, Michelle Sand & Alison Prather of the beautiful Oakmont Golf Club.  Heather (far right below) and the amazing Oakmont team pulled together to provide a wonderful (and warm…you’ll see soon why that was so appreciated) ballroom for the reception…totally donated.  They even provided the fun DJ, Noel of Perfect Day Music and deeply discounted the scrumptious dinner.  Everything was perfect!  Especially their staff.  Everyone there was friendly, welcoming and fun to work with.  That’s not as common as it should be and it was really refreshing & appreciated.

Thank you to Jill & Daniel, Park Reservation Super Stars of the Sonoma County Regional Parks, for making the impossible happen and approving our permit in record time.  Jess & Nate were 100% sold on the idea of a beach wedding.  In February.  After our eyebrows relaxed, we figured out how to make it happen.  And, then watched the weather report obsessively (cause that helps).  Super Sarah found a few back up locations, but in the end, it needed to be Doran.  Rain or shine.  Turned out to be rain.  And, sandblasting wind.  And, bitter cold.  And, absolutely perfect – we even had the place to ourselves!

Thank you to the ultra fabulous ladies at Wine Country Bride Boutique.  Kelly, Brenda, Melissa & Natasha made me cry huge, ugly tears and just about fall to the floor when they told me what they were going to do for my cousin.  But, I’m getting ahead of myself.  To understand just how special they made Jessica’s gown shopping experience, I need to tell you how her other one went.  It was not good.  She sent me a picture of her in a beautiful dress but with absolutely no smile saying “I can get this for $200.”  Ummm, no.  Don’t get that dress and where are you?  I immediately reached out to these ladies, knowing their dresses were custom made and usually take months.  I explained the situation and they said  “Come in anytime today and we’ll happily take care of her!”  And, they so did.  After about the third dress, Jess just looked at me sobbed.  “They’re just so nice” she said.  They were treating her as she should have been treated.  Right there to help, offering options that were exactly what she wanted, bringing in the fantastic seamstress (Natasha) to make sure they could customize it for her.  It was how bridal gown shopping should be and Jessica thought she wasn’t going to get that part.  Not only she did get the amazing experience but she found the perfect dress.  Well, almost perfect.  It needed to be made tea length, which made us nervous with the timing.  But, what could’ve been difficult was made extremely easy by Natasha.  She said “No problem.”  And, it wasn’t (on our end).  The dress was customized perfectly and was absolutely stunning on her.

But, that’s not even the part that made me all weepy and weak kneed.  When I asked Brenda about the cost she said “Don’t worry about it.  We’re giving her the dress she wants.”  I’m sorry, what?  Are you kidding me?  Where did you people come from and could you be any more awesome?  Totally floored.  We all were.  Jessica’s mama cried, Jess cried, Brenda and Melissa cried.  It was a mess in there.  A tremendously beautiful mess.

I want to also mention that A Touch of Class Bridal & Tux Rental were also ready to take care of her but the first stop went so well, they didn’t have to.  They also offered to donate the usage of whatever suit or tux Nate wanted but he bought his before knowing this.  Thank you for being so ready to help!

Thank you to the always amazing, Sarah Clark of Bloom Event Co.  I think it was just about 10 minutes after Sarah W. sent her a text asking for help, that she responded “Hell yes and all labor donated and only my cost for the florals.”  Not only that, but she was going to be out of town that weekend and needed to rope in an assistant to set it all up.  Oh, and by the way, figure out how to keep a floral wreath on an arbor during a hurricane.  Again, “No problem”.  And, talk about delivery – her floral’s were absolutely stunning!!  Everything Jess had wanted and more.

Again, not my picture and I stole off
Insta but she said I could

Thank you Nick of Gold Rush Jewelers!  I don’t really know all that you did but the ring is amazing and I know there was a huge rush and lots of generosity involved so, thank you!!

No credit to me on this one either

Thank you to the ridiculously talented, Meredith of Meredith Law Designs.  I get to work with her on quite a few weddings and remembered her having these fabulous agate table numbers.  I thought Jess would love them so I emailed to see if I could borrow them.  Immediately, her response was “Sure!  You want anything else?”  No rental fee, nothing.  Just “Yes and what else can I do.”  Amazing.  And well, since she asked, I could definitely find more to love in her stash.  She ended up lending us gorgeous, modern gold candle holders and perfect little votive holders that made the centerpieces shine.

Thank you Megan of Makeup by Megan H!!  Jess has a very long time friend who’s a hair genius (more on her in a minute), so that was covered.  But, what about make-up?  I have an absolute favorite who I knew would not only make Jessica look even more gorgeous but would make her feel that way too.  I reached out and once again, an immediate “Absolutely and it’s on me!!”  I think she even thanked me at one point.  Love that girl!!  And, man, she knocked it out of the park.  Jess has these jaw droppingly gorgeous wide eyes and a smile that radiates.  Megan didn’t mess around – those features were on point and Jessica just glowed.

I’d show you a gorgeous portrait close-up of this
fabulousness after it was all done 
but I don’t have one.
It was rainy, windy and cold that day, remember?

Thank you Tracy Pelleriti (the hair genius mentioned previously) of Guys & Dolls Hair Salon.  Her first hair creation was simply beautiful.  And, her next was equally as gorgeous.  Yes, she had to do it again.  Hair hates rain and wind.  Tracy and Jessica have been friends for like ever and I know having her be a part of the whole day was priceless for Jess.  I liked it too – that girl is funny!

I’d have a better picture of her hair but
see that lower left one…yep,
the wind was taking no prisoners.

Thank you Sara Olsher who (yes, you guessed it) dropped everything and donated her time and talents to get these two a beautiful invitation.  And, at warp speed. Those needed to go out asap and she was on it.  Plus, we kept changing things on her and she made sure all the guests received the important notices (like where the ceremony was actually going to be because we didn’t know when she sent them out.  Yes, it was that kind of affair.)  By the way, Sara designs and sells these wonderful magnetic charts designed to help kids through hard things at Mighty & Bright. You should probably go get some.

Speaking of beautiful designs, thank you Coco of Deluxe Modern Design for the timelessly classic and yet, still modern and fresh design of the seating chart.  Coco has always done my logos and her talent is pretty unmatched.  This was going to be the real only graphic in the reception room so I wanted it to be gorgeous.  But, I knew I was asking a lot as we needed the file within a day or two to allow for printing.  Plus, we kept changing the seating plan.  I reached out to her anyway and can you guess her response?  Yep, “Absolutely!  When do you need it?” I had it about a day later and it was everything (just like the woman who created it).

Thank you Gerard Giudice of Sally Tomatoes for being a fantastic officiant and provided much enjoyed hot coffee and noshings at the ceremony.  I know you and your wife, Suzanne, have really been there for Nate & Jessica.  From making sure they have delicious food to doing all you could to make this wedding special – very much appreciated.

And, a huge personal thank you to my brave, accommodating, supporting and fantastic team of visual artists, Magdalena of Magdalena Stefanek Photography and Kyle of Studio Arcady.  Same story, I asked, they responded with “Absolutely!”  Then, I told them the location.  And, that it was rain or shine and might change at the last minute.  Then I told them I’m bringing plastic bags for the cameras and they were to meet me at the windiest part of the county on the windiest day of the year.  You know what they said?  “ok.”  That’s it, no worrying about their gear, or the last minute venue changes or the fact that they literally could’ve been blown off the steep cliff side.  Just big smiles and constant “ok’s.”  Unbelievable.  We all wrapped our gear (which, by the way, made it reallllly hard to work it), put on rain coats and braced ourselves.  And, it was all beyond worth it.  Jessica has spent many hours pouring over the images and crying tears of happy happy joy joy, reliving that day over and over again.  I’m sure Nate has too but he hasn’t been as open with me about it 😉  And, the video will be priceless.  I’m truly honored to have these two on my side – thank you!!!


Jessica & Nate’s friends and family really stepped up to make this day magical.  While I don’t have pictures of all of them, I wanted to make sure to acknowledge and thank the ones who gave so generously:
Ryan Horan of Southern Wine & Spirits
Tessa Gorsuch of Martinelli Winery
Marisa Huffaker of Rutherford Hill Winery
Katie Wald, Mackensey Horne & Renee Schink of La Tavola Linens
And, family who braved the elements and pulled off amazing feats – thank you Nick, Don & Galadriel for the gorgeous arbor.  Becky for beautiful air plants.  Everyone for carting chairs up and down the beach.  Sabrina for never leaving the dance floor.  And, on and on…that’s all I can remember right now but the family & friends rocked it.  Sarah was impressed!

In short, I’ve never worked with a group of people who had their hearts 100% in the lead.  They gave and gave and wanted to do more.  It was magical, memorable, lovely, fun and everything these two should have had.  A “thank you” doesn’t suffice.  We are all truly truly grateful.