Beginning their romance with a shared love of books (and music), Cassidy decided to stage a romantic proposal to his love Danielle in their favourite ‘reading spot’ – where she had read Harry Potter to him years before. It was only natural that they used books and stories as the inspiration for their big day, which they held at Forest House Lodge in California on the 13th of May 2016. Even the date held special significance for them and their families, as it was Danielle’s grandparents’ wedding anniversary and her late grandfather’s birthday. Their wedding was a charming and eclectic mix of vintage décor, multicoloured florals, lush greenery, stunning scenery and outstanding outfits.
The bride carefully chose her attire to match their book-lover, fairytale theme. She wore a crystal hairpiece, an off-the-shoulder lace gown with a gold belt and ballet slippers with long ribbons. Her maids wore green strapless dresses with matching ballet flats. The groom looked great in his dark blue suit, white shirt and patterned bowtie and his groomsmen shone in green shirts, beige pants, suspenders and bowties. Their outfits worked perfectly together and showed up beautifully in the photos, as you will see. At the reception, tables were named after places from their favourite tales and the bride and groom took pride of place in grand vintage chairs at a table adorned with florals, ‘Mr and Mrs’ bunting and a metallic sequinned tablecloth. It’s easy to see that the celebration was simply enchanting.
Heather Elizabeth Photography, thank you very much for sharing these lovely images with us.
THE PROPOSAL | Cass and I met at college, at UC Berkeley back in 2008. On 8/8/14, six years after we met, he took me back for a date night in Berkeley and proposed on campus in our favourite reading spot, where I used to read Harry Potter out loud to him when we were going to school. He had set up twinkle lights in the trees and flameless candles around the spot ahead of time, and it was perfectly romantic!
THE VISION | I wanted to get married in the forest somewhere, I’ve always been drawn to big beautiful trees. We live in San Francisco, so I wanted something very different than a big city wedding since we are surrounded by that in normal life. As I was planning it in my mind, I sort of had a Lord of the Rings elf-princess vision for myself and for the wedding overall. But I also didn’t want it to be too formal, but more rustic with a touch of class.
THE PLANNING PROCESS | We had a very long engagement, almost two years. I’m a big planner, and rather OCD, so I used all of that time to obsess over every last detail. The guest list excel sheet I made was probably the most revised excel sheet in the history of mankind, haha. I also made not only one but three Microsoft Project files to schedule out the big day and the surrounding week/honeymoon to the last detail. I didn’t ask for or need much help with planning, but thank goodness I had helpers on the day of to get set up, it’s impossible to create your own vision by yourself even with the “perfect” plan, that’s for sure!
BUDGET | $30,000, includes all vendors and rehearsal dinner/lodging for family on the night of the wedding. Does NOT include our attire (my dress & accessories or his tux, etc.). My dress was $2,300, accessories were probably around $500 (belt, headpiece, earrings, shoes). His suit and accessories probably came out to around $1,100.
THE VENUE | Forest House Lodge in Auburn, California. On the very outskirts of the Lake Tahoe National Forest (you pass the sign marking this right before you get to the venue). The reception site is an old renovated Ski Lodge that has been converted entirely to a wedding venue. There is a main floor with the dining room/dance hall and a separate bar room, as well as a reception area with armchairs and a fireplace. There are 27 guest rooms upstairs that were used by our closest guests the night before and after the wedding. The basement floor is giant and contains tons of games (pool, ping pong, craps and black jack tables, a Wii station) mini dancefloor with a disco ball, and the bridal salon where the girls and I got ready the morning of. The game room part can be sectioned off from the bridal salon, so that’s where the boys got ready/played around the morning of the wedding. There is also a patio on this level, where we had the rehearsal dinner outside, as well as Happy Hour on the wedding day. Strung with lights, it was beautiful!
THE DRESS & ACCESSORIES | Sarah Seven is the dress designer. So awesome. You pick the style you like at the salon and then they make it in-house for you based on your measurements. I customised mine by adding little drapey lace sleeves that I could tuck in for the dancing portion of the night. I believe the name of my dress was Cascade, link at the bottom in the credits section. It was chiffon and lace with a built-in corset to keep the ladies in, and it was soooo comfortable. I didn’t need a bra or anything with it. I had fittings in-house at the salon with their seamstress, and it was super awesome every time. Highly recommended.
I went wild on accessories since one of my colours was gold, so I wanted a lot of gold sparkly forest/nature-themed stuff on me. My favourite was my headpiece that really gave me the elven princess look I was going for. Twigs & Honey made it, and I was super in love with its golden leaves and jewels. With my dress, I also needed a belt, and I opted for an Etsy designer on this one. This was also super beautiful with an off-centre flower piece and I was really happy with my choice. Link in credits. The earrings were BHLDN, and so was my exceptionally cheap garter (funny story about that to follow later).
The shoes were special since I had my heart set on one designer in particular: ballet flats from the European designer Repetto. Unfortunately, they were sold in very limited quantities and colours in the States at the time so I ended up buying a used pair from The RealReal actually, and was so happy I did since they were already broken in and comfortable! They were my “something old”. I wanted these because I used to do ballet for many years, and wanted to have shoes in the style of a ballerina that laced up my ankles on my wedding day. The shoes didn’t come with ribbons so I added those separately to create ‘that look’ with body tape. One of my favourite photos of Heather’s many amazing photos is my maid of honor helping me lace up my shoe ribbons.
FINDING THE DRESS | I went EVERYWHERE. Haha. Seriously though. I tried dresses on first in San Diego with one of my bridesmaids who lives down there, and then I took a trip with my other three bridesmaids to Seattle so that we could go to a BHLDN shop. At the time, there were no BHLDN shops in the Bay Area at all (now there are two!) so we made a girls’ weekend out of it and had a blast. I thought I was going to find my dress at BHDLN (all of their dresses are very much my style too) and I did find one that made me look like a ballerina that I loved and even bought, but ended up returning (because you can with BHLDN!) because I didn’t feel it was unique enough in the end. After Seattle, I went to most of the shops I could find in San Francisco, having multiple shopping days with multiple shops and different groups of friends and family on each day. Finally on the third such shopping day in San Francisco, I went to Sarah Seven and found the one! I bought it that day that I first tried it on, and it wasn’t even one I picked out but one the bridal shop assistant picked out as an ‘off the wall just try it’ type of dress. Love at first sight!
GROOM’S ATTIRE | Hugo Boss suit (not tux). Dark blue but not as dark as navy, it had a sort of sheen and changed to different colours in different lights. He LOVED it, and wouldn’t let me help pick it out at all (much to my dismay, haha). He went shopping with his Dads (one of whom is a fashion designer) and they helped him pick it out. Luckily, he let me help with the accessories, so we mutually picked out a bow tie from the Tie Bar (unfortunately I can’t find it on their site anymore) that somehow had both of our wedding colors (sage green and gold) with a unique lily/vine pattern on a dark blue background. The shoes were Cole Haan; I insisted on brown since we were getting married in the woods. They were two-tone and again I can’t find the link on Cole Haan’s website anymore. His cufflinks were his grandfather’s and very special to him.
THE READINGS & MUSIC | Music is VERY important to us, we actually first got interested in each other because we mutually loved the same very obscure band that most people have never heard of, Porcupine Tree. Crazily enough, our amazing photographer Heather knows Porcupine Tree too! So cool! Obviously, we used a Porcupine Tree song as our first dance: “Lazarus”. We have attended many music festivals and countless concerts in our years together, so anyways yes music is really important to us. As such, we asked my cousin to play our processional piece live on my keyboard that I brought into the woods (haha) as we all walked down the aisle. It was George Winston’s “Longing/Love”, which is a piano piece that is special to my parents and I. Our amazing DJ Joe Kalamaras (link in credits) got the keyboard hooked up no problem and it was just beautiful walking down the aisle in the woods to an amazing view of the snow-covered Tahoe mountains to live piano. Our DJ played a song special to us for the recessional (so my cousin could enjoy the ceremony) and also did a fantastic job during the wedding as both MC and DJ. One of the most important moments of the night for me is that we got married on my Grandmother’s anniversary to my grandfather (who passed away a decade ago, and it was also his birthday too) and we asked Joe to play Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” as a dedication to them. My grandmother cried and it was beautiful!
OK on the readings. We didn’t have readings, but Cass’ dad Rick was our officiant and came up with the speech and service almost entirely by himself. He copied and pasted the words into a Harry Potter book, so that when he was reading at the ‘alter’ he looked like he was reading from Harry Potter! It was wonderful. Although to be honest, I can’t remember much. Cass and I mutually wrote most of our vows and read them aloud to each other.
BEAUTIFUL BRIDESMAIDS | Guess where we got the dresses? BHLDN of course! Haha. They were sage green, strapless, tea length, flowy and lovely. We bought ribbons for their belts from Joann’s fabrics. They had gold leaf hairpins to sort of match my headpiece on a smaller scale, they were super cheap from Urban Outfitters. My Maid of Honor is wearing a BHLDN lace coverup that I thought looked perfect too.
I carried on the ballet shoe ribbon theme with my bridesmaids who had shorter dresses so you could see the ankle ribbons and the ballet flats. Their shoe ribbons matched their waist ribbons. We have a picture that I insisted on taking (sorry Heather! Haha!) where we are doing First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth ballet positions with our feet. They all thought I was crazy, but I LOVE that picture. It’s currently my desktop background :P
THE FLOWERS | Farmgirl Flowers. They’re a local San Francisco company that were unwilling to take any guidelines, they say they work with whatever is freshest to make their bouquets and that every day is unique. They aren’t your standard wedding flower company, and as such my centrepieces were much cheaper, I really like them in their cute little brown bottles. I picked them because I love their arrangements in local places in San Francisco, and I’ve loved the bouquets I’ve received from them in the past. Unfortunately, I didn’t love my bridal bouquet, I specifically asked for a ‘wild’ look and they gave me your standard round bud bouquet. I loved my bridesmaids’ bouquets though, that was much more of the look I was going for. We actually forgot the flowers for most of our formal couple portraits, so it ended up being okay haha.
THE CAKE | Made by the venue, it was quite tasty and we asked them to make it look like logs. It was cute with our initials carved on the top imitating tree carvings. The cake toppers I simply love, woodland creatures (a bride bunny and a groom fox) again from BHLDN, of course.
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER | Heather Elizabeth, so amazing! We loved Heather’s photos and her shooting style right away. She was SO easy to get along with, funny, and put us right at ease. Her pictures are simply stunning. We loved our engagement photos SOOOO much she wandered all around Berkeley campus with us reliving our reading Harry Potter together there and revisiting the proposal spot. She took absolutely incredible wedding photos too, we love her so much! We even found out she photographed one of my husband’s favourite band’s album covers (Opeth) which was just WAY too cool! We were so lucky with Heather.
THE DETAILS & DÉCOR | Based on our venue, I went for a sort of rustic woodsy fairy-tale theme with a touch of class and a healthy serving of book-lover decor. The main centrepieces were spray painted gold branches, flowers in brown bottles and books (sci-fi and fantasy themed, and of course Harry Potter!) and the table names were all places in our favourite books (i.e. Hogwarts, Rivendell, etc). One of my favourite little details were spray painted gold acorns, that looked like they had ‘fallen’ from the spray painted gold branches (or at least that’s what I was going for haha). I also really love twinkly lights for their fairytale ambiance, so made firefly jars with them for the tables and also had my family and helpers spend hours putting twinkly lights all over the reception room and venue. Thank god for them, I never would have gotten those all up myself. Also fortunately, our venue had just put up curtains behind the sweetheart table covered in lights, which added a really nice look in the pictures, and the gold sequined tablecloth the venue provided for the sweetheart table was adorable!
For the buffet line order, we had people do a scrabble tile unscramble, with the scrabble tiles being part of the favors (mini mason jar shot glasses). The table that unscrambled their word first (the answers were all related to whatever book their table was named after) got to be first in line for food, and whoever got theirs next came after, etc. It ended up being super fun because people got the answers way faster then we expected and were all running up to the DJ to try to give him their answer. It was chaos, but excited and funny chaos!
THE HONEYMOON | We did a mini Europe tour, starting in Budapest, spending a few nights in Vienna, then to Santorini and ending in the south of France, in Provence. It was so amazing, wish we could go back!
MEMORABLE MOMENTS | Funny garter story as previously promised: so my garter stays on through all the portraits prior to the wedding, and then as soon as my dad begins walking down me down the aisle during the actual ceremony, it takes its chance to escape my leg! It literally slides off my thigh and I have to hitch it up without anyone seeing somehow when everyone is watching me, which is of course not possible. It made for some really giggle-worthy moments between me and my dad and luckily someone caught it on video. So funny! Definitely helped calm the nerves.
As previously mentioned, my Grandmother’s shout out song Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” went over amazingly and was touching for my family, and the table unscramble game to get in line for dinner was awesome! I think people had a lot of fun with it and Heather caught me and Cass cracking up over watching them scramble over each other to get to our DJ. Our first dance was also awesome, as mentioned we danced to our favourite band Porcupine Tree’s “Lazarus” and we had gone to a dance instructor for lessons so we had a completely choreographed routine. Heather caught some of the best moments of Cass swirling me around!
Final favourite memory was entirely due to our super awesome DJ: he orchestrated that during the last song of the night, all the guests still dancing formed a circle around us (more like a big bear hug) and we all just sang and danced/swayed to the last song together. It was so awesome! What a memory.
ADVICE FOR OTHER COUPLES | Take a couple of pictures after the ceremony! We didn’t, against Heather’s recommendation, and I regret it. I wanted to go enjoy my party and my Happy Hour, which I was really excited for because I had created my own cocktail for happy hour but in the end, I wish we had more pictures of us with the afterglow after the ceremony. The few pictures Heather did get before we ran off were AMAZING! So we really wish we had taken the time for more.
One great thing our venue did for us was save us cake for the next morning to enjoy when we woke up. They left us a bottle of champagne and some cake slices with all the flavours of cake we had, and it was such a fun and romantic breakfast! I highly recommend having a bridesmaid or groomsmen make that happen for you on your morning after the big day.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE |
Photographer | Heather Elizabeth Photography
Venue | Forest House Lodge
Dress | Sarah Seven (Cascade)
Headpiece | Twigs & Honey
Belt | ABitofLoveWedding on Etsy
Bridesmaids Dresses | BHLDN Cordelia
DJ | Joe Kalamaras, SJ’s Disc Jockey
Flowers | Farmgirl Flowers
Cake Topper | BHLDN Woodland Creatures
Thank you, Danielle and Cassidy, for letting us share in your happiness. I have loved reading about and seeing your special fairytale in these amazing pictures. Congratulations to you both. Abby xx