Caitlin & Chris travelled from NY to the Sonoma Valley, CA to celebrate their wedding with family and friends in such a unique and personal way. After their bohemian inspired ceremony at Shell Beach in Jenner, they then rented a yellow school bus for all of their guests and went wine tasting at two wineries, Tara Bella and Deloach winery in the Sonoma Valley. So without further ado, sit back and enjoy reading all about Chris and Caitlin’s wine tasting wedding! It’s making me want to go and pour myself a large glass of something delicious myself!!
Tell us about the proposal…
Chris and I met in law school. Well, technically we met after law school. We attended the same law school for three (3) years. I do not remember Chris, but Chris remembers me – as an “unapproachable” “really cute chick with jet black hair, tattoos, and this kind of rock vibe”. Following graduation, we happened to have enrolled in the same bar review course and I worked as an administrator for the course. Chris attempted to subtly get my attention for months without success. As the bar exam neared and the course ended, Chris realized he was running out of time. One day he finally worked up the courage to walk up to me during break and boldly proclaim his undying love for me. Just kidding. He did however nervously ask me on a date. I was two solid months into bar review, which means I had on no makeup and I hadn’t shaved my legs, washed my hair or changed my clothes. I seriously questioned his taste, but I did agree to a date, which we had shortly thereafter. Luckily we both passed the bar exam and the rest is history, present, and future. Four years later, Chris proposed on a hot air balloon floating 900 feet above Sonoma Valley. We spent a week eating and tasting our way through wine country, and during that time fell in love with Sonoma. Not only is the wine incredible, but the natural beauty of Sonoma is unparalleled. We hiked the Muir Woods Redwood Park, rode bikes through farmland, and strolled through biodynamic vineyards. The farm-to-table foodie scene is huge in Sonoma and we ate some of the most delicious and unique dishes we have ever tried. We reluctantly left Sonoma, but promised to be back soon…
Did you use flowers in any of your design elements like the bridal bouquets, centerpieces or ceremony backdrop? Did they play an important part in the overall style of your wedding?
The only florals we had were the bridal bouquet, a bridal flower crown, and a boutonniere. I wanted my florals to be bright, whimsical, and unique. Both my bouquet and my flower crown were bursting with periwinkle thistles, bright orange pincushion proteas, fuchsia roses, and fiddlehead ferns. Chris’ boutonniere was made with a couple of fiddlehead ferns, a thistle, and was wrapped in a scrap from my wedding dress.
Tell us about your wedding, what was the inspiration behind your day?
We both have large families and initially began planning a large tented wedding for 150 people at a lakehouse in New York. However, several months into the planning we became very overwhelmed with it all – the coordinating, the people, the cost. In the midst of a panic attack I begged Chris to scrap the whole plan. We had gotten engaged in Sonoma Valley, CA and had loved the quiet serenity of wine country so I pitched the idea of a tiny laid-back elopement style wedding with only our very closest friends and family members. The more we looked into it and conceptualized it, the more we knew this wedding was right for us. We realized that all we truly needed were our loved ones, wine, and good food! We planned a simple bohemian style ceremony on grassy bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Shell Beach in Sonoma Coast State Park. During our ceremony we incorporated a pagan hand-tying ceremony and recited our own handwritten vows. After the ceremony we shuttled everyone on a rented yellow school bus to 2 vineyards for a personalized wine tour and a brown paper bag lunch. Later we enjoyed a sit down family-style dinner at a farm-to-table restaurant in Sebastopol. In that respect, I guess you can say that our theme became Vistas and Vino.
Talk us through your wedding day styles..
Chris: My wedding look, I would like to believe, was very much my own concept start to finish. But I would be a liar if I did not admit that the idea for a blue ensemble came from the movie “I Love You Man”. Paul Rudd wears a blue tux for his wedding. It was serendipitous that my wife-to-be chose a wedding dress color which would end up fitting perfectly with what I had envisioned for myself. I also knew I did not want a tux and that I wanted a suit. We were getting married in Sonoma and I wanted something that acknowledged the gravity of the occasion without taking myself too seriously. I found an amazing tailor in New York, Harry Bhambi, and he and I designed a beautiful custom three- piece suit. Under the vest, I chose a simple and classic white poplin french-cuff shirt. I brought two shirts with me, just in case! Before our wedding, I had little idea of what our actual wedding ceremony site was going to look like, but I knew that it was known for having beautiful wild flowers. With that in mind, I chose a floral print tie in a color similar to Caitlin’s dress and hand-rolled copper floral cuff links to tie in to the natural components of our location. I also chose a custom hand-stitched pocket square, not to match the color of my suit or tie, but to compliment the colors of my tie and Caitlin’s dress. My shoes were also a custom design and I chose to have the sides hand-stitched with beige canvas to pay homage to the rustic-ness of the occasion and blue thread to tie the shoes in with the rest of the outfit. The leather soles were also etched with our initials and the date of our wedding, May 5, 2018. The watch I chose had a simple brown band, but I loved the way the rose gold bezel and blue face really popped. Ultimately, I was really pleased with how it all turned out. But for however good I felt about my ensemble, Caitlin…she was a vision!
Caitlin: From the beginning I wanted a sexy and nontraditional look. I set my heart on a backless blue wedding dress. I quickly discovered that backless wedding gowns are not super common and blue wedding gowns are even rarer, but a backless blue wedding gown is a unicorn. I browsed thousands of dresses for months on end before coming to the conclusion that I was going to have to widen my search criteria. I went to several stores and tried on tons of stunning gowns, but I just didn’t feel that spark. I left each time despondent, frustrated, and resigned to walking down the aisle in what would inevitably be a beautiful disappointment. Then, one day while browsing instagram, I came upon Penelope. She was more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. She was flowy and light as a cloud with a long dramatic periwinkle pleated skirt, a plunging deep V neckline, and an open back with the daintiest straps holding her all together. The only problem – the photo was a repost. I went into a full panic as I dived desperately down the rabbit hole to follow the photo’s post backwards, hoping and pleading that each poster had given repost credit to the previous poster. Finally, I traced Penelope back to her maker, a boutique designer in Brooklyn named Tatyana Merenyuk. I couldn’t believe my luck – my unicorn was located just a few miles away, right here in New York City! I knew Penelope was my wedding dress the moment I laid eyes on her, but the conviction I felt when I put her on is indescribable. I fully believe that Penelope was made for me. The rest of my look was easy, Penelope’s beauty stands on its own and I didn’t want to detract from her with distracting jewelry or accessories. I wore only simple silver chain earrings, silver sandals, and of course my whimsical, colorful flower crown. I’ve never felt so beautiful in my entire life!
Lets talk about decor, how did you decorate your ceremony and reception space?
We choose a simple bohemian style decor for our wedding. During our ceremony we placed colorful blankets on the bluffs facing the Pacific Ocean. Our aisle was lined with several LED lanterns. Our alter was comprised of several stacked wooden boxes on a table with candles.
What were some of your favourite parts of the wedding? Did you personalise the day in any way?
From the beginning it was very important to us to throw the traditional wedding concept out the window. We wanted to make our day as personalized as possible. My brother played acoustic guitar for our ceremony. Our officiant was a close friend and college schoolmate of Chris’ – the 3 of us sat down and wrote the entire ceremony together over brunch. Our hand-tying ceremony was performed by our Mothers. We each wrote our own vows. Chris’ brother and my best friend each spoke during the ceremony. During our dinner reception, our bridal table was adorned with 2 candle sticks that my parents had made together in their garage shortly after they were married. Our first dance was to a little known band we first heard while cleaning our apartment listening to AltNation on XM. It was unplanned – the dance that is – but it’s those little impromptu things that happen during the course day of the day which make it your own and leave the biggest impressions.
Do you have any advice for any other couples currently planning their own wedding?
Caitlin: Oh boy, where do you even start with this question? First I will give you my advice and then I will give you a piece of advice that I received. From me: do whatever makes you happy. If that is riding a yellow school bus while drinking champagne in a blue dress with 28 of your favorite people, do that. In the 2.5 years we spent planning our wedding we heard criticism about literally everything – destination weddings are too expensive! What if it rains? Who wears a blue wedding dress? There’s too much wine! First of all, there’s never too much wine. Second, if you do what makes you happy it will be the best day you could ever imagine. Ignore what everyone else has to say, they love you and they mean well, but its your day. The best piece of advice that I received before my wedding is to make sure to take a minute to really live in the moment. On your wedding day you will be pulled in 10 different directions simultaneously all day. The photographer wants you over here, your Mother is telling you this, your best friend is putting lipstick on you, your cousin is missing, the wedding coordinator is pointing at her watch and waving her clipboard at you…you are going to wake up the next morning and feel like your wedding was a dream that began and ended in thirty seconds. Take a moment at each juncture and just live in it for a couple seconds. Admire yourself in the mirror for as long as you need, stop and listen to the ocean waves, enjoy the bus ride, sit down and drink the wine, taste all of the food, have a second slice of wedding cake. If that means telling your photographer you aren’t quite ready yet, or making your bus driver wait on you an extra couple of minutes, or stealing someone else’s slice of cake, do it. It is your day after all!
Chris: For couples planning their wedding, I would tell them to do what makes them happy. There is a pressure when you are planning your wedding to make sure that your guests are happy and that pressure sometimes results in making choices about your day for the sole purpose of suiting others; don’t do that! Don’t go out of your way to be unreasonable, but you have to believe that the people attending your wedding actually like you as a person and like spending time with you. So chose components of your wedding that you like because the good money is on your guests liking those things too. And just know, you can’t please everyone but it’s your wedding day, you can choose to be a little selfish. And make sure you find little moments to sneak away with your new spouse to be present in the moment, because the day zips by lighting fast! Before you know it, the day is over…so enjoy it!!
Lets all raise a glass to Caitlin and Chris for their superb winery wedding. It looked like so much fun!!!
P.S. If you would like to submit a real wedding to us we would love to see it. Click here for more details.
Photographer Christophe Genty Photography
Event Planner Alexis Solano Events
Floral designer Kari Young Floral Designs
MUA The Powder Rooms
Dress designer Tatyana Merenyuk
Mens attire Bhambi’s Custom Tailors
Venue Tara Bella Winery
Venue DeLoach Vineyards
Ceremony Venue Shell Beach