Photography by Studio Castillero.
Settle in, because we have a seriously special story for you today. Jeanette battled cancer from just eighteen months into her relationship with Michael, and their wedding day was an absolutely joy-filled (and yes, totally tear-filled!) celebration of what Jeanette calls their “shared triumph”. This is a couple who know all too well how very lucky they are, and they were so excited to throw a huge party celebrating just that – with 250 loved ones! Though the day started with their heartbreakingly beautiful vows, ultimately there were plenty more laughs than tears – especially with an unexpected half hour rainstorm right in the middle of their (completely uncovered) outdoor reception! And be sure to read on to the end for their seriously beautiful advice we can all take to heart.
Did you have a first look? Why or why not? We knew we had to have a first look so that the ceremony wouldn’t be all about the ugly crying. During the tough times of cancer, there were a lot of fears that we wouldn’t get to our wedding in a healthy place. Seeing each other all done up in our attire on the day of the event was the sign that we had made it, survived the tough times and were there to enjoy our triumph together. In many ways, this was an intimate moment we wanted to share just with each other, and then with our guests later.
Why did you choose this location for your wedding? We had been searching for a venue for over six months and nothing was a perfect fit. Every time we fell in love with a venue, there was some factor that worked against us (price, accommodation, reception space, curfew, etc.). We knew we wanted two things: a place where our closest friends could stay the night with us and a venue that had no strict timelines for finishing up the night. During the process, we heard about a friend’s wedding where everyone camped out afterwards under the stars and we were hooked on the idea. Michael’s parents’ home in Truckee brought all of those things together. Our goal was to keep the party going for as long as we could!
Your ceremony in three words. Heartfelt, personal and tear-filled.
Is there anything that helps tell the story of your wedding ceremony? It was a tear fest. Michael was crying the entire time and I think many of our guests took part in the waterworks as well.
Who officiated your ceremony? How did you choose him/her? Our good friend Josiah officiated our wedding. We wanted to make sure the person that married us was someone who knew each of us individually and our story together. Josiah fit that bill perfectly and he gave a nice little speech at the beginning that was perfectly personal and reflective of our combined friendships.
Did you include any traditions in your ceremony? We had a relatively short and tradition-free ceremony, as we were more concerned with getting to the party! The most important part to us were our vows, which we wrote on our own but worked through together before the big day. We felt that would be the most appropriate way to demonstrate our love to our guests.
What was your ceremony music?
Processional: Alexi Murdoch – Song For You
Bridal Processional: Ray Lamontagne – Can I Stay
Recessional: Stevie Wonder – Signed, Sealed, Delivered
What were your vows like? Our vows were the most important part of the ceremony for us. Given that we’d been through some significant hurdles in our short time together, we felt like there was a lot to say. Each of us wrote our vows by ourselves, and showed them to each other in the days prior to the wedding so that we could prepare for the waterworks. Jeannette finished hers the night before, and read them to me around 1am before I left her cabin. We were sitting on the floor crying together and holding each other tightly. It was a sign of things to come for the big day…
Jeanette & Michael have shared their amazingly heartfelt vows with us.
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? There was a lot of genuine and heartfelt emotion that came out in our vows. A lot of people know our story from afar, but we were able to share a very close glimpse into what makes us so madly in love.
What was the best advice you received as a bride? Many of my friends told me that I should make sure to take moments with Michael to take in the day and soak in the moment. The day passed by an instant, and I am grateful I was able to step away for brief moments and just fill my heart with everything that was going on.
How would you describe your reception? Raucous. We had a two hour cocktail ‘hour’ prior to the reception so people were very lively by the time the festivities started. To add to the fun, we made sure each guest had a little bottle of tequila waiting for them at their seat.
Please tell us about any special details from your reception. We built a campsite right next to our dance floor, which featured five large tents rented from Shelter Co. Having the tents nearby allowed our closest friends to stay with us until late, and we ended up building a campfire down in the center at the end of the night. It was a perfect way to maximize the moments with each other until we passed out around 4am.
How did you go about planning your wedding? We started with the usual Pinterest boarding of all things cute and beautiful, haha. After compiling a large mood board for inspiration, we began to draw connections between what each of us liked. Thankfully, we had similar tastes in most of the categories. Michael is a designer so he was a lot more particular than most grooms might be with the details. While all of that seems foolish now, we felt that our wedding had to be a clear and thoughtful representation of our personalities and aesthetic. Once we had set our hearts on Truckee, we contacted Ashley Smith at Buzzworthy Events who helped us create the spitting image of the wedding we wanted.
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? We looked at a lot of different inspiration when planning our wedding, but it wasn’t until we hung out at Outside Lands that we realized we wanted to capture the feeling of a majestic forest for our special day. Thankfully, we had Ashley Smith to help us execute on our ideas. She looked through all of our mood boards and was able to create a vision for us. It is a very big relief to hand over the aesthetic to a planner who has a history of doing great work. We felt it was silly to think we could know everything about creating a wedding as first-timers. Trusting someone who can take your thoughts and run with them further than you could is really nice.
Do you have any budget tips for other brides? A good buffer is helpful for your entire budget. We felt like each one of our estimates ended up going over our prediction, so it was a rough total at the end of the day.
Are there any DIY details you’d like to tell us about? A lot of the calligraphy for the event was done by Michael in the days prior. One night, Jeannette’s mom came home and told us it was time to buckle down and write the 250 name tags. That led to an absolute team effort, with Michael furiously and delicately writing each label for the tequila and an assembly line working on the twine to tie it to the bottles.
What was your wedding menu? We wanted to break out of the traditional mold of salad, meat, veggies. Michael was very adamant about the food representing our cultures and backgrounds. We both also thought it would be amazing to have Mexican food for our reception. Our cocktail hour featured sushi delivered on plates and we had a caterer on site who delivered a wonderful Mexican dinner for our guests. We also had a late-night taco bar to help our guests keep a good food/alcohol balance!
If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently? The one regret we had was not starting our photos earlier, so we could have had more time with our guests. And we might have had a few umbrellas on hand…
What was your favorite moment or part of the reception? The dance floor never died down, but even that was trumped by an unexpected thirty minute rainstorm! During the speeches, rain just started to come down in buckets on the entire wedding. The drops were so big that they bounced in the salsa and splattered all over the spread and people’s shirts. While a few ran for cover, most of the guests just put their napkins over their heads and laughed with drink in hand. We had worried about a chance thunderstorm (which are somewhat common in August in Truckee), but the forecast had no mention of storm on the day of. Despite this, the rain felt like a blessing; we both laughed it off. After the rain passed, the noise level rose and people started letting loose. Things got even crazier than before!
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? I’d encourage other couples to focus on the experience rather than the appearance. It’s very easy to get sucked into the rabbit hole of wanting perfect details and “the look”, but most important is how you and your guests enjoy the day. We looked at many gorgeous venues that had such strict rules around guests and curfew. In order to make these work, we had begun to sacrifice more important details in the process. You are not going to look back and obsess over the details, but rather see photos that remind you of memories that you had with your favorite people.
What type of cake or dessert did you serve? We did not really care for a traditional cake-cutting ceremony and opted to do a lot of little surprises for our guests instead. We had a candy bar, a cupcake station and a station where guests could make macaron ice cream sandwiches!
What was your first dance song? Father/daughter or mother/son dance?
First Dance: Patrick Watson – Slip Into Your Skin
Mother/Son: Louis Armstrong – What A Wonderful World
Father/Daughter: Heatwave – Always & Forever
Is there anything else that helps tell your story? Jeanette’s diagnosis impacted (and still) impacts how we view the future. It is very easy to live your life and take certain plans as a given (a long life, perfectly healthy children and professional success). Sometimes, we even tie up the idea of happiness in the realization of those expectations. What cancer has shown us is that nothing is definite and that happiness should be pursued in the present. No one truly knows what the future will bring, so we must seize each moment now. When I leave work tonight, I’m not going to think about our 10-year plan, but how I can make this Tuesday evening remarkable.