Arizona Wedding at Saguaro Lake Ranch :: Aubree & Derek

Aubree and Derek found a breathtaking venue in the Saguaro Lake Ranch for their Arizona wedding, and filled it with colorful DIY details for a playful, joyful wedding day. From the mix-and-match bridesmaid dresses to the thoughtful ceremony to the pie-only food truck, it was a fun and meaningful celebration.


colorful pink bridesmaid dresses, desert wedding, photo by Melissa Jillmix and match pink bridesmaid dresses, photo by Melissa Jill


Why did you choose this location for your wedding?  It was important to us to have our wedding outside in a beautiful, relaxed, and rustic location. We chose Saguaro Lake Ranch because it felt like a hidden treasure, an oasis, in the middle of the desert and it was green, which is a big deal in southern Arizona. I dreamed of finding a rustic barn in the mountains of Colorado to get married in, but I really fell in love with this location and even embraced the desert elements through incorporating succulents into the theme of my wedding. After all, I am a born- and raised- Arizonan and this venue captured the beauty of the desert in the most wonderful way. We also loved the fact that we could rent out the whole ranch for the weekend. Our family and close friends were able to stay with us for the weekend, which made the whole experience feel more relaxed and meaningful. We were even able to use the location for our rehearsal dinner the night before. It was like a summer camp for adults with all of our favorite people. We ate breakfast together in the mornings and then people relaxed around the grounds, went fishing at a nearby lake, hiked, sat on porches and talked, and generally enjoyed being with each other. It was like a family reunion and wedding all in one.


bride and groom portrait by Melissa JillMesa, Arizona wedding venue, photo by Melissa Jill


The Ceremony

“I wanted the surroundings of our ceremony to be a place where we felt inspired to worship God through the beauty of His creation, and it was very important to us that our ceremony not simply be about us and our love for each other. Being followers of Jesus, we wanted our wedding to reflect the relationship that God has with his people, one of sacrificial love, forgiveness, and reconciliation. We understand that we love because God first loved us and that marriage is an opportunity to demonstrate and live out a Christ-like love for one another. Our desire is that our marriage be rooted in these truths, so we wanted to start our marriage with a declaration of God’s perfect love rather than a celebration of our imperfect love.”


wedding ceremony bunting decorations, photo by Melissa Jillsucculent aisle decorations; window pane ceremony "program" | photo by Melissa Jill


Your ceremony in three words.  Intimate, Jesus-centered, joy-filled.

Who officiated your ceremony?  Our pastor, Chris Gonzales, officiated our ceremony. We are both very connected with our church community and have walked through our entire relationship with the support of this church. In fact, we even met there. It was obvious to us that we wanted to have someone who knew our story and who shared our values and perspective on marriage to marry us. We completely trusted Chris and knew he would choose just the right words to convey the message we wanted for our ceremony. We didn’t even know what he was going to say before the ceremony, which made it all the more meaningful and exciting.


outdoor wedding party processional, photo by Melissa Jilloutdoor wedding ceremony with hot pink flowers, photo by Melissa Jill


Did you include any traditions in your ceremony?  We really cherished the opportunity that we had to wash each other’s feet, a Christian tradition that represents an attitude of humble servitude. It was a beautiful picture of the way that we want to live in service to each other in our marriage, to kneel down, in our finery, humble ourselves and get our hands dirty, to demonstrate a servant’s heart to each other. Many people afterwards remarked to us that this was the most meaningful and touching part of our ceremony.


foot washing ceremony, photo by Melissa Jillfoot washing ceremony, photo by Melissa Jill


What was your ceremony music?  We chose songs that were meaningful to us and reflected the spirit of our ceremony either in word or in melody. For the processional, we chose three songs: “Your Love is Strong” by Jon Foreman, “Better than Wine” by Derek Webb, and I walked down the aisle to the instrumental intro of “Sodom, South Georgia” by Iron and Wine that my friend looped for me. During communion and feet washing a couple from our church led a few hymns: “Be Thou My Vision” and “Rock of Ages.” Our recessional was to “Not A Bad Thing” by Justin Timberlake. We chose songs that were meaningful but also had a joyful spirit to their sound.

What were your vows like?  We chose to write our own vows. Traditional vows seemed to fall flat and didn’t have the personal and intimate feeling that we wanted. We wrote our vows separately and didn’t share them with each other beforehand. It was incredibly special to share with each other these deeply personal, honest, and heartfelt words that we crafted to express the promises we wanted to make.


happy newlyweds! photo by Melissa Jill


What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony?  We really loved our whole ceremony. I loved walking down the aisle and seeing all the faces of people who we have been so blessed to have as a part of our lives. It felt incredibly humbling to know that these friends and family members were there just for us, to root us on, and commit their support to our relationship. It was wonderful to look out as a couple on these faces as well and see all the joy and emotion that was expressed on their faces as we shared our vows.


large, bright wedding bouquet with hot pink flowers, photo by Melissa Jill

rustic Arizona wedding venue, photo by Melissa Jillwedding card box, photo by Melissa Jill


The Reception

“My favorite part of the reception was getting to celebrate alongside my friends and family and to see them enjoy all the hard work we had put into making the day perfect. I loved our canopy of lights and how magical they made the space feel. I loved having a live band and dancing with my new husband. I loved the pie truck and all our vast amounts of desserts. Most of all, I just loved being on the other side of the ceremony and being able to joyfully let the idea that I was married to my best friend set in while enjoying the company and friendship of those dearest to me.”


colorful outdoor wedding in Arizona, photo by Melissa Jill


How would you describe your reception?  Rustic, natural, earthy, vintage, DIY, magical, intimate, relaxed.

What inspired you when you were planning your wedding?  I was very close to my grandmother, and she was the original DIY-er, flea market and antique picker. She took great pride in decorating and creating a home that was unique and full of interesting and beautiful antique and vintage finds, and as I was planning my wedding, I knew that I wanted to incorporate many of her things into the day, as well as channel some of her creativity and craftiness in creating some of my own décor. Vases, vintage cake plates, candy dishes… in the end, we weren’t even able to use all of the beautiful things of hers we’d found! I really feel like my wedding honored her memory and reflected how important she was in my life. Even if she could not be there, it was so wonderful to look around and see her in every aspect of the day.

Are there any DIY details you’d like to tell us about?  My maid of honor created the chalk painted antique window that we used for a ceremony program, and all of the succulents were hand planted and arranged by myself and a team of my friends. And our wedding would not have been possible without the tireless creativity and hard work of my mom. She made everything from our burlap table runners to the swag that hung on the backs of our chairs at the reception. She even made 150 jars of Colorado peach jam for our favors! Not to mention the desserts she baked for the dessert table. I can’t say enough about all the love-filled work my mom put into making my day as wonderful as it was.

Any other details to share?  Every summer when my family would go to visit my grandparents, my grandma would always go out of her way to make our time there feel so special. One of the things that she did was have a large mason jar (like the ones used as pickle barrels) filled with small toys and candies. Each night we would get to choose two things from the jar. The toys were just inexpensive ones from the dollar store, but I thought they were the most wonderful things. This is one of my favorite memories from childhood and a tradition that I hope to continue with my children and grandchildren. We had this jar at the reception and filled it with toys and goodies for kids that attended the wedding to take as a favor. It was something small, but really neat to have as a part of the day.


multi-colored centerpieces and striped tablecloth, photo by Melissa Jillfood truck wedding reception, photo by Melissa Jill


First dance song:  “A Kiss to Build a Dream On” by Louis Armstrong. My husband is a big fan of jazz from the 1930’s and 40’s and this song captured a sweet and touching sentiment.
Father/daughter song:  “Aubrey” by Bread. This was the song that I was named after, by a favorite band of my dad.
Mother/son song:  “How Sweet It is (To Be Loved by You)” by James Taylor

What was your wedding menu?  We had delicious BBQ from a caterer called BBQ Daddy. Pulled pork, brisket, grilled chicken, potato salad, beans, grilled veggies, etc. A good friend of ours made a simple, small cake for us to cut and share, but we had a plethora of other desserts as well. My mom and aunt made various desserts from scratch that we set out on vintage cake plates, including almond sugar cookies shaped like birds, miniature Bundt cakes, cheesecake bars, macaroons, etc. We also had a food truck come that only serves pie and coffee as our main dessert. We had ten different miniature pies to choose from.

What was the best advice you received as a bride?  The best advice I received was to stop and look around and take in the all the various elements of the day. I made a point to walk around at my reception and look at all the little DIY details that my mom had worked so hard to put together and that we got so much joy out of dreaming up. I ate a full plate of food and two pies. I danced to the songs I wanted to dance to. I filled up a bag of candy at the candy table. I looked around at the beautiful place that I was blessed to have my wedding at and marveled at how gorgeous it was. I was a guest at my own wedding. I didn’t want to be one of those brides who say that they don’t remember anything about the details of the day – many people had worked hard to make my wedding personal and meaningful and I wanted to soak up all that meaning and appreciate it.

What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding?  Hire a wedding planner! I had the best one ever, and I cannot imagine having to do a wedding at a venue like ours without one. Our venue was beautiful and absolutely perfect – they allowed us to have full reign of the grounds and pretty much decide how we wanted things – but doing a wedding like this required us to plan for everything. Lighting, additional power, sound systems, stage, dance floor, trash pick-up and removal, set up and tear down, etc. With all the additional arrangements we had to make, I was overjoyed to have a planner by my side handling all our vendors and providing much needed professional advice and guidance. I felt so relaxed on my wedding day and even the week leading up to it. I didn’t have to fuss about details or worry about if the caterer was going to show up on time. All I had to do was be present and enjoy the day. I also liked that my family was not over-burdened with responsibilities and were able to enjoy themselves.

If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently?  I don’t think there is anything I would have done differently. It’s not that our wedding was perfect or that there wasn’t a little hiccup here or there, but I really couldn’t imagine it any other way. I am still astounded when I look at my pictures and wonder to myself, “This was MY wedding?” It was so incredibly stunning and meaningful!


first dance under the desert sky, photo by Melissa Jill






Vendor Credits

Photography: Melissa Jill / Venue: Saguaro Lake Ranch in Mesa, Arizona / Event Planning & Design: Rachael with Imoni Events / Dress: Watters bought on consignment at Eco Bridal in Denver, CO. / Shoes: Lucky Brand / Jewelry: J. Crew / Suit, Groomsmen Attire: JCPenny / Stationery: Happy Chantilly / Floral Design: Carte Blanche Designs / Hair: Bree Andersen of Salon Surreal / Makeup: Brenna Heater / Rentals: Event Rents / Ceremony Music: Craig and Joliene Hayton / Reception Music: Lucky Devils Band / Catering: BBQ Daddy and Mamma Toledos  / Lighting: Arizona Up-Lighting


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  • kathy sorensen says:

    Thank-you so much for including this beautiful wedding in your blog. As Aubree’s Mom, it is a thrill to see this beautiful bride and handsome groom highlighted. Everyone who contributed to this wedding did a fabulous job. It was truly an enchanting day. Thanks Melissa Jill for capturing the moments into forever memories. Thank-you Rachael for being the best wedding planner ever!

  • The use of burlap is lovely and rustic. I really love, though, the small detail with the tables. One has coral/white stripes, and the other is solid blue. It is a fantastic way to use your color palette creatively.

  • I love outdoor weddings and this one is amazing! Location, pictures, details, light, couple…. Everything is amazing!


    Congrats to you and your husband…my sister and brother-in-law (DR, ADRIANA STINNETT CRAVER & RON CRAVER) run the stables at Saguaro Lake Ranch and she shared your memorable wedding photos that were on the website…I have to say that you are one of the most beautiful brides – beautiful couples, that I have seen! Really; the magic of your day and the peace you both have on your faces, and which is exuded in your photographs speaks volumes of your love, and of the magic of the wondrous site you chose for your special day. Best wishes to you for a most magical life!

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