Real Weddings is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary and in honor of this milestone, we are checking back in with our beautiful cover models! We’ve been so lucky to work with over 60 local brides these past 10 years and we’re eager to see where they are now.

Melissa (left) graced our Winter/Spring 2008 cover shot at Wine & Roses Hotel, Restaurant and Spa by XSiGHT Photography.

XSiGHT Photography | Wine & Roses | Lodi Wedding | melissa Strand | Real Weddings Cover Model Contest | XSiGHT Wedding Lodi | De La Rosa's Bridal | Ambiance Floral Design


Where and when did you get married?

Brian and I were married on a beautiful, breezy day at St. Mary Parish on September 16th 2006. We were both avid golfers while dating and had our reception at Del Paso Country Club, one of the oldest golf courses in the area.

Any children (fur or human)?

We have two adorable little boys, Nathan (4) and Liam (20 months) and adopted our fur-baby Frankie as a puppy back in 2007.

What is your career?

I’m a stay at home mom and work part-time providing freelance public relations, writing and marketing services. Up until I had my first son I was the Director of Marketing at Arden Hills Resort.

Where are you currently living?

Our family lives in Orangevale, CA. We’re close to parks, trails and back up to a serene ravine, which will lead to lots of adventures once the boys are big enough to explore!

What do you enjoy doing locally?

We love to spend family time at the Sacramento and Folsom Zoos, Fairytale Town, Phoenix and Miller Park, going swimming, and eating at Dos Coyotes and Ducky’s Donuts. We enjoy heading to Apple Hill and local pumpkin patches in the fall and are obsessed with our neighborhood’s trick or treating during Halloween and magical Christmas decorations throughout December. Our boys are huge book fans and through my husband Brian’s job at the Sacramento Public Library, we frequently attend early reader programs and get some singing and dancing in at story-time events. I am member of Fit4Mom Folsom and love my stroller based workouts at Kemp Park with Liam, where afterwards we both run through the splash pad! On date nights with Brian we love to go to Marley and Moo in Folsom and walk around Sutter Street or eat at Dad’s Kitchen or Scott’s Seafood. And on really special getaway trips, we love wine tasting in Murphy’s or Sutter Creek.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to yourself on your wedding day?

To be present and really take in the special moments, both big and small, that really mean something that day. Almost eleven years later I don’t actually think I remember what our favors or table settings were – the little planning details really don’t matter as years go by and gave me so much stress leading up to the big day. What matters looking back is the look on Brian’s face when we first saw each other that day, the encouragement, pride and support from all of our parents, our first dance to the song Brian sang to me to tell me he loved me when we were 18, our goofy sunset photo session where Brian tripped over my dress train and broke it, the love in the room during our slide show, Brian’s dad’s speech, and sweating it out on the dance floor with our friends and family.

What is your favorite part of marriage?

My favorite part of marriage is truly having a partner in every aspect of my life. He’s my other half in quite literally every scenario, and is there to hold my hand as we’re working through a challenge together. Becoming parents was new, scary and exciting for both of us and I could not have picked a better man to support me through two pregnancies and navigate the crazy tidal wave of welcoming babies into our life. It changed so much but changed so little at the same time. The resilient partner I had through the beginning of our marriage gave us the rock solid foundation to take on starting a family and I love him even more now that I see him blowing raspberries on baby tummies, having dance parties in our living room and cutting their food up into little pieces. He’s my rock and my true companion and I quite literally love everything about him.

Lastly, how was your Cover Model experience?

From start to finish, it was a total dream come true. I loved having a team of stylists and amazing, custom dresses to wear, all while living the life of luxury at the Wine & Roses. With my own wedding, I had a precise vision of what I wanted my dress, hair and make-up to look like, and this gave me the opportunity to experience subtle vs. dramatic eye make-up, vintage vs. playful hairstyles and a wide variety of dresses I would not have even thought to try on, but were so beautiful and unique once put together with the whole hair and make-up package. I’m so appreciative of the opportunity and still look back on that day as one of the highlights of my life.

Channa Vance Photography

Hillary Blair Photography

 The cover model finalist contest photo shoot Real Weddings Magazine team members who produced this editorial feature include: Cait Herrera, Kelley Saia, Janna Marlies Santoro and Wendy Sipple

And, of course, thank you to all of the wedding professionals who contributed to our cover model finalist feature:


Wine & Roses Hotel, Restaurant and Spa

209-334-6988  |


XSiGHT Photography

916-444-9100  |


For Brenna:  

Rachelle Martinez, Bridal Marinez (Hair)

916-915-7973  |

Michelle Gonsalves, Bonjour Beautiful (Makeup) 

For Leah: 

Carol Cardinale-Ruiz, Bellisimo! Brides (Hair and Makeup)

Assistant Deena Ellis

559-641-7721 |

For Melissa:

Marie Wetherell, The Makeup Artist Academy and Agency (Hair)

Wendi Labban, Definition Beauty (Makeup)


Bella Donna Bridal  |  916-481-5065  |

De La Rosa’s Bridal & Tuxedos  |  916-983-3400  |

Dreamnette Bridal 

Miosa Couture  |  916-443-1301  |


Randolph’s Jewelers  |  |  530-622-3787


Ambience Floral Design  |  916-786-6851  |

Camino Flower Shop  |  530-644-5730  |

Fleurs du Jour  |  916-474-4479  |

Special thanks to our real bride models, Melissa, Brenna and Leah, and to all of the professionals who contributed to this feature!

Looking for more Cover Models? Check out the ongoing blog series here!

Blog post by Real Weddings Magazine’s Associate Editor Emily Peter.

Photos by XSiGHT Photography / copyright Real Weddings Magazine.

Melissa’s wedding photo by Channa Vance Photography. Family photo in grass by Hillary Blair Photography.

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