Kayla is our Cover Model winner for our Spring 2018 issue – her energetic personality and beauty made for some gorgeous photos. She loved the variety and multitude of looks, all 19 of them! Scroll down to hear more about her modeling experience and her sweet love story with her now husband.

Why did you enter this contest?

Well wedding planning can be very stressful, but I made it my mission to try and take everything in stride and enjoy the process; it is a special time and it should be enjoyed! Real Weddings is one of my favorite publications because it shows real people, gives real advice and always showcases such creative and fun ideas. I was enjoying a coffee one Saturday morning and flipping through Real Weddings and I thought…why not? I never win anything and never thought I would even make the top 10, but I thought it was worth a shot. What a fun and amazing experience!

What do you do for a living?

I am a teacher, but my fiancé, Mark, and I own our own solar company: Illuminate Solar. We expanded our business and I am taking a year off from teaching to work along side him.

What do you do for fun?

Travel! Name a place and it’s on my bucket list. When at home, I love being outside more than anything. Spending time in the mountains, hiking, kayaking, or heading to the beach for a nice walk and maybe a picnic. We spend a lot of time with friends and love trying new restaurants and places for drinks.

Tell us your love story.

While rocking tiny minds by teaching in San Francisco’s Chinatown, a friend of mine and I were out one Saturday night for beverages when a strapping contractor decided to strike up a conversation with me at the bar. Much to my own demise, my friend and sister were in the trenches of the warfare of love (we had recently been through pretty bad breakups) stated on our way out “We should have fake names tonight.” Well, never one to back down from a challenge or to let a friend down, I said, “YES!” Juvenile? Yes. Fun? Of course! So, while my name is of course Kayla, the first time I met my fiancé I told him my name was Samantha. All the other details were truthful and wholesome of course, but the name was very much false. When he asked for my number I handed it over gladly thinking that this handsome contractor would never actually use it. So I gave him a fake name, but then realized he was actually really nice and seemed too genuine and just plain cool. Much to my surprise, the next morning I had a text asking me out to dinner that week. Firstly, I never expected a date request that soon, and secondly “Oh no! My name is not Samantha!” It took me several hours to get up the nerve to text him, and when I finally told him that my name was not Samantha, his reply was “Haha! That’s okay, Kayla is a great name!” What I didn’t know about Mark is that he is the most kind, understanding, empathetic, compassionate, giving, loving and caring person in the world.

After dating for some time, the day after Christmas, he said to me “So I need to know what you want.” To which I said, “Are there any of mom’s cinnamon rolls left?” He looked at me and said, “I mean like a diamond, not a pastry.” So, cinnamon rolls in hand, we started the search online, and the next week we were looking at rings! I was over the moon, but I knew he wanted to buy a house, and he owns his own business so I knew finances were a little tight. Basically I was planning on waiting. I figured he would be saving up for later.

Come February, he asked me to go to Yosemite. I had never been and he decided to plan to trip for us. Mark is the best, but he doesn’t really like to plan things. He had asked me to look at rings, and I just knew it was happening. I was pumped! I was trying not to be, but I was. It was right around Valentine’s Day, and he planned a trip. I was convinced the bling was around the bend. So we went to Yosemite. The day had come. We road tripped there, had a super fun night eating pizza, drinking beer and playing cards in the lodge, and the next day I was convinced he would ask me to marry him. The next day comes (spoiler alert: also not the day he proposed) and we went on a hike up the mountain in awe of the beautiful waterfalls and landscape and sheer beauty of it all. When we finally reached the top, looking at half dome, he put his arm around me and he said “This is the kind of place I am going to ask you to marry me.” I looked around and said, “Well are you?” I was so confused! We hiked back down and laughed about it (kind of), but I was really disappointed. I told myself I would never ruin a trip again with false hope and too much pressure…on myself and on him.

When my birthday rolled around a few weeks later and he told me he wanted to take me somewhere, the idea of an engagement was so far out of my mind you would think I might have lost hope. We decided on a house in Bodega Bay so that my parents and brother could come too, and we had the best weekend. We got there on Thursday and some friends came down to celebrate my birthday. By Saturday, my family left and we had the last night at the house to ourselves. We were going to go on a hike and what do you know it started raining. Stumped on what to do next, I remembered I received a fantastic bottle of champagne as a gift for my birthday and I said, “Let’s drink champagne and go in the hot tub!” So we put on music, put on our bathing suits and there dancing in the kitchen, I popped open the champagne and let out a “WOOHOO!” I turned around to Mark, only to see him down on one knee with a stunning ring glowing in his hand. A few lovely words later…the most important one being “YES!” we were dancing around the kitchen drinking champagne, the happiest two people on Earth could ever, ever, be. I had no idea it was coming!

Mark is one of the hardest working people I have ever met. He is a family man, an amazing friend and would give the shirt of his back to anyone he knew was in need. For our first Christmas together, I spent months planning the perfect gifts: wrapping new clothes, shoes, and whatever else I thought he needed, all in perfect boxes under a tiny tree we got for his apartment. On Christmas morning he had a few things for me as well: A beautiful watch and some perfume, and a receipt for a donation to World Concern, an international relief and development organization that donates 90% of every dollar to develop health clinics in areas of extreme poverty, rehabilitate villages, feed families, provide clean water, protect and educate youth, teach job skills, and help in times of disaster. So here I am handing him a pair of Calvin Klein socks and he is saving babies around the world. He is kind. He understanding. He is empathetic. He is compassionate. He is the real deal, and I am so excited to be his wife!

Tell us about your wedding day.

We are getting married at Sugar Bowl Resort in Truckee. The theme is way more elegant than rustic; lots of greenery and all white flowers with touches of brass throughout via signage, vases and decor. We went with a neutral palette of grays and whites with the bridesmaid (and family members) in navy, blush and gray. I have my fingers crossed and my hands up to the heavens praying very hard for good weather because if it is clear, our guests will be able to take a ski lift up to the top of the mountain to a little ski chalet for cocktails and appetizers. All along our one concern is that our guests feel taken care of. Lots of good food, good music, good wine and drinks, lots of laughter and love by candlelight and the light of the moon. I cannot wait!

What did your fiancé think about you entering this contest? What did he say when you became a finalist? What did you think when you were selected?

I casually told him I had entered, thinking there was never any way I would get it, and being a man of few words he replied, “Awesome. You would be perfect.” Which was so nice! He was so excited for me when I heard I was a finalist, and what a way to celebrate being engaged! I was honestly shocked when I got the call that I would get to do the shoot. I feel so lucky, but I know that every other bride that applied deserves it as much as any of us. Every bride is beautiful and deserves to feel like a beautiful and glowing goddess on her wedding day!

Tell us about your cover model experience.

The entire day of the photo shoot was like a dream. I think I wore about 19 different looks and each one was so different. It is crazy to have in your mind how you want your bridal look to be, and then to be a canvas for these creative and brilliant hair and makeup designers who make you look more incredible than you could have ever imagined. Everyone working the shoot was so fun and funny, and the entire Real Weddings team was fantastic. It was fun and energetic and such an incredible sight to see. A room full of fabulous gowns, curated by a crew of creative and brilliant minds, all working together with some of the most amazing photography and hair and makeup teams in the industry. It was an amazing day and I can’t thank Real Weddings enough for making me feel so incredibly fabulous.

-Interviewed by Kelley Saia

THE DETAILS “Golden Girls”


Helwig Winery | 209-245-5200 | helwigwinery.com


Sweet Marie Photography | 707-685-7694 | sweetmariephotography.com
Mindy Aagaard, Primary Shooter, Dante Fontana, Assistant


Lea Buehler BGorgeous (Hair) | 916-705-5827 | bgorgeous.com
Jenifer Haupt, I Make Beautiful (Makeup) | 916-532-9800 | imakebeautiful.com


Bellissimo Brides | 559-641-7721 | 559-307-8063 | bellissimobrides.com
Carol Cardinale (Hair and Makeup) , Crystal Renee (Assistant)


Always Elegant Bridal & Tuxedo | 530-755-4282 | 530-487-7110 | alwayselegantbridal.net
The Bridal Box | 916-742-4638 | thebridalbox.net
The Clothes Mine | 209-267-0417 | theclothesmine.com
De La Rosa’s Bridal & Tuxedos | 916-983-3400 | delarosasbridal.com
Diamond Bridal Gallery | 916-521-9856 | diamondbridalgallery.com
House of Fashion | 916-554-7440 | hofbridal.com
Second Summer Bride | 916-330-4422 | secondsummerbridesac.com


Baublebar | baublebar.com
Bel Aire Bridal | belairebridal.com
Chloe + Isabel | chloeandisabel.com
Collections by Joya | collectionsbyjoya.com
Hair Comes the Bride | haircomesthebride.com
Macy’s | macys.com
Arden Fair Mall | 916-925-2845
Downtown Plaza | 916-444-3333
Sunrise Mall | 916-962-3333
Westfield Galleria at Roseville | 916-771-3333
Ruby & Cordelia’s Millinery and Fancy Goods | rubyandcordelias.etsy.com
Sara Gabriel | saragabriel.com
Stella & Dot | stelladot.com


Accents by Sage Floral Design | 916-799-6242 | accentsbysage.com
Amour Florist & Bridal | 916-392-8168 | amourmoments.com
Bella Bloom | 916-498-8588 | bellabloomflowers.com
Bloem Decor | 916-447-2001 | bloemdecor.com
The Blonde Bouquet | 909-499-8644 | theblondebouquet.com
Jenn Robirds Events | 626-841-3758 | jennrobirdsevents.com
Morningside Florist | 916-635-9891 | morningsideflorist.com
Placerville Flowers on Main | 530-622-1121 | placervilleflowersonmain.com
Relles Florist | 916-441-1478 | rellesflorist.com
Strelitzia Flower Company | 530-758-5050 | strelitziaflowers.com

Wholesale Flowers from FiftyFlowers.com | 877-507-6737 | fiftyflowers.com


Tan Weddings & Events | 530-601-0914 | tanweddingsandevents.com


Jenn Robirds Events | 626-841-3758 | jennrobirdsevents.com


Tin Roof Farmhouse | 415-269-6762 | tinrooffarmhouse.com


Tan Weddings & Events | 530-601-0914 | tanweddingsandevents.com


Jenn Robirds Events | 626-841-3758 | jennrobirdsevents.com
with Wholesale Flowers from FiftyFlowers.com | 877-507-6737 | fiftyflowers.com


Ettore’s Bakery & Café | 916-482-0708 | ettores.com


Justin Buettner Wedding Photography | 916-220-0159 | jbweddingphoto.com


Bocca Catering | 916-834-3554 | boccacatering.com

Special thanks to our real bride models—Kayla and Le-Quyen—and all of the professionals who contributed to this feature!

Click here to see more from the “Golden Girls“ photo shoot blog series!

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

Photos by Sweet Marie Photography / copyright Real Weddings Magazine.

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