Both Alina and Artem moved to Sacramento from abroad in the late ’90s—she from Ukraine and he from Russia. They met when they were both just 18, out snowboarding with friends. Although they exchanged numbers, they would only see each other a couple times a year at Artem’s church, where Alina first observed his “God-fearing character.” “I knew that a man who loves God more than anything would definitely, truly love me and [be] worthy of my trust,” she says. “I remember telling my mom, ‘I would marry this guy right now, if he asked of course.’”

But love would bloom, beginning with a joined band from both their churches, where Artem played lead guitar and Alina bass guitar. Soon they would start hanging out one-on-one and discuss love and marriage. In 2012, they got engaged in Napa Valley.

Alina had one main objective when planning the wedding: not to be a “bridezilla.” “I definitely focused on having a fun, relaxing time planning,” she says. “My goal was to be stress-free throughout planning and even [on] the wedding day.”

“I definitely focused on having a fun, relaxing time planning. My goal was to be stress-free throughout planning and even [on] the wedding day,” Alina says.

The couple both took Wednesdays off from work to prepare for the wedding and enjoy time together. “We visited many vendors and enjoyed every single minute of our planning together,” the bride shares. “In the evenings we would listen to sermons about marriage and write down very useful tips.”

Alina and Artem chose the Miners Foundry Cultural Center for their ceremony and reception, lit brilliantly with glowing candles for a romantic feel. The vintage style brought many memories to the couple’s older guests, as the wedding itself was a bit off-script for Russian culture. The bride’s older brother came up to them asking, “Are you enjoying the food?” They replied, “Oh, most definitely yes! It’s delicious.” He concluded, “That means you are having a really good time and not stressed. Usually when you’re stressed your food doesn’t taste [like] much.”

—Darren Elms