James W. Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848, sparking the California Gold Rush. Phil says he discovered gold at that same place when he met Jamie underneath a tree in Marshall Gold State Park. It was love at first sight for the couple, who lovingly call themselves “Team Craderson,” an ode to their last names.

Jamie lived in Oakland and Phil lived east of Sacramento, but somehow they managed the hundred miles between them and figured out how to be together almost every day. Eventually Jamie gave up her beloved apartment in the Bay Area and moved in with Phil and his kids in Sacramento.

During a hike in Death Valley, Phil planned to propose to Jamie at the summit. The two were completely exposed on the ridge of the meadow and lighting began to strike around them. The storm foiled his plans, but he suggested they rest in the shade of a small tree. This was his chance. Between lightning strikes, Phil took Jamie’s hands, looked into her eyes and told her that he wanted to marry her. Within moments, the clouds parted and a double rainbow formed over the trail in the exact direction they were heading.

“We love the desert and Coloma, where we met kayaking, so we wanted to bring the desert to Coloma,” says Phil of their wedding plan. “We started almost a year early and worked steadily over the year leading up to the wedding, so it was never a last minute rush or overwhelming.”

At their ceremony, their officiant Jason researched plants and animals that live in the desert and had several close friends and family read about the plants and animals and worked in analogies for love and happiness. Jamie’s mom nailed the river and desert motif with an arch.

Phil also loved how his children played a role in the ceremony. “I was so honored to have my beautiful daughter walk me down the aisle, and I loved when my son gave me bunny ears in the middle of the actual ceremony.”

Both ceremony and reception were held at the same venue, Earthtrek Expeditions. Guests enjoyed a delicious barbecue from Hog Wild Bar-B-Que/Luke & Lucy Catering. “The dining area was elegant and rustic,” says Phil. “The dancing was down by  the Gold Rush façade where we got a lot of cool pictures from the jail and saloon.”

Rather than go for overplayed wedding songs, the couple selected music that they both enjoy listening to. “We didn’t do any of the wedding reception traditions, like the garter toss, money dance or bouquet toss,” explains Phil. “We did a first dance and a last dance that included everyone. Other than that, we wanted it to be relaxed and no-pressure for our guests.”

—Darren Elms