Jen and Nik met in high school, where he played sports and she participated in drama. “We hung out in completely different crowds,” recalls Jen, “but I knew who he was because he played soccer with my brother.”

After high school, Nik joined the Coast Guard and Jen headed off to college in Riverside. Several years later, the pair reconnected as friends, but eventually that connection blossomed into a relationship. While on a trip to Yosemite in 2018, the couple made it official when Nik proposed in the beautiful setting.

Even before they became engaged, Jen and Nik knew they wanted something small and unique for their wedding. “I had been to so many weddings where every decoration looked the same,” says the bride. “We didn’t want that.” They settled on a travel and adventure theme, and all the pieces started to fall in place. Although it was challenging to plan with Nik’s hectic schedule traveling for work, they kept up the communication and loved seeing it all come together.

For the ceremony, they transformed the bride’s parents’ back yard. Lights were strung up and small pennant flags blew in the wind. “Nik and I chose not to have a bridal party and it worked out perfectly,” Jen says. “The ceremony started with Nik’s former church pastor opening in prayer, and then my dad took over to officiate the wedding. It was so special to have him not only walk me down the aisle but to marry us as well.”

All the tables, which were made by the bride’s father, were placed in such a way that they shaped the aisle for the ceremony so guests did not have to relocate for the reception. Attendees dined on wood-fired pizza, drank wine and enjoyed a donut bar.

The groom says his favorite part of the day was when Jen said, “I do.” “We planned that day for months and it flew by so fast, but seeing everyone come together to make it a reality was so special to us,” the bride says. “One of the more memorable moments of the day for me was seeing my grandparents’ dog tags attached to my bouquet. It wasn’t something I knew was happening. and we were just starting to take bridal pictures when the bouquet was handed to me. When I looked down and saw the dog tags, I started to cry. It was so special. My brother also came off the Pacific Crest Trail to surprise us for the wedding—another thing we weren’t expecting.”

 — Darren Elms