Sacramento Weddings

Both Lydia and James come from the same rural college town—Blacksburg, Virginia—a picturesque place nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. “It has a population of just over 40,000, making it difficult to believe James and I never ran into each other before high school,” says Lydia. “It’s a place where you can’t wait to escape from as an adolescent, but somehow as adults living in San Francisco, we can’t wait to return.”

Through college, the two formed a special friendship that helped them through school, relationships and breakups. “Eventually, we just found each other,” shares Lydia. “He kissed me one night in a parking garage. We both agreed it was too weird to handle and it wouldn’t ever happen again…we’ve been together ever since.”

Though the couple talked about marriage, neither was in any particular hurry to make it official. “Our life was happy,” says Lydia. “We’d been living together for five years and it already felt like we were married.”

When work forced them to do long-distance for a while, however, the stress of the separation put James into action. “He picked me up from the airport and seemed nervous and quiet,” says Lydia of the night he popped the question. “We parked in our San Francisco neighborhood near Alta Vista, an incredible park built on top of one of the tallest hills in the city. He got down on one knee and talked a mile a minute. It was so dark I couldn’t even see what he was holding. The whole proposal didn’t go as he had planned…but it was the most perfectly imperfect moment, and one I wouldn’t change for anything.”

Lydia and James hoped their big day would feel familiar, wedding-like, but with a twist. “Our senses of humor and our distastes for stuffy traditions would be injected into every detail,” the bride says. “To greet the guests we had a giant hand-lettered adapted quote by Stephen Colbert to set the tone of ‘funny love’:”

“I just want a partner who is considerate and attentive, who will spoon with me while reciting Keats, and feed me organic yogurt by candlelight on a seaside cliff at sunset.”

While they sometimes felt a need to censor themselves and make sure they were honoring the specialness of the day, they knew they could pull off their vision without making a joke of it. “It was a fine line between quirky and disrespectful,” she says. “We really wanted it to feel authentic to us…not a Pinterest board we picked at random.”

A friend found their venue, the Villa del Cavallo in Lake Tahoe, on Airbnb. “I was the first person to ask about having a wedding there,” Lydia says of the sprawling estate. “Annie, the Villa’s wonderful owner, had only had her own daughter’s wedding at the home previously and it was perfect for us.”

The ceremony took place in the archway on the villa’s front lawn. “We got married right as the sun set over the mountain range,” she says. “My father walked me down the aisle to Sam Smith’s cover of Whitney Houston’s ‘How Will I Know.’ James looked the happiest I had ever seen him. It was the easiest 100 feet I’ve walked, and I was counting the seconds down before I could plant a big kiss on that man.”

—Darren Elms