Marlena and Ryan met in Walnut Creek, where each had relocated for work. They matched on a dating site, and Ryan asked her to go out to a local beer bar. “We chatted and ended up sharing a pizza,” remembers Marlena. “After the date I told my sister I’d finally met someone I wanted to spend more time with.” Ryan consulted his best friend on how to arrange date two. Over the next year, they spent dates at farmers’ markets, wineries and exploring the coast before Ryan proposed on the beach in Capitola.
The couple’s biggest priority for the wedding was to have their friends and family with them. Having their help made an otherwise overwhelming process much more manageable.
Marlena says the best moment of the wedding planning was when they finally decided on having the reception at Backroad Vines Winery. “Deciding to have the reception there fit our personalities perfectly and set our reception against the most beautiful backdrop we could imagine,” she says.
The pair exchanged vows at a Catholic ceremony at the chapel at Saint Mary’s College, where Marlena studied. “My mom walked me down the aisle,” she says. As Ryan’s father is a fermentation engineer, the priest, Father Hai, reminded Ryan to treat their love like the process of fermentation, an experiment to yield great results. “We think this metaphor may have been lost on the audience, but we found it hilarious,” says the bride. “It’s quickly become an inside joke between the two of us—‘ferment our love!’”
Dinner at the reception was served family style so guests could pass the food around the table and connect with others. They also had a live band with traditional Arabic music, a surprise professional belly dancer, as well as a DJ. “Our dance floor was packed the whole night,” Marlena says. “We had a huge dessert bar as well as a taco truck and a silent disco toward the end of the reception.”
Marlena says Ryan and she often leave little notes for each other to find. For our wedding day, they decided to write letters to each other to read privately before the ceremony. “We were excited to make our public commitment through marriage, but also wanted to sneak in a private moment without a first look,” she says. “Our photographer skillfully captured us writing these notes and later reading the letters that the other had written. This was the perfect way for us to begin the next chapter of our lives.”
— Darren Elms
Marlena & Ryan's Wedding Resources
Provided by St. Mary's College
Phone: (916) 990-8826
Smoke Doctor BBQ
Tulemar Resort in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
“Come Rain or Come Shine” by Sarah Vaughan
We had four different flavors of cake because we couldn’t choose just one: strawberry lemonade, almond joy, chocolate with caramel frosting, and coconut pineapple. We don’t joke around with cake!
Our flowers were mostly teacup roses in pale pinks and whites. We also had beautiful table runners made of bay leaves. Our florist incorporated herbs into the arrangements which made the venue smell amazing.
Olive oils and flavored balsamic vinegars from Sonoma Harvest. Our family members put together the favors for us.
• Our venue, BackRoad Vines, was the most beautiful/romantic venue we could have hoped for. We had looked at so many venues with pushy salespeople and crazy upcharges. We chose the venue that really feels like home. Everyone who works there is so easygoing and accommodating. They work with your vision and help you throughout the whole process.
In October, the grapes leaves in the surrounding vineyards were just starting to turn colors which set a beautiful backdrop. We were able to incorporate vintage china plates and install crystal chandeliers. I really wanted to dance under the stars, but was worried about the possibility of rain. We added a transparent section to the roof of our tent, which allowed us to watch the sunset and dance under the stars all night!
• Our jeweler also made the experience unforgettable. He helped Ryan to design the engagement ring and then made it himself. He helped us both choose exactly what we wanted for our bands. He also used family heirloom stones to create opal pendants for each of the bridesmaids. He’s a true craftsman and we know our jewelry is unlike anything that can be bought from a retailer.
• Lastly, our honeymoon resort, Tulemar, was out of this world. The resort provided us with a personal concierge who arranged our trip based on our interests. Leading up to the wedding, we had very limited time to plan, so our concierge arranged our excursions, drive to/from the airport, and provided us with dining arrangements. When we arrived, she was there to meet us in person with refreshments. Throughout the trip, she rearranged our itinerary for us when the weather changed, adapting our trip along the way. The staff onsite treated us like family and anticipated our needs before we even asked. We’ve never been somewhere so welcoming and caring. They were extraordinary.
Make your wedding an expression of you as a couple. There can be a lot of pressure leading up to the big day, so set aside time to spend focusing on what’s important – your relationship and the commitment you’re making to each other.
If we had to change anything, we would have remained calmer through the experience. Wedding planning can be filled with twists and turns, but it all works out in the end. Our wedding far exceeded our expectations. The small things that caused fights during the planning process didn’t matter at all in the big picture. The wedding day flew by and all in all, it was just a day in our lives. What’s important is that the process set a strong foundation for our marriage.