Self-proclaimed goofballs Rachel and Matt introduced us to beautiful Bay Area vistas during their engagement session earlier this year. Little did we expect the magic that would await us at their wedding location—a small, picturesque community called Sea Ranch! Located along Northern California’s Sonoma Coast, it’s approached via harrowing stretches of serpentine roads lined with windswept cypress trees and jagged cliffs that you might see in a BMW or Audi commercial. Needless to say, spectacular views abound and the waters teem with harbor seals and sea lions.
“We were on a trip to Sea Ranch a year ago and were looking up at the Milky Way one night,” recalled Rachel. “I said to Matt, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if someday we could get married at Sea Ranch, maybe at the little chapel we love so much?’ Matt agreed. He proposed to me the following February and the rest is history.”
Speaking of Sea Ranch Chapel, it’s utterly enchanting and seriously looks like it came straight out of Hobbiton—not only because of its cozy size but its whimsical, Gaudi-inspired construction! Despite (or because of) the intimate space (only 20 people were allowed inside for the ceremony), emotions were amplified, with laughter and tears flowing freely during the heartfelt vows and ring exchange. Rachel looked stunning in a lacey mermaid gown that she had altered, adding a keyhole back; a sparkly bracelet, her mother-in-law’s necklace, and her late grandmother’s earrings completed her ensemble. Meanwhile, Matt looked dashing in a dusky three-piece suit with a cheerful yellow tie and succulent boutonnière.
“I felt a surge of courage when I was walking up to see Matt in the chapel,” says Rachel. “I had been so nervous for days leading up to the wedding but, right then, I just felt so happy.”
One of Matt’s favorite moments was seeing Rachel for the first time that day, too. “He was, like, ‘Woooooooooo!'” she recalls. “And it was an emotional ‘woo,’ too. He was overwhelmed.”
After a photo pit stop at a towering grove of cypress trees, we headed to their woodland-themed celebration at Annapolis Winery.
“When we walked into the reception and were surrounded by all the guests, that was really special,” says Matt.
“I felt so happy to see everyone that I love, and everyone that loves me and Matt,” adds Rachel. “I’ve never felt so much love in one place in my life.”
Also special was Rachel’s amazing handiwork. We know she’s an artist but were completely blown away by the charming table name cards (hello, Mr. Nintendo-Playing Skunk!), the intricate photobooth props (they took nine months to make!), and the adorable activity book for their pint-sized guests.
“Each table name card was one of Matt’s or my interests combined with an animal,” says Rachel. Accompanying each card was a wooden lantern containing a tiny matching glass animal perched atop moss and firefly lights. “I wanted the kids that were coming to have fun, too, so we put together a kid section filled with balls, games, glow-in-the-dark fidget spinners, glow sticks, and the activity books that I made. I tried to cater it to different ages, so it had a maze, word search, crossword puzzle, connect the dots, jokes, and more.”
She even hand-drew the wedding cake, which her talented friend Venus at La Vie Douce Design transformed into an edible masterpiece, while her dad made the cakestand base. Her family and other friends lent a hand, too, decorating the winery for the reception and helping with the details.
After a delicious feast, touching speeches, and the first dances, our newlyweds frolicked in the meadow against a sherbet-colored backdrop. We recruited some of the kids to add extra bubbly ambience and some of the adults quickly realized that they needed to lend additional lung power. At one point, a young, well-dressed gentleman solemnly took Rachel’s hand while she was holding Matt’s, which was really sweet. Our hearts were warmed by so many smiles and love-filled gestures, and our energy was lifted by all the action on the dancefloor.
At the end of the evening, we joined Rachel and Matt at their rental home, where we gasped at the sight of the Milky Way beaming from their deck. We’d never seen it quite so perfect before! We’re grateful that they braved the freezing winds as we worked to capture them with the breathtaking galaxy, and honored that they trusted us with their stellar day. Here are some of our favorite moments.
Bride’s dress: Ivory Allure from Starlet Bridal (Santa Rosa; bride added a lace keyhole kit)
Bride’s shoes: Loly in the Sky (ModCloth)
Bride’s bracelet: Swarovski
Groom’s suit, shoes, socks: SuitSupply
Groom’s tie: Bows-n-Ties
Rings: Doran Merav (Etsy)
Bride’s hair: Rachel, Kelly & Alison at Rumors All About Hair (Gualala)
Groom’s hair: The Moon Room (Petaluma)
Caterer: Oui Cater (Healdsburg)
Desserts: La Vie Douce Design (San Leandro)
Fox cake toppers: strawberriesandcream (Etsy)
Flowers: Flowers by Natasha (Gualala)
Photobooth: Exposure Photo Booths (San Francisco)
Taffy: Patrick’s Salt Water Taffy (Bodega Bay)
Wedding Invitations: Minted
Signs: Zazzle.com, Vistaprint
Rentals: Party Tents and Events (Santa Rosa)