What is like to have a winter destination wedding in the Lake Tahoe area? As you can see by the photo of Sarah & Richard in winter 2019, it was magical (it helps that they hired the incredibly talented Ashley Teasley as their photographer, too!).
Of course, it takes vision by the couple, and time, talent, and hard work by the couple and all of the vendors to get to that magical moment and have an incredible ceremony and a wonderful reception for their guests.
At Sierra & Sky, we often work at Olympic Valley, Lake Tahoe, and Truckee as wedding planner, wedding coordinator / wedding day manager, officiant, and floral designer. For this wedding, we were hired as the wedding coordinator / wedding day manager and the officiant.
Our work started about six weeks before the wedding. We contacted all of the vendors to introduce ourselves, and collaborated with the couple and the vendors to create a wedding day timeline… in itself that takes a great deal of time and follow-up. We also created a rehearsal staging map and plan so that the wedding party and family would know exactly what to do, and where to stand, along with a basic timeline for them for the wedding day. We needed to arrive the day before the wedding to obtain the couple’s decor items to set out the next day, to hold the rehearsal, and figure out the logistics of “showtime.” Of course, the weather forecast changed a few days before the wedding, as a storm was coming in to the Lake Tahoe area. We stayed on top of the forecast to be sure our couple had the knowledge so that they could choose their weather plan / plan B.
Although Spring was literally a few days away, you can’t count on the calendar when wedding planning. I had already contacted the bride and venue and worked out a weather “Plan B” with them for inclusion into the timeline. We had to think about when the venue would need to know whether we were going to stick with the outdoor plan for the rehearsal and ceremony, or move it indoors. I made sure to text the bride before I started my journey from Shingle Springs up the hill to the snowy Sierra, to be sure she let the venue and I know what her decision was by 9 am the day of the wedding rehearsal (and also 9 am the day of the wedding). I also made sure to bring my driver and logistics dude Jay and his trusty 4×4 truck in case there was chain control at the summit at Donner Pass (there was indeed chain control, but with a 4×4 or AWD you just need to show chains).
After checking in to our cozy airBNB room in Olympic Valley, we headed up to Resort at Squaw Creek for the rehearsal. What a beautiful, modern lodge set in an incredible setting. I understand why my clients chose this venue to host their destination wedding.
I love the modern style with all of the earthy elements included. Would you look at this view???!!!!
And here is the outdoor waterfall to look at while you are sitting next to the fire at the river rock fireplace.
We met with the venue coordinators (by the way – they coordinate for the venue’s flow, not for other aspects of your wedding) prior to the rehearsal to find out where the bride’s room would be, where the reception space was, reviewed the weather plan, and I gave them a paper copy of the timeline. We then met with the couple, and looked at the reception space and the ceremony space. Their wedding party arrived, and I handed out the staging map and plan (where they would stand) and a simple wedding day timeline for each of them. We practiced the ceremony staging a few times, and the wedding party was done for now. Then we followed the bride and groom to where they had stored their items to be set out, arranged with the concierge to continue storage there through the next morning, and took notes from the couple about all the things that needed to be set out. The couple then went to their rehearsal dinner.
On wedding day, we arrived at the resort early to check in with the wonderful venue Special Event Coordinators, Brett and Joleen. It really makes a difference to all of the vendors when the venue special event team is engaged and collaborating. I so appreciate the support that the whole team of vendors provided to each other, and Brett and Joleen were professional and so helpful.
The couple made the decision early in the day to move forward with the outdoor ceremony, although afternoon snow was in the forecast. They did move cocktail hour indoors to the reception area, though. Ceremonies are generally done quickly; she didn’t want anyone to be out in the cold for too long.
The bride had a nice-sized but cozy Get-Ready Room, and had pre-ordered breakfast foods for the wedding party while they were getting ready with the make-up and hair artists that arrived from Art of Beauty. What lovely hair and make-up the bride and the bridesmaid and groomswomen had! I checked with the wedding party to make sure that they didn’t need anything, and made sure that they had a copy of the wedding day schedule. Then I trotted downstairs to the ceremony and reception area.
The venue staff were right on time with their target times for ceremony area set-up. Although I had planned to set up the ceremony area, the groom and friend moved in to assist me, which I gratefully accepted their help. Remember, that while the ladies are getting their hair and make-up done, it’s great for the groom to be involved too! They were so great at helping with getting the couple’s garland up on the arch, and the groom had brought pull-bows – and knew how to use them – I let them continue on after verifying what the bride had told me she wanted, and let them carry on, and I moved indoors to work on the reception set-up – after checking in with the bride to be sure she didn’t need anything.
Moving inside, I tasked Jay with setting up the Hot Chocolate Bar. Pretty darn cool, and with a sketch of what the bride wanted (that I got in advance of the wedding), he got it all worked out and looking good. That took a good amount of time to set up; I was grateful for his help.
The venue had the table linens on, so I started to set up the reception centerpieces and accessories that the couple had brought. The groom and friend came in and showed me the batteries on the fairy lights, so that I could turn them on later so that the batteries would last.
The other vendors began to arrive: photographer Ashley Teasley was first. I had looked ahead at the timeline and so earlier I made sure that the bride had the detail items ready before Ashley arrived (rings, bouquet, dresses to hang up, etc), and to remind the wedding party of the pre-wedding photos on the timeline. I thanked the groom and sent him on his way so that the bride wouldn’t see him in case she went out for pre-photos. A reminder that a competent, artistically talented, take-charge photographer, like Ashley, is priceless.
While checking in on the ladies, it started to snow a bit.
I’d like to mention that the groom had groomswomen. Don’t be afraid to be untraditional – mix things up.
The DJ arrived, as well. What can I say about Drew Kondo of Cornerstone Entertainment? He collaborates, and he is an absolute professional at what he does – like all of the vendors on this wedding. He had lots and lots of equipment to bring in — not only was he the DJ, but he also brought in some cool photobooth equipment and props (I’ll show you that later at the reception). I had checked with the venue to staff to verify where he should set up his DJ equipment, his photobooth, and speaker for the dance floor. Drew got everything set up on time, and had his equipment out in the snow under linens to protect it outside – don’t forget, the best audio will always be set up by your DJ, because they know how to work sound, right?
Some family members were not able to attend, so the couple, a week or so before the wedding, hired a live-stream videography service. Using local videographers, there are professionals back at the studio making sure the live feed is streaming. Pretty darn incredible. Videographer Chris Stamey arrived and set up too, and was often seen talking to himself – no, just kidding, he was talking to Sam at My Streaming Wedding. What a great idea, and Chris and Sam were so professional to work with, too, and Chris made sure to film everything but stay out of the way of the photographer.
At this point, before the ceremony, I’m trotting up and down stairs between the venue coordinators, the banquet staff, the bride, the groom, the DJ, the videographer….and herding guests back inside to wait for the ceremony, because at this point it was snowing and 26 degrees out. Since it was snowing, Jay got some bar towels and toweled off the chairs; and I texted the venue coordinators that it would need to be done again about 5 minutes pre-ceremony. The venue lit the outdoor heat lamps, and lit the outdoor fireplace too. The clouds were starting to descend on the mountain. One last check of the ceremony area, and I had Drew mic me up since I was the officiant as well.
See the storm is coming in…
Details by the wedding couple for the ceremony included bows and pretty DIY reserved plaques. I would like to point out that the couple chose polysilk flowers for the wedding. In 26 degree weather, that was a good idea. As a florist, I can tell you that real, fresh flowers would have frozen and turned to mush when the bouquets came indoors.
Brett and Joleen and I planned the timing as to when they were holding back pedestrian traffic (this is a ski lodge, after all, and there is a bus drop-off) for the ceremony to be more private. I had sent Jay up to the bride’s Get-Ready room, so I texted him to start walking, as I walked out with the groom, groomswomen, and Mom, after cueing Drew the DJ. The ceremony was lovely, with the snow coming down (and I was REALLY happy that I wore base layers under my clothes and boots!). I worked with the couple in the months prior to the ceremony on their script, so that they would know exactly what the script was, and so that they knew I would stay on script. I created a keepsake booklet for them so that they will have a token from their wedding ceremony.
After family photos, the bride and groom and photographers head off for their private photo shoot. Did you see that featured image that I started off the blog with?! Pro photographers are amazing. Guests come in for cocktail hour and happily entertain themselves with beverages, appetizers, and photo booth fun.
This was what I consider a “small” wedding: about 40 people, and here is what it looks like. The venue provided a mix of round and rectangle tables. This is the restaurant, and it was closed for the event. We did have to turn away people who didn’t look at the “private event” sign. Your Wedding Day Manager takes care of that!
Photo booth fun – these props were provided by the bride and groom as they are game-players and the props went with their game of choice (as did the Hot Chocolate Bar).
After the ceremony, the resort’s special event coordinators turn the event over to the Banquet Captain Chris and introduce me to him. Looking at the timeline, it’s time for me to round up the bride and groom so that we can have them make their grand entrance, and get them seated so dinner can start…but only after I check with the Banquet Captain to be sure that they are ready for food service, check with DJ Drew to be sure he is ready to announce, and check with videographer Chris.
Okay Ashley, Sarah, and Richard…where are you out there? Oh, there you are!
Resort at Squaw Creek provided the bar, catering, cake, and ceremony and reception venue. I have to tell you – the Resort at Squaw Creek has incredible food. The food was very upscale and gourmet, and there was plenty of food. Both the bar service and food service was professional, fun, and attentive to everyone’s need. Their staff is professional and they had plenty of staff working, and the Banquet Captain ran the event seamlessly. The event coordinators and the banquet captain were such a pleasure to work with, as well as the set-up staff, bar staff, and wait staff.
Sarah and Richard chose to have a sweetheart table.
After dinner was the first dance. No toasts – remember, do what makes you happy, you don’t have to follow tradition. Dancing. Lots of dancing. Oh, and there were fireworks going off in the valley at the other resort. Pretty cool.
A good DJ doesn’t just “play music.” They are also emcee, read the crowd, and get out there to help your guests have fun. Well worth hiring a fun professional like Drew Kondo. Here he is leading a dance – Cupid Shuffle by Cupid. A line dance that isn’t country.
Time for cake! The resort made the cake in the couple’s colors along with their yellow star theme. I loved the way it looked, and it worked perfectly with their theme! When it was time to cut the cake, I first checked in with the Banquet Captain to make sure staff was ready, and made sure that there was a plate, cake knife, and server ready, and made sure that Ashley was ready. I let Drew know so that he could emcee, and he checked with me that the logistics were ready — and he helped direct the couple what to do as he was announcing . Again, pros, all of the vendors, working together to make sure everything went smoothly.
After the cake cutting, staff whisked the cake off to slice it and serve it. The Banquet Captain asked me if the top tier of the cake should be boxed, so I checked in with my couple. That’s a yes!
More dancing, and then the older folks started leaving, but there was a crew of people who were loving and asking for 1980s songs. Drew constantly measured the crowd to see what was making them happy (the trait of a great DJ!) and the 1980s was starting to crash and burn, so he shifted back to current music. Finally, all good things must come to an end, and the groom got out of his tie and got comfy while getting some Hot Chocolate Bar favors, and guests enjoyed a Late Night Snack taco bar. Board games were brought out and things quieted down.
For me, as Wedding Day Manager, it was a 12-hour day (9 am to 9:30 pm), with an assistant. I was busy for the whole time, except for a 1/2 hour lunch when I wasn’t needed. That doesn’t include the day prior with travel, rehearsal, and the six to eight weeks for all of the planning and logistics that goes into making sure the execution of the event goes off well.
Lovely couple, lovely wedding. Professional and friendly collaboration by all of the pro vendors made the day go smoothly and easily for the couple for their destination wedding, even with hiccups due to weather. Small weddings have the same professional wedding vendor needs as larger weddings, as you can see the complexity of planning, coordinating, and executing the event. Hiring experienced vendors that understand their role and logistics of all the roles is so important for a great event. My thanks to all the wedding vendor professionals who worked together to make this, for Sarah and Richard – The. Best. Day. Ever.
Resort at Squaw Creek
Ceremony & Reception Venue, Catering, Bar Services, Cake, Lodging
Ashley Teasley Photography
Ceremony Sound, DJ, & Photo Booth
My Streaming Wedding
Videography & Live Streaming
Art of Beauty/Bridal Beauty on the Go
Hair & Make-Up
Sierra & Sky
Wedding Day Management/Coordination & Officiant
Authentic. Adventure. Living.