This California Wedding Is Proof That There's No Backdrop Quite Like Lake Tahoe
It almost sounds like a movie: As kids, Natalie Tkalcevic and Grant Mahan each spent their summers in Lake Tahoe with their families, but somehow, their paths never crossed. That is, not until 2013, when Grant was working a summer job there on the beach, just down the street from Natalie's family cabin. They were dating other people at the time, so after a friend introduced the pair, they went on a double date. "I left feeling confused," Natalie says. "Didn't it seem that I spent more time chatting with Grant than my date?" They followed each other on social media and went their separate ways at the end of the summer to finish their last years of college.
Fate intervened once more—this time, after graduation. A group of their friends gathered again in Tahoe, and Grant and Natalie, now single, promised to connect in the Bay Area, where she was attending grad school (she's now a kindergarten teacher) and he was living (he works in sales). They made good on that promise: Cut to 2018, when Grant planned a romantic candlelit proposal that included rosé and his mom's famous lasagna.
When it came time to plan their wedding, there was no question on where it would be: at the West Shore Cafe in Homewood, California, right on the shores of Lake Tahoe. "We loved that we would be able to get married right beside the lake and that Grant could live out his dreams of coming into the wedding on a beautiful boat, waving to the guests as he arrived," Natalie says. And so, on August 2, 2019, the pair gathered 200 guests as they exchanged self-penned vows with the lake as their backdrop. But that's not even the most cinematic moment of all: After an epic meal and dancing, the pair treated guests to a jaw-dropping 15-minute fireworks display over Lake Tahoe—right where it had all begun.
The couple's invitation suite, designed by Underwood Letterpress and featuring calligraphy by Curliecue Designs, introduced a custom gray-blue Pantone shade that would appear throughout the big day. A wave pattern on the back of the invites mimicked the waters of Lake Tahoe, and a map of the area appeared on a card that listed the weekend's events (and showed exactly where the couple first met).
When guests arrived to Lake Tahoe, they received canvas Apolis tote bags filled with wedding weekend must-haves: Sunksi sunglasses, S'well water bottles, RX Bars, Ritual chocolate, Molly & Me pecans, and a printed guide to the festivities. The bag itself was emblazoned with the pair's personal motto, "Love Always in All Ways."
Grant and a few friends and family members constructed the arch where the ceremony took place, right on the edge of Lake Tahoe at the West Shore Cafe.
The silk organza skirt on Natalie's A-line Carolina Herrera wedding dress was the detail that spoke most to the bride. "My greatest hope was that it felt light and airy," she says. "I didn't want any heaviness on the day of our wedding, and the minute I put this dress on and watched the train float to the ground as the floral appliqués fluttered like butterflies, I knew it was the one."
Floral designer Mindy Rice created a traditional bouquet for Natalie to carry down the aisle. The arrangement included Cloony ranunculus, powder pink garden roses, tweedia, butterfly ranunculus, freesia, peppergrass, and coffee berry foliage, all tied together with pale blue ribbons.
Girl's Best Friends
We All Float On
Grant always dreamed about arriving to his wedding on a boat while waving to his guests—and so, that's just how he and his groomsmen, all outfitted in navy Michael Kors suits, made their way to the ceremony.
Bunches of Love
As a nod to Natalie's father's Croatian heritage, guests wore small bunches of rosemary on their lapels—a Croatian wedding tradition.
To celebrate his Celtic background, Grant, his parents, and the groomsmen processed into the ceremony to the tune of "Scotland the Brave," played on bagpipes.
Both Natalie and Grant say that arranging their ceremony was the easiest part of wedding planning. During the non-religious service, the officiant performed a Celtic handfasting and the pair read traditional and self-penned vows that ended with their favorite phrase, "I will love you always in all ways."
The newlyweds walked back up the aisle to a bagpiper playing "Rising of the Moon," a tune from the 1952 film The Quiet Man, which takes place in Ireland (it's one of Natalie's family's favorites).
The names of the duo's three signature cocktails (a gin and tonic; Manhattan; and Moscow mule) were calligraphed onto agate slices, which were displayed at the bar.
What a Ride
The newlyweds took a break from cocktail hour to take a boat ride on their boat, the Wild Goose II, just the two of them. "We especially loved the opportunity to spend a few quiet moments just the two of us, out on our most favorite lake in our happy place, allowing us the chance to be fully present and aware that we had just gotten married," Natalie says. "It also didn't hurt to feel like movie stars with our photographer chasing behind us in another boat and our videographer flying a drone above us to capture those sweet moments!"
Instead of traditional escort cards, guests found their seating assignments on calligraphed slices of agate stone, displayed on a bookcase. Also on its shelves? Glasses of bubbly and vases brimming with buds.
Dinner Is Served
Long farm tables lined the docks of the West Shore Cafe, where guests were treated to their choice of halibut, filet mignon, or vegetable risotto, courtesy of the venue.
A monogrammed napkin (featuring an "M" for their married last name, Mahan) rested at each setting.
Flowers on the Water
Organic floral centerpieces with flowing vines lined the tablescapes, which were topped with subtly nautical striped runners.
Small bowls of fruit added texture to each station; paper menu cards told of the meal to come.
The duo's lemon cake, covered in buttercream frosting, got an upgrade thanks to Mindy Rice's ranunculus additions.
Come dessert time, an armoire was filled with assorted mini pies, from berry and apple to cherry.
Dance with Me
At their reception, the newlyweds swayed to Thomas Rhett's "Die a Happy Man," the pair's favorite song to sing to each other.
Photography, Sylvie Gil Photography
Venue and Catering, West Shore Cafe
Cake, Blend Catering
Flowers, Mindy Rice Design
Videography, Reel Eyes Media
Stationery, Programs, and Guest Book, Underwood Letterpress
Calligraphy, Curliecue Designs
Music, Ike and Martin
Bride's gown and veil, Carolina Herrera
Hair and Makeup, Seven31 on Forest
Bridesmaids' dresses, Jenny Yoo
Groom's suit, Isaia