Claire and Monica in Guerneville, CA | June 23, 2012
A California couple hosts a wedding weekend in Wine Country that is filled with rustic comfort, natural beauty and, of course, true love.


College teammates-turned-life mates, Claire and Monica had been together for nine years before they decided to take the plunge into wife-and-wife bliss. Their vision for their wedding day was a little R&R: rustic and relaxation. “We wanted a casual and comfortable atmosphere,” says Claire. 


Seeking a locale that could accommodate their 130 guests was their number one priority. “We wanted a place where our friends and family could spend the weekend. It was really important to us to be able to see our guests who traveled near and far, and by having everyone in a central location we were able to do this much more easily,” Monica explains. 


At the suggestion of a friend, they came across Dawn Ranch Lodge, a 15-acre property nestled among towering redwoods on the banks of the Russian River in Wine Country. Individual cottages are sprinkled throughout the lush landscape, and ancient apple orchards, bamboo groves, grassy meadows and well-kept gardens gave the lovebirds a multitude of stunning backdrops for their wedding weekend festivities. 

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The weekend began with a family dinner on Thursday evening at Boon, Eat + Drink, a local bistro that prides itself on delicious and seasonal ingredients. On Friday evening, the couple hosted a barbecue dinner at the lodge for anyone who could join, complete with lawn games and a Polaroid picture booth. 


On the morning of, the athletic duo organized a Strides with Brides event. Claire led a 5K run through the woods (“Not a run for the novices,” they add) while Monica led a meandering stroll. Afterwards, everyone enjoyed a breakfast buffet before beginning the whirlwind day. 

While guests waited for the ceremony to begin, they tried their hand at a crossword puzzle printed on the back of the program, customized with clues about the couple.

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As the brides walked down the aisle, an acoustic guitarist played Here Comes the Bride (twice!). Monica walked first alongside her father wearing a luminescent custom outfit. Her beloved followed wearing a White by Vera Wang pocketed wedding gown with a charming pair of apple green shoes peeking from underneath.


Monica carried a sunny bouquet, filled with greenery and orange-and-yellow blooms, while Claire carried a romantic purple-toned collection of seasonal favorites. Their bridesmaids wore matching grey dresses by Donna Morgan, while Monica’s brother donned a summer suit and tie.

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Their three-year-old niece played the important role of the flower girl, and charmed guests as she sashayed down the aisle in a vibrant yellow dress. The brides exchanged vows in a nondenominational ceremony beneath the shade of majestic redwoods, as the afternoon light filtered through the branches. A friend officiated and facilitated readings from loved ones which included two poems, a political piece and a reading from the childhood classic, The Velveteen Rabbit.


They also included a “laying on of hands” ceremony, a spiritual ritual practiced by many religions. The powerful, symbolic gesture heightened emotions, and ended up being one of the highlights of the day for the brides.


Claire once informed Monica that she wanted to pick out her own engagement ring, but wanting the proposal to come as a surprise, Monica bought a “placeholder ring,” to pop the question with. Claire ended up loving the thin wire diamond, which Monica had purchased during a visit to Brooklyn, and the placeholder ended up being long term. Their wedding bands are eternity bands made at a local jeweler.

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Guests dined beneath the boughs of a centuries-old apple orchard. Each table was topped with a pastoral floral centerpiece, with the blooms tucked into mason jars, which gave a nod to their country surroundings.


A menu of flavorful, locally prepared foods was served as light peeked through the trees’ lush curtain. Guests enjoyed a mixed green salad with apples, blue cheese and pecans and roasted chicken sautéed with Napa cabbage and fingerling potatoes or polenta lasagna served with heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella, squash and bean succotash.


Lavender sachets in small burlap sacks were scripted with the brides’ initials, their wedding date and a mason jar stamped on the front were given out as favors.

Their miniature wedding cake, made by a close friend, was classic white, decorated with pearl and fleur-de-lis designs and topped with two brides. As the newlyweds cut into their confection, guests were served a Funfetti cake with whipped cream and strawberries made by Monica’s mom and sister. “Making the Funfetti took a lot of detailed, scientific planning which included lots of taste tests. It was exactly what we wanted. A fancy cake was not for us,” says Monica.


As the sun set into the horizon, a DJ spun tunes as partygoers danced poolside, with twinkling lights casted above giving off an enchanting glow.


Photography: Holman Photography
Venue: Dawn Ranch Lodge
Catering: Dawn Ranch Lodge
Florist: Lila B Design
Attire: White by Vera Wang; Donna Morgan
Hair/Makeup: Kira Lee