No wedding day is quite as special to me as an intimate wedding in nature, and Hannah and Rocky’s day at Henry Cowell Redwoods in Santa Cruz was no exception. Their wedding was centered on intimacy, simplicity, and the true meaning of marriage.
While in the infant stages of planning a larger, more traditional wedding, Hannah and Rocky stumbled across Kaitlyn and Matt’s intimate Big Sur wedding. After browsing through the images, they fell in love with the raw intimacy surrounding a smaller celebration. They tabled their original idea and decided to invite only their closest friends and family as witnesses.
We started planning their day in Big Sur, but Mother Nature threw a wrench in our plans. The landslides and bridge closure from the winter storms forced us to relocate less than two months away. I sent them an alternative list of forests in Santa Cruz and they settled on Henry Cowell Redwoods. It wouldn’t have mattered much to them what forest they married in, so long as they were surrounded by beauty and loving company.
I met Hannah and Rocky the day before their wedding to tour the forest together. They showed me some of their favorite scenic spots off the trails, as well as the special clearing they chose for their ceremony. We spent the rest of the afternoon lost in the trees trying to track down the elusive Garden of Eden. After more than an hour of searching, we finally found the way down to the watering hole.
Later that evening, we met up again at Allegro in the Carmel Barnyard for their rehearsal dinner. Hannah and Rocky’s family charmed my socks off, warmly welcoming me into their group with open arms. We enjoyed wine on the balcony, listened to some heart warming speeches and feasted on delicious Italian food.
INTIMATE WEDDING DAY
On the day of the wedding, I made a pit stop at Rocky’s family home in Carmel where the guys were getting ready. When I arrived, they shared some heartfelt words around the table and a prayer over breakfast. Rocky opened Hannah’s letter and gift- a beautiful watch to go with his suit. His reaction was so sweet, I think everyone let out an audible “awe” all at once.
The girls were in a charming barn-like Airbnb in Aptos, close to Henry Cowell. Hannah opened Rocky’s gift- a dainty pearl necklace that complimented her dress perfectly. The girls huddled around Hannah afterward and prayed over her…I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room.
We met up a few hours later at a clearing in the park for their first look, one of Hannah and Rocky’s most anticipated moments of the day. The guests waited for us at the main park entrance and we all walked to the ceremony site together. Rocky’s mom pinned on boutonnieres while their friends scattered petals to line the aisle. With her brother softly strumming the guitar, Hannah and her dad made their way up to the altar. In the middle of exchanging vows, a nearby giant split from its roots and came crashing down. The sound of it was like thunder ripping through the sky- an incredible sound I won’t be forgetting soon.
We temporarily parted ways with their guests after the ceremony to soak up the sparkly forest light for portraits. My favorite moment of the day was when we spotted these finger-like rays of light beaming from around the trees. I put on Iron and Wine’s cover of “Time after Time” while Hannah and Rocky practiced their first dance. On the way back to the entrance, a deer came charging through the brush and leaped over the wooden fence just feet away from us.
After the sun had set, we made our way over to the reception dinner at Casa Nostra. The rest of the night was filled with laughter, the best Italian food, and dancing. I couldn’t imagine this day ending any more perfectly. Congrats Hannah and Rocky!
In Hannah’s words: “We loved being able to spend our day with each other and the closest people in our lives. There is something magical about walking through the woods on your wedding day that we really can’t explain.
We ended up hosting receptions for both of our families after we got back from our honeymoon. This allowed us to spend quality time with even more people we love than we could have on our actual wedding day. If you’re thinking about having an intimate wedding, we highly recommend it.”
Ceremony location: Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park (Santa Cruz, CA) // Dress Designer: BHLDN // Dessert: Ferrell’s Donuts, Santa Cruz // Groom’s Attire: H&M // Officiant: Chris Comstock // Florist: Joely Clarke, Rooted Florals // MUAH: Valerie, Last Resort Salon// Photography: Paige Nelson // Reception Venue: Casa Nostra Ristorante & Bar (Ben Lomond)