Sarah and Alex’s intimate wedding in Forest of Nisene Marks turned out to be the greatest back up plan of all time.
These two originally dreamed of exchanging vows in the enchanting forest of Limekiln State Park where Alex proposed. They booked camping spots 6 months ahead of time for their 10 closest friends and family to join them. But a month before their date, Pfieffer Bridge collapsed with the landslides. We soon realized Highway 1 wouldn’t be re-opening to the public any time soon.
Plan B in Santa Cruz
At first it was disheartening to give up Big Sur, but everything kept falling into place. I researched look-alike forests and recommended Nisene Marks in Santa Cruz. Sarah found an amazing yurt set above the beautiful vineyards in Salinas. She also found an incredible hair and make up artist willing to make the last-minute drive.
Intimate Wedding Day Preparations
A few days before the wedding, Sarah and Alex scouted a secluded grove for their ceremony. Instead of having one officiant, Sarah asked all of their guests to be an equally important part of the readings. She asked them to share a piece of themselves by offering a blessing, joke, poem, song, or dance.
The day of the ceremony was so relaxed. I arrived to the yurt in the late morning to capture the quiet ritual of preparation. In a secluded grove away from guests, Sarah and Alex shared a moment of meditation following their first look. Then we all caravanned our way up to the redwood giants in Aptos.
Secluded ceremony grove in Forest of Nisene Marks
Alex and Sarah brought incense, a metal singing bowl, crystals, and a few gifted items to decorate the forest floor. As everyone filed in, Sarah and Alex asked them to form a circle. The ceremony began with a sage purification ritual and anointment of each guest with frankincense.
Alex opened with a prayer to the four directions. Then, the floor was open to anyone who wanted to share their words. Sarah’s mom read a poem from Alex’s parents and surprised them by serenading them with a song.
After Alex and Sarah exchanged vows, they passed out homemade medicine bags. Sarah invited each guest to select a few of the crystals from the altar to add to their bag. Finally, they sealed the ceremony with a group hug and sang Longtime Sun (a kundalini closing).
Redwood Portraits & Twilight at the Beach
We spent the rest of the daylight frolicking around the forest for their couple portraits. We made it to the coast just in time to soak up the last of the sun and play in the twilight.Later that evening, we rejoined everyone back at the yurt for homemade food, cake, and festivities.
“I couldn’t have ask for anything more. It was only loosely planned and perfect. Leaving things open and going with the flow helped us to stay relaxed and in the moment. We were so wrapped up in our ceremony, we decided to drop our plan to do portraits in Carmel. We literally pulled over at the first coast we could find.
It was a very different look and we had to hop some fences (thanks, Andrew!) but we got incredible unplanned photos! I would not trade the feeling and memory of our our day for anything in the world! It was everything I could have hoped for, and almost nothing I had planned.”
Their Vendor Team
Hair and Make up: Cara Hopkins, Face Forward Bridal // Florist: Christine Cater Wedding and Event Floral Design // Dress: Rue de Seine // Photography: Paige Nelson // Venue: The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park