Jessica and Paul’s intimate Big Sur wedding at Limekiln State Park was the most enchanting day I’ve ever witnessed. These two feel so deeply about each other. Their joy and love is truly infectious in these images.
They knew in the early stages of wedding planning they wanted an intimate celebration with their closest family and friends. Jessica was inspired by the atmosphere of my sister and her husband’s wedding along the Big Sur coast last year. Limekiln State Park has a magnetic pull to it like that. I also got to team up again with my friend Whitney Justesen who is an incredible videographer!
When I’m planning with couples, I always send out a questionnaire to learn more about their relationship to inspire more meaningful images. Jessica and Paul’s individual responses to the question “What do you love most about each other?” are so heartfelt and genuine, I wanted to interweave it into their story.
Honestly, Paul is the best person I know. There’s so much to love. He’s so dynamic. He has this scholarly side (very professional, knowledgeable), the silly, hilarious side, and there’s the deep soulful side. This last one is the one where we sit on the couch and have honest conversations about who we are, what we think, and how we both feel things very deeply.
Like me, Paul is what I call a deep feeler. It’s this powerful sense of empathy where you can feel the world’s aches and joys. I’m not sure whether or not that will translate, but it’s a visceral feeling, and to share it with another is very special. We have this bond where it seems we are almost always on the same page.
Jessi is incredibly thoughtful. She not only shows her kindness through words, she shows people how much she cares about them through actions. One of her favorite things to do for her family is cook a wonderful meal for them, and I am the same way. I think this is part of the reason why we love cooking for each other and together. It is one of the many ways that we show our love.
Before I met him, I wasn’t sure whether or not I would marry. I could picture myself growing old, writing books in a little nook, quietly by myself. And that would be fine. But then I met him and there wasn’t any other choice. I’d met my match.
An Intimate Forest Ceremony at Limekiln State Park
Jessica took cover behind a redwood tree until their song from Sleeping at Last filled the air. Paul’s face when he saw her was heart melting. During the ceremony, he proudly showed her the restaurant receipt from their first date. He knew she was the one for him since that very first encounter.
The first kiss was followed by the first dance. Immediately after, someone popped a bottle of champagne and passed it around. Everyone exchanged hugs and heartfelt words. Then it was just Jess and Paul, dancing in the magical forest light, two souls completely intertwined.
Jessi is so very affectionate. I may be focused on something when her hand gently rubs my back when I’m not expecting it, just as a little reminder she is thinking of me. I have received an uncountable amount of simple, sweet, random texts telling me she is thinking of me. I have never felt so loved in my life.
I can’t picture any other future. I’ll still grow old, quietly writing in my little nook, and when I’m finished, I’ll give my husband a kiss and ask if he’d like to join me for a walk.
When we are together, we like some part of us to be close. We don’t always have to be exploring the world, an evening walk suits us just fine, because it’s nice and slow. We push the world away and there is just us. I want that always.
Golden Hour Portraits along Highway 1
We made our way back up the coast as the sun started to set. This is my absolute favorite time of day to experience Highway 1 in Big Sur. It feels like you’re in a beautiful poem brought to life by the colors and landscape.
An enchanting meal at Restaurant 1833
By the time we made it to Restaurant 1833 for dinner, it was completely dark. Jess and Paul reserved a private room lit by candles to celebrate the rest of the evening with their family. The tables twinkled with beautiful fairy lights, sustaining the whimiscal atmosphere of the golden forest.
After a wonderful meal and celebratory cake cutting, we said our goodbyes. On the drive home, I had to pinch myself several times to make sure this day was real. Congrats Jessica and Paul! Your intimate Big Sur wedding was as magical and romantic as your love for each other. Wishing you a lifetime of happiness together.
Their Vendor Team
Accommodations: Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn // Cake: Parker Lusseau // Ceremony Site: Limekiln State Park, Big Sur // Dress: Handmade by Terri and Lisa (Jessica’s mom and aunt) // Florals (Ceremony): Emily (Jessica’s sister); Florals (Reception Dinner): Design by Reina // Groom’s Attire: Charles Tyrwhitt (jacket); Suit Supply (Vest and pants); Allen Edmonds (shoes) // Invitations (calligraphy): Pirouette Paper // Make up: Virginia White // Photography: Paige Nelson // Reception: Restaurant 1833, Monterey // Videography: Whitney Justesen
This was my fourth time photographing a wedding at this chic garden hideaway in San Diego. The garden at this venue is lush and green all year round. It was a beautiful, sunny day in September, with a subtle crispness hanging in the air.
Jessica and Alvin picked the best day of the year to get married: my birthday. This was also a milestone year in their relationship. 10 years together is an impressive feat for any couple, so they rang it in with the best kind of celebration. Marriage.
Ceremony at a Historic Schoolhouse
The highlight of their wedding day was the moment Alvin caught his first look at Jessica down the aisle. A single tear slid down Alvin’s cheek as he tried to contain his emotion. Their ceremony was truly timeless and a beautiful expression of their love. Confetti poppers followed their first kiss, kicking off their newly wed status with a bang.
Instead of the classic pink palette Green Gables Estate is known for, Jessica and Alvin opted for all black bridal party attire. Long garlands of eucalyptus hung around the venue, punctuated by gold and striped accent colors. Jessica traded in her veil after the ceremony for a flower crown made of eucalyptus leaves.
The rest of the evening was full of dancing and traditional reception festivities. Congrats and best wishes to you both!
The Vendor Team
Bride’s Shoes: Christian Louboutin // Coordinator: Kelsey Carlin // Desserts: Donut Bar // Dress Boutique: Haute Bride // Dress designer: Londyn Gown, Hayley Paige // Entertainment: My DJs // Florals: Luxe Botanique // Groom’s Attire: Calvin Klein, The Tie Bar // Invitations: Minted.com // Rings:Devons Jewlers & Tacori // Photography: Paige Nelson, Second Shooter: Briawna Meier // Venue: Green Gables Estate
Jessica and Jeff’s vineyard wedding at Folktale Winery in the Carmel Valley was straight out of a fairytale. The winery boasts 15 acres of organically farmed vineyards and is reminiscent of an early century French chateau. Jessica and Jeff invited their entire family and close friends to join them for a fun weekend getaway.
Day Before Portraits in Carmel
The day before their wedding, we ventured to the coast of Big Sur for some intimate couple portraits. Firefighters shut down Highway 1 to the public because of the Soberanes Fire. We settled on Garrapata State Park, which didn’t feel much like settling at all. After a fun evening together, I was excited for the wedding day.
Wedding Party Photos in the Vineyard
After Jessica and Jeff’s first look, the wedding party met up with us for some portraits in the vineyard. Every one was in the best mood on this sunny summer day.
Jessica planned everything perfectly down to the last detail. The ceremony was held in the courtyard of the winery. Swenson and Silacci arranged classic red rose arrangements for the bridal party bouquets, arch, and table centerpieces.
Lawn Games & Cocktail Hour in the Vineyard
After the ceremony, guests enjoyed wine tasting and lawn games. We used the opportunity to sneak away for some intimate portraits of Jessica and Jeff inside the beautiful lobby area. Meanwhile, the vendor team was hard at work turning the barrel room into a magical reception atmosphere.
Barrel Room Reception
One of the coolest surprises Jessica and Jeff planned for their guests was a one-take music video during the reception. Each table was assigned a song to dance, complete with a prop box. The video set the mood of the entire evening and everyone found their way to the dance floor! At the end of the night, Jessica and Jeff were sent off with a dramatic sparkler exit.
Congrats you two! Here’s to many more happy years together!
The Vendor Team
Caterer: Classic Catering // Cake: Parker Lusseau Pastries // Day of Coordinator: Kaitlin Ford, Pocketful of Plans // Dress: Allure Bridals // Florals: Andrea, Swenson & Silacci Flowers // Officiant: Brian Lyke, Life Celebrations // Photography: Paige Nelson, Second Shooter: Jamie English // Venue Coordinator: Nina Sherrill // Venue: Folktale Winery // Videography: The Cub Team, Arthur & Daniel
Be sure to check out Jessica and Jeff’s day before session in Big Sur at Garrapata State Park. If you love this wedding, I also recommend browsing through Stephanie and Richard’s Dawn Ranch Lodge wedding.
Summer camp wedding and redwoods should always be used in the same sentence. Nestled in the Russian River Valley near Sonoma, the Dawn Ranch Lodge encompasses 15 acres of land. Stephanie and Richard rented out the 50+ charming cabins for their guests to enjoy an extended weekend getaway.
Summer Camp Movie Night
After 10 years together, you can imagine marriage comes up a lot in conversation. Richard and Stephanie wanted their day to be memorable for their loved ones. This redwood venue successfully charmed our pants off.
On Friday, festivities kicked off with river canoeing and an outdoor movie night under the stars. Stephanie and I discovered we are kindred spirits after their feature film, Wayne’s World, started rolling on the projector.
Time to go to summer camp and let some images do the talking.
Wedding Day at Dawn Ranch Lodge
The morning of the wedding, guests had more opportunities to explore the river or hang out by the pool before preparing for the day. The guys dressed in the boathouse near the lawn of the movie screening, while Stephanie and her girls got ready in the bridal cabin on the other side of the venue.
With anticipation hanging in the air, we borrowed one of our favorite cabins to hide Stephanie in before the first look. Richard couldn’t keep the smile off of his face as the wedding party giggled profusely in the corner leading up the reveal.
Portraits at Armstrong Redwoods
We managed to whisk Stephanie and Richard away to the Armstrong Woods for some quiet moments together before their ceremony began. Even a slim 20 minutes under these giants can do wonders for your piece of mind. The light poking through the trees in the early afternoon was pure magic.
Redwood Ceremony in the Meadow
We returned to the venue with just enough time to slip in line for the processional. Guests were seated in chairs lining the edge of the meadow, with ancient redwoods as the backdrop.
Richard was emotional, even though he had seen Stephanie minutes before she walked down the aisle. It was so sweet to watch his reaction.
As guests made their way to the apple orchard, we explored the woodsy landscapes around Dawn Ranch Lodge for more portraits.
But the party didn’t start until Stephanie and Richard made their grand entrance to the reception.
Apple Orchard Reception
These two are loved dearly by their friends and family. The reception tables were ordered by cities and countries to signify how far everyone traveled that weekend to be there. The reception hour in the orchard embraced us in a warm glow as the sun kissed the tree tops.
After toasts, guests were invited to the pool deck for dessert and dancing. Everyone found their way to the dance floor at some point that evening. Two of them even made it into the pool, fully clothed. Stephanie was convinced it was the swan.
Congratulations, Richard and Stephanie! May the next 10 years be even better than the first.
Their Vendor Team
Cake: Village Bakery // Coordinator: Meghan Magnasco, So Eventful // Dress: Pronovias Sample // Entertainment: Dart DJ // Florist: Green Petal Designs // Groom’s Attire: Black Tux // Invitations: Good on Paper Design // Make Up Artist: Selyca Medford // Officiant: Irene Kane, Ceremonies & Celebrations // Photography: Paige Nelson Photography// Shoes: Stuart Weitzman // Wedding Favors: Coffee Mugs, Discountmugs // Venue: Dawn Ranch Lodge
If you loved this wedding, I recommend checking out Jem & Peter’s summer camp wedding at Leonard Lake Reserve!
Ricky and Nessie’s Costa Rica wedding with their families was one for the books. This is the story of two people, madly in love with each other and destined to be together, on the adventure of a lifetime. Words can’t describe how happy I am to have been invited along on their journey to document this fairytale of a day for them.
Surprise Proposal at Laguna Beach
Ricky and Vanessa reached out to me at the beginning of this year, ready to elope to Yosemite together, even before a formal proposal happened. Ricky was eager to ask Vanessa to be his wife as soon as possible, that much was certain, and said he would get back to me as soon as he had something concrete planned.
A few weeks went by and Ricky ended up pulling off the most epic proposal of all time. A romantic stroll to a secluded beach area in Laguna revealed a private dance floor and candlelit dinner, complete with a violinist performing the songs they fell in love to. Vanessa had no idea what she was walking into, but she said yes, without a moment of hesitation. (Watch the video here).
Costa Rica Wedding at La Paz Waterfall Garden
At the end of March, seemingly out of the blue, I got a text from Ricky that read “Hey Paige, how far are you willing to travel? :)” Not missing a beat, I answered, “As far as you’re willing to take me!” And so came to fruition our escape to the lush Costa Rican rainforest mid-June.
I was a little nervous traveling solo internationally for this one, but Ricky and Nessie’s family made me feel so welcomed and at home within their group. It was just 10 of us for their intimate wedding, lost in the magical cloud forest of Alajuela.
I arrived a few days early to get my bearings and tour their wedding venue, the renowned La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Peace Lodge, home to a wildlife rescue sanctuary, miles of trails through the rainforest, and 5 equally breathtaking waterfalls.
I can’t wait to join these two again at their formal reception later this month. Ricky and Nessie: Thank you so much for the memories and the best adventure I’ve had in years. Here’s to new friends and watching you fall more in love as the years go by. Congratulations!
Ricky & Nessie’s Costa Rica wedding was also published in the 2016 winter issue of The Knot. Check out the digital magazine here (pgs. 249, 280-285).
Day Before: La Paz Waterfall Garden & Peace Lodge
The sanctuary left a pretty great impression on us for our first ever visit to Costa Rica. We had a blast exploring together those first two days.
Costa Rica Waterfall Elopement
All of us woke up groggy at the crack of dawn on the wedding day to share the long shuttle bus back up to the mountains. It was just around 4:30 a.m. when we pulled up to the Peace Lodge. A thick, blue fog blanketed our surroundings. It was surreal.
The complex at the Peace Lodge had two conjoined rooms, separated by a door. Ricky and Nessie spent the quiet, rainy morning getting ready on separate sides. Anticipation and excitement hung in the air all morning long.
At around 10 a.m., the rain let up just in time for their first look. I followed Ricky through one of the green, mossy trails in the rainforest nearby to set him up on a bridge we had found exploring the gardens the day before.
He was fidgeting and nervously talking to me as we waited for Vanessa. But as soon as she walked down the steps to him, he was grinning ear to ear, unable to contain himself. Tears rolled down Vanessa’s cheek …he gently wiped them away and kissed her in the sweetest gesture I have ever witnessed. (Huge shout out to Ricky’s sister, Tina, for being the pack mule and dress carrier for us all day!)
We made our way back to the lodge to meet up with the rest of the family and hop on another shuttle down to the most jaw dropping ceremony location ever.
It was here Ricky and Nessie exchanged vows in front of their closest family, shaded by a mossy umbrella, while the Magia Blanca waterfall roared behind them. To make sure their family at home could be present too, Nessie’s brother, Ryan, set up two GoPros and a phone to live stream the whole thing.
Poor Ryan…he was so happy to dust off a nice pair of vintage dress shoes in the closet, only for not one, but both, of the soles of the shoes to detach while he was walking. He tried to use the extra zip ties from the camera set up to reattach them, but to no avail. The legend of the talking shoes.
After signing the marriage license and many tearful hugs, Ricky, Nessie, Tina and I said a brief good bye to the rest of the family and headed up the waterfall trail.
We had a small audience at the first waterfall, who all “oohed and aahed” at these two in their wedding attire. Ricky and Nessie couldn’t take their eyes off each other. It didn’t faze them one bit.
When Vanessa was safely out of earshot, Ricky whispered to me about the next two surprises he had planned.
First: humming birds. The coordinator placed several flower shaped feeders in her bouquet. These little guys flew up to us without ANY fear. I even had a chance to join in too and feel their little toes when they landed on my hand. It is still one of my favorite memories from this day.
As if this wedding couldn’t get any more surreal…we paid a visit to the butterflies and the hanging fern garden next.
Last on our list at the Waterfall gardens…La Paz. The big one. We waited until this day to see it…and it was worth all the anticipation.
After gawking at the waterfall for quite some time, we all made our way back to the shuttle bus to settle in for the long drive home.
We had all admired the plush, mossy grass on the side of the road lining the country pastures and made it a point to pull over on the way back to the hotel. A thick blanket of fog was rolling over as we strolled down the road and hopped a barbed fence. Giddily, Ricky twirled Nessie a few times then swept her off her feet for a kiss. It was a scene straight out of the Princess Bride.
When he picked her up, Ricky lost his tie clip. We searched in vain in the long grass for several minutes before surrendering. Ricky said it was only fair to give some kind of token back to this beautiful country.
We were all exhausted and hungry by the time we arrived back at the Costa Rica Marriott, but mustered up a little more energy for the last few portraits. The sun was giving way to dusk and the hotel courtyard was quiet.
We piled on the shuttle bus one last time to enjoy a meal together. In typical Ricky fashion, he planned their reception dinner at one of the most renowned five-star restaurants in San Jose: Restaurante Grano de Oro. A story tale ending to a perfect trip.
But Wait…The Epic Ending
If you’ve made it this far in the post, you’ve earned the privilege to hear how this story ends. It’s pretty silly, but Ricky and I were both stressing for a few weeks leading up to the trip about these nasty little devils native to Costa Rica called botflies. I’ll spare you the details of these grotesque insects, but feel free to research if you’re interested. Every morning, I doused myself in the strongest bug spray I could find and somehow walked away completely unscathed from bites. We all did.
Two days after I flew home, something crazy happened that I didn’t learn about until a week later. Ricky and Nessie extended their trip so they could enjoy their honeymoon in Costa Rica. They were walking back to their hotel room at night when a snake fell from the tree overhead. Spooked, they called the hotel staff to come collect it.
The hotel staff insisted to Ricky that the snake was perfectly harmless. He said it was the “fake” Coral snake- the non venomous version. Ricky believed him and picked it up. It swiftly bit him on the index finger and relaxed. They took some souvenir pictures with it and released it back in the wild.
Upon returning to the room, Ricky said the bite really started to hurt. They did some quick computer research and immediately fell quiet. Turns out it was NOT a fake Coral snake. It was a real one. One of the deadliest snakes in the country.
Ricky was airlifted to the hospital and stayed in the San Jose ER for two days. He was on the road to recovery until a delayed allergic reaction to the anti-venom set in. After returning to the states, he was in and out of the hospital the next few days as new problems came up. All that time we wasted worrying about larvae-carrying mosquitos…what a nightmare. 🙁
I’m happy to say Ricky is recovering quickly now. Needless to say…don’t pick up a poisonous snake if you’re planning a Costa Rica wedding. 🙂
Their Vendor Team
Coordinator: Melanie Marsell // Dress: Tara LaTour // Officiant: Marcelo Galli // Suit: Giovanni // Shoes (Groom): Allen Edmonds // Shoes (bride): Raphaella Booz // Photography: Paige Nelson Photography // Venue: La Paz Waterfalls Gardens and Peace Lodge; Costa Rica Marriott Hotel San Jose
I was honored when Rachael and Sam asked me to photograph their Golden Gate Park wedding in San Francisco.
Rachael has been my best friend since elementary school and I am so happy she found her person in this world. If you’re around Sam and Rachael for five minutes, you can see why they belong together.
Sam and Rachael are both bookworms and die-hard Harry Potter fans. They chose Hellman Hollow in Golden Gate Park for their wedding because of the namesake to “Godric’s Hollow” in the books. Their wedding date is also the birthday of both J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter. Was it really an accident? 😉
Rehearsal in Hellman Hollow
A few days before the wedding, I arrived in San Francisco to explore and attend their rehearsal. The weather in Northern California is always so unpredictable. The wind chill crawled through your skin and stung your eyes to tears. We huddled in a circle to share our favorite memories of Sam and Rachael, in front of the giant tree they would exchange their vows. Then it was time for pizza to warm our bones.
Wedding Day in San Francisco
It was cold and drizzly the morning of the wedding, but it didn’t dampen any of our spirits. I spent time with Rachael and Sam in their separate rooms at the quirky Oceanview Motel as they prepared for the day. The anticipation got to them both. It was so sweet to see how nervous, and terribly excited, they were to see each other.
It was a truly unique experience to capture their special day as it unfolded in front of my lens. Congratulations you two! Your joy is contagious and I love you both to pieces!
Their Vendor Team
Catering: Bi-Rite Catering // Cake: Applebaum Bakery // Florals: Ed Heller // Vocals/Music: Hayley Johnson- The Little Miss // Officiant: Lauren Snead, Rhythm & Light Ceremonies // Party Rentals: Your Party Rental Company // Shoes: Allen Edmonds; Miz Mooz // Suit: Kipper Clothiers // Rings: Love & Lux // Wedding Coordinator: Tiffany Won // Wedding dress: BHLDN // Venues: Oceanview Motel; Hellman Hollow, Golden Gate Park; Sutro Bath Ruins at Land’s End
If you loved this Golden Gate Park wedding, check out Becca & Bryan’s intimate Botanic Garden wedding.
Becca & Bryan’s San Diego Botanic Garden wedding was so intimate and special.
I can’t think of enough nice things to say about these two. Becca and Bryan are made for each other, it’s easy to see from the way they look at each other.
Pink Hair, Unicorn Bride
Becca had confided in me a few months before that she was planning to dye her hair pink to surprise Bryan as she walked down the aisle. It was pink when they first met and he had always told her it was his favorite look on her. She did it and boy did she rock it.
Intimate San Diego Botanic Garden Wedding
It was overcast and drizzly on the morning of their wedding day- not common in San Diego, but obviously a sign of good luck for their future together. I met up with the girls as they prepped for the day at the Hilton Garden Inn in Carlsbad.
Becca looked absolutely stunning from head to toe. She played hairstylist for all of her bridesmaids, including herself, and even made her own fern bouquet. Talk about impressive.
Congratulations you two, I wish you nothing but joy in your new life together.
Intimate Ceremony on the Waterfall Deck
We all headed to the San Diego Botanic Garden where Becca and Bryan would exchange vows atop the waterfall deck in front of a small audience of close friends and family. As Becca walked down the aisle, you could see a knowing, loving smile creep across Bryan’s face. The butterflies they planned to release were still a little sleepy from the ice, but slowly fluttered out of the box and clung to Becca’s veil and dress.
Portraits at San Diego Botanic Garden
Afterward, we wandered around the gardens for their bride and groom portraits. Everything was lush and green, almost luminescent under the overcast sky. Chauffeured by their good friends in a classic, vintage woody, the last stop before the reception was one of their favorite shared places overlooking the smokestack in Carlsbad.
Intimate Backyard Reception
When we arrived at their house, all of their friends were waiting, cheering them on to dance with applause and whistles. The rest of the night was an exciting blur, full of dancing lights, music, laughter and festivities.
Their Vendor Team
If you love this San Diego Botanic Garden wedding, check out Rachael & Sam’s picnic wedding in San Francisco.