A Summer Camp-Inspired Wedding by Lake Tahoe
Ali and Mike
Summer camp brings back memories of fun in the sun, a time of firsts, and a home away from home. This wedding channeled those very elements to recreate the welcoming feeling of sleepaway camp but elevated with a ton of personality and subtle artistic touches.
Back in 2012, Ali, a contemporary women's designer, was searching for "the one" through Los Angeles' online dating pool; a hunt that proved to be exhausting and unfruitful. Fate certainly had a hand, at a baby shower no less, where Ali randomly befriended the only other single, baby-less girl there. That friend ended up introducing Ali to Mike, an executive producer at a production company. "She reached out to Mike and said she had 'the one' for him and that he could 'thank her at the wedding'," the bride says. "Needless to say, we made sure to do so."
That blind date was the start of this duo's love story. Three years later, over Labor Day weekend at Mike's family's lake house in Minnesota, he popped the question. "Mike and I were down on the dock trying our best to catch a fish for dinner. I didn't catch any fish but I did catch my breath when he handed me a ring in lieu of a fishing weight!" Ali recalls.
As both Ali and Mike also grew up around lakes, a waterfront wedding seemed like a great fit in Lake Tahoe, which Ali's family deems a home-away-from-home. "It is the one place on earth where I feel the most at home, at peace, and the closest to my late father whose ashes are scattered in the lake," she says of the locale. When the wedding planning started, the couple initially didn't intend to have a theme. However, "Camp Wiggehaha" came about while they were planning their save-the-date video and stumbled upon funny old camp promo videos on YouTube. From then on, a full-fledged summer camp style wedding, featuring neutrals and touches of blues and greens, was born. Carousel Estate, a private home on the shore of Lake Tahoe, was where it was all brought to life, on June 18, 2016, with 170 family members and friends partaking in the fun, memorable celebration.
Rustic and homey, the watercolor invitations were painted by a pal of the couple and depicted the wedding's locale. Initially done on large picture boards (which Ali plans to frame), the paintings were printed onto individual invitations by Paper Chase. Utilizing her design chops, Ali designed the circular Camp Wiggehaha logo that served as the day's signature motif while her mother penned the calligraphy on the envelopes.
Both Ali and Mike grew up going to summer camp and are self-proclaimed Wet Hot American Summer fanatics, so it seemed fitting to go with a camp theme. The name "Wiggehaha" was a tongue-in-cheek blend of the couple's last names and a play on Minnehaha, a Minneapolis locale.
With the "Lady of the Lake" as inspiration, Ali searched for a gown that mimicked her etherealness, looking for something long-sleeve and lacey, that could possibly be a future heirloom. After trying on multiple dresses in bridal stores, she finally found her Yolan Cris number online. She jetted down to Love & Lace Bridal Salon to try it on and had it tailored on the spot. "As a designer, I had many people ask me why I wasn't designing my own dress," Ali says. "For me, there are just so many incredible bridal designers who design these dresses with the utmost compassion and skill—why try and challenge that?" She finished her look with strappy, coral M.Gemi shoes.
The couple posed for photos with Ali's late father's 1961 Corvette, the car he would drive up to the lake every summer. It served as Ali's "something blue".
Unlike her wedding dress, it was a priority for Ali to design her own engagement ring and the couple's wedding bands. Aside from her emerald cut engagement ring, she also wore bands given to her by her mother and late maternal and paternal grandmothers.
The bride nixed a traditional veil and accented her braids with a gold Jennifer Behr hairpiece, the perfect complement to the delicate lace and bohemian feel of her gown.
The Bridal Bouquet
Ali worked with her high school friend, florist Natasha Kolenko, to create a bouquet that would capture her personality: slightly edgy, classic yet unconventional. The result: a stunning, wildflower-esque 13-pound cascading bouquet of eucalyptus, protea, banksia, and passionflower.
The Flower People
What would a summer camp be without the kids? Mike's nieces and nephews served as the twosome's adorable flower people in their stylish Zara Kids summer ensembles, complete with floral crowns for the girls.
Adding yet another personal touch to their special day, Ali and Mike decided to forgo the usual wedding party procession. Instead, their flower people began the ceremony, carrying two large garlands down the aisle and laying them around the couple's "altar" teepee. These garlands were later repurposed as the reception's centerpieces.
The Bride's Entrance
Ali's favorite moment of the day also doubled as a touching tribute to her late father, who passed away five years earlier. In her father's place, the bride's four uncles, each stationed at different parts of the aisle and all donning one of her dad's Hermès tie, jointly escorted her to Mike while Procol Harem's "Whiter Shade of Pale" played.
Going all out with the camp theme, it only felt natural to have a teepee as a makeshift altar. Ali's mother sourced the sticks from a local carpenter and the teepee was constructed, overlooking Lake Tahoe and dressed up with eucalyptus and banksia.
Keeping it within the family, Ali and Mike were married by the groom's father, who is an ordained minister, while Ali's cousin and Mike's sister also gave readings during the ceremony. The groom's favorite part of the day: "Hearing my wife's vows, which confirmed the fact that I was in the process of marrying the sharpest, funniest, best woman I'd ever met."
Prior to the start of the service, the playful newlyweds actually placed mini whoopee cushions, aptly labeled "Whoopee for Ali & Mike!" under the seat cushions! Guests were certainly surprised and laughter started off the happy occasion.
The Escort Cards
A close family friend constructed the structure and "Camp Wiggehaha" sign that doubled as the couple's escort card display that used vintage oars and camp gear belonging to the bride's family. Ali handwrote all the names on the escort tags.
As a thank-you and to keep guests toasty as night fell, a navy sweatshirt that bore the day's embroidered logo was placed on every seat. The favors also creatively helped with assigned seating as each sweatshirt was tied with a tag with the guest's names on it.
"A friend turned me on to enamelware a few years ago and I can't get enough!" the bride says of the blue-splattered mugs that were used at the Irish coffee bar, set up by the reception's dessert table. The same design was also featured on the table settings.
The Table Settings
The blue splattered plates, courtesy of Classic Party Rentals, acted as the pop of color while gold flatware added warmth to the tablescape. Instead of floral centerpieces, the couple chose to keep it simple with trailing foliage. Each plate also had a baguette, tied with a sprig of greenery for people to nibble on during pre-dinner speeches.
Right before their first dance, the newlyweds surprised guests with a little performance of "Tonight You Belong To Me" as performed in the Steve Martin movie, "The Jerk". While Mike already plays the ukulele, Ali took trumpet lessons, especially for the performance. However, a few days prior to their big duet, they felt that Ali's trumpet skills were not quite there yet. As a result, their DJ stepped in. "No joke, he hid behind a tree and played my part and to this day, people thought it was me playing!" the bride recalls.
The First Dance
The twosome had their first dance to Elvin Bishop's "Fooled Around & Fell In Love". Waiving the usual mother-son and father-daughter dance, they invited all family members on to the dance floor during the second half of the song.
One last fun touch to the wedding: custom piñatas of the bride and groom! Ali, a huge piñata-lover, sent pictures and a description of what the couple would be wearing on their big day to a local artisan. The bride was blown away with the impeccable detailing on these handmade figurines (you could spot the gold leaf in piñata-Ali's hair!). "We didn't hit them, as one would traditionally do, but they were everyone's dancing partners and wingman at the after-party," she says.
Photography, Lexia Frank Photography
Location, The Carousel Estate
Event planning, One Fine Day Events
Catering and cake, D'Lish Catering
Flowers, Natasha Kolenko
Music, Brian Hess Music
Hair, Patsy Howser of Escape Salon
Makeup, Jennifer Ergut of Kiss & Makeup
Flower people's ensembles, Zara Kids
Groom's suit, Theory
Transportation, Northstar Transportation