A Music-Filled Wedding Weekend in Montana
Jessie Bridges was ready to throw in her "Tinder towel," so to speak. She was exhausted after going on nine first dates. Kevin Rodriguez was the tenth guy she swiped right for. "We are a Tinder miracle," Kevin says, of his first dating app meet-up. They went for dinner in Oakland, California, closed the place down after chatting all night, and planned date number two—where they coincidentally saw the band that would ultimately end up playing at their wedding reception.
On the second anniversary of that initial date, Kevin brought Jessie to Guerneville, California, with a plan to pop the question. They went to the Russian River, but he forgot the ring back at their cottage. Jessie didn't see the point in going back, and Kevin doesn't think his explanation of wanting to shower before going to the beach clarified anything. Fortunately, she obliged, and Kevin was able to grab the salt-and-pepper diamond ring they'd picked out together before heading to Goat Rock Beach, where he asked her to marry him after a nice walk on the sand. "I think she said yes, but it was hard to tell between all the tears," Kevin notes. Jessie adds, "Yeah, I definitely think we both blacked out!"
A year-and-a-half later, Jessie (who works in a café in Berkeley and is also a musician) and Kevin (a trust and estate litigation attorney), headed to her family's ranch in Paradise Valley, Montana, to become husband and wife over Labor Day weekend. Things kicked off with a rehearsal dinner for all 200 guests in a boots, barbecue, and bluegrass theme that ended with some special musical performances. The following day, on September 2, 2017, it was time for a rustic, bohemian wedding surrounded by majestic mountain ranges.
Welcome to Montana
The night before the wedding, the festivities began at Pine Creek Lodge with a bluegrass-and-barbecue themed welcome party that ended with a sing-a-long. Kevin broke in his boots and threw on a bolo tie, and Jessie went bohemian with a bit of country. He completed his outfit with a cowboy hat, and she added fresh blooms to her loosely-braided updo.
The vintage camper photo booth from Montana Photo Lounge was parked on the property for guests to pop inside.
Prop to It
Silly props were on hand for guests to use when going in the photo booth. The printed pictures were put in a book that sits out on the couple's coffee table back home in California.
A Night Under the Stars
Picnic tables were set up outside with colorful flowers in mason jars as centerpieces. Follow Yer' Nose BBQ catered, and since Pine Creek Lodge is part beer garden, the brews available were extensive.
The Bridger Creek Boys performed bluegrass tunes during dinner.
Tears of Joy
Lots of toasts were given. Jessie's two oldest friends (and bridesmaids), one of Kevin's groomsmen, and the groom's parents all offered speeches, while the bride's father lead the crowd in a rousing rendition of the old operetta "Make Our Garden Grow." "It was very emotional," Jessie says of the happy tears shed.
After the band played their set, the couple's songbook came out. Jessie and Kevin selected a dozen songs, and put chord and lyric sheets together to pass around for folks to share. The bride and groom kicked things off with their version of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me"—the first song Kevin learned to play on the guitar. Throughout the sing-along, Jessie invited several of her musically-talented friends and family members to join and handed them her guitar.
"I remember showing up to the welcome party and pretty much all of our guests had already arrived. While we had seen many of them in small spurts in the days leading up, this was the first time it hit me that so many of our most loved friends and family were in one place to celebrate our love," says Kevin.
Take a Hike
The morning of the big day, Jessie gifted her bridesmaids vintage flannel shirts and brass Marisa Mason bracelets, and the entire group set off on a pre-nuptial hike. "The hike was such a pleasant way to spend our time together," says Jessie. "It was an added bonus to have my dad join us. At one point we all gathered in a circle and yelled into the sky. It felt very primal and a great way to get any nervous energy out of my system."
Dressed and Ready
The Bridal Bouquet
Clad in Jenny Yoo gowns, the women that stood by Jessie's side (and paused to pose with Kevin) were Jessie's two sisters and two best friends since high school.
Role Models in Love
At the time of the wedding, Jessie's folks (shown here) had been together for 40 years, and Kevin's for 45, and the couple's sisters both celebrated their 10-year anniversaries. So, between those couples, that's a lot of happy marriages to emulate.
The couple's nieces and nephews served as flower girls and ring bearers respectively. Five kids in total walked down the aisle for the festivities.
The Ceremony Setting
Dear friend and ranch manager Grif took fallen Aspen trees from the creek and built the altar, which the couple's florist then dressed up with fresh flowers and pampas grass. Guests were still able to take in the views of the Absorka and Gallatin mountain ranges through the structure. A runner from the bride's childhood home in California was used to line the aisle. "I can't count the number of times my feet ran down the hall on it," the bride says of the sentimental piece.
"Such a Woman" by Neil Young played as Jessie and her father took their long walk towards the ceremony. "It was so sweet to glance in Kevin's direction and see the love in his eyes as he watched us approach," says Jessie.
Jessie and Kevin's friend Tyler officiated the ceremony, which wasn't religious but incorporated a poem Jessie's grandmother had written ahead of her own wedding, and the lyrics to "This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)" by Talking Heads. The bride and groom wrote their own vows as a way of further personalizing the service. "There’s something incredibly sacred about sharing your love out loud and in your own words," says Jessie. Adds Kevin, "I was a bit nervous, given that Jessie is a songwriter, but I think I managed to do ok with a few last-minute tweaks before we walked out into the field."
As a way of solidifying their bond, the newlyweds (and their officiant) took a swig of some good ole Montana whiskey during the ceremony.
"Ain't That Love" by Ray Charles played as the newlyweds walked up the aisle together, which got everyone in the mood to dance.
A Makeshift Backdrop
How's this for a cool wedding photo? "I looked over and Jessie's bridesmaids were holding her dress up behind her," Kevin says. "It was the idea of one of our photographers, and it turned out to be one of my favorite pictures."
Guests stuck to the "mountain cocktail" dress code, which fit the scenery that surrounded them throughout the celebration. During cocktail hour, a playlist of love songs Jessie and Kevin had sent to each other over the years and first dance songs from the married guests' weddings played, as signature cocktails (an ancho Paloma and Montana Mule) were served along with beer, wine, and passed appetizers.
The Place Settings
For the tented dinner at Deep Creek Ranch, farm tables were set with modern gold flatware, matte plates, stemless glassware, and chambray napkins. Centerpieces were arranged in gray-washed planter boxes. The meal was served buffet-style so guests could try as many of the delicious dishes as possible. The flowers added a pop of color and the copper utensils elevated the tablescape, which was designed to feel like an extension of the surrounding environment.
Instead of being numbered, tables were named after Montana mountain ranges.
The Wedding Cake
The First Dance
The bride and groom chose "Forever and Ever, Amen" by Randy Travis for their first dance, which included some fancy footwork. "My favorite part was that we ended up nailing the dip-and-kiss at the end, which was a first for us," says Kevin. "We had practiced it a few times and it never seemed quite right, but it was perfect at the wedding."
Jessie danced with her dad to Tom Waits's version of "Young at Heart" before Kevin and his mom took a spin to Paul Simon's "Loves Me Like a Rock," and then Eric Lindell played for the rest of the reception.
The love-filled evening included a few memorable toasts. Kevin's groomsman Scott (shown here) replaced all of Bob Dylan's lyrics from "Subterranean Homesick Blues" with his own hilarious words. One of the bridesmaids found a friendship oath they'd written back in high school and read it out loud—laughing and crying the whole way through.
"It was such an honor to have our favorite people reflect back on the memories we created that lead us to this point in our lives," Jessie says.
One of Jessie's all-time favorite musicians (and people), Jackson Browne, was a guest at the wedding. "He graced us several times with his singing and playing," notes the bride. "I think I can speak for everyone when I say his contributions were definitely a highlight."
Jessie and Kevin also performed a song together that they had been working on for weeks—John Prine's "In Spite of Ourselves." The band spontaneously picked up the chords and played along, adding to the moment.