This Yahtzee-Inspired Wedding's True Theme Was Centered Around Togetherness
In November 2015, Amanda, pictured right, walked into the Station Tavern in San Diego, California, after having a hard day. "I called a friend to see if she could meet up so I could get out of my house and hopefully out of my head for a bit. She mentioned she already had plans to meet up with someone else, and I graciously invited myself to join them." That someone else happened to be Jen, (and her dog, Swarley), and though they didn't immediately hit it off, they spent the night cracking jokes and the next few months as casual friends.
"I often joke that I fell in love with Jen because she came into my house and folded laundry and did the dishes," laughs Amanda. But it was the routine of life—and the ease of it alongside her—that guided her towards the realization that Jen was her person. "She was able to do those things with me, and we genuinely enjoyed being together. If you can find someone with whom you enjoy washing dishes? That's a catch," she says.
As with all relationships, there were joys and hardships, but they embraced both as a team. "I came out later than most, and Jen had to navigate that with me, as I figured out new family dynamics and friendships and my own personal identity," she explains. "She also knew from the beginning that dating me meant parenting four kids with me, and she did that with such grace and acceptance. In the beginning, two of our kids had 24/7 in-home nursing care. Jen learned about trachs and ventilators and how to prime a feeding pump and how to live with a nurse around all the time." And while it "wasn't particularly easy for our family to form," says Amanda, "Jen is truly their 'Pops' and watching those kids love her, and her love them? That just sealed the deal."
After the pair became engaged—Jen proposed on Ocean Beach at sunset, surrounded by their children; Amanda proposed right back on the following Valentine's Day while "covered in flour from making heart-shaped calzones"—they began planning their celebration, but were quickly met with a series of starts and stops. The biggest stop of all, however, was COVID-19. "Nothing really felt secure until we started working with Amorology," says Amanda, noting that the pair had decided to start from scratch after the pandemic shuttered their original, large-scale celebration. "At that point, it all came together and was a dream. They answered every question with such detail and attention it felt like we were the only couple in the world, even though our wedding was incredibly small."
A micro event, they say, was the only way to go, given their personal values and their children's health conditions: So, they landed on an April 14, 2021, celebration for 14 guests, their kids included, and made full vaccination a must for the adults in attendance. Their celebration, which was designed around the game Yahtzee, was truly about togetherness, family, and community, they say. It's likely why one of their biggest highlights is the ceremony: "It was the perfect length (no one wants to sit listening to vows forever), but long enough that we were able to feel settled and pay attention," reflects Amanda. "I remember listening to Jen say her vows and thinking, 'Holy heck, I get to marry this person. Like right now.' And then just looking out and seeing our kids, and their smiles—it was perfection."
The couple's nuptials might have been centered around a family-favorite game, Yahtzee, but at its core, "the true theme was being together," says Amanda. "Everything was centered around that experience—playing games, eating, talking, laughing—and the goal was that everyone felt like they could enjoy the moment they were in, with the people they loved." Together, planner Heather and her team at Amorology and stationer and calligrapher Taryn of Twinkle & Toast tackled the more literal vision, hand-painting dice sets for each guest and curating personalized wooden Yahtzee cups.
"When Heather and Taryn sent a mock-up of the invite suite, I was sitting in a Best Buy parking lot (picking up yet another monitor for at-home virtual schooling for our kids!) mindlessly checking my email," reflects Amanda. "I opened it up and legitimately started crying. It was so perfect. They were able to incorporate the dots from a die and tied them to our relationship: Six in our family, five years together, four kids, three dogs, two of us, one love." The four-piece set featured papers in shades of in shades of hunter green, rust, mauve, and taupe; the liner was filled with lyrics from Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now."
On the big day, Amanda received some help getting into her ensemble from her daughter, who actually spent the majority of the morning with her siblings and Jen. "While Amanda got all done up and took photos in her first dress, I got ready with all four kids," explains Jen. "We were confined to one hotel suite due to COVID-19, so we had to make our own fun. We ended up having an impromptu dance party that featured a lot of Shania Twain. Her song, 'Man! I Feel Like a Woman' was on repeat. Shania Twain is not an artist we listen to often, but it just sort of fit the vibe of the day."
Spending so much time with family, Amanda adds, was the overarching highlight of their celebration—something their planning team amplified through the flow and design of the event. "They read our personality profiles, and really saw how much we enjoy being together as a family, and how important that part of our lives is," she says. "They were able to design and plan a wedding around our family, while also keeping us as the couple the focus. It was truly brilliant."
Big Sleeves, Bold Blooms
Amanda donned two wedding dresses—one for her first look with Jennifer, the other for the ceremony and reception. First up? Her &ForLove gown, complete with micro-sequins, puff sleeves, and an open back. "It was easily the most comfortable dress I put on," she says, noting that it was also entirely unique. "I had purchased my ceremony gown prior to the pandemic, so it was fun to pick something out that said, 'We've all changed a lot, even as we have remained the same.'"
Nancy Teasley of Oak & the Owl designed her bouquet with a lush garden feel; it was filled with cream, rust, blush, and camel florals and tied together with silk ribbon. The arrangement was also a key part of a big-day highlight, which involved its swift destruction. "Jen tossed the bouquet to the kids, and I knew ahead of time that one of those kids was going to the mat for it," laughs Amanda. "I even gave them a pep talk and reminded them to be calm and not fight over it. But what are all the photos of? Me pulling our 8-year-old away as she tried to rip the bouquet out of the hands of our 11-year-old. Such is life—some things are just going to be what they are going to be!"
The First Look
"I knew I would be nervous, but even after two courage cocktails, I still felt like I could pass out," says Jen of the couple's first look. "Once I turned around and saw Amanda, however, all of that washed away." As Amanda approached Jen, she reflected on photographer Lucy Munoz's advice: stop, take a beat, and consider the true weight of the moment. "I was really grateful for that, because I think it was one of the only moments when I wasn't thinking, 'What do we need to do next?' When Jen turned around, it was like the world stopped. We had spent so long waiting for this, and there we were! After that, it was just regular fun."
Jen also debuted her big-day attire—a bespoke wool suit from Kirrin Finch—during this part of the event. "I originally hired a small business in San Diego to custom make a suit for me," she explains. "This was February 2021—just before everything shut down. After a lot of back and forth, the owner was unable to produce a suit for me prior to our wedding date due to factory shut downs. We scrambled to find Kirrin Finch, and I absolutely loved the look of their ensembles. Mine was well-made, sharp, and form-fitting, and I wish they made all my suits."
What Do You Think?
After changing into her Demetrios gown—a satin fit-and-flare number with a sweetheart neckline and low V-back—Amanda shared a first look with the children. "It made us a little late for the ceremony, but it was totally worth it. The kids are really our biggest cheerleaders, so this day was huge for them, as well. Getting a moment with just them, celebrating our family—it was great," she says.
Rolling the Dice
Velvet chairs were staggered on either side of the aisle; grounded floral arrangements paved the way towards the altar.
We Did It!
Troy, of Backup Backdrops and Amorology, officiated the pair's ceremony, which he composed with a little help from the kids, who he had interviewed ahead of the service. "It was really awesome hearing their take on things. 'Pops doesn't wear makeup. Mom does, but she says it is itchy.' Totally accurate!" says Amanda.
Their vow exchange was personal and grounded by anecdotes that melded the "funny, authentic, and earnest" moments of their lives. Jen shared a hysterical story about their first time paddle boarding together and listed out their ambitious Halloween costumes. "What I remember most about Amanda's vows," she says, "is that she promised to keep the freezer stocked with ice cream. It is the gift that keeps on giving."
According to Amanda, "my vows were really about how Jen gave me hope, how she restored something in me that I had lost along the way, and how she was and is my forever," she reflects. "I also promised that I would continually forget who Robert Plant is, and I have definitely kept that one. "
A few strategically-placed dots transformed the couple's bar into an on-theme décor moment.
Amanda and Jen served two cocktails—the Lady Luck and the Pair-a-Dice—and two mocktails, "since the majority of our guests were kids or adults who don't drink," they say.
Friends and family who attended virtually were given a number they could call to leave the newlyweds a voicemail, but the pair had an on-site phone for voice messages, as well.
Please Leave a Message
"All of the kids took turns picking it up and leaving us very long, detailed messages," says Amanda. "Those messages have nothing to do with the wedding, but are some of my favorite souvenirs—just these audio recordings of children laughing and playing and having fun and sharing their love."
Time for Just Us Two
Jen and Amanda attended their cocktail hour ("And danced and visited with our friends and family!" they say), but stole away to take a few portraits around the venue.
Guests' calligraphed Yahtzee cups were put on display on a stand marked by an apt piece of signage.
During dinner, the celebrants sat at a long farm table in the middle of the courtyard.
Overhead, a series of three bulbed chandeliers added a touch of drama; their brass composition spoke to the velvet chairs' gilded legs.
Pop of Color
Flowers in shades of creams, rust, blush, and camel ran down the center of the station. Their neutral hues were enhanced by taupe taper candles, encased in modern hurricanes.
At Each Setting
The place settings were set with clear-and-black rimmed chargers, ceramic cream dinner and salad plates, and bone flatware. Rust napkins, looped with a gold napkin ring, rested above tri-colored menus that Taryn created. Blush glassware added an extra dose of sweetness to the tablescape.
One end of the dinner table was anchored by a dressed-up mantel, which was topped with a massive floral swag, complete with roses and anemones, filled with chunky pillar candles, and flanked by metallic lanterns.
Hey There, Cupcake created not one, but two petite confections for their big day; the first was a Yahtzee-inspired cake with dice inspiration and floral accents, while the second was a simple white-frosted dessert adorned with corresponding blooms. Both were Godiva chocolate. "I still dream about this cake," says Amanda.
The duo took a spin to "You and Me" by Dave Matthews Band, a band Jen has history with. "Jen has loved Dave Matthews since the 90s," says Amanda. "When we were thinking about our song, this one fit so well—the lyrics talk about being able to do anything together, which felt apropos." The pair asked their kids to join join for the second half of the tune, "which again was fitting, as the lyrics talk about the things we will teach our kids," adds Amanda. "The kids made us play this song anytime we were in the car together for at least a year before the wedding, so it was a really special moment to be there, dancing together to it finally."
At the end of the evening, the pair exited the hotel under a sea of gold streamers. Since then, they've had time to reflect on what truly matters on the big day. For Jen, "paying someone who is very good to do all the things" is a must. Amanda agrees, adding, "Stay focused on what is important to you. For us, that was really celebrating the family we created. We wanted it to feel like our home—but you know, better. And when you take away all the pressure, and really focus on that? All the smaller things that feel so big don't really matter anymore."
Photography, Lucy Munoz
Venue, The Guild Hotel
Wedding Planning and Event Design, Heather Balliet of Amorology
Backdrop Installation, Troy Balliet of Backup Backdrops
Flowers, Nancy Teasley of Oak & the Owl
Videography, Current Films
Invitations and Day-of Paper Goods, Taryn Gross of Twinkle & Toast
Officiant, Troy Balliet of Backup Backdrops
Amanda's First Look Attire, &ForLove via Alouise Bridal
Amanda's Ceremony Attire, Demetrios
Amanda's Shoes, Jimmy Choo
Jen's Attire, Kirrin Finch
Jen's Shoes, Ted Baker London
Alterations, Margaret's Cleaners (Amanda), Anita's Custom Tailoring (Jen)
Hair and Makeup, Sarah of Beauty Bespoken
Guest Book, Fêtefone
Music, Kayla Ray
Catering, Miho Catering
Cake, Hey There, Cupcake
Rentals, Adore Folklore
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