A Summery, Family-Focused Wedding on the Lake Tahoe Waterfront

wedding couple portrait lake tahoe
Ryan Ray

As freshmen at Bucknell University in 2013, Madeline and James lived in the same dorm—but two floors apart, not meeting until Madeline's roommate introduced them. Six years later, on a vacation to San Diego, James proposed and the couple celebrated with a bonfire and s'mores on the beach.

Madeline and James originally planned their 165-guest wedding for August 2020, but, after much consideration, decided to postpone until July 17, 2021. "Making the final decision to move the wedding back one year instead of changing our vision was definitely the hardest part of planning," says Madeline. "Looking back, it was the right decision—getting to celebrate with our original guest list was worth the year-long wait."

Throughout the process, however, the couple never wavered on their location: They knew they wanted to tie the knot at Lake Tahoe's Edgewood Resort in Stateline, Nevada, near Madeline's family's vacation home. "We absolutely love Lake Tahoe—we love spending our summers out on the lake and winters skiing up in the mountains," says the couple. "Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and has become a huge part of our lives. We were so thrilled to share this special place with our family and friends."

The waterfront location inspired a palette of summer-worthy hues, like peach, ivory, rose, and pale blue; the dreamy floral bridesmaids' gowns; and an aspen tree illustration that Madeline and James used on everything from their invitation suite to custom linens at the reception. They also focused firmly on the commitment they were making to each other and honored the many lifelong marriages within their family: Their grandparents provided ceremony readings and the duo displayed a century's worth of family wedding photos at their reception. After waiting a year, the celebration was even sweeter. "For most of our guests, this was their first big gathering since COVID hit, so everyone was thrilled to be together and celebrating again," says the couple. "The dance floor was packed from the time dinner ended until the venue sent us home. It was so fun to see all the most important people in our life together and having a great time—we had such a blast!"

01 of 20

Mixing Materials

blue, white, and blush wedding invites
Ryan Ray

An intricate invitation suite from Cara Franson combined handmade moss paper and woven materials with elegant letterpress and a lake-inspired palette. "We used so many different techniques which really made the whole invitation suite stand out—letterpress, custom die cutting, foil printing, sewing, calligraphy, vintage stamps, and a beautiful illustration of Lake Tahoe," says the designer. A custom Aspen tree logo, inspired by the wedding location, appeared on the paper set and throughout the rest of the event's customized elements. "We have always loved aspen trees," says Madeline. "They are everywhere in Lake Tahoe, including a patch of them in my parent's yard, so we were happy to incorporate that into our invitation suite."

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02 of 20

It's in the Bag

wedding welcome bags with blue and white favors
Ryan Ray

The aspen tree illustration also personalized items within the couple's gift bags, including the bags themselves, the tissue paper filler, collapsible water bottles, and small bottles of hand sanitizer.

03 of 20

Fit to Be Tied

bride in white v-neck wedding dress
Ryan Ray

Madeline began her wedding dress search with one clear element in mind: a deep V-neckline. Though she imagined a ball gown silhouette, she was happily surprised to fall for a trumpet-shaped Carolina Herrera number in silk mikado with an oversized back bow. "My mom and sister pushed for a more form-fitting look that I never really loved," says the bride. "We went back and forth, and I tried on so many dresses that just weren't me. Finally, we found this trumpet gown; the dramatic bow on the back was stunning, and I loved the way that the dress bustled so naturally. It was just as stunning bustled as left down!"

She added a cuff bracelet on loan from her mother, David Yurman earrings that were a gift from James, and "the most special piece of the day," a custom-trimmed veil. "My mom had the lace from her wedding dress carefully removed, and we had it sewn onto the trim of my veil," says Madeline. "The lace itself was stunning and had little beads that caught the light when it moved, which was perfect for our afternoon outdoor ceremony. It was so special to be able to wear something of my mom's on my day, and the lace added a very romantic touch to my look!"

04 of 20

To Each Her Own

bride and bridesmaids in blue solid and patterned dresses
Ryan Ray

Though Madeline planned for each bridesmaid to choose her own gown's silhouette, wedding planner Elise Events took the mismatched look one step further by suggesting a combination of floral and solid gowns from Jenny Yoo. "The blue felt so natural with Lake Tahoe behind us—and we loved the floral patterns, which accented it," says Madeline.

05 of 20

So in Love

wedding couple portrait between two trees with lake backdrop
Ryan Ray

Madeline and James chose the lake as the backdrop for their first look—a private moment their photographer encouraged. "We were originally against the idea and insisted that we wanted to have the very special moment of seeing each other for the first time at the ceremony," says Madeline. "[But] he was so right, and we're so glad we listened to him and had that time together."

Golden Fields Floristry provided Madeline with a loose, round bouquet that pulled together all the colors of their "soft, summery" palette, including pink, peach, blue, and ivory.

06 of 20

In Their Own Words

couple reading cards to each other during first look
Ryan Ray

Madeline and James also set aside time during their first look to share the vows they wrote, before reading them at the ceremony. "That moment belonged to just the two of us, and it is our happiest memory of our wedding day," they say.

07 of 20

Prints Charming

groom and ring bearer portrait
Ryan Ray

James, who wanted to wear something "classic and timeless," chose a bespoke tuxedo from Q Clothier. "The tux had a blue-and-orange lining to match the colors of Bucknell University, where we met," he says. "To add a bit of style to the very classic tuxedo and match the summer feel of the wedding, I opted to go with a patent black loafer from Duke + Dexter."

The groomsmen wore tuxedos with navy polka dot jackets from The Black Tux—"Once we got started with the patterned bridesmaids' dresses, we didn't want to get too boring with the groomsmen's outfits!" says Madeline—and the couple's two-year-old nephew, the ring bearer, donned a blue tie with white polka dots to match. "My mom had a special pillow made for the ring bearer that was made from her mother's wedding dress," says Maddie. "My grandmother passed away before I was born so it was very special to have a part of her present on our wedding day."

08 of 20

Natural Beauty

outdoor wedding ceremony set up at lake tahoe
Ryan Ray

A grove of aspen trees shaded the couple's lakefront ceremony spot, where arrangements of roses, dahlia, and blue tweedia lined the aisle leading to the floral arch. "For us, getting married at Lake Tahoe was obvious," says Madeline. "We knew before we even got engaged that we wanted to get married there. You just can't beat that view!"

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09 of 20

Exit Ready

vial of lavender petals for wedding toss
Ryan Ray

Curved-back white bistro chairs were a garden party-inspired touch; each was set with a glass jar of lavender buds for guests to toss during the newlyweds' ceremony exit.

10 of 20

Family Matters

vintage family couple photos display in white bookcase
Ryan Ray

As guests entered the ceremony, they passed a display of family wedding photos dating back to 1922, collected and framed by both James and Madeline's mothers.

11 of 20

Saying "I Do"

bride and groom holding hands during wedding ceremony vows
Ryan Ray

Madeline and James exchanged their personalized vows in front of a floral arch laden with pink-and-ivory blooms, as a family friend officiated.

12 of 20

A Lifetime of Love

family reading at wedding ceremony
Ryan Ray

During the ceremony, aunts and grandparents of the bride and groom shared readings that included "True Friendship," "The Art of Marriage," and "From Beginning to End." "Our grandparents have been married for over 60 years," says Madeline. "They are beautiful examples of what a long and loving marriage looks like."

13 of 20

So Happy Together

couple laughing during wedding ceremony
Ryan Ray

Madeline and James also remember the climax of their ceremony as one of the most joyous moments of their day. "The moment we said 'I do' and were pronounced married was amazing," they say. "We both had an adrenaline rush the entire day, but those moments of standing up in front of our loved ones and feeling that support was unforgettable."

14 of 20

Their Custom Cloth

wedding escort cards on round table with large floral bouquet
Ryan Ray

A subtle display of white escort cards, set on angled stands, was accented by table linens printed with the couple's aspen tree monogram.

15 of 20

Tree's Company

elegant tables set up in wedding reception tent
Ryan Ray

Inside the reception tent, eight 25-foot-tall aspen trees buffeted the center posts; after the wedding, the bride's family planted them on their Lake Tahoe cabin property.

16 of 20

Bright and Beautiful

orange and blush wedding reception floral bouquet
Ryan Ray

Tabletop floral arrangements included dahlias, garden roses, blooming abelia, and blue tweedia gathered in raw ivory hand-made stoneware.

17 of 20

At the Table

blue and blush wedding reception place setting
Ryan Ray

Textured linens, scalloped chargers, neutral stoneware, and linens printed with the aspen monogram were set with torn edge-paper menus.

18 of 20

A Sweet Finish

wedding reception white case with elegant dessert display
Ryan Ray

The couple drew on the "sophisticated and timeless textures of botanical bas-relief sculptures" to inspire their cakes from Paper Heart Patisserie. Flavors included olive oil cake infused with blood orange, blood orange preserves, and honey vanilla buttercream; lemon-almond cake with lemon cremeux and vanilla buttercream; and chocolate chai-infused cake with espresso buttercream.

19 of 20

A Perfect Team

couple dancing at wedding reception
Ryan Ray

After months spent listening to Spotify playlists, the couple settled on Johnnyswim's "Take the World" for their first dance. "We didn't want to just pick one of the classic first dance songs—we wanted to find a song that really spoke to us," says the couple. "The music is so beautiful, and perfect for a first dance, and we loved the lyrics—what better way to start a marriage than with the idea that the two of us are a team, and that there is nothing we can't handle."

20 of 20


couple kissing in outdoor wedding aisle
Ryan Ray

Photography, Ryan Ray
Venue and Catering, Edgewood Tahoe Resort
Wedding Planning and Event Design, Elise Events
Flowers, Golden Fields Floristry
Videography, Reel Eyes Media
Stationery, Cara Franson
Cake, Paper Heart Patisserie
Music, Boutique DJs (reception); Ellen Flanagan (ceremony violinist)
Rentals, Celebrations Party Rentals; La Tavola Linens; Theoni Collection; Zephyr Tents
Bride's Gown, Carolina Herrera
Bride's Accessories, Stuart Weitzman shoes; Nuance Jewelers bracelet; David Yurman earrings
Hair and Makeup, Edin Carpenter
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Jenny Yoo
Flower Girl Dresses,
Groom's Attire, Q Clothier
Menswear, The Black Tux
Groom's Shoes, Duke and Dexter
Engagement Ring, Spence Diamonds
Espresso Bar, Hub Coffee
Wedding Rings, Nuance Jewelers

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