Thunderbird Lodge Wedding

Thunderbird Lodge Wedding | Incline Village, NV | Laura + Ryan

George Whittell liked all things fast: cars, planes, boats and women.

Wait, you thought this would be a post about Laura and Ryan and their wedding?  Just hold on a hot second, we’ll get there.

George Whittell’s antics started young. Out of highschool, much to his high society parents chagrin, he ran away and joined the circus, eloping with a chorus girl.  After deftly removing his family’s assets from the stock market before the great crash, George was left as the sole heir to their treasure trove upon his mother’s death in the 1930s.  He amassed a collection of cars (he loved Dusenbergs) and a menagerie of circus animals that included tigers, a giraffe, an elephant, and a bear. A lion cub named Bill was his constant companion.

After Tahoe was logged for mining, Whittel bought up 95% of the coast line for pennies on the dollar, building himself a summer playground in the Thunderbird Lodge.  The elephant didn’t fare well in the altitude and had to be sent home.  The lion however, was always afoot.  Without regulatory interference in Nevada, Whittell was able to pursue his dreams: gambling, partying, drinking and going fast.  He owned a number of planes, dozens of cars, and the most infamous piece in his collection: the Thunderbird.

Whittell commissioned John Hacker, a Naval architect, to design a yacht in the style of his personal DC-2 aircraft and his many Duesenbergs.  It cost $87,000 (which would be the equivalent of $3.3 million today) and thanks to its twin airplane engines, could cross Lake Tahoe at speeds of over 70mph.   

Today, Lake Tahoe has Whittell to thank for most of its pristine beauty and undeveloped land in Nevada.  Before his death, Whittell donated land to the University of Nevada and Zephyr Cove, where a high school bears his name.  Most of his 27 miles of shoreline were sold to the National Forest Service.

Today, taking my summer guests and visitors on tour’s of this eccentric man’s home is one of my favorite things to do.  It is a breathtaking piece of architecture, with stone pathways, waterfalls, and intricate rock work.  It is the most beautiful of the older estates on Lake Tahoe and quite possibly the most beautiful wedding venue that Tahoe offers.  There is no need for decor when you have this estate as your backdrop.

Laura and Ryan actually didn’t intend to wed at the Thunderbird Lodge despite the fact that they had family members on the board of directors for the Preservation Society.  They looked at a number of other venues to begin with but found that the rigidity of their event rules weren’t going to work for them.  Laura’s late mother was an extravagant and enthusiastic host, whose legacy was partially remembered for one very specific appetizer that she always prepared for her guests.  Laura desired her wedding to be a nod to her mother in remembrance and the small details that her mother never forgot were important to not overlook.  From the chargers that her mother would have insisted on to the appetizers she would have served, the tribute would be a small but important reminder that she too was present.  While many other venues weren’t willing to accommodate some of these important requests, Thunderbird Lodge was and it was all the more special since the Lodge itself has played such a large part in Laura’s family history.

Laura and Ryan were wed on the lawn in the late afternoon and then presented with another surprise: they had been gifted a ride with their wedding party on the actual Thunderbird!  Captain Dave took us out for a short 20 minute ride and it was absolutely incredible!

When I look back over their wedding gallery, I am still in awe of how breathtakingly special it is to dine at sunset on the lawn of this historic lodge.  I’ve taken the tour of the lodge many times and am well versed in some of the more eccentric stories of Whittell, but to spend an entire evening there is humbling and incredible.  If you can’t find someone to hold their wedding at the lodge for you to join in on, the Preservation Society does offer a summer dinner series and seated wine-maker dinners.  You can tour the property in the summer and I would suggest going by water, where you’ll arrive via vintage wooden boat from the same era and enjoy lunch on the grounds.

Laura and Ryan’s wedding culminated with touching toasts and a non-stop dance party, mostly enforced by her energetic and charming father who even made me put my camera down to dance for a bit.  I normally try to limit my blog post photos to just a few, but I think I would be doing a disservice to the venue if I didn’t share the incredible venue photos that my amazing second Brian Walker took for me.  So, without further adieu, here are waaaaaay too many photos from Laura and Ryan’s gorgeous Thunderbird Lodge Wedding.

Venue: Thunderbird Lodge | Planning and Coordination: Blue Sky Events | Linens: Creative Coverings | Florist: Thran’s | Wedding Music: Stacy Farnan with Serenade Services | Catering: CoCoMoe’s Drop Off Gourmet | DJ: Reno Tahoe DJ Company | Rentals: Celebrations Party Rentals | Hair and Makeup: Tahoe Salon Be | Shuttles: Northstar Transportation | Restrooms: Quickspace | Second Photographer awesomesauce from Brian Walker Photography

 

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Valhalla Wedding Photography

Valhalla Wedding | South Lake Tahoe, CA | Dondra + Ryan

I’ve known and considered Dondra and Ryan to be good friends for quite some time.  Dondra’s sister is one of the people in the world that knows me best and I was very lucky to spend a ton of time with this rad couple when they lived in Tahoe.  They’ve since moved onto newer and grander adventures in Colorado, but I was honored and thrilled to not only hear that their wedding would be in Tahoe but that I was the “only” choice to be their Valhalla wedding photographer.  Dondra is the proud owner of my former mountain bike, which originally belonged to extreme scientist Allison Olliver.  I find it hilarious that trek hard tail has made it to so many states and in so many hands, finally landing now with Dondra and Ryan, where it’s sharing a home with two people who have a passion for the outdoors, home brewed beer, and photo booths, of course.

Their wedding was intimate, simple and elegant and ended with an epic dance party.  I’m so honored to have been part of the joining of two people who not only incredibly committed to each other, but also to their families and to the water and barley grains fermenting in their closet.

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West Shore Cafe Wedding

West Shore Cafe Wedding | Homewood, CA | Lauren + Tim

Lauren and Tim’s nuptials on a rainy Tahoe day prove that a West Shore Cafe wedding is classic and gorgeous no matter what the weather.  After all, it is good luck for it to rain on your wedding day, yes?  Despite the gray skies, Lauren and Tim’s friends and families were nothing but laughter and epic dance moves to celebrate this rad couple that now calls Oakland home.  Here’s a few of my favorite frames from their special day.

Day of Coordination: Jiosia Designs | Venue and Catering: West Shore Cafe and Inn | DJ: DJ Brock | Make-Up: McKenzie Morrison | Bride’s Hair: Dona Lara | Bridesmaids’ Hair: Tahoe Born Salon | Florist: Jiosia Designs | Bride’s Attire: Monique Lhuillier | Bridesmaids’ Attire: Nordstrom | Groom’s Attire: Nordstrom | Groomsmen’s Attire: Peter Millar | Invitations: Reb Peters Press | Videographer: Agnes Grey Productions | Second Shooter: Annie Robillard

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Tahoe Donner Wedding

Tahoe Donner Wedding | Truckee, CA | Audrey + Gavin

Audrey and Gavin met while working at the same tv station.  They recently moved to Reno, NV and were wed this past summer in a gorgeous Tahoe Donner wedding on an absolutely perfect bluebird summer day.  I normally worry about light during mid-afternoon summer weddings, but I had nothing to fear this day: the stars aligned and the light was as stunning as these two people are!  Audrey and Gavin were surrounded by some rad folks – their wedding was hysterical from start to finish and every toast given had people cracking up from start to finish.  Gavin’s brother, the best man, delivered a particularly appropriate and hilarious baseball themed speech that had the entire house on the floor.  Follow that up with an epic dance party and you have the makings of a wonderful wedding day.

Venue: Tahoe Donner | Bakery: Delicious Designs Reno | Florist: Sparks Florist | DJ: The DJ Mobile Entertainment | Officiant: Dave Lawrence, KOLO News 8 | Invitations: Alethea and Ruth, Minted | Dress: Allure Bridals | Viel: Maritza’s Bridal | Groom’s Attire: Vera Wang | Hair: Glow Salon | Rentals: Red Carpet Events & Design

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Blue Sky Terrace Wedding

Heavenly Blue Sky Terrace Wedding | Lisa + Rick

When Rick and Lisa first contacted me, they didn’t actually have a date for their wedding.  She sent me a really amazing email that said, among other things, “I really do think avocados are their own food group, and I can eat my weight in avocados on any given day.”  Over the course of our correspondence, I fell in love with her adventurous spirit, vivacity and general good humor.  When they finally picked their date, it turned out to be a day that I had no intent of shooting a wedding on: the day following my birthday party.  I couldn’t, just couldn’t, not be part of this amazing couple who seemed like such kindrid spirits to me.  Among their love of avocados, day drinking and laughing at themselves, they were also marathon runners.  I said yes.  I would sacrifice the ability to be “not so sparky” the day after my party for these two awesome people and I am SO glad that I did.

Lisa and Rick were wed in an intimate ceremony overlooking Lake Tahoe on a perfectly gorgeous bluebird day at the Heavenly Blue Sky Terrace.  After the ceremony, we snuck off in a limo to Zephyr Cove for wedding party portraits.  Their motley crew of friends were exactly the kind of people I like to spend time with: loud boisterous day drinkers that love to laugh, dance and enjoy life.  The best part of the jaunt over to Zephyr Cove: it was topped off with Lisa taking shots with a Bachelorette Party on the beach!

Venue: Heavenly Blue Sky Terrace | Officiant: Rev. Dave Beronio Jr | Portraits: Zephyr Cove Resort

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Valhalla Wedding Photographer

Valhalla Wedding Photographer | Dondra + Ryan | Sneak Peek

I’ve known and considered Dondra and Ryan to be good friends for quite some time.  Dondra’s sister is one of the people in the world that knows me best and I was very lucky to spend a ton of time with this rad couple when they lived in Tahoe.  They’ve since moved onto newer and grander adventures in Colorado, but I was honored and thrilled to not only hear that their wedding would be in Tahoe but that I was the “only” choice to be their Valhalla wedding photographer.  Here’s a few sneak peeks from their rad day and I will certainly have more to share soon!

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Schaffer's Mill Wedding

Schaffer’s Mill Wedding | Jessica + Toby | Sneak Peek

For Jessica and Toby, Schaffer’s Mill holds a special place in their hearts.  Not only is it the place that they met, but now, they were honored to be the first wedding ever held at the Golf Resort.  They are both loving generous spirits, which was made all the more apparent during their day.  They are surrounded by fun, wild, loving people from a wide variety of places including Tahoe, Colorado, and Montana.  I can’t wait to share more photos from their awesome Schaffer’s Mill wedding!

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Golf Course Wedding

Lake Tahoe Golf Course Wedding | Christina + Jose | Sneak Peek

Christina and Jose are totally my people: we bonded in our first meeting over bloodies, beers, and day drinking at their reception venue.  They are athletes and adventurers and I had been looking forward to their wedding all summer.  In the end, the pair couldn’t have possibly lucked out with more pristinely gorgeous weather for their Lake Tahoe Golf Course wedding.  It was gorgeous, bluebird skies and the perfect temperature! There’s more to come from this awesome couple, including a fantastic choeographed mother-son dance!

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Kiva Beach Wedding

Kiva Beach Wedding | Chantelle + Brandon | Sneak Peek

Chantelle originally contacted me back in February for her destination elopement here in South Lake Tahoe.  She then proceeded to get all of her ducks in a row, everything as organized as possible, and more things done in a mere two months than most of my brides ever manage in the months before their giant weddings.  Although she was organized, what really shined through her coorespondence with me was her shear excitement and giddiness over her nuptials.  After planning a “big wedding,” she and her fiancé decided to scrap the plan altogether and have a small, intimate, destination ceremony with their closest family as witnesses and officiants.  24 hours before the ceremony time, they still hadn’t picked out a location.  I loved it.  In the end, their Kiva Beach Wedding was as beautiful, loving and sweet as the pair of them are and perfectly befitting Chantelle’s benevolent and luminous spirit.

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