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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Schaffer's Mill Wedding

Schaffer’s Mill Wedding | Truckee, CA | Jessica + Toby

Jessica and Toby met at Schaffer’s Mill Golf Course, so it was only fitting that they wed there.  In fact, it was the first Schaffer’s Mill wedding ever and they did an incredible job.  The grounds, and in particular, the ceremony site, are stunningly beautiful, with a creek running adjacent, gorgeous pine trees that block afternoon sun and a beautiful view of the mountains from the tented reception area.

The day went off without a hitch thanks to awesome wedding coordinators from some of my favorite local ladies, Julia and Kerry, and featured an amazingly delicious dinner from D’Lish Catering!  Big super huge thanks to my trusty colleague and frequent second photographer, Annie Robillard of Annie X Photography for the assistance with this wedding!

Venue: Schaffer’s Mill Golf Course | Coordinators: Blue Sky Events | Caterer: D’Lish | Bakery: D’Lish | Florist: Thran’s Flowers | Rentals: Celebrations | Music: DJ Brock | Hair/Makeup: The Decorated Bride | Bride’s Attire: Casablanca Bridal | Groom’s Attire: Kenneth Cole | Second Shooter: Annie X

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River Ranch Lodge Wedding

Alpine Meadows River Ranch Wedding | Olympic Valley, CA | Seb + Leah

Leah and Seb met living the life that every Tahoe local knows and loves: ski bumming in their youth in Vail, with jobs on the mountain, small apartments, and late nights drinking and rabble rousing followed by early mornings shredding.  Today, they call San Francisco home and they spend every weekend they can in the Sierras, skiing at Alpine Meadows and Squaw.  It was only fitting that their wedding be held in the place they consider to be their second home now.  Together, they are an unbelievably gorgeous, fun, and vibrant couple.  Their friends are no exception: they were dancing maniacs and there were more epic moves pulled at this wedding than I saw all year.  With a play list that included Coolio, the party went straight until our cutoff time and my hangover the next day, upon which I happened to have to get up at 4 AM and drive to the airport to fly to Texas to work for SXSW Eco, was a bit rough but well worth it.

Seb’s family hails from Australia and they flew across the globe to celebrate with these two.  It’s no wonder that they are surrounded by such amazing people: their love and graciousness exudes from all aspects of their lives.  I feel very honored to have been their Alpine Meadows River Ranch wedding photographer.  Here’s a few of my favorite frames from their day.

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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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Northstar Winter Wedding

Northstar Winter Wedding | Natalie + Steven | Sneak Peek

I have an insane amount of coincidental stories to share about this amazing couple but those will have to wait until their actual blog post.  In the meantime, I’d like to give a HUGE shout out and big time thanks to the poor valet guy at the Ritz Carlton, Lake Tahoe, who literally gave Natalie the shoes off his own feet so that she could take a portrait in the snow.  The poor guy had to explain to his manager why he was walking around outside without shoes and his feet were probably wet and cold for the rest of the night.  That’s serious service and I’m still totally overwhelmed with gratitude at this fantastic young man who made it possible for us to play in the snow and Christmas lights outside the resort and get a photo like this one!

More to come from Natalie, Steven and their Northstar winter wedding!

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