Secluded Coastal Ranch Wedding in California

A person could say the "defining" characteristic of us as a couple is our love for cows. To Graisson and I, being around cows is a way of life. Graisson grew up on a dairy farm in Western Wisconsin and Mandy grew up on a beef ranch in Northern California. To some people, we might look like the "crazy cow people." Yet, our love story wouldn't have happened without those four legged critters, and for this, we are so grateful.

We met while I was in college, interning for a dairy cow magazine, working as an event photographer. Graisson used to travel all over the world for his job as a dairy cow fitter. Basically, he was a cow stylist who would get cows looking their best before they competed in beauty pageants. We happened to bump into each other at the cow show in California while I was taking pictures for the dairy cow magazine. We exchanged numbers, but didn't think it was likely our paths would cross again because he was based out of Wisconsin.

Fast forward 1.5 years later, I graduated college and happened to accept a job in Wisconsin. Remembering that cute guy with a mischievous grin, we got in touch. We realized we had more in common than the cows which had fatefully brought us together and have been "head over boots" in love ever since!

Our location was significant because of our love of rural California, wide open spaces and, of course, cows. It was important to us that we have a place that was unique, truly an experience for our guests who had never been to California before, and meaningful to start a lifetime together. The most perfect place was none other than my parents' beef ranch. One thousand acres of land nearly untouched by humans since the original gold rush.

The ranch had originally, in the 1800s, been established as a sheep ranch. However, my family - due to generations of cattle ranching background - had a passion for cattle instead. The historic barns in the center of the property, which were set up for sheep housing, were no longer used. Upon our engagement, my mom had the idea to make some slight renovations to the barn in order to host the reception indoors, out of the coastal weather. What started as a removal of sheep pens and sheep shearing equipment turned into a stunning and dramatic barn to gather and celebrate!

 I think what makes weddings most special is when family and friends come together as a community to make the day successful! A wedding is one day, albeit a wonderful day, but a marriage is a lifetime. Having the start of that lifetime with so much support from family and friends as we all came together to renovate the barn, decorate together and celebrate together. While I did have professional hair and makeup for myself, my bridesmaids hair and makeup was done by friends and cousins. My bouquets were by a professional vendor, but my bridesmaids did the reception arrangements. My parents provided meat from the ranch for the meals. They raise amazing grassfed beef and lamb, with natural farming methods, and our guests absolutely loved the unique and local dishes. My grandparents helped us make traditional Azores wine - they are both first generation in the United States and having some of their Portuguese tradition in the wedding was perfect.

Location: The Haven at Tomales in Tomales, California

Event Planner: Ybarra Events

Venue: The Haven at Tomales

Photographer: Kimberly Macdonald Photography

Videographer: Davey Hibler Productions

Florist: Vanda Floral

Wedding Dress Store & Designer: Bliss Bridal & Black Tie Store

Menswear: Bliss Bridal & Black Tie Store

Hair & Makeup: Lauthr Salon

Caterer: Out to Lunch Catering

Rentals/Decorations: JRB Event Services

Invitation Designer: Wedding Paper Divas

Dress Alterations: Christina Vanni

Cake: Sweet Expectations

First Dance Song: Me and You by Kenny Chesney

Processional Song: You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban

Recessional Song: Top of the World by The Carpenters (Mandy's mom used to sing this to her and her brothers as a good night song)

Mother of the Groom/Father of the Bride Dance Songs: Father/Daughter Song - Find Your Wings by Mark Harris

Mother/Son Song - A Mother's Song by T Carter