Ask a newlywed how their wedding day went, and most likely you’ll hear them rave about how it was literally “the best day ever,” like they’re a kid talking about that time they were in a candy store and got to buy anything they wanted. I always had a hard time understanding that. Like, was is really the best day there could possibly be? Better than a day of skiing bottomless powder in Alaska, or at a beach in the Caribbean, or in a room full of puppies?
Then I actually had a wedding of my own. And it really was the best day ever.
For the TL;DR people, here’s basically how it went: It rained almost all day, the DJ played the wrong song while I walked down the aisle, I found out that my dress I ordered online from Russia almost fit, and I came close to tripping and falling during the guitar solo for Queen’s Millionaire Waltz in our first dance. It really was the best day ever.
The past nine months had been spent finishing college, working two jobs, and occasionally catching myself doing things like ordering customized wedding cup favors from the chairlift. I was honestly enjoying the whole process of putting together a big party for all my friends and family to celebrate Gavin and I’s love for each other. I had met Gavin first snowboarding at Boreal, then at a Bible study, and we were engaged a year after meeting, under the dim, eerie light of the total solar eclipse in Albany, Oregon.
Now I had to plan the biggest party I would ever end up planning in your my life (unless I decided to work as an event manager). Who would have known that picking a date wasn’t as simple as just “picking a date”? I never understood the concept of “wedding season.” Like, why get married in the same season everyone else does? Well, there are people in this world who have these things called “kids”, and said “kids” have this thing called school, so people who are invited to weddings that require a little travel often have to decide whether or not to take their kids out of school to go to a wedding. Then there is this other thing called “the weather”. We definitely wanted an outdoor ceremony, given the natural beauty of our mountaintop venue. The winter before we were engaged brought over 70 feet of snow to our area, and “Spring” in Tahoe is basically just an extension of winter, so after considering many factors, we settled on May 26, 2018. As it turned out, even the last weekend in May wasn’t safe, because we ended up dealing with winter weather advisories and all sorts of weather forecast shenanigans.
None of the typical “wedding” themes appealed to us – themes like Rustic barn, elegant ballroom, or Boho Shabby Chic with a modern but old fashioned twist. Besides, what does “shabby chic” mean anyway? I knew from the get-go I wanted a skiing/snowboarding mountains theme, complete with ski sign centerpieces, a chairlift swing we managed to finagle, and a homemade cake made to look like a ski hill. And my colors? Green, blue, black, and bright orange. Our (free) venue was our local church in the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains, overlooking snow-peaked mountaintops and the Truckee River.
Everyone told me I had gone bonkers for wanting to make said cake from home. This turned out to be one of those decisions I am so glad I held my ground on.
“You’ll stress yourself out!”
“Look, I’ll pay for a professional to make this cake if you promise you won’t take this task on”
“Is that really how you want to spend the days leading up to your wedding?”
These are the remarks I got, but unlike my idea of making the whole thing a potluck (which was shot down immediately, so I went and found a food truck to cater our wedding, which was
pretty cool). I stood firm and started testing out chocolate cake recipes, which gave me a good excuse to eat lots of chocolate cake with no real occasion besides “research”. I then found a very artistic friend who volunteered to decorate the cake the morning of, since I figured I’d be busy with other things, being the bride and whatnot. Things were finally coming together exactly as I dreamed.
Then there was the guest list. A guest list refers to the product made after the bride and groom, usually with a lot of parental input (wanted or not), sit down and decide which friends/family they like the most, which ones they sorta like (Also known as the B list), and which ones are deemed “definitely not worth spending the $50 per head on”. Out of all the fun parts of wedding planning, making a guest list is usually the most dreaded task. Finally , we sent out invites shaped like old-school ski tickets, complete with metal wickets brilliantly engineered from paperclips, to almost 200 people.
Then there is that part when the bride has to go to a dress shop with 17 people and try on 147 dresses, expecting to spend about the equivalent of a small car, and stand on a pedestal while the friends give their (sometimes too) honest opinions. Meanwhile, the guy tries on one suit, says, “I like it” and decides to rent it for a tenth of the price of the dress.
I skipped that step and went online and found a Russian dressmaker whose English read as if she typed her response into Google Translate and copy-pasted the English translation into our conversations, sent her $300, and hoped for the best. The thing is, I just had to get this dress. The snowflakey design was perfect for my winter-themed wedding in almost-June. So I bit
the bullet and ordered it the same day I got engaged. A few months later, a little package with Russian lettering and a lot of stamps arrived.
Spoiler alert: it wasn’t even close to fitting, but I had time, so I sent it back, and after the dress literally went around the world, I got it back and had a few small alterations made and it all
worked out. I put the newly altered dress on at home and it fit perfectly. But what I didn’t do in the dress was dance, run, bounce in a bouncy house, dead-lift 180 pounds – you know, those things I was expecting to do when it came time to actually wear the dress.
Throughout the process, I promised myself I would not be one of “those brides”. You know what I’m talking about – the “Zilla”, the one who spends hours stressing over what font to use
on custom napkins, or gets into squabbles over the thickness of the paper on their RSVPs or whether or not they should invite their ex’s mom’s second cousin’s dog. Everyone always knew me as the “chill” one. Besides, I cook at a restaurant. Nothing stresses me out anymore.
But when I stared at that winter weather advisory issued for California that Memorial Day Saturday, I’m going to admit that maybe, “Bride-chilla” was a little concerned with the plans for
the outdoor ceremony, and no plan B. The week leading up to the wedding, the not-so-accu- “Accuweather” jumped from sunny and 70, to rain, to snow, to thunderbolts and lightening
very very frightening. I overheard someone the week before, talking about how the rain on Saturday might throw a wrench in their Memorial Day weekend plans. Like never mind squelching your little grill-out by the lake, Linda. Imagine what I’m trying to deal with this weekend! The worst part? The forecast was basically a guaranteed 70 and sunny from May 27, 2018 into the rest of eternity. The night before, as we were coming back from our rehearsal dinner and my parents and other relatives staying in the house were working on some last-minute things, my dad was like “What about the weather?” and at that point, I think we all just made the mutual decision to forget about it and pray to God to figure it out. There. Decided.
So we finally arrive at the day we had all been waiting for. We all woke up early to the pitter-patter of rain on the roof. Gavin and I and the small village of people who were helping us out through the whole process went to the venue to decorate and set up rain canopies, while my friend and my brother decorated the cake.
I must acknowledge at this point, the people who kept the whole day from becoming an absolute flop. To my parents, who I legitimately think should open up a wedding planning business. To my in-laws, who also paid for a lot of the big-ticket items. To all the people who flew across the world not only to attend, but to help with the small details and setup in the days leading up to the wedding, to Tahoe Forest Church and Pastor Mike for the free venue and officiation, and to the youth group at Tahoe Forest Church, who served as ushers, decorators and balloon poppers, among other jobs on the day with the enthusiasm of a rambunctious dog seeing his owner come home.
All that lead-up and finally, here I was in this very moment, right now, driving through pouring rain down interstate 80 towards my own wedding. This is a moment I didn’t personally see, but everyone else who was waiting at the venue witnessed. The sky parted like the Red Sea as I arrived. Under dry skies, the procession started, just as planned. As I walked down the woodchip and rocks aisle, the correct song that we had carefully picked out and rehearsed to faded, and “Somewhere over the Rainbow” started playing. But you know what? In that moment, I realized, that nobody knew what song was supposed to play. No one knew it was the wrong song. So what’s the point in stressing over the small details you can’t control?
What was the point of stressing about the fact that almost all the buttons on my dress kept coming undone all day and I had to keep asking people to “check me”? What was the point of
stressing about a minor trip-fall-but-save during the first dance, or about one of the ushers actually tripping and falling with a tray full of toast glasses? Heck, I could have actually fell during the first dance and I probably would have just laughed it off and told that story for years to come.
All those minor details flew to the wind of that May-winter storm, and were overcome by love, happiness and that feeling of “I never want this to end”. When I look back, I think of that
moment, looking around the tented room, ten teenagers with ties around their heads, dancing to the YMCA song. I think of how I took a risk and decided to sing “I Was Born to Love You” by Queen in front of all the guests, and how it turned out to be one of the highlights of the whole thing. I think of that homemade cake, teetering on the janky, plastic, 4-tier stand, my brother holding it up carefully while we cut the first slice.
So to anyone who is planning a wedding, or planning on planning one in the future, just remember: Maybe you did pick the wrong font for those custom napkins, or maybe the flowers weren’t exactly the same color as your bridesmaid dresses, or perhaps the aisle runner wasn’t “shabby chic” enough. At the end of the day, you’ll probably look back on your wedding and remember all the good stuff (planned or unplanned), and you’ll hopefully still be married to the love of your life.
See our full wedding video here!
And our snowboarding video we made and played at the reception:
Closing Day at Northstar was a blast. I try out freestyle rapping too! Check it out.
It is an interesting concept to think about — the people you cross paths with and perhaps will never meet again. The people you wish you could have a second chance at meeting. The thought would come to mind sometimes that maybe, just maybe, the person I was supposed to fall in love with had already passed through my life without either of us noticing. What if, by some crazy fluke of divine intervention, the world would show two people just how small it is?
A good looking, snowboarding, Jesus-loving man, and I’ll probably never see him again. Do you even know how rare that is? I thought, as I drove back home down Highway 80 towards Reno and back to the Tahoe area that cold January night. I guess it’s just one of those things. I didn’t dwell too much on it. I didn’t think too much about what could have been or even that I had “blown it.”
Besides, no guy has ever shown interest in me in the past 19 years. Why would that suddenly change? I guess I had become numb to the relationship drama around me since my friends first started finding love in middle school. I didn’t want to hear any of it. I had just kind of accepted that it would never happen to me. Maybe my standards were too high or I just wasn’t “getting after it” enough.
That evening, I had participated in an entry-level snowboarding competition at Boreal, one of my local ski resorts. It was a rail jam event, so naturally, there were only two girls and about forty guys. The other girl was a professional snowboarder, so I wasn’t too bummed about receiving second place. Besides, I was still recovering from a dislocated shoulder, my first injury that season, and I was glad to be back on my board. I say first because two weeks after this event, I managed to injure myself a second time by dislocating the other shoulder trying to backflip on my snowboard.
“Nice cross sticker! Jesus is awesome!”
I looked to my right and there he was. He wore a black helmet and camouflage jacket. His face was shielded by ski goggles and a face mask. I did, in fact have a cross sticker on my helmet I had cut out myself and stuck front and center. A few people would notice it now and then — usually other Christians. This was the last place I expected to hear that. These Friday night rail jams were quite the show. People drank beer, smoked weed, and swore like sailors. This young man was like the light that shone in the darkness.
The competition went on and we saw each other each time we hiked up to the top of the drop-in of the competition venue. We would talk briefly about what trick we planned on doing or how our last run went. The rail jam format was a casual one where you had an hour or so to hike up as many times as you could and do tricks on rails, which you were given a score on. We watched people throw backflips, clear huge gaps, and jump onto three-foot-tall rails. It was a little intimidating, and I didn’t know anyone else there except this one guy I had just met.
I hoped to see him again and get to know him more after the competition during the awards ceremony, but when I left the hill and went into the lodge, he wasn’t there. I received my second-place-out-of-two prize bag and went on my way. I didn’t even get his name.
Life went on for the next eight months and I didn’t think much of this interaction. Those eight months went on just like the rest of my life up to that point — devoid of any meaningful attention from the opposite gender. It was a fun time in my life though. Snowboarding season continued, I finished my sophomore year of college, and I worked a fun summer job at that same ski resort teaching kids to snowboard on a small patch of man-made snow.
Shortly after school started, I attended a get-together for college-aged people. There were about seven young adults total, some new faces and some familiar. I always liked talking to new people, so I sat next to a guy I had never met before. He had dark hair, thick eyebrows, and was wearing a silver cross necklace and a pink, flowery ring.
“I was on my way here and I picked up a couple hitchhikers. They were all Chinese girls, and when I dropped them off they gave me this pink flowery ring and asked me if I had a girlfriend. When I said no, they told me to find someone to give it to,” he said, justifying his manly piece of jewelry. I kind of liked how it looked on him.
I had never hit it up with a guy like that before. We talked about random things — whatever came to mind really. I remember talking about my summer job, my passion for cooking, and how my grandma was a princess in Burma. He told me about his time in Alaska over the summer — how he had lived on a glacier taking care of sled dogs and flying helicopters. Then he started talking about snowboarding. Loves Jesus? Check. Single? Check. Into snow sports? Check. That was a good segue into exchanging contact information so we could meet up in the winter and snowboard.
This time, I wasn’t going to blow it. We exchanged numbers on Thursday, and since he hadn’t texted me first by Tuesday, I took the first step. I invited him to a beach party that was happening on Saturday. I felt more comfortable having a reason to text him rather than just starting with “hey ;)”.
I know the rules: Always let the guy text first; don’t make the first text an invitation; if he waits longer than three days he is not interested; make him jealous. I gave the finger to convention, since the last two decades of my life had shown me that waiting around and playing by the rules did not get me anywhere.
He responded about two minutes later with not only a “Yes, I’d love to come”, but also some actual effort in keeping the conversation going. I flipped when I received the first “good night” text two days later. I screenshotted it and sent it to my two best friends to whom I told everything. Keep in mind, I had never even been as far with a guy as texting just for fun. This was uncharted territory.
When Saturday rolled around and we both showed up to the beach party at Lake Tahoe, we seemed to connect just as well as we did the other night. Towards the end of the party, about thirty of us were in the lake in a big circle throwing around a beach ball.
“Let’s go and swim out!” he told me. I followed. The water was cold in spots and warm in other spots. We saw a ski-doo not too far away and swam towards it. When the two if us reached it, after looking around for the owner, we climbed up on top. We joked about how we should try to hijack it. When one of us would move, the whole thing would tip over. We almost capsized it a few times.
We sat there on the ski-doo so long just sharing our life stories that the party was almost over when we swam back to the shore. After everyone left, the two of us stayed there and continued talking. Since we were both snowboarders, the conversation drifted towards that.
“I’ve only ever been to one snowboarding competition,” he said, “and it was last winter in Boreal.”
“Ha, no way! Was it in January?” I asked, since I was at that one as well.
“Yeah, it was!”
“Remember there were like, two girls?” I said, “I was one of them. I was wearing a bright green jacket.”
I think both our minds were blown when he said, “You had a cross on your helmet, didn’t you?” He was the man I thought I’d never meet again. This is the sort of crazy stuff that happens in fictional romance stories, not real life.
Now, when people ask us how we met or how we started dating, I say, “It’s kind of an interesting story.” He keeps telling me he is glad we have a storybook tale, rather than “I bought her a drink at a bar,” or one that could be summed up in two words like “in college.” Not only is the how-we-met story unconventional, but so is our relationship. Instead of expensive dates, we go on adventures such as hiking off-trail, rock climbing, or skateboarding in Santa Cruz. We both fix our cars and do the dishes, and he owns more shoes than I do. During the winter, we snowboard together every weekend, even returning to the spot where we originally met.
Since starting our relationship, we’ve found other weird coincidences that made us laugh, like how his middle school Myspace account was sk8terboy and mine was sk8erchick, or how that pink, flowery ring given to him by those hitchhikers an hour before we met ended up on my finger. Through a combination of putting the rules aside and a crazy coincidence, we had found love. I’m not here to spark a conversation about predestination or fate, but it does provide food for thought.
Photos and writing by Hanalei Edbrooke
You can say we had some fun taking advantage of the 9 new feet of snow that fell last week! Check out this video we put together.
“Let’s go on an adventure!” was my response. I was stoked that this tall, good-looking Portuguese-Italian I liked whom I had only known for about 2 weeks wanted to spend his 26th birthday with just me, and he was asking me where I wanted to go.
All other traditional “date” options seemed boring. Too conventional, too expensive, not unique enough. I was a junior in college and had never once been on a “date” in my life. Not even prom, not even homecoming, not even one of the casual parties I had been to in college. I was always the one “single friend” through high school and the college I had been through so far. Never kissed, never held hands, never been liked back, and I was nineteen years old.
Hiking seemed like a good idea because it was free and we both shared the same sense of adventure and athleticism. I knew a place I had been before, but I wasn’t even sure exactly where it was or how long the hike would take. It was up by Donner, a small lake by Truckee, just north of Tahoe. We agreed to go there and wing it, or as I like to say, “send it.”
We drove up Old Highway 40 with the windows rolled down; it was a nice, bright-cherry-red Subaru Impreza with a roof rack and a manual transmission. Not saying I would ever like a guy just for his car — but damn. As we drove up the road, we began to see “road closure ahead” warning signs.
“Why would the road even be closed now? I bet those signs are left there from the winter,” he said. Before we got to the trailhead however, there were police cars and cones across the road, so we drove back a little. When we saw another trailhead, we parked there and got out of the car. It was a simple trailhead — no bathroom or lodge, just a sign with a map and a few facts about the place.
“Let’s just send it”, I said. We started down the trail. It was nearing sunset on fall equinox, the last day when the days are longer than the nights. The weather was at that point where you were kind of cold in a sweatshirt but you knew you’d warm up if you hiked a little. It was a dense forest with this trail carved out, and tall trees on either side of it. The ground was rocky and dusty, and was slightly uphill. You couldn’t really see the trail ahead or even how long it was because of the trees and winding nature of the path. There weren’t many people out at the time, but we did see one old man.
“How far to the top?” we asked.
Hiking poles in hand, seeming tired and a little worn out, he wheezed, “About three hours.”
“Think you can run?” he asked. The elevation of the base of the trail was about 7000 feet, and we were only going uphill. Not wanting to seem like the weaker one, I agreed to run, and we started up the mountain. We naturally took turns leading the way, like we were both trying to impress each other. My lungs were burning from the thin air, but I kept on running. There were some near-ankle-rolls and face plants, but we were having a great time.
Finally, after only about half an hour since setting off, we reached what looked like the end of the trail, but we were not on the top of a mountain. We looked up. There was an abandoned train tunnel that snaked through the mountain for miles. There was no trail up there but we were young, adventurous, and determined.
“Where now?” I asked.
“Up,” he said.
“Hiking” wasn’t the right word, but neither was “rock climbing.” It was a steep incline all the way up, and the ground was covered in loose rocks, ranging in size from boulders to pebbles. Sometimes, the only way forward was to walk right through a bush.
“You know,” he said, “There aren’t many girls who would do this.”
“Yeah, I agree,” I replied, “There aren’t.”
Another half an hour or so passed since the end of the designated trail, and we reached the outside of the train tunnel. We couldn’t find a way inside, so the next best thing was to climb up on top of it. It was about 20 or 30 feet tall, but there was a part where the tunnel intersected with the mountain, and we could climb up the rocks to get to the top of the tunnel. It was a steep sheet of granite, with a few footholds and a thin, sketchy electrical cable attached to a metal rod at the top. I tugged on the cable.
“Seems stable enough,” I said, making him lead the way.
The view from the top was spectacular, and not only because of the pink hues of the sunset over the blue lake, surrounded by dense forest and the tall mountains in the background. What was also amazing was the graffiti. Yes, most of it was just lame vandalism and profanity, but a few pieces shone as works of art. One piece, about 15 feet long and 15 feet wide, looked like a sunset and featured every color of the rainbow. There were stripes of color separated by black lines of spray paint, starting with purple at the bottom, and transitioning to yellow, then red and orange, and back to purple. It was simple but beautiful.
Some featured deep, inspiring quotes. One piece was written in plain, black spray paint and simple handwriting, It is not the length of life but the depth. Another featured a colorful fish painted into the side of the wall and the words Just keep swimming.
“They’ve probably broken up by now,” I joked, looking at all the marks left behind by couples that had written their initials in a heart. Other pieces showed frustration with the system. Question everything was written multiple times along the tunnel in a simple, purple scrawl. Enjoy your fluoride ya F****** sheep, another wrote.
We walked along the top of tunnel until it intersected the mountain again. It was getting dark, and we had no flashlights and were in the middle of nowhere. In the distance, we could see Donner Pass, a scenic, winding road with many narrow, hairpin turns that meandered around the mountains by Donner Lake. We decided if we just made it there, we could follow it and make it back to the car. There was only one problem: between the road and us was an army of alder trees, which were really thick, dense bushes about 6 feet tall or more.
Every step, the branches poked against us or whacked us. In the face, between the legs, you name it. I feared one would eventually poke me right in the eye. The ground beneath was not smooth either. At one point, we had to step over a 5-foot-wide crevasse, all while still going through the alder bushes. The sun had already set, and you could just see enough to get through.
We whooped with joy when our feet finally met the road. There was no walking path, but we knew we would end up back at the car if we followed the road down the hill for about a mile. There were not many cars going down, which was kind of a good thing because it was a winding road with no bike lane or walk path, and there was a serious danger of being hit if someone were to speed down close to the edge. As we walked, we held up our thumbs at the three cars that passed by, trying to get a ride down the road. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, no one stopped for us.
On the way down we talked. We talked about our pasts and our lives and our shared love for Jesus. We talked about the winter — how excited we both were to snowboard together. We talked about our shared frustration with the system, and how we both didn’t like watching TV. We talked the Illuminati. By the time we finally got back to his car at the trailhead, it was completely dark. We had made it, and it felt so good to be out of danger. He apologized for taking me through such a crazy, difficult trail. I said I had fun — probably more fun than if we had gone out to a movie and a nice restaurant.
This wasn’t really a “date” when we originally planned, but in retrospect it was. I went and visited him again that week and hung out more. We finally kissed. He said he wished he had done that at the top of the train tunnel, but didn’t have the guts to. I said I was waiting for it that whole time. That’s the thing — you can be so scared to do something because you don’t know how it will turn out, but in the end, it would have been just fine. This was September 21st, and we decided we were “officially a couple” on October 1st. In those short 9 or so days, we went rock climbing, scrambling on the boulders by Lake Tahoe, and skateboarding and rollerblading at the local skate park. I think we’ll get along pretty well.