stacy + justin – milagro winery ramona [real wedding]

I received an inquiry through my website about six weeks before their date, and they let me know that it would be an elopement with just their three daughters, and at one of my favorite venues, Milagro Winery in Ramona.  Since I already had a wedding booked for later that afternoon, I first had to see what time they were thinking – with enough time in between, I can definitely do a second wedding in a day, but I won’t say yes without lots of cushion.  Thankfully, they were thinking midday/early afternoon in order to not be in the way of rehearsals at the venue, so it worked out perfect!

Since they live elsewhere in California, the three of us met soon after via Zoom (I love meeting virtually with my out-of-town or very busy couples!) to talk about what they wanted and didn’t want from their ceremony, and then we walked through my process and how I work.  It’s super important that we are all the right fit for each other, and that they are up for doing homework for me – and, yes, even for my elopements!

They told me that they are not religious, and that the most important thing for them was to just be able to enjoy the moment.  Since they had both been married before, they didn’t need the “big and complicated” wedding, they said, and instead they wanted to create an intimate experience for them and their daughters (ages 18, 13, and 13), where they can all participate.  They had nothing specific in mind for ceremony content, so we talked a bit about some ritual ideas, including ways to include wine in the ceremony – when you’re getting married at a winery…

So, what did we create together?

We started with a beautiful and fitting quote from Maya Angelou: “Love recognizes no barriers.  It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”  Plus, these powerful words about marriage that were part of the Supreme Court decision bringing marriage equality nationwide: “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family.  In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”  They enjoyed these readings - “Marriage Joins Two People in the Circle of Its Love” by Edmund O'Neill and “My Love” by Linda Lee Elrod, so we included those, too.  And, they chose to include a wine blending ceremony – not only did they sip from their creation together, they also invited their daughters to do so as well, being integral parts to their marriage and their relationship.

Plus, as always, I included words about their relationship, how they feel about each other, and their visions of the future from the homework assignment they did for me – separately, so that I could pull in both of their voices.  This is just as meaningful in an elopement, I think, and it gives a great context for the vows that they then make to each other, kicking off their marriage in a love-filled and focused way.  As completely appropriate for their relationship, and always hoped for, there was a wonderful mixture of both laughter and tears!

Speaking about vows, Stacy and Justin to do something for their vows that was not only so fitting for them and their family, but greatly moved us all (yes, I was fighting tears too!).  They started with three vows questions that I asked each of them in turn – beautiful, sweet, important, and non-traditional questions.  Then, after they exchanged rings and their union was complete, we turned to the girls for some family vows and a very touching moment.  First, Stacy and Justin made promises to all three of their daughters, answering five touching and love- and support-filled questions.  Then, we asked all three girls to make three promises to each other and to their family, and they were really special!

I love how incredibly touching and powerful elopements can be, and I’m always honored and thrilled to do so when an awesome couple wants to make it really theirs!