There’s no doubt that Lake Tahoe is home to some of the most picturesque views in California. From the way the sun shimmers over the pure waters to the lush, forested landscape with rolling mountains framing the background, it’s no wonder so many couples choose to recite their vows at this naturally beautiful landmark. The West Shore Café and Inn is a wedding venue nestled right along the edges of Lake Tahoe in Homewood, California. It was the perfect choice for Danna and Matt’s elegant and refined summer wedding.
A Sophisticated Wedding at the West Shore Café & Inn
Danna and Matt’s wedding was truly one for the books. Not only were they getting married in the middle of a global pandemic, but the California wildfires that were wreaking havoc in 2021 were also threatening the Lake Tahoe region where the West Shore Café & Inn is located. If there’s anything to be learned from this couple’s wedding it is to always have a plan B. So many things went awry in the days leading up to their big day that many changes to their timeline had to be made. One thing that they could be certain of though was that their pictures would be amazing in the end.
When you hire a professional photographer, one of the qualities you’ll want to look for is their ability to roll with the punches. A wedding is such a huge affair comprised of many small details. Any one of those details could throw the lineup of the day off but in the hands of a professional, you’ll barely even notice the changes. Neither their DJ coming down with COVID or their best man’s car getting ransacked by a bear just that morning could stop Danna and Matt from saying ‘I do’ and I was so glad when I was chosen to join them at such a lovely lakeside wedding.
Wedding Morning Fun in Rustic Guest Suites
Danna and Matt went all out and booked the full wedding package at the West Shore Café. This meant that they had complete access to the full venue and its grounds and two of the inn’s grand suites all to themselves and their wedding party as they got ready in the morning. Danna spent the morning in hair and makeup surrounded by all of her gal pals and her two adorable flower girls. In the midst of the chaos of hair pins and satin, Danna made sure to take a moment to hand out small gifts she made for each of her bridesmaids. Meanwhile on the other side of the Inn in the homey and rustic Mckinney Bay Suite, Matt and his entourage were donning their tuxes and hanging out with drinks and finger sandwiches.
When the bride and groom were finally ready, they separately met up with their wedding party to take photos on the lawn near where their ceremony would be held. A couple of my favorite shots were the ones of the ladies lifting Matt up into the air and the guys hoisting Danna up. They’re such fun and silly poses but they perfectly captured the spirit of this adventurous, fun-loving couple. I always love getting photos of the bride with the groomsmen and the groom with the bridesmaids. Somehow, they always end up in ridiculous shenanigans while also being some of the most entertaining shots to capture.
An Enchanting Lakeside First Look and Ceremony
After some fun individual photos with their wedding party, Matt headed to the pier to wait for his first look with Danna. He stood at the end of the pier watching the waves lap gently in the bay, subtly rocking the sailboats docked in the waters. Although the skies were hazy with smoke from the forest fires, it was a quiet, serene moment as Danna walked up behind him. He turned to face her and the sight of Danna in a boho, flowing wedding gown and soft, beachy waves in her hair immediately brought a smile to his face. The couple posed for a few shots with a backdrop of forest trees fading into the horizon and seemingly endless waters behind them.
While Danna and Matt were on the pier, their guests were beginning to fill the rows of chairs set up on the West Shore’s private lawn. A wooden arbor overflowing with white flowers and lush greens overlooked the clear waters of Lake Tahoe. The sun made a guest appearance just in time for the ceremony to begin. Nestled within the tall aspen trees, the service felt intimate and idyllic. Finally, in spite of all of the chaos beyond their control, Danna and Matt recited their vows and shared a first kiss as husband and wife worthy of the movies.
Golden Hour Photography Overlooking Lake Tahoe
Danna and Matt left their wedding ceremony while being showered with handfuls of flower petals provided to their guests at the beginning of the event. Afterwards, they snuck off to share a few private moments together now that they were officially husband and wife as their guests enjoyed cocktail hour on the deck.
Originally, Danna and Matt had planned an intimate boat ride on the lake for some golden hour photos. However, due to the forest fires and the smoke that had rolled in over the water, they had to cancel the boat ride. Instead, they returned to the pier and the sandy lakeside beach below it and had their golden hour session there.
If you’re not familiar with a golden hour shoot, I highly recommend it. It’s an outdoor photo session that makes use of the short window of time right before the sun sets that has just the most perfect natural lighting. If you’re looking to capture shots of yourself and your partner that are magical without needing any filters, having a golden hour photo session would be for you! Plus, it gives you and your partner a moment away from the crowds of guests to bask in newlywed bliss. Even though the sky was still hazy with smoke and the sun was just barely able to break through, the soft natural lighting made Danna and Matt’s golden hour pictures absolutely breathtaking.
An Elegant Reception at West Shore Café & Inn
To further prove that nothing was going to stop their big day, Danna and Matt chose to move their reception into the West Shore’ lakefront dining room. They had planned for both cocktail hour and the reception to be outdoors on the deck and pier. However, they chose to move their reception inside just to be safe and avoid forcing their guests to be in the smoke from the fires for longer than needed. With floor to ceiling windows looking out onto Lake Tahoe, no one complained about the move inside.
Danna and Matt’s reception was a grand and entertaining affair. Even though they had to replace their DJ just the day before due to COVID, none of the guests were privy to any of the changes that were made throughout the day. Before the night ended, Danna and Matt captured just a few more photos together on the pier. Surrounded by the glow of lit garlands and the peaceful sounds of the water lapping against the shore, Danna and Matt ended the night with one final passionate kiss.
Considering your own lakeside wedding?
I’d love to be a part of your special day!
I’m Rachael Crowe of OkCrowe Photography. Although my home base is in Chattanooga, Tennessee, I’ll travel just about anywhere to make sure every moment of your wedding is captured in photos. I’m here to answer any of your questions and photograph every important moment of your big day. If you’re still on the lookout for the perfect wedding photographer, make sure you send me a chat! Visit my contact form to get your wedding started!
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