Overlooking the Pacific Ocean at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Costanoa Coastal Lodge and Camp fits Sarah McDowell and Gabriel Cade's vision of a dream wedding locale. The environmentally conscious lodge has the laid-back, feed-the-soul vibe they sought, promotes a wellness philosophy, and offers lots of hiking, mountain biking and kayaking.
Communal Spirit: A country backdrop sets the stage for a leisurely ambience. "We wanted the weekend to be like a retreat, where people could relax and really get to know each other," says Sarah. All 150 guests stayed on-property-some pitched tents, others opted for rooms with whirlpool tubs.
Informality Rules: An outdoor theme lends itself to a creative, less structured event. The night before the wedding, guests were invited to a barbecue where a naturalist lectured about bats, and everyone joined in a game of Capture the Flag. The next morning, they gathered for group yoga.
Simple Ceremony: Bagpipers and a gospel choir would be too showy for a wedding in the wild. Sarah and Gabe exchanged self-written vows in a short and sweet ceremony. A judge who is also a friend officiated on a grassy bluff overlooking the hills and ocean. In a meaningful "giving away" gesture, the walk down the aisle included the couple's parents, stepparents and siblings.
Artisanal Menua: Locally grown food is a must for an outdoor celebration. Sarah and Gabe, both vegetarians, served a buffet dinner that included vegetable napoleons and goat cheese and artichoke crostini. —Nancy Mattia
Vera Wang, verawang.com
CEREMONY AND RECEPTION SITE
Costanoa Coastal Lodge and Camp, costanoa.com
BRIDE'S AND BRIDESMAIDS' SHOES
K. Jacques, jildorshoes.com
Podesta Baldocchi, podestabaldocchi.com
Suzy Clement, suzyclement.com