Exclusive: Dan Merica and Monica Alba’s Rustic Wedding on Lake Tahoe

The reporters wed in an event planned by Cloud Nine Event Company

bride and groom

Photo by Theilen Photography 

When political reporters Monica Alba and Dan Merica met in August 2015, they were competitors as much as they were friends. Both assigned to cover Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential run for their respective networks, Monica (for NBC) and Dan (for CNN) followed the campaign across the country, "working to help each other cover the massive campaign while also trying to best each other on any scrap of information out there," she admits. Over the course of six months and dozens of states, they eventually bonded over gallons of coffee, a shared sense of exhaustion, and a mutual love for sweet potato fries. However, it wasn't until they attended a friend's wedding together in May 2016 that they realized their campaign "fling" wasn't a fling at all. A year after the election, Dan proposed on the steps of their home in Washington, D.C.—though the moment was, as Monica admits, "oddly and also maybe quite appropriately foiled by breaking news" when she got called back to the White House for work. "Looking back, of course, it made the story even more memorable," she says.

Since their relationship flourished on the road, it was only fitting that Monica and Dan took their nuptials across the country to the western shores of Lake Tahoe, a destination situated between their home states of California and Nevada. "Tahoe is truly our definition of heaven on earth," she says. The day before the wedding, the couple invited guests to join them on a hike, another activity they bonded over on the campaign trail. "It was incredibly moving to see all these people we love, in a place we love, doing something we love," Dan says.

Read on to see how Monica and Dan's campaign trail romance led to a beautiful lakefront celebration, as planned by Cloud Nine Event Company and photographed by Theilen Photography.

first look
Photo by Theilen Photography
Groom wiping tears
Photo by Theilen Photography
Bride and groom
Photo by Theilen Photography

On the big day, the couple opted to do a first look before the ceremony so they could spend time together, snap some portraits, and reveal their big-day looks! Dan wore a dark navy two-piece suit by SuitSupply and custom cufflinks designed to match a pair owned by his late grandfather. Monica opted for a custom Mira Zwillinger sheath gown featuring a deep V-neckline, embroidered lace, and floral appliqués. For a special touch, she had a piece of her mother's wedding dress sewn into the skirt of her gown.

Photo by Theilen Photography
Photo by Theilen Photography 

The bride accessorized with Jimmy Choo heels, Monica Vinader earrings, and a bracelet from her grandmother who was unable to attend the wedding. For her bouquet, Monica opted for wildflowers in shades of bright orange, pink, and blue to complement the natural beauty of the wooded setting.

ceremony venue
Photo by Theilen Photography
chair decor
Photo by Theilen Photography 

The ceremony was set in front of the lake, "with the gentle lapping of the shore serving as our primary ceremony soundtrack," describes the bride. The couple kept the ceremony décor minimal with garlands on greenery and wildflowers lining the aisle and a backdrop of boats in the distance.

wedding officiant
Photo by Theilen Photography 

Monica was escorted down the aisle by her father, who recorded the walk on a miniature camera. "I always joked with my dad that he would probably wear a GoPro on his head or chest for our walk down the aisle," Monica says with laugh. "This was the next best thing. I loved it."

Once at the altar, the couple's officiant, Monica's brother-in-law, kicked off the proceedings with a few heartfelt and humorous reflections. He carried a "Britney Spears'-style wireless microphone," which Monica says warranted a few chuckles from guests.

bride and groom laughing
Photo by Theilen Photography
lazo ceremony
Photo by Theilen Photography

Dan and Monica spent a lot of time hand-crafting their ceremony, making sure it both was personal and reflective of their relationship. The couple chose four readings, each representing a different aspect of their romance: adventure, commitment, humor, and love. They called upon siblings, relatives, friends, and fellow journalists to read the different passages. According to Monica, The Office monologue, which represented humor, was delivered "perfectly" by Peter Alexander of NBC News.

The couple also incorporated a Mexican wedding tradition into the ceremony to honor Monica's heritage. During this tradition, their mothers draped a "lazo" over the couple in a figure eight to represent eternal love in their marriage.

first kiss
Photo by Theilen Photography
ceremony kiss
Photo by Theilen Photography

Dan and Monica wrote their own vows, both referring to their romance on the campaign trail and the adventures they have experienced together. "We both write and report for a living but actually crafting and then delivering them in front of everyone we care about was so meaningful for us, " she recalls.

Escort card display
Photo by Theilen Photography 

Following the ceremony, guests walked to a nearby dock for a night of drinks, dinner, and dancing along the lake. The couple commissioned Fontine Letterie to create a custom wooden escort card display that fit right at home within the natural scenery. Unsurprisingly, tables were named after different states, reminiscent of Dan and Monica's journey to love.

Photo by Theilen Photography
canoe of beer
Photo by Theilen Photography 

Cocktail hour was complete with two signature cocktails—a Mezcal margarita and an old-fashioned—and the couple's must-have addition: beer served from a beer canoe! "It took awhile to find the right canoe," admits the bride. "In the end, we got a great rental from the Bay Area, and it was one of our favorite touches."

bride and groom
Photo by Theilen Photography 

The couple tackled another DIY project together. "We decided not to do a traditional guestbook and instead went on a hunt for vintage skis to have people sign those instead," Monica says. "We plan on displaying them in our home."

dinner table on the dock
Photo by Theilen Photography
table setting
Photo by Theilen Photography 

Dinner was set on the dock, where farm tables were decorated with rose gold flatware, neutral table runners, and lush garlands of greenery and wildflowers.

The night's menu showcased the best of western shore cuisine with fresh dishes such as watermelon gazpacho, herb-crusted filet, bacon-wrapped shrimp, and lamb lollipops.

dinner on the dock
Photo by Theilen Photography 
first dance
Photo by Theilen Photography 
dancefloor kiss
Photo by Theilen Photography 

For their first dance, the dock transformed into a dance floor as the newlyweds swayed to "Someone Like You” by Van Morrison. This was followed by five kinds of pie for dessert, a late-night round of pork belly tacos, flatbreads, and french fries—and, of course, more dancing.

After the wedding, Dan and Monica honeymooned in Rwanda and Tanzania before returning to a familiar place, covering the 2020 presidential election. And while they are back on the job—this time, as newlyweds!—Dan says they will always have the 2016 election to thank for their relationship. "We know that, for some people, 2016 may be associated with trauma and let down," he says. "For us, though, it was the greatest assignment we’ve ever had and easily the one we are most grateful for."

Wedding Team

Ceremony & Reception Venue: West Shore Cafe & Inn

Wedding Planner: Cloud Nine Event Company

Officiant: J.P. Alanis

Bride's Dress: Mira Zwillinger

Bride's Veil: Mira Zwillinger

Bride's Earrings: Monica Vinader

Bride's Shoes: Jimmy Choo

Bride's Hair & Makeup: RAH Hair Studio

Groom's Attire: SuitSupply

Florist: B&B Designs

Paper Products: Wide Eyes Paper Co.

Escort Card Display: Fontine Letterie

Beer Canoe: Canoejack

Ceremony Music: Ike & Martin

Reception Music: Extreme Productions

Photo Booth: Epics Photo Booth

Catering: West Shore Cafe

Pies: Flour Girl Wedding Cakes

Rentals: Celebrations Party Rentals

Favors: Elizabeth & Marin

Transportation: Northstar Transportation

Accommodations: Resort at Squaw Creek

Videography: Johnny B Films

Photography: Theilen Photography

Related Stories