A Fall Wedding on Top of a Vineyard in California

Planned by Karissa Paxton Events.

Kelsey and Michael Napa fall wedding

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

Kelsey Quickstad was only supposed to be in Minneapolis for six months when she moved from San Francisco in August 2017 for work . “I thought online dating would be a fun way to explore a new city,” she remembers. That’s how she came across Michael Smith, whom she met on Hinge. “We met just two weeks after I moved and have been together ever since our first date!” Kelsey never looked back.

“We got engaged in December 2020, a couple days before Christmas,” the couple shares. They were snowed in during a Minneapolis blizzard with their holiday flight to California cancelled. “We planned to have a cozy night in and make the best of it. But just as Kelsey was finishing her last Zoom meeting of the day, Michael called her out into their living room where he had candles lit and the Christmas tree lit up. There was snow coming down outside the windows,” they share. “He got down on one knee in our house in front of the Christmas tree. We didn’t have any bubbles to toast with, so we put on our snow boots and trekked across the street to Trader Joe’s and grabbed a bottle to celebrate. Kelsey couldn’t help not telling anyone, so the first person to really know we were engaged was the woman at Trader Joe’s who checked us out. She was so sweet and threw in a bouquet of flowers for us.”

Though she’d fallen in love in—and with—Minnesota, Kelsey had to return to California for her wedding. “We really wanted a classic California vibe: wine, sunshine, fresh food, beautiful scenery,” they share. Albatross Ridge fit the bill. “The views are stunning. You have vineyards and a view of the ocean and rolling hills. We also loved that it was a blank slate—the view could be the focal point. We gave our planner, Karissa Paxton, a few words when we started working together to try and sum up the vision: relaxed, unique, personal.” Speaking of personal, they hoped for homages to all the places they’d lived. “We wanted something that felt very California and highlighted all the natural beauty we had around us, but also gave a nod to Michael’s home state of South Dakota and the city we met in, Minneapolis.”

But, most importantly, they duo wanted their wedding to feel different. "Michael and I have both been to and in a lot of weddings, so it was important to us to have things that were unique or surprising; things people haven’t done or seen at a wedding before,” Kelsey says. “We weren’t really into super traditional wedding things like cake cutting, a bouquet toss, or wedding favors, and we didn’t want an overproduced wedding. We wanted something a bit more relaxed.” Michael’s vision, in particular, was simple: “A good time.” 

That’s exactly what Kelsey and Michael delivered for their nearly 200 guests on October 9, 2021. Keep scrolling to see all the pretty—and scenic—details of their big day in Carmel Valley, California, planned by Karissa Paxton Events and photographed by Golden West.

wedding invitation suite

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

For color palette, “we wanted to complement the venue, the colors of the vineyard, and the time of year,” Kelsey says. “We didn’t stick to just a couple colors but focused on using copper, rust, gold, rose gold, and green.” One of the bride’s best friends is the artist behind Ali Marie Design. “She designed all of our invite suites, created a logo that was used in a wax seal, and handmade all the signage and menus,” Kelsey says. Their wedding hashtag? “#iMNlove, to represent where we fell in love and where we live. We wanted to highlight this part of our life together.”

wedding dress hanging on a vintage trailer

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

bride getting makeup done

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

Kelsey got regular facials leading up to the wedding, and added in dermaplaning, exfoliating facials, and collagen masks. “Moisturizing was also big for me,” she says. “I already have drier skin, so this was key to making sure I didn’t have a caked-on look the day of.” Her makeup was minimalistic and glowy—but it was her hair that stole the show. “I am pretty proud of having red hair, so I think that was a bold enough look,” she says. She wore it pulled back to showcase her gown’s open back.

bride in wedding gown with her mom

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

bride in wedding dress with her dad

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

After trying on PronoviasEureka dress at the second bridal salon she stopped at, Kelsey cancelled her third appointment. “It was timeless and a very clean, classic look,” she remembers. “Wedding dress shopping can bring out a lot of body insecurities, but I felt so good in the dress—the fit and the way it hugged my curves. My mother-in-law had also been quiet in her opinions so far in the day; she spoke up when I put that dress on!” Still, she wanted to make it her own. “Jennifer, the owner of Che Bella, had a lot of experience in alterations, so she was able to make suggestions on how I could narrow the straps and make some minor adjustments,” Kelsey says. “Her eye was ultimately what sold me on the small things I could do to make this dress mine.”

To complete her look, Kelsey wore a veil by Miss Allaneous, earrings from Etsy, her grandmother’s pearl bracelet, and a pop-of-color shoe by Michael Kors. She also accessorized her bouquet with brooches from both of her grandmothers and one of Michael’s grandmothers.

groom putting tie on

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

groom in blue suit

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

Michael spent a relaxing morning watching cartoons with his nephews before suiting up. He donned a blue suit from Pal Zileri. “There was cool hand-stitching on the lapels of the jacket, and the inside had a fun pop of maroon,” Kelsey says. He also paid homage to his family in the accessories, wearing a pair of his grandfather’s cufflinks. 

ceremony space overlooking the mountains

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

asymmetrical autumn floral arch

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

“We were pretty speechless the first time we saw the view, and rode the Gator through the vineyards up to the ceremony spot,” Kelsey remembers of touring Albatross Ridge. “It was a blank slate but we could see how unique and special of a place it was, and the amazing experience we could make for our guests up there.” So, they let the epic view do most of the talking when it came to ceremony decor, adding just a few key pieces. “The altar was framed with two asymmetrical structures."

"We also had really cool arrangements at the back of the aisle with big pieces of aloe; we worked with Seascape Flowers on using native California flowers and plants. The highlight was the mix of wooden church pews and bright gold chairs. This was a fun decision," notes the bride. "I was a bit unsure of it, but in the end it was one of my favorite details. It felt really unexpected.”

bride walking down the aisle with dad

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

A ukulele duo provided the ceremony music, strumming “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” during the prelude, then “Here Comes the Sun” as the bride walked down the aisle with her father. “This was an extremely special moment, as my father had undergone heart surgery and radiation therapy earlier in the year,” Kelsey shares. “We were so happy that he was strong and healthy that day.”

couple exchanging vows

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

The couple wrote their own vows, each “a mix of funny anecdotes and promises to each other,” Kelsey says. “One thing we both had in common in our vows was to recognize our differences—mostly between my childhood in Silicon Valley and Michael’s experience growing up in a small farming town in South Dakota—but also the important things we had in common: our values, our love for family and friends, travel, and exploring new places. Michael is a man of few words typically, so him writing his own vows was a big deal and really special not only to me but all our guests, too.”

couple recessing down the aisle

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

bride sabering Champagne

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

After recessing out to “I’ll be There for You,” the couple stopped at the end of the aisle for a special treat: sabering a Champagne bottle. “It was a fun, unexpected flair,” Kelsey says.

handmade wooden bar for cocktail hour

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

custom signature drink menu

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

Decor at cocktail hour was a family affair. “My mom’s boyfriend is a skilled carpenter and used wood from my dad’s property in Tahoe to build the beautiful double-sided back bar, which was a focal piece through the cocktail hour and reception; my mom also sewed 30 pillowcases for the lounge areas,” Kelsey says. “My friend Ali designed the label we put on mini Champagne bottles that served as post-ceremony drinks and the escort cards.”

They paid homage to their hometowns with a trio of signature cocktails: a Pacific Paloma, South Dakota Spritz, and Minneapolis Mule. The ukuleles—a husband-and-wife duo!—kept up for cocktail hour. “We asked them to do a bunch of ’80s cover songs at the cocktail hour," shares the bride.

couple at the top of a mountain

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

couple holding hands

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

newlyweds kiss at golden hour

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

“After the ceremony, we took a bunch of photos at the top of the hill. It came down to just me, Michael, and photographer—then the photographer jumped into one of the golf carts to head downhill to the cocktail hour. We quickly realized the car that was supposed to bring us down to the cocktail hour had also taken off with our parents in it and left us; we were stuck at the top of hill and could see the party starting without us down below!” Kelsey remembers.

“I was a little worried and wanted to get down to the festivities, but Michael grabbed my hand and said, ‘This is the only time we’re going to be alone just the two of us tonight. This is actually a really cool moment.’ He was so right and it turned into a sweet moment we both remember as a top memory from the day.” She adds with a laugh: “Eventually Karissa realized we were stuck and came to get us in her car! We giggled the whole way down.”

table set for reception

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

centerpieces down a long table at reception

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

place settings with custom menu

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

“The vision I had for the dinner was the most clear to me going into the planning process,” Kelsey shares. “I wanted long wood tables with no linens and lots of candles and greenery running down the center of the table.” She continues, “For the centerpieces we used greenery, grasses, big pieces of aloe, succulents, and pomegranates. We kept with the golden tones and used rose gold bistro chairs, chargers, rose gold mercury glass candles, and these beautiful amber-colored glasses.”

guests enjoying dinner

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

colorful vegetable dish

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

What she envisioned, in short, was “a big, classic California dinner party.” At home they love to entertain and have friends over, so that’s exactly the vibe Kelsey and Michael wanted to recreate for their wedding. “We were making it about the people, and just having a good time with all our favorites in one place,” they share. “There wasn’t a lot of pomp and circumstance or structure. We wanted to give people a chance to visit and hang out. We sat our friends who didn’t know each other—but who we knew would hit it off—together. We created a lot of moments for people to get to know each other beyond just the actual wedding day.”

As for the food, the menu was quintessential California, with a few Midwestern meat-and-potatoes additions. “We served Albatross Ridge wines, which came from the vineyards where dinner took place, and wines from SummitVine, the wine label of my aunt and uncle in Napa.” 

bride and groom's first dance

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

The groom was in charge of picking the first dance song, which was a surprise to the bride.

bride dances with her father

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

groom dances with his mother

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

“The groom was in charge of picking the first dance song, which was a surprise to the bride until their first dance,” the couple shares. He went with “Amazed” by Lonestar. “Then we did a combined parents' dance to ‘My Wish’ by Rascal Flatts.

The special dances kicked off the party. “While I am the one more likely to be hitting the dance floor, Michael is a big ’80s music fan and curated the band’s playlist with some of his favorites,” Kelsey shares. “[Our band], The Boombox, is still one of the most talked about parts of the wedding! They were super talented and the music was so great. But the best part was how we saw everyone—even the non-dancers—out on the dance floor at some point. The band brought everyone together in a really cool way. It was one big dance party on top of a beautiful vineyard—it doesn’t get much better.”

newlyweds enter the party

Photo by Molly Gilhom for Golden West

The newlyweds stopped in Arizona after the wedding for a minimoon, exploring the Grand Canyon then relaxing by the pool in Scottsdale as they reflected on their perfect day—one they did their own way. “Don’t do things just because you think you’re ‘supposed’ to,” they advise other couples. “And, in the decision-making process: when in doubt, simplify.”

Wedding Team

Venue Albatross Ridge 

Wedding Planner Karissa Paxton Events 

Bridal Designer Pronovias 

Veil Miss Allaneous

Bridal Salon Che Bella 

Bride’s Earrings Chic Maddies

Bride’s Shoes Michael Kors

Bride’s Hair and Makeup Blush Hair & Makeup Design

Bridesmaids’ Dresses Jenny Yoo

Mother of the Bride’s Dress BHLDN 

Groom’s Attire Pal Zileri styled at Martin Patrick 3; Tie: Luciano Barbera

Engagement Ring Susie Saltzman

Wedding Bands Filigree Jewelers

Officiant Dirk Damonte

Floral Designer Seascape Flowers

Invitations & Signage Ali Marie Design

Invitation Printers Sentinel Printers 

Guest Book After the Tone

Music Ceremony: Midnight Tacos from Jazz Mafia; Reception: The Boombox

Audio Trant Pro Audio from Jazz Mafia

Catering Urban Organics 

Bar and Beverages Bar Cart Cocktail Co. 

Cupcakes Edith Meyer Wedding Cakes

Rentals Ace Portable Services; Bright Event Rentals; Chic Event Rentals 

Transportation Aits, Inc.; Main Event Transportation

Accommodations Hidden Valley Inn

Videographer Estrella Films 

Photographer Golden West

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