If the phrase “Asset Management Conference” doesn’t immediately make your heart skip a beat, Christine Ong Kashkari and Neel Kashkari’s story might just leave you feeling otherwise. After all, that’s where this twosome met in the summer of 2012, and after a year of bi-coastal dating, they were engaged and living together in California. But where would they tie the knot? “We loved the idea of getting married at a California state park," the bride says. "California has been home to my husband for over a decade, and he’s had a cabin he loves up in the mountains of Tahoe for over a decade.”
The question quickly became, "How do we transform one of the nations most beautiful parks to become a wedding venue?" The answer was by not doing much! With a sprawling lawn, distant mountains, and picturesque Lake Tahoe all on the grounds, Hellman Ehrman Mansion at Sugar Pine Point Park in California put this bride and groom way ahead of the game when it came to breathtaking wedding décor. “We wanted to work with the natural beauty of the place,” Christine explains. “We didn’t want to transform it, but just to enhance it” And so, on August 15, 2015, with planner Scott Corridan there to create a space that was somehow both effortless and awe-inspiring all at once, Christine and Neel became husband and wife. Lucky for us, Melina Wallisch Photography was there to capture it all.
While many brides search near and far for their wedding dress, Christine found the perfect gown right in the comfort of her own home. "I saw my dress online, where I do 90% of my shopping, and it was that wonderful mix of contradictions that gave it such a unique appeal for me," she says. "Vintage-inspired yet contemporary. Demure but sexy.” After trying on just one other gown (another online buy!) it was clear that the first Monique Lhuiller wedding dress was the winner — and for good reason. The romantic silk gown featured sheer lace sleeves and an elegant short train. For some added drama, the simple silhouette was enhanced with a gorgeous scoop back and intricate lace detailing.
“My mindset going in was that there’d be a million dresses that I’d love and it would be so easy to get distracted and confused with the many, many options out there.” she says. "I think if you have a good sense of the look or feel you’re trying to achieve, and a strong understanding and appreciation of what looks good on you, it would help immensely in finding a dress to match your style inspiration and budget.”
When it came to accessories, Christine kept things simple, wearing only the vintage-style diamond earrings gifted to her by Neel when they first started dating. As for her shoes, anyone who’s ever been to an outdoor wedding knows the right footwear makes all the difference, and this bride nailed it with leather and lace Nicholas Kirkwood sandals that had a stacked heel. “They were perfect for walking in a park,” she says.
The bride held a hand-tied bouquet of peonies, roses, dahlias, and a few sprigs of lavender, all wrapped with a strip of burlap. The natural arrangement perfectly complemented the day’s organic feel — and its soft, neutral colors lent a romantic note to the venue’s otherwise rustic elements.
For his outfit, the groom wore his favorite blue suit and a silk Canali tie, a gift from Christine. While Neel’s western-style boots look might seem like a fashion-forward choice, the bride admits that her groom's choice of footwear was never up for consideration. “Unlike me, my husband only wears three kinds of shoes: black shoes for work, tennis shoes to the gym, and boots to go out.”
With a spectacular view of Lake Tahoe as the ceremony’s backdrop, the couple didn’t have to do much in terms of décor. But we’re so glad they did. Guests sat on either side of a petal-strewn aisle that led the way to a wooden arch covered in greenery and white flowers.
The bride walked down the aisle with her father, who wore a traditional Philippine Barong Tagalog to reflect the family’s Chinese and Philippine ancestry. A formal shirt weaved from pineapple leaf fibers, it’s easily one of the most unique father-of-the-bride looks we’ve seen.
Instead of reciting traditional vows, the couple enlisted the help of friends and family to recite a few selected readings, including a poem entitled “The Lovely Dinosaur” by Edward Monkton. While the ceremony provided some of the most heartwarming moments of the day, it also provided some of the funniest. “We put the rings on the wrong hand initially, but corrected it with the officiant declaring the wedding still valid to everyone’s laughter,” Christine says.
With the ceremony complete (and official!) guests made their way to the mansion’s garden where antique furniture was placed throughout the lawn. A combination of upholstered loveseats, chairs, sofas, and futons provided charming and comfortable areas for guests to mingle. Everything from marble stands to tree-stumps served as end tables, making the space feel at one with nature. An especially inventive detail? Birch branches that doubled as both table décor and escort-card holders.
In the very center of this open-air celebration stood a single free-standing wall, complete with crown molding, shelves, and ornate picture frames that looked clear through to the other side. This inventive “photo-booth” was a hit among guests and we love the way the quirky snapshots became part of the decoration.
During the reception, guests sat at long wooden dining tables decorated with simple linen runners. Low arrangements inspired by the bride’s bouquet were placed in glass vases on every table along with lanterns of varying sizes and materials. Crystal glasses and neutral colored dishes with a minimalist border completed the look. To ensure their seats stood out, the bride and groom decorated their chair backs with a lush green garland studded with flowers.
The entire area was sectioned off by string lights and hanging crystals — a brilliant way to ensure the area looked festive both day and night.
Rather than treating seating as just a numbers game, Christine and Neel took great care in deciding where their friends and family would sit. “We made extra effort to make sure we were thoughtful in seating guests together and that we not only had a good mix of his and my friends and family, but that they’d have an interesting and complementary set of experiences and background to encourage lively conversation," the thoughtful bride says. "It was honestly such a pleasure to hear from a lot of people independently how much they enjoyed their table.”
As with any reception, music played an important role, but this couple’s selection hit a little closer to home. “We had a live jazz band playing before the start of the ceremony and after. We both love jazz music and always catch a jazz show whenever we’re in New York.” So it was The Turnaround Jazz Quartet from San Francisco that had guests up and dancing all night.
Dessert always makes our eyes grow wide, but this time it wasn’t just because of our sweet tooth. Illuminated by candles under a moonlight sky, this dessert table was a showstopper in it’s own right. The couple's white, three-tiered cake was decorated with pinecones and ribbon.
All in all, it was a gorgeous night capable of making even the most hardened city-slicker wish they were more of an outdoorsy-type. With such an unbelievable setting, it’s easy to assume the planning process would have been overwhelming, but Christine’s advice to future brides makes it feel within reach. “Keep it simple, authentic, and true to yourselves,” she says.
Ceremony & Reception Venue: Sugar Pine Point Park || Planner: Scott Corridan || Bride's Wedding Dress: Monique Lhuillier || Wedding Bands & Bride's Jewelry: Tiffany & Co. || Photographer: Melina Wallisch Photography