Cinnamon & Kevin's intimate forest romp with a little rock 'n' roll

Updated Oct 12 2015

Offbeat Brides have been submitting lots of gorgeous woodsy weddings, so we've compiled a few of our favorites in a forest theme week including this small wedding at a private rental house

Photos by Laurel Dailey and Dustin Giallanza
Photos by Laurel Dailey

The offbeat bride: Cinnamon, Director of Digital Production for a marketing agency (aka pixel mover and manager)

Her offbeat partner: Kevin, Teardown Analyst (he tears apart electronics and figures out how much they cost to make)

Date and location of wedding: The Trees, a private rental house in Occidental, CA — August 27, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Kevin proposed on a bridge in Paris. I wanted to elope while we were there, but it was important to him to have celebrate with family. So, we compromised with a "real wedding," as long as it was very intimate with less than 20 people.


When trying to figure out where we should have the wedding, I kept coming back to our shared love of big trees. Kevin is an avid backpacker and loves nothing more than spending his nights amongst the trees and rivers. I spent most of my young life in Northern California and am never more at peace than when I'm surrounded by Redwoods.

Photos by Laurel Dailey and Dustin Giallanza
Photos by Laurel Dailey and Dustin Giallanza
Photos by Laurel Dailey and Dustin Giallanza

Initially, I looked into the little chapel in Yosemite or one of those trees you drive through in the Avenue of the Giants. But, I also wanted to make sure that actually getting to our wedding wasn't a complete chore for our families and guests. The location needed to be near-ish to a major international airport (since most of our friends live out-of-state/country) and, preferably, was easy driving distance for my parents in Sacramento (since my stepfather can't really fly any more).

Photos by Laurel Dailey and Dustin Giallanza

I decided to start looking for a house in Northern California that would have a backyard location for the ceremony. That's when I found The Trees in Occidental. I wrote to Barbara Gonnella, the owner, asking if we would be able to rent the house and host our wedding there (since I know many owners don't want events on their property). I wrote, "There will be no band or DJ, no Macarena, no garter dance, no best man toasts or bridesmaids. Just my fiance and me, saying our vows, in an intimate ceremony with our families and our very best friends."

Photos by Laurel Dailey and Dustin Giallanza
Photos by Laurel Dailey and Dustin Giallanza
Photos by Laurel Dailey and Dustin Giallanza

My plea worked and she agreed. It turns out that she also owned two other properties nearby, so we rented those for our friends and family members. And I asked her to cater from the nearby Union Hotel, which she also owns, which meant we got a deal and she pre-provided all of the glasses and flatware in the house where we were staying.

Photos by Laurel Dailey and Dustin Giallanza

Kevin's daughter Brittany did my hair. My friend, Suzanne went to the San Francisco Flower Mart and created all my arrangements using found vases in the rental houses. I asked my friend, Laurel Dailey (with whom I worked ages ago), to be my photographer because she already knows Kevin and me and her photos always look like an early 1970s CSNY album cover.

Photos by Laurel Dailey and Dustin Giallanza

I asked my friend Melissa, who is a professional violinist, to play "Falling Slowly" (the Glen Hansard theme from the film ONCE, a movie Kevin and I saw early in our courtship that made us both cry) as I walked down the aisle. We asked our friend, Jeffro, who had been ordained by Universal Life to be our officiant and tell some funny stories (which he does better than anyone we know).

Photos by Laurel Dailey and Dustin Giallanza

The house had a jukebox, so, instead of a band or iPod playlist, people could just pick songs from the jukebox. It was like everyone who attended the wedding helped make our wedding mix tape. We also brought guitars and sat around the living room, singing Gram Parsons and Johnny Cash songs until 1:00 a.m.

Kevin made our cake stand himself out of particle board and old records. He made it so it could break down and we could pack it in our suitcase. Music is such a huge part of our lives, and all of these musical elements helped to celebrate that.

Photos by Laurel Dailey and Dustin Giallanza

Photos by Laurel Dailey and Dustin GiallanzaTell us about the ceremony: I used a lot of items I already owned (vintage tablecloths, old books, antique postcards) and some that I had grown up with and borrowed from my mom (antique binoculars, old suitcase, mom's necklace, and grandma's cameo).

My funniest moment: Our reverend was our hilarious (and talented) friend, Jeffro. During the part of our ceremony where I was stating my (somewhat teary and off-the-cuff) vows to Kevin, I said something like, "No one makes me laugh more than you do."

And Kevin said, "Except maybe Jeffro."

Photos by Laurel Dailey and Dustin Giallanza

Photos by Laurel Dailey and Dustin Giallanza

My advice for Offbeat Brides: Pinterest allows an easy way to create mood boards or tag things for later use. Use it (or one of the other sites like it) to get your inspiration together. Colors, styles, links to editorial photos, etc.

But at the end of the day, figure out what is a MUST for your wedding day (not just a "nice to have") and start ranking things in that order. It makes it easier if you need to stay within a budget or need to get married at a certain time.

Make sure your guests know what to expect if you are doing something unconventional, such as leading your guests on a one-mile hike to the beach. Make sure they don't show up in stiletto heels.

Photos by Laurel Dailey and Dustin Giallanza
Photos by Laurel Dailey and Dustin Giallanza

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

  1. I actually teared up reading about your magical day. I hope to have a eerily similar wedding in less than 60 days. Our theme, size, lack of dancing, and having friends/family be integrally part of the day will be the same. I am currently stressing out over the details…but seeing the pictures from how beautifully yours turned out gives me hope. Thank you for sharing..and Congratulations!

    • Thank you so much, Amber! I'm sure your day will be lovely & gorgeous. I was a little stressed about the details, too (since we did just about everything ourselves — including renting a pickup truck & packing all of the rental furniture into it to save on delivery). It was a relaxed & fun party that both we and our friends/families still talk about. Good luck & congratulations!

    • Thank you! My sweet friend, Suzanne, while not a professional florist, has a wonderful eye & a natural talent. I had told her that I wanted it to feel like it was "just picked," as opposed to "overly arranged." She did a perfect job.

  2. Lovely couple and a lovely wedding! I had no idea that property existed. It is gorgeous. We actually had our rehearsal dinner (for 80 people!) at the Union Hotel, out on the patio. It was a magical night. Filled with family, friends, wine and yummy family-style Italian food. I do recommend working with Barbara for anyone interested in a west Sonoma County wedding. Also, it's kinda cool having a party in Occidental because there is no cell reception. No one spent the night bent over their phones.

    • Kate:
      You are totally right. No cell reception made it a teensy difficult when a couple of folks had a delayed flight, but, once there, all of the properties had landlines we could use. I think the only "phone" usage during the wedding was for the camera! Isn't the Union Hotel fabulous, by the way? I love that back room that looks like it's right out of the 1930s.

  3. This is amazing!!! I love the serene intimacy of it. I do want to dance because I am a dancing machine, and so are my kids. But Wow, this venue makes me giddy.

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