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Amanda & Joachim’s Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding


Look, you have to love a woman who had intravenous antibiotics on her wedding morning to treat an aggressive UTI (God do I feel that), and said, “If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t change a single thing. Not one.” Bad-*ss. And after yesterdays pre-engaged discussion, I thought Amanda’s intention to propose to her partner was an important reminder of how much power we strong-headed independent women really have. So here is Amanda, and her once in a lifetime party that changed nothing for her (but still rocked her world):

Amanda & Joachims Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding | A Practical Wedding

When Joachim asked me to marry him last year on the shores of Lake Malawi, I screamed “but I was going to ask YOU!”  I had been thinking about it everyday for the previous three months, and couldn’t wait to ask him. I would day dream about how surprised he would be, how quickly he’d say yes, and how we’d stay up late talking about the kind of wedding we wanted to have. And that’s exactly what we did. Apparently he’d also been thinking about proposing for about the same time period, and had a similar idea about when to do it. Luckily, we were also on the same page in terms of wedding planning from day one. We wanted to have a small, laid-back, weekend long camping-style wedding, with our priorities (in rank order) being friends and family, good food, good (and plentiful) alcohol, and a beautiful natural location.

Amanda & Joachims Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding | A Practical Wedding

Amanda & Joachims Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding | A Practical Wedding

Because I am from Alabama and Joachim is from Belgium and we’ve both made several big moves during our adult lives, our loved ones are spread all over the globe and our families hadn’t met before the wedding. So the wedding ended up being like a giant “reunion” of all the different points in each of our lives.

Amanda & Joachims Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding | A Practical Wedding

It was so bizarre to look around the grounds and see all the people that I love and that Joachim loves, and that had made us into the people that we are, all in one place, getting to know each other, drinking wine together, telling stories around the campfire and laughing late into the night. The wedding weekend was an absolute blast in every way, but the coming together of our pasts was the single best gift I received, and such a fitting way to make promises to each other about our future.

Amanda & Joachims Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding | A Practical Wedding

During the ceremony, my sister (the officiant) said: “It may seem unlikely that a European, motorcycle-driving, death metal listening, long-haired astrophysicist and a Southern, Chic-Fil-A loving, mandolin picking, strong-headed independent woman would fall in love and build a life together in some mountains in California, but they have… Their individual differences make their relationship exciting and entirely unique.” And this is sort of a microcosm of the weekend. Joachim’s Belgian uncles finally got to ask my dad all about the gun collection they had seen in pictures from my family’s Christmas (yes, we shot guns on Christmas Eve!), and we had a perfect balance of American and European style men’s swimsuits! It really was a once in a lifetime event – it’ll never happen again, all those people in one place.

Amanda & Joachims Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding | A Practical Wedding

Amanda & Joachims Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding | A Practical Wedding

Of course, not everything went well. I had a UTI-from-hell in the two weeks leading up to the wedding, which culminated in me having aggressive intravenous antibiotic treatment on the morning we drove up to the wedding site. A few key people weren’t able to make it, and their absences left some pretty gaping holes.

Amanda & Joachims Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding | A Practical Wedding

It was over 100 degrees during the ceremony, so instead of focusing on my vows or the readings, I could only think about the sweat dripping down my entire body and how to keep from passing out. But time has a funny (and fortunate) way of dimming those memories, only leaving an image of the amazing weekend that it really was. If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t change a single thing. Not one.

Amanda & Joachims Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding | A Practical Wedding

In terms of the practicality of putting on a wedding weekend, we did almost everything ourselves (read: we planned and organized and our AMAZING friends did everything else). We self-catered two breakfasts, two lunches, and a Friday night filet mignon feast for all sixty people. My mother and I spent $300 at the SF Flower Mart, and the two of us and my mother-in-law arranged them. I designed and printed all the programs and welcome packets, and Joachim built a kegerator.

Amanda & Joachims Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding | A Practical Wedding

My sister was the officiant (she was deputized for a day), and she did my hair. We used the plates and silverware from the wedding site, and I bought wine glasses, champagne glasses, and mason jars from thrift stores and post-wedding couples. I also bought the tablecloths, cloth napkins, runners, vases, and other little pieces of the decor from four different couples that had them left over after their own weddings.

Amanda & Joachims Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding | A Practical Wedding

I really liked the idea of being surrounded by aesthetically pleasing tidbits that had played a part in other people’s homegrown weddings. The personalized decor was made by my uber-talented mother-in-law – I am not a hoarder, but even I can’t bring myself to throw away the sixty beautiful hand made napkin rings. We collected about 20 hours of music including slow folksy bluegrass for me, heavy metal for him, and eighties classics for everyone else. Then, a couple of friends ipod DJ-ed it on the spot. I’m not a huge dancer type, so I was a little shocked when our wedding turned into the dance party of the century. We (and I do mean all of us, older folks included) danced our assess off under the stars on a tiny wooden dance floor until 2am.

Amanda & Joachims Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding | A Practical Wedding

We’ve only been married four and a half months, but so far I haven’t felt any shift in our relationship. I’m as madly in love as I ever was, and so far I feel exactly the same as I did before – in awe of my luck at finding such an amazing soul to share my life with. Meg described the hugeness of the vows as: “It’s about promising to be each others family. It’s about being there through all the births, the infertility, the parenthood. Being there through all the illnesses, the hospitalizations, the tests, the fear, and the pain. It’s about being there until we die. It’s about putting each other into the ground.” But for me, that came before the wedding and the marriage. Long before. We’d already built a life together, made a home together, made sacrifices for each other and our relationship. We’d shared money, owned property together, and planned to stay together forever, marriage or not.  So, I’m probably in the minority here, but the wedding hasn’t changed anything for me or for our relationship. For us, it really was just a party – an amazing, once in a lifetime, (almost) everyone there party. And I’m okay with that

Amanda & Joachims Rancho Cicada Retreat Wedding | A Practical Wedding

Photos By: Diane Jago, and a few by various guests.

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  • http://i-doux.blogspot.com Hannah

    These wedding photos are probably the most gorgeous ever. So incredibly beautiful.

  • Cass

    “It’s about promising to be each others family.”
    Exactly.
    Throughout my whole relationship with my fiance, this is what I’ve reminded him of in those dark moments when one of us has questioned the whole ‘marriage’ thing. (A totally healthy thing in my opinion – it shows we’re really thinking about what it means to get married.)
    Marriage is saying “I chose you to be my new family forever.”
    As much as you may love your own families, where you came from, a wedding is that part when “a mean leaves his father and cleaves to his wife.” – an archaic, but very powerful image from the Bible.

    • Christine

      Hi cass, it is strong indeed. What the post and many others have shown us is weddings are a celebration of the couple and everyone that is family or “family” – people that made them who they are. And marriage is about choosing someone to be your new family and incept into each other’s.
      At one point of my life, I was over zealous and resulted in wanting the new, and forgetting the old. I did not understand the verse but overused it on my ex boyfriend who was already planning a life with me.
      Now that I have learnt the true meaning, my loss is truly road to my gain. This is how I could respond for being moved by your comment

  • http://blog.halfacregoods.com Erin

    We’d already built a life together, made a home together, made sacrifices for each other and our relationship. We’d shared money, owned property together, and planned to stay together forever, marriage or not. So, I’m probably in the minority here, but the wedding hasn’t changed anything for me or for our relationship.

    You’re not in the minority. That paragraph pretty simply defines our post nuptial relationship as well. We’ve just decided that it means we were married in our hearts long ago. :)

    • Sarah

      Same here. When anyone asks how married life feels, we generally say “About the same as engaged life did. But now we each have an extra ring.”

      It generally nets smiles, and nods of approval and agreement. Seems that our experience isn’t as uncommon as we thought. =)

      • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com/ the Sarah formerly known as Sarah K.

        Random people: “So, how’s married life?”
        Me: “Pretty much the same, just a little more jewelry.”

        Maybe it’s a Sarah thing….. ;)

        • sophia

          I tend to agree. We made the decision to spend our lives together before the wedding. I definitely felt a shift at that point but nothing groundbreaking at or after the wedding (which was an awesome party with awesome people).

          • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com/ the Sarah formerly known as Sarah K.

            I feel absolutely, 110% different than before our wedding. Our relationship has definitely shifted, but in a very subtle, intimate way. Our big relationship is what we’ve been working on for years, and that hasn’t changed a whit. But the underlying structure, the nature of who we are and how we relate to each other– that has changed. But it’s so subtle and so important and so wonderful that it’s not something that I’d talk about to just someone asking how life is. I can’t explain it. Nothing changed, and everything has.

          • http://whenhoyametsaxa.blogspot.com/ Kathleen

            I asked a recently married friend of mine just this weekend, “How’s married life?” (and I wasn’t just being conversational, I really wanted some insight, since I’m the next to the altar!). She told me it was great, and that it was really different, in ways that were impossible to explain.

    • meg

      Yeah, as we’ve discussed before this seems to be a lot about when you felt married. David and I did NOT feel married in our hearts pre-wedding (How could we? Marraige was a legal Jewish ritual for us, nothing to do with our hearts.) So married life did NOT feel the same to us.

      • http://blog.halfacregoods.com Erin

        I suppose a clarification is in order. Married in our hearts is a rough and human explanation that we came up with to try and illustrate how marriage did not feel monumentally different to us. In reality it was a cognizant mental decision to be committed to one another that happened awhile back. We were always committed to one another and our relationship always progressed with the notion that we wouldn’t be splitting up and that we are a team.

        The major differences for us in getting married is that now certain people don’t feel the need to harp on us about when we plan to get married and society recognizes us as the bona fide couple we always were. I know that it’s a major transformation for some and that everyone experiences marriage differently. It’s just nice and reassuring to read wedding graduate posts like today’s that indicate that you aren’t doing it wrong if you don’t have a major transformation on your wedding day. Because I know I didn’t but sometimes it really starts to get me down like perhaps I’ve missed out on something.

        • meg

          Right, right, I’m just saying we were not mentally married before our wedding – that couldn’t happen for us, because for us it was about making a Jewish legal commitment, and we hadn’t done that yet. I think for a lot of people it DOES have to do with hearts, and for us it didn’t. Marraige was about our minds (in a Jewish legal way) and souls (in a Jewish Ritual way), and we couldn’t jump the gun on that.

          • Ash

            I am engaged and do NOT feel married in my heart, although I love my fiancée more than the sun. I am anxious to feel my married heart. That sounds comforting… I wish April 9th was tomorrow and I wish it would stay forever in the future, in someways. Getting married feels like one of those things you can never truly be prepared for. I feel like my heart and head might explode. In the best way possible

  • http://roughit.wordpress.com roughit

    This is probably not the first APW post that brought tears to my eyes, but it is the first where the pictures *alone* brought tears to my eyes. You two look amazing, and the family/love glows in your photos.

    You said, “instead of focusing on my vows or the readings, I could only think about the sweat dripping down my entire body and how to keep from passing out. But time has a funny (and fortunate) way of dimming those memories, only leaving an image of the amazing weekend that it really was”, and this is really quite reminiscent of my experience, too. I was sort of far away from the whole thing, watching from a distance (My inner dialogue: “Oh, yeah, I’m glad we picked this reading, it’s nice. What happens next? Are these the words we picked? Oh, they are, good.”). After the wedding I felt a little guilty about that… but now, looking at our pictures, all I feel is the joy of that day. Thank you for sharing your experience with that, since I think a lot of people aren’t as present as they expect to be.

    And thank you for sharing your beautiful story! It’s a wonderful way to start my day :)

    • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com/ the Sarah formerly known as Sarah K.

      Ditto to the following along in the ceremony. I’d written most of ours, so I was kind of edgy about it all coming out right. My ex-boyfriend did a reading at our wedding, and he’s an actor, and he had MEMORIZED the reading. To say that I was thrown for a loop and nervous he’d mess it up would be a huge understatement. :[ Oh, and then our minister didn’t realize that we had both regular, repeated vows AND self-written vows and skipped over our self-written ones, so that was another hiccup.

      I basically zoomed in on my husband’s face and the face of whoever was talking (minister or friends doing readings) and tried not to explode. It was a really emotionally charged half hour.

    • http://linseykitchens.wordpress.com Linsey

      Roughit–I can totally see myself doing this. Okay, now this is where my brother reads this and can I tuck this whipsy hair behind my ear and still look like I’m paying attention and I wonder if my sweat is showing under my pits and why won’t N look at me and oh…gosh… this part is meant to be funny coming up..what if people don’t laugh? I’m really good at looking present and then being all too-hyper-present…like two bodies and minds. Ah, scary!

      I’m going to take Sarah’s advice and “try not to explode.” That will be my wedding ceremony manta: Do not explode, do not explode. Ha!

  • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

    “It’ll never happen again, all those people in one place.”

    While this is one of the most awesome parts of a wedding, it also ended up being really hard for me. All day, we were totally surrounded by the people we loved, which made it almost bittersweet when we finally left… Although the wedding day was a ton of work and stress, and I definitely don’t want to do it again, there was SO much love there– it really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

    ps. This post makes me wish we’d had a wedding weekend! Or that I’d been at this one :)

  • http://www.heinousshrew.com Heinous Shrew

    I love the idea of getting linens etc. from other post-wedding couples!

    Also, and I hope you all can forgive me for being somewhat off topic, but I struggled with UTI’s for years until I found a natural cure (for me) and so I try to spread this info far and wide. D-mannose – it’s a “natural” sugar, I’m not sure how natural it is but apparently it’s very attractive to the e-coli – they attach right on and then you pee them out. I can only speak for myself but after getting them every other month or so from age 16 – 21, this one thing has cured me for the past 12 years.

    • katie

      I love this. This is why I adore APW – touching stories and helpful advice! As someone who struggles with UTIs, my first thought reading the teaser to this post was WOW. And now a suggestion on a new way to treat ‘em, yay! (And it’s all full circle – my UTIs definitely hamper my relationship with my husband, who gets a look of such angst when he thinks he’s “done” it to me). Congrats on the marriage!

  • http://misallocationofresources.blogspot.com/ Jenn

    Beautiful. Just beautiful.

  • http://www.jenepting.com Jen

    Gahhh! I love that name sign! It’s so perfect. Well done, Amanda!

  • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

    Um your dress! Kegerator! Reused decor from others’ weddings! So much awesomeness rolled into this wedding.

    You must be a real trooper to put up with a UTI on your wedding day. Those are NOT fun, but it doesn’t look like that stopped you one bit from enjoying the hell out of the wedding.

    Congratulations!

  • A-L

    I love wedding weekends. I’ve really only been to one as a guest, but I think it really helps to bond people so well, and so quickly, who had never met before. Particularly when two different families are meeting each other for the first, and quite possibly the last, time I think it helps to forge a basis of goodwill for the future. (Which we know will be necessary when determining how to spend holidays, birthdays, etc.) Anyway, thanks so much for sharing your beautiful wedding!

  • http://Averyhappyaccident.blogspot.com Alice

    I love that there are so many the international couples on APW.! Congrats!

  • http://carmarblogs.blogspot.com CarMar

    “The wedding weekend was an absolute blast in every way, but the coming together of our pasts was the single best gift I received, and such a fitting way to make promises to each other about our future.”

    Loved this. This pretty much sums up our wedding weekend, too!

  • JUST JENCIL

    What a wonderful post! I love how honest it was, recognizing the not-so-perfect and perfectness of the moment at the same time, really like all wedding graduate posts, I think that’s why I love them so much! So true how time has a tendency to smooth over the moments that in the end don’t matter to the big picture!

    Kegerator? I’ve never heard of it, I had to Google it to find out and can’t believe I’ve never heard of this awesomeness before! Beautiful weekend and all the best! So lucky to have a guy who can build such cool things!

  • http://lilapuppy,blogspot.com Meghan

    I needed this kind of straight-forward joy today. I really did. Thank you.

  • Jessie

    All I can say is BEAUTIFUL, inspiring, and of course, congratulations.

  • Abby C.

    ” It really was a once in a lifetime event – it’ll never happen again, all those people in one place.”

    YES, YES, YES!!! I’m also an American gal marrying a wonderful foreign-born man. Our families are split between three continents, and this is exactly what I want for our wedding! It may be the only chance we have to let our two families mingle and interact.

    We’re discussing a wedding in Europe as the best compromise location. His family is in Asia and the Middle East, mine is in America. Hopefully Europe will allow good portions of both sides to come. I know that not everyone I would love to have will be able to make it, and I’m still mourning that loss. But I think the people who can make it will be enough to salve that.

    Honestly, I want to Exactly this whole post. It’s exactly, exactly what I hope for myself.

  • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com/ the Sarah formerly known as Sarah K.

    “It was so bizarre to look around the grounds and see all the people that I love and that Joachim loves, and that had made us into the people that we are, all in one place, getting to know each other, drinking wine together, telling stories around the campfire and laughing late into the night. The wedding weekend was an absolute blast in every way, but the coming together of our pasts was the single best gift I received, and such a fitting way to make promises to each other about our future.”

    This! I got a taste of that at the shower my family threw for us, and the wedding was the huge, ridiculous version of this. The entire wedding is a blur because it’s filled with ALL our family and loved ones, and everywhere I turned was a smiling face of someone I loved, from his side of the family, or mine. We had been dating ten years when we got married, so we knew everyone, and it truly was a blending of our two, huge, ridiculous families. It was amazing.

  • http://jolynn.wordpress.com jolynn

    I *love* wedding weekend posts because that’s what we’re planning (very geographically challenged family and friend groups) and while I’m excited I’m also terrified. But this is beautiful and heartwarming and inspiring and all sorts of wonderful.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • Rhiannon

    I wish that I could *exactly your whole post!

    “But for me, that came before the wedding and the marriage. Long before. We’d already built a life together, made a home together, made sacrifices for each other and our relationship… For us, it really was just a party – an amazing, once in a lifetime, (almost) everyone there party. And I’m okay with that”

    I sometimes struggle with a bit of guilt over how the ceremony always took a back seat to the celebration/party. We just wanted an awesome party full of love to celebrate our combined lives. Our lives have been so intertwined for so long that this process seemed to formalize how we already lived our lives (as a baby family). It’s nice to see that other people approached their wedding in a similar way.

  • http://thinkingwedding.blogspot.com Rhiannon

    Those photos are really beautiful.

  • Theresa

    The idea that your wedding is they only time you’ll have all the the people who support you–his family and yours—is absolutely beautiful.

  • Jen M

    I want to eat your wedding up! So wonderful! Congratulations!

  • Hand Print in Concrete

    What are you doing with your shoes in the photo under the tree? It kind of looks like it is after the ceremony, but it might be part of your vows?

    • http://carmarblogs.blogspot.com CarMar

      I think it may be the (awesome and hilarious) game where the couple sits back to back, and then someone asks them a question about each other or their relationship, like “Who snores?” or “Who said I love you first?” or “Who’s the better ____?” A friend of mine had a couple of bridesmaids put that together during her rehearsal dinner toasts, and it was such a fun way to get to know the couple.

      • http://carmarblogs.blogspot.com CarMar

        Sorry, I meant to add that in response to the question they lift the shoe of the person (their partner’s or their own).

      • Amanda

        Yep, that’s the game. Some friends of ours put it together, and it had everyone laughing. I get embarrassed pretty easily, so if they had told me they wanted to do this, I would have vetoed it. But, they ambushed me before dinner, and it turned out to be really fun.

  • Erika Murdock

    Where did you have the wedding?

    • Amanda

      We were married at Rancho Cicada Retreat in Amador County, California. These pictures don’t really do the property justice – it’s gorgeous! It has a few houses, basic cabins, and lots of tents, and a big river running through the property. It’s in the middle of no where, but pretty convenient to Tahoe, Yosemite, and San Francisco.
      http://www.ranchocicadaretreat.com/weddings.htm

      • Irene

        I was wondering if it was Rancho Cicada… it looked familiar! We visited the property as a possibility for our September wedding this year, and while we didn’t pick it for logistical reasons, it was absolutely stunning. They seemed [i]really[/i] friendly and flexible as well. For brides looking at the weekend-type option, we also visited a similar kind of place in the Santa Cruz mountains, Laurel Mill Lodge, which was also lovely but in an even less polished way. Their website is horrific, don’t judge it on that!

  • http://www.brindey.com Brindey Weber

    I love it. Congratulations!

  • Caroline

    Gorgeous wedding, great thoughts, and I love that you would not change a thing. I wish we had more excuses in our lives to have crazy awesome reunion parties, because magical things happen when people from weird corners of your life all come together.

    Thanks!

  • lani

    Beautiful wedding and beautiful post.
    I love to hear about others who, like us, already felt married and haven’t felt any different since the wedding. But what a great day we had! I wouldn’t give up those memories for anything in the world.

  • Kinzie Kangaroo

    That last picture is magical.

  • The Elizabeth of Oz

    You know, this is really it for me.

    My partner-in-crime is a bit…anti wedding? Not anti marriage, but certainly all like “Blah blah, silk lined marquees, lots of stress, even more expenditure, highly awkward first dance to Aerosmith, mothers going bunta…”. I think it’s because he comes from a rural Aussie area where pretty much everyone gets married in that exact same (very expensive, full on, and Always Exactly The Same) way – and so while he knows that’s not what I’m going to want, or to need, from our wedding, he still has a bit of a wedding prejudice going on. (NB: I’m defo not trying to suggest that there’s anything at all wrong with that exact wedding, if it is what you want, it’s only that it would not be at all what we would want and yet he thinks that we are some how…obliged? to do it that way, because he’s frankly never been to any other kind of wedding.)

    I’m working on that (amateur cognitive behavioural therapy plus a little bit of old-school re-education, anyone? [Joke!]) – and one of the ways I’m doing so is that I’ve got this really nerdy little set of APW folders-within-folders in my bookmark menu, and there’s one called “For T”, which is just really designed for bookmarking weddings that are designed to show him that you can get married in a campground in the moutains, listening to awesome blue grass, with self/family-done details, no fuss, lots of mates, and absolutely no need for a $5000 silk-lined marquee…

    So yeah. I think that folder just became a single link.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us, I feel honoured and proud to be a little teensy part of a community where people are cool and THEMSELVES enough to have weddings like this one. (And I’m kind of a little in love with you both…I mean, a camping wedding? In the mountains? C’mon!)

  • M

    Amanda, would you mind sharing the name and location of your wedding site? I’d really like to look into that place! Thanks.

    • M

      Oops, I see you already answered this question!

  • Kate

    There are too many things I love about this post to count, but I especially love that you got engaged at Lake Malawi! It is easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been and I only wish my husband could have been there with me. Yay for y’all!

  • Rachel

    I’ve totally seen that dress from a post about Victoria and Fritz’s wedding, and thought it was beautiful!!! I thought a friend custom made it for her… how did you manage to find it???

  • Alexandra

    Fabulous! I’ve been to one campout weekend wedding & it was awesome, and definitely on the list of “weddings we might like to have had”…didn’t work for logistical reasons, and I’m happy with the wedding we’re planning, but Ah! The road not taken. :P

    Congratulations! Everything sounds and looks fantastic. (Other than the UTI and the heat…but those memories are fading! Right?) ;p

  • http://www.LovelyAtYourSide.com Jenny, Lovely At Your Side

    I love that your sister officiated!! I also love what you said about nothing changing- I have always been adamant that whenever I get married I don’t want my relationship to change. I want to get married because I want to keep that relationship and cherish it, and let it grow naturally and not just because I’ve finally tricked someone into marrying me! xx Jenny