It’s said that the best relationships begin as friendships, and Joan Sberna and Kyle Pecorino— who met in 2009 working at Las Vegas’ XS Nightclub—are proof. “We started off as friends while working at XS,” Joan remembers. “We would hang out and travel a lot together because of mutual friends. We were always in relationships and used to give each other advice when we worked together.”
When they got seated together at a friend’s wedding in 2016, though, things took a romantic turn. “I told [the bride] to put me at a fun singles table for her wedding,” Joan says. “[Instead], she put me next to Kyle with a table full of couples. I just laughed and thought nothing of it. Kyle said he would pick me up as his ‘date’ for the wedding and the entire night we pretended we were married and that I was pregnant with his baby.” She goes on: “Something just clicked at the wedding while we were ‘pretending’ to be a couple—we went from joking around to realizing we were actually meant to be.” A year later at Burning Man, Kyle told Joan he was in love.
His proposal infused light and happiness into an otherwise difficult time. “My dad became sick in 2018, and I was there in the hospital room when Kyle asked for his blessing in marriage,” Joan says. “It was such a special moment we all shared together. My Dad went to heaven knowing that Kyle and I were going to have a good life together.”
“I thought we were going to a family dinner,” Joan remembers of the night before her father’s funeral. “We have a rooftop deck at our house and my niece told me Kyle needed to see me up there because something was wrong with the furniture. I was getting ready for dinner and didn’t think anything unusual was happening. I opened the door to the rooftop and saw rose petals leading up to the deck. I went up the stairs in my dinner outfit and house slippers and saw Kyle standing on the rooftop looking so handsome in his suit. There ended up being a huge surprise party at our house after I said ‘yes.’ We had Dad’s funeral the next day as an engaged couple.”
For their wedding on September 2, 2020, they escaped the bright lights of Las Vegas and retreated into the woods, selecting Twenty Mile House in Cromberg, California, as their venue. The romantic event infused nature, homages to their fathers, and a whole lot of love. Read on to see all the sweet details, planned by Twenty Mile House director of events Rachel Mann and photographed by Peyton Byford.
After a three-month COVID delay, forest green invitations bearing vintage stamps hand-selected by the couple went out to 78 guests and the wedding was finally on. But, there was yet another element out of their control that weekend. “Driving up to the wedding, we were stressed out about the nearby fires,” Joan remembers. “I believe in signs and always see two white butterflies that remind me that my Dad and dog Honey are around, my angels. I prayed to God for a sign, and somewhere on the drive, we saw thousands of white butterflies appear on the road as we were driving to Cromberg.” She continues: “The night we got there, it was raining ash. The next day, there was nothing but clear skies. We know our dads were looking down on us and our wedding was meant to be.”
When it came to the palette, “We wanted the colors to reflect a sunset in the forest,” Joan explains. “I mixed in satin and velvet because I love the way they photograph. Green is my favorite color, so I had the groom in green velvet with the groomsmen in classic black.” Kyle’s custom tux came from Indochino.
The wedding location, naturally, was what led the forest theme. “We always wanted to get married outdoors near a river,” Joan shares. “Twenty Mile House was our first stop in our wedding venue search. We had four other spots to check out after, all in the Lake Tahoe area. Once we finished the tour of the property, we just knew it was the winner. We had beers in our hands and said ‘yes’ with a cheers! We canceled the other venue tours and spent time in Tahoe just celebrating life. Twenty Mile House felt like home, and and we loved that the wedding party could stay on property with us.”
As she was beautified by Whitney Whiting and Sudana Davidson, the bride unwrapped a gift from her groom: diamond earrings from Happy Jewelers. The family-owned California jeweler is also where Kyle got her engagement ring, and where the couple had custom wedding bands made.
My mom started crying when she first saw me in the dress.
Vera Wang’s Ava gown, from the spring 2019 collection, “was the only dress that made me feel like a bride—and I had tried on so many,” Joan says of her gown, an off-the-shoulder mermaid style constructed with four layers of silk crepe, a draped cowl neckline, and tulle sleeves. “My mom started crying when she first saw me in the dress. English is her second language, so my mom told the lady at the store that I was beautiful and my dress was ‘plain,’ when she really meant ‘classic,’” Joan remembers with a laugh. “The lady thought my mom was crying because she didn’t like the dress. A beautiful ‘plain’ bride!”
“I wore Jimmy Choo heels, a cathedral length drop veil, diamond earrings, and a sapphire ring gifted from my mom,” Joan explains. “My dad’s cross was tied around my bouquet.”
Everything we worried about ended up becoming something positive and memorable.
Joan and Kyle met in the woods for a romantic first look. “The sun looked like it was on fire and there was a light haze on the day of our wedding,” the bride remembers. “Everyone commented on the magical and dreamy effect the haze had; they said it felt like they were in a Twilight movie. You could feel the mood in the wedding photos as well because it photographed beautifully. Everything we worried about ended up becoming something positive and memorable.”
“The bridesmaids were in shades of mustard, rust, rose, and taupe,” Joan says. “I picked formal long dresses based on the color scheme. The designers were Fame and Partners, Jenny Yoo, Michael Costello, and BHLDN. My bridesman wore TopMan. It was a beautiful mix of textures including satin and velvet.”
As for the groomsmen? They donned black suits by Kech adorned with charming orange-toned boutonnieres.
I wanted a magical, once-in-a-lifetime experience, surrounded by florals in the forest.
“I wanted the beauty of the venue and nature to speak for itself,” Joan says of the ceremony décor. “I envisioned a flower altar that looked as if the flowers just grew from the ground. I wanted a magical, once-in-a-lifetime experience.” Guitarist Andrew Ohren strummed some of the couple’s favorite songs as guests sipped Champagne and found their seats.
With the floral altar as the focus, “I kept everything else simple, with floral arrangements on every third aisle and no runner on the ground,” Joan says. “We had rose petals on the chairs for guests to throw after we said ‘I do.’”
“The only children allowed at our wedding were Kyle’s niece and nephew, Ainsley and Archer,” Joan says. “Ainsley wore a champagne-colored lace and tulle dress. She was so nervous she cried the entire way down the aisle. Ainsley was so upset after because she thought she messed up and would never be asked to be a flower girl again. I told her she was perfect, then Kyle’s little sister asked Ainsley to be a flower girl for her wedding! That made Ainsley happy and all was good again.”
Finally, the bride was escorted down the aisle by her mother and her brother Frank to the tune of “Flower Power” by Greta Van Fleet.
The bride’s brother Salvatore Sberna, a pastor, officiated. “Both Kyle’s and my dad are in heaven, and Kyle’s dad’s bible was used during the ceremony,” Joan says. “My brother studied it for eight months leading up to the ceremony. The bible was heavily used, so much that his father had duct taped it to hold it together. Throughout his bible, he had made many side notes and underlined what was important to him. From this, my brother delivered the most personalized sermon as he preached to us our father’s words and wisdoms. You could truly feel them there.”
“Sharing our personal vows to each other in front of our close family and friends was a magical experience, especially after the moving sermon delivered by my brother,” the bride remembers. “When I finished my vows, our videographer started clapping—and then everyone started cheering and clapping. It was such a special ceremony.”
Once the marriage was official, the couple danced back down the aisle to Post Malone’s “Sunflower.”
“It can be stressful planning a wedding, but we also found it so special to watch our vision come to life,” Joan says. “When we had to postpone and set a new date, we just enjoyed the extra time it gave us. We trusted the process and knew everything would turn out the way it should.”
“Our wedding planner knew how much we loved Feather River, so she coordinated a surprise sunset photo session with our photographer and videographer at the river,” Joan says. “The staff had secretly moved our ground flower altar from the forest site to the river so we could take photos with it there. It was such a special gesture that we are so grateful for. On the way back, we got stopped by the train and our videographer was able to get amazing drone footage.”
The groom practices woodworking as a hobby, and channeled his craft into a DIY project for the wedding. “He built a large collapsable wooden backdrop stand that we brought up to the venue, and used it to hang a neon sign with our seating chart underneath,” Joan says.
They also tackled a few other projects together. “We designed our welcome table incorporating personal items such a photos, crystals, a record player, and records used as our guestbook. We wanted the day to reflect our home and style. The records we picked for our guests to sign as our guestbook had songs we played during our wedding, like our recessional, first dance, and last dance.”
“I wanted simple, personalized décor surrounded by beautiful floral arrangements,” Joan shares of the reception vision. “We had wooden farm tables with sheer, cream-colored runners [and a]eucalyptus runner decorated with flowers on each table. We had gold mercury glass votives with tea light,s and did gold-rimmed chargers with silver flatware as we love the look of mixed metals.”
Personalized honey jars with handwritten calligraphy served as place cards. These favors at each seat were a sentimental touch, an homage to the bride’s late pup, Honey.
There was no signature drink during cocktail hour, but that didn’t hold anyone back. “The bartender said we had enough liquor for 200 people,” Joan remembers with a laugh. “We went through so much tequila!”
The dinner menu was crafted by the team at local café and pub Pangaea and featured organic produce, sustainably caught fish, and free-range meat. “We had steak from Niman Ranch that was served with a bacon bourbon sauce, pan-seared Alaskan halibut served with lemon dill cream sauce, and polenta Napoleon as a vegetarian option,” Joan recalls.
The newlyweds twirled to “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King, and their twists on the traditional family dances became extra special moments. “I danced with my brother Frank for the father-daughter dance,” Joan says. “My dad was born in 1929 and was an amazing dancer. His nickname was Rubber Legs; he always loved to bust out dancing to entertain us. My brother and I had a blast shuffling across the dance floor and reenacting our dad’s favorite moves to ‘My Girl’ by The Temptations.”
“Kyle surprised his mom with the song his dad used to play for her when she would get ready. When she heard Eric Clapton’s ‘Wonderful Tonight,’ she cried in Kyle’s arms and they shared a beautiful moment on the dance floor,” reminisces the bride.
“I wore the garter Kyle caught at my friend Traci’s wedding; she had attached a tiny blue Montana sapphire to it that she personally mined in Montana,” Joan says. “Coincidentally, Traci ended up catching the bouquet at my wedding—and she wasn’t even standing on the dance floor. I guess I was a little too aggressive with my toss!”
As the party got going, the bride slipped away for an outfit swap. “I changed into the party dress of my dreams,” she says of Stone Cold Fox’s Allure dress. “[I also] wore Dolce Vita booties after dinner to dance the night away. I’m so glad I had a second dress. Highly recommend!”
“We made a personalized wedding playlist and gave it to our DJ,” the bride recalls. “We also had a ‘do not play’ list that included songs like the Macarena and Electric Slide. If you were there, you know that my dancing was the entertainment. The DJ played our requests and it turned into the most epic dance party. We extended our reception and didn’t have to worry about any noise ordinances since we were in the middle of the woods on private property.”
The night ended with a massive group hug as the full moon shone. It was the perfect cap to a somewhat stressful planning process—and a reminder, Joan says, that “love conquers all.”