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An Italian Garden-Inspired Wedding Along the Northern California Coastline

by Staff

Caitlyn Sullivan and Lana Olmer were each wine tasting at Sonoma, California’s Scribe Winery with their friends in 2019 when their paths first crossed—or, rather, their dogs’ did. “Upon arrival, Lana’s dog, Remy, made a beeline for Caitlyn’s dog, Walt. A round of introductions—both human and canine—were made,” the couple remembers. “Toward the end of the wine tasting, Lana saw Caitlyn leaving and chased her down in the parking lot to ask for her phone number.” 

The following year, the couple got engaged twice. First, Caitlyn proposed in June 2020, back at Scribe Winery. “Caitlyn led Lana to the very spot where they had met and got down on one knee,” the couple says. “Lana proposed to Caitlyn the following weekend, with the excuse of ‘walking the dogs’ on the beach at Crissy Field in San Francisco.”

For their wedding, they wanted to showcase the beauty of Northern California—and the love they’d found there—for their faraway families; Caitlyn’s is in Mississippi and Lana’s is in Europe. “The dramatic cliffs, the rugged coastline, and the backdrop of old-growth Redwood forests and bountiful wine country all made Mendocino an easy choice,” they share. There was sentimental value, too. “It’s a location we frequently visit to escape from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco; it was even the first place that Lana told Caitlyn she loved her.”

Community and authenticity were the touchstones while planning; “At the end of the day, we wanted all of our decisions to support those themes,” the couple shares. “We wanted it to feel organic, personal, and celebratory. We wanted to incorporate important family and cultural traditions to give a nod to our respective heritages, and respect the ritual and traditions of a wedding while making it work for us and our relationship.” 

That’s exactly what they did. Read on to see all the personalized details of their October 9, 2021, wedding, with planning by Sonya Houston at Mendocino Weddings, photography by Catalina Jean Photography, and videography by Danny K Photography.

Inspired by Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini, the vision for the big day was Northern California-meets-Italian garden party. The palette? “Cheerful sunshine and citrus tones,” the couple says. “White, yellow, peach, marigold, pink, and green.”

Lana went for an organic, fresh beauty look. “My hair inspo was Anja Rubik’s 2007 campaign for Estee Lauder’s Beautiful perfume,” Lana shares. “When it came out when I was in high school, I remember thinking, ‘That’s what I want to look like when I get married!’”

It was the first time I looked in the mirror and really felt like a bride.

Initially set on something less traditional, Lana was surprised to fall in love with a strapless A-line Oscar de la Renta gown in Chantilly lace. “I tried on tons of non-traditional gowns, including colorful ones, and considered a jumpsuit,” she says. “However, none of them felt right. When I tried on this dress, it was the first time I looked in the mirror and really felt like a bride.”

Caitlyn had four or five fittings at San Francisco’s Spoon Tailor to perfect her custom suit. “Their tailors usually deal with men, but they were so accommodating—they recruited a retired tailor familiar with customizing for a woman’s body to come in and help with my suit,” she says. Overall, “I wanted to be me, and wearing a suit fit my personal sense of style the most. I don’t wear suits to fulfill some societal expectation of heteronormative relationships. Really I just do what makes me comfortable. I worked with Lana to pull a lot of different inspiration for the eventual full look, from menswear and womenswear designers—everyone from Tom Ford to Thom Browne. In the end, I worked with my tailor to make it truly custom to me.”

“The morning of the wedding was quite nerve-wracking to be apart; a lot of nervous energy and excitement,” the couple recalls. “It was such an epic moment to finally see one another before the ceremony—after all the planning and all the hard work, our wedding was finally here. We took the moment to really connect with one another.” They also exchanged gifts: a diamond tennis bracelet for Lana and a Rolex for Caitlyn.

At the edge Switzer Farm of Westport’s 22-acre property, a cliff overlooks the ocean. It set the perfect scene for their ceremony, where 75 wooden cross-back chairs looked out over the water, and the aisle was lined with loose and naturally styled seasonal grasses and wildflower blooms. Dual Italian-inspired urns flanked the altar, filled with dramatic florals like dinner plate dahlias, Larkspur, and garden roses. Programs were letterpressed with a touching Walt Whitman quote: “Happiness, not in another place but this place. Not for another hour, but this hour.”

Each bride walked down the aisle accompanied by both her parents. The all-important dogs who’d initially connected the couple, Remy and Walt, made an appearance, as well. 

“Because Lana’s extended family weren’t able to travel from Slovenia and the Czech Republic, we wanted to make sure those cultures were represented on our wedding weekend,” the couple shares. “We had a reading in Slovene and we ‘broke the plate,’ a Czech wedding tradition where a plate is broken and the couple must sweep the plate up together. In fact, Lana’s matron of honor smashed the plate so hard that shards flew everywhere and several of our guests took pieces home as souvenirs after the ceremony!”

Caitlyn’s dad officiated the Episcopalian ceremony, which the couple customized to better fit their relationship. “We especially loved the line reminding all of our guests that as witnesses to the vows we made to each other, we will also lean on them to hold us accountable to our vows and our marriage in the future. This was part of our overall goal for the wedding: to value and prioritize our community throughout the weekend.” They recessed out to The Beatles’ “All You Need is Love.”

For cocktail hour in the flower garden, high-boy tables were draped in cheery yellow linens and acrylic signage announced their signature drinks—named, of course, for Walt and Remy. “A Champagne tower and oyster bar were decorated with gardenias and white tulips,” the couple adds. “Our florist, Khamoor, bought out an entire farm of gardenias for the cocktail hour and their smell perfumed the early evening air.”

A dozen rectangular oak tables we set beneath a bistro-lit tent for the reception. “We used ivory stoneware and gold flatware, and each setting was accented with a yellow linen napkin, hand-lettered name card, and a single sprig of olive branch,” the couple describes. “Lemons, oranges, and kumquats were placed on the tabletop alongside sprigs of rosemary and olive branches, reinforcing the Amalfi Coast vibe.”

It was very important to us that our food be local, seasonal, sustainable, and organic,” the couple says. “We worked really closely with our caterer to tweak the menu based on that goal, and made a few changes the week before the wedding based on what was freshest and most available.” The result? A butter leaf gem salad with chèvre, pear, candied pistachios, and edible flowers; miso black cod, lemon thyme chicken, and king trumpet yakitori; and handmade strawberry sorbet for dessert. 

They tied in the citrus theme with their cake, too. “Our florist put aside small kumquats and greenery to decorate the cake in a fresh and modern way,” they share.

The couple’s first official date was to a Robyn concert, and live shows have been a constant in their relationship. “We agreed it was important to have live music at the wedding,” they say. “We loved the idea of creating that kind of [concert] atmosphere for our guests.” Their first dance was to an acoustic version of “Beige” by Yoke Lore. Then, the beat picked up. The brides share, “We asked the band to play songs that would really encourage our guests to join us on the dance floor, and they crushed it!”

Lana changed into a new look—a sleek Monique Lhuillier gown with a white feather jacket she found on Poshmark—for the second part of the reception, and guests nibbled rainbow sprinkle cookies as they danced the night away. “Remember that the most important part of the wedding is the marriage—the commitment you are making to each other,” Caitlyn and Lana reflect. “At the end of the day, isn’t it so amazing that you found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with?”

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