Emily + Greg’s Magical Wedding While Evacuating From The Kincade Fire

Y’all, buckle up for a story. A story so big it was picked up by NBC.

I was ready for my last wedding of the year, and I knew it was going to be a special one to end on because my friends Emily + Greg were getting married. Little did I know HOW special it really would be.

Ready to document all the moments, I arrived to Triple S Ranch in Calistoga, California (wine country for those not familiar) on Friday, October 25th with the other guests ready for the rehearsal and to check in to our cabins. Triple S Ranch is basically adult summer camp with cute cabins equipped with queen bunk beds!

Leading up to the wedding, Cristina of Heald Wedding Consulting, one of the most organized wedding planners, reached out to vendors warning of potential power outages due to the risk of fires in the area. A generator was rented and one of the bridesmaids even abandoned her dress to come up in a later car to make room for preventive masks into an already packed car and available ASAP for guests “just in case”. Disaster was averted, or so we thought.

Then on Saturday, October 26th, the day of the wedding, we started seeing evacuation warnings due to the Kincade fire. While taking photos of all the girls getting glam, we were still feeling optimistic thanks to wind patterns and hard working firefighters until Cristina, 7 months pregnant with a fire mask on her face, appeared as I was snapping photos of Emily and her bridesmaids (only 2 clicks in). She pulled Emily aside and I knew instantly what they were discussing based on Emily’s concerned face.

The fire marshal had just stopped by and told the entire property to evacuate.

Emily and Greg originally didn’t want a first look (where the groom sees the bride before the ceremony) because they wanted the traditional and dramatic moment of Emily walking down the aisle with all of their guests in attendance. I’m always happy to do whatever my couples want; but in this moment, I knew we had to throw the original script out. They needed to see each other stat, because all you want in the time of crisis is your person. And let’s be real, this moment was now going to be dramatic, traditional or not.

I was the first one to break the news to Greg and he handled it like a champ saying he’d do whatever Emily wanted and he was “going to f***king marry this girl today, no matter what happens”. I set him up at the end of their aisle that none of the guests would have the chance to admire and Emily walked up unescorted with their planned song playing on my iPhone.

Emily explains: “As I walked down the aisle to him, I was trembling with emotion. We’d already had one house fire this year, how could fire literally strike twice? Seeing Greg was so emotional but we had to laugh. Because humor has been our medicine and tears were too much for us to handle – we had to mobilize and quick.”

Luckily, Emily and Greg’s family friend Ellen Shifflett agreed to host {read cram} 135 of their closest friends and family at her home. We all grabbed our overnight bags, made sure everyone had the right address, and fled from danger.

Emily is the constant connector. She literally owns a business based on community called Six Degrees Society where she helps foster real connections through curated events. Representing her brand in every aspect of her life, she wanted her wedding to be “built by community” and it started off that way with all the vendors being connections she’s made personally and/or professionally. I say and/or because if you know Emily professionally, she’s also a friend; and if you’re a friend, she’s plotting how she can help you accomplish all of your goals.

Well “built by community” took on a whole new meaning when everyone pitched in to make their wedding happen. Greg’s brothers went door to door asking neighbors to borrow chairs. I elected the “backyard” aka empty lot behind the house as the new ceremony site. Jenna, friend and officiant, tucked up her floor-length dress and started carrying linens while directing the team to where the bar and full band would go. Annie from Ida Blooms, who had just finished setting up the gorgeous ceremony and reception sites at Triple S Ranch, loaded everything back up into her car and started setting it up all over again. Natalie and her catering team of La Saison, miraculously set up a kitchen in the driveway to make some of the most delicious tacos I’ve ever had. And I can’t sing enough praise for Cristina who kept the team calm through it all and thought of things no one else would have, like toilets! She also stayed behind at the original venue as everyone evacuated to ensure all guests knew where to go, again WHILE 7 MONTHS PREGNANT if you didn’t catch that the first time.

After the team set up the new ceremony site, I grabbed Emily who was busy greeting all the guests to show her and allow her a break alone. In that moment, all her emotions caught up to her. The shock and fear and worry drained from her and she broke down sobbing.

According to her: “I didn’t sob because I was heartbroken that our dream ceremony and wedding wasn’t happening; I was sobbing because everyone was so great… They all rallied and pitched in and mobilized in a way I couldn’t fathom… I had something more magical than I could have planned. More emotional and joyous and love filled than I could have envisioned.”

And it’s so true! The wedding day that I thought would be magical because I was there to document two friends became magical for completely different reasons. Magical because I was reminded of the true meaning of weddings where a community comes together to celebrate a couple. Magical because of the emotion and purpose filling the air. Magical because my two friend’s STILL got married and I STILL got to document their story.

I say “STILL” because while we were executing this wedding, others were not so lucky. People lost their homes and THEIR communities. As of Monday, October 28th, Cal Fire reported 75,415  acres, or about 117 square miles, had burned, that’s more than twice the size of San Francisco and more than five times the size of Manhattan. If you can help, I urge you to donate to Wildfire Relief Fund or California Fire Foundation or whichever charity you prefer. Because while it’s so fun to see Emily + Greg’s story live on through NBC’s coverage, the media has dwindled since the fires are contained while other families and communities need our help STILL.

 

Morning before news struck and evacuations began:

Emily and Greg laughing through the chaos like real troopers.

Definition of “built by community”. Note the step-mom of the groom sweeping away as guests arrive! And everyone clearly dressed for a wedding performing manual labor.

Planned ceremony site vs. new rogue ceremony site and Emily’s incredible reaction:

The incredible hosts that opened up their home and made Plan B possible!

share

  1. Natalie

    November 18th, 2019 at 9:39 pm

    Full on tears girl! Your writing is absolutely beautiful and flawless. You captured it ALL.
    XOXO

  2. Jodee Debes

    November 18th, 2019 at 10:51 pm

    Thank you!!! Y’all were seriously heroes that day. So lucky to know you and because of that also enjoy your delicious food!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

NAH, NEVERMIND

* indicates required
Who are you? Check all that apply.

LET'S STAY IN TOUCH!