Real Weddings

A Wedding on a Private Ranch in California’s Napa Valley

Photography by Dani Toscano.

With a wedding aisle on an airplane landing, Cate and Fred wed in a dramatic setting at a private ranch in California’s Napa Valley. The ceremony unfolded amidst a sweeping valley, enveloped in golden grass and rolling hills. The bride wore a chic, customized Vivienne Westwood gown, beautifully contrasting the expansive, raw terrain.

The romantic reception was held amongst grape vines beneath floating florals and string lights, and the serene Calistoga landscape beyond. A neutral, earthy color palette was combined with rustic timber furniture, artful stationery, and ceramics in reflection of the natural setting.

Photographer Dani Toscano artfully captured the tranquil California wedding.

ranch wedding venues

ranch wedding venues

Our Story

Names / Cate Levis & Fred Flaherty

Location / Calistoga, California, USA

Wedding Date / July 15th, 2023

Guest Numbers / 180

Cate & Fred Wedding

How We Met

We met through mutual friends. Our best friends are siblings, so we had been in the same orbit before really hitting it off. Fred was living in Arizona and I was living in California, so we didn’t see each other all the time. When we did, we always had a great time. Over New Years 2020, things really blossomed and we started a long distance relationship. Thanks to Covid, we were able to dedicate time to get to know each other and really grow our relationship. Fred eventually moved to LA and the rest was history.

 

Our Engagement Story

We got engaged on the Malibu Pier. Early in our relationship, we went there for breakfast. We spent time walking down the pier, people watching and looking out into the ocean. Once our relationship was further along, we realized we both looked back at that morning on the pier as a pivotal time in our relationship. It was when we both realized we had something special. We always said that we “fell in love on the pier,” so it was the perfect backdrop for Fred to get on one knee.

I thought we were going on a double date with friends, but little did I know Fred had concocted a plan all along. We arrived early and decided to walk around. I was completely shocked when the night took a turn for the best. He hired a photographer to capture the moment and later surprised me with our families waiting for us for dinner at the Surfrider Hotel rooftop across the street. He pulled it off perfectly!

 

What we love most about each other…

Fred: I most love Cate for her dedication to what’s important to her. She’s able to create outstanding spaces in her mind and bring them to life with hard work and a passion to make things look cool. The process can be tedious but very impressive to watch – this wedding was no exception. She’s also very beautiful and has a huge heart for the people around her.

Cate: I love Fred’s thirst for life and ability to make even the most mundane tasks fun. I love his heart and how he makes every person he talks to feel important and valued. He truly is one of a kind and I feel so lucky he chose me to be his wife!

ranch wedding venues

ranch wedding venues

The Setting

 

Wedding Location

​We chose to get married at my (Cate) uncle’s ranch in Calistoga, California. When we got engaged, we really had no idea where we wanted to get married. It all fell into place when I made a trip up there for work. The property had burned down in the 2019 Kincade Fire, and I was helping with the interior design of the rebuild. Fred and I decided to both go and stay through the weekend to make a trip out of it. At the time we were still unsure of where to get married and it just clicked. This could be the spot!

The property is absolutely breathtaking. We fell in love with the raw space and expansive landscape. The reception took place on an airplane landing strip situated between the vines. This provided a unique way to close in the space. The ceremony and cocktail hour were located just outside of the landing strip, with beautiful rolling hills in the background.

 

Aesthetic

We really leaned towards the surroundings for most of the inspiration. Since we were in a remote location, just surrounded by land, we really wanted it to feel natural to the space.

 

Preparation

I got ready with my bridesmaids at the Montage Healdsburg and Fred set up a wiffle ball tournament for his groomsmen the morning of the wedding.

Cate & Fred Wedding

Photography

Dani Toscano took the photos for our wedding. I quickly fell in love with her work through Instagram. The moody and artistic nature of her pictures caught my eye. I love the way our pictures turned out. She has an incredible eye.

Cate & Fred Wedding

Cate & Fred Wedding

Style Notes

 

Ceremony Décor

This portion of the celebration we kept the most natural. Because the location was so raw, I wanted to lean into that. I love the dried golden grasses that time of year, and wanted it to feel organic to the space. Our florist, Vanessa from Unwritten Florals, did an incredible job making this dramatic yet minimal at the same time.

 

Reception Décor

I knew immediately I did not want to tent the space. We chose the location because of the landscape and natural beauty so it was important to me not to cover it. We used string lights throughout and a structure over the dance floor with floating florals and glass pendants. The beat-up wooden bars from Found Rentals fit perfectly for the space. We then incorporated modern shapes for the lounge furniture and a tablecloth with a sheen to it to create a juxtaposition with all the beat up and raw elements. For the florals, we wanted to bring in more whites to this portion of the night while also keeping with that natural theme. Unwritten Florals did an amazing job and brought so much texture to the space. We used a ton of ceramic pots which I love to use in my interior design work, so it only felt fitting to use a lot of them throughout this space as well.

ranch wedding venues

“The reception took place on an airplane landing strip situated between the vines. This provided a unique way to close in the space. The ceremony and cocktail hour were located just outside of the landing strip, with beautiful rolling hills in the background.”

ranch wedding venues

ranch wedding venues

Wedding Planner & Stylist

So Eventful was so helpful throughout the process. They had insight and knowledge I would never even think about. They were incredibly professional and helped make my vision a reality. I can’t thank them enough for all the hard work they put into the weekend.

 

Flowers

Unwritten Florals is such an artist! We talked about the progression from ceremony to the reception and having each location have a slightly different feel to it while still maintaining a common thread. The ceremony felt the most raw progressing into cocktail hour and then the reception. Vanessa is so creative and came up with more beautiful arrangements and bouquets than I could have ever imagined!

ranch wedding venues

Stationery

I fell in love with Acqua and Ink early on in the wedding planning process. She has such a beautiful aesthetic and her work is so tasteful. Her fonts are beautiful and I love her paper with the raw edges. The invitations included a hand painted paper with our names embossed on it. Nora from Acqua and Ink hand painted each one. It’s a beautiful abstract mimicking the rolling hills at the setting of our ceremony. The menus had a champagne foil calligraphy on brown paper. These turned out so pretty placed on each brown plate.

 

Favors/Bonbonniere

Since we were in wine country, we gave a bottle of local wine with a custom label. Fred and I love to play cards, so we also gave a deck of cards with our names on them, and some cookies from a local baker.

 

Cake

We used Trizia Cake Artistry. Her cakes are truly a work of art! It was an almond cake with vanilla buttercream.

 

Food & Beverages

The red wine served at dinner came from the vineyards surrounding the reception. This made it super special!

Our caterer was The Girl and the Fig. They were amazing! The food was truly incredible. We did a sit down dinner starting with a grilled stone fruit and burrata salad. For the main course, our guests could choose between short rib, goat cheese gnocchi and mahi mahi.

Fashion & Beauty Notes

 

Bride’s Dress & Shoes

I worked with Samantha from The Bold and Bridal for all my looks. She is great! My dress was Vivianne Westwood and shoes were Christian Louboutin. We worked to customize the dress. We removed a sleeve to make it one shoulder and extended the train.

For the after party, I wore a custom mini dress by Chynna Pope. She is incredible! We wanted to do something fun and dramatic and it came out perfect!

 

Bridesmaids Dresses & Shoes

I told my bridesmaids to choose their dresses ranging in color from nude to brown. They were free to pick their own and paired them with nude shoes.

 

Flowergirls/Pageboy Outfits

Our flower girl wore the cutest tulle dress. Sadly, she didn’t make it to the aisle as she was too nervous, but our ring bearer stole the show. He wore an H&M suit and tie.

Wedding Rings, Jewelry & Accessories

My engagement ring is a solitaire emerald cut diamond with a gold band. For my wedding band, I chose emerald diamonds set east and west. Fred chose a gold band for his wedding band.

Keeping it simple with the jewelry, I wore small diamond and pearl drop earrings and a sapphire in my second earring hole as my “something blue”.

 

Hair & Makeup

I really struggled with how I wanted to do my hair for the day. My hair ended up being worn down with very loose waves. I really wanted to look and feel like myself. The same went for makeup. I wanted an enhanced natural feel.

 

Groom’s Attire

The groom wore a Bonobos suit and the groomsmen wore black suits from the Black Tux. We opted for black ties rather than bow ties.

The Details

 

Transport

This was actually quite a challenge during the planning process. Because we were so remote, there was really nowhere for me to hide. We landed on me arriving in a vintage car. A beautiful Aston Martin was whet we chose and it ended up being quite a vibe!

 

Honeymoon

We left immediately after the wedding for our honeymoon in the south of France. First, we spent time in wine country, and then made our way to the coast. We took an amazing cooking class, did a boat tour of the Calanques and lived it up and Saint Tropez!

 

Gift Registry

We did our gift registry through Zola and Heath ceramics. Both made the process very easy!

ranch wedding venues

ranch wedding venues

“We chose the location because of the landscape and natural beauty so it was important to me not to cover it.”

Wedding Songs

Our first dance was Steam by Leon Bridges. Some songs we used in our ceremony were Because You Loved Me by Celine Dion, XO by John Mayer and Stay with Me by Sam Smith.

 

Entertainment

We had a band and a DJ – Soulville by American Events Network. We saw them at a friend’s wedding. They are amazing!

 

Celebrant

Our celebrant was a friend of mine from college. We have remained super close throughout the years and she saw our relationship from the very beginning. She shared such fun stories and was absolutely incredible! She killed it!!

Cate & Fred Wedding

ranch wedding venues

ranch wedding venues

Our Advice

 

A memorable moment…

The day goes by SO quickly. We both had been told this so we made sure to take a moment to sit back and take in all your favorite people in one place.

A moment that sticks out is walking into the reception. All the months of planning and people that worked so hard to put it together exactly how we envisioned it was so surreal.

 

One thing I wish I knew before I started my wedding plans…

During the process, I was consumed with every tiny detail – even down to the place card holders that held the table numbers. While these details need to be figured out, I would have worried less about these small things. Trust your planners and vendors and it all comes together!

 

If I could give other couples one piece of advice…

Roll with the punches. Our wedding day turned out to be record breaking heat. Thankfully there was a large temperature swing, so once the sun went down it cooled down dramatically. But that said, you can’t let things you have no control over worry you. On the bright side – the parasols and fans made for some of our favorite photos from the whole day!

 

Sources of inspiration…

The setting was really the underlying inspiration for so many decisions throughout the planning process.

ranch wedding venues

ranch wedding venues

Our Contacts

 

Wedding Stylist / The Bold & Bridal

Wedding Planner / So Eventful

Photography / Dani Toscano

Photography Styling / Leah Heffernan

Stationery / Acqua & Ink

Bride’s Ceremony Dress / Vivienne Westwood

Reception Dress / Chynna Pope

Bride’s Shoes / Christian Louboutin

Grooms Formalwear / Bonobos

Hair & Makeup / Artists by Sherrie Long

Florist / Unwritten Florals

Cake / Trizia Cake Artistry

Catering / Girl and the Fig

Entertainment / Soulville California Band

Transport / Beau Wine Tours

Rentals / Encore Events Rentals, Theoni Collection & Found Rental Co

Lighting / Got Light

Flooring / Zephyr Tents

Restrooms / The Posh Privy

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