Every once in a while one has the pleasure of meeting a couple that fits together effortlessly. James and Caroline are one such couple. They know how to have a great time together, and one can easily tell that they are the best of friends. Always off on some adventure together, they love to poke fun at one another and just enjoy the other's company.
Fun and adventure was what brought them together. While I was off galavanting through Europe, James and Caroline were individually doing the same in Australia (only more ruggedly). I remember back when it all began, I was Skyping with James and he was telling me about the French girl he was dating. With every sterotype running through my mind, I thought, James? With a Frenchie? Really? But Caroline ain't your average Frenchie. As soon as I met her, I thought, "Oh! This makes all the sense in the world." He met Caroline in the middle of nowhere, and together, they found themselves in the middle of somewhere pretty special.
The last year of their relationship has been tricky, with visa challenges continually getting in their way. Caroline wanted to stay in the states, both to work and to be with James, but only one of those things was working out. After Caroline had to return to France at Christmas due to an expired visa, James returned with a heavy heart and a lot of thinking to do. He decided he would never be more sure about Caroline than he already was, so he took a leap of faith and proposed, and just months later, here we were celebrating with them at a whirlwind wedding!
My car, which included Gio, Sam, and myself, was the Cake Squad. We had been tasked with picking up the creme puff cakes at a French bakery in Berkeley and keeping them alive the three-hour drive up. The cake is seriously the most accident-prone job to have for a wedding, and we were all very nervous about any hiccups. The small Asian woman that handed over the cakes at the bakery did not have a lot of faith in our cardboard box/ice/tarp system, but we pulled it off!
The wedding weekend took place in Tahoe, with the attendees staying at one of three cabins (one even had a wood-burning hot tub-seriously) all along the same woodsy street. Guests arrived at James' parents' cabin in waves Friday night for the "rehearsal dinner" (I use quotes because there was a lot of home-brewed beer and fajita consumption and not too much actual rehearsing going on, not that they needed it), and everyone at the intimate affair (just 30 total for the wedding) had the chance to meet and catch up. Only with James and Caroline would you get to spend the night before a couple's wedding eating guac on the floor and playing drinking games. So much fun.
Morning of, the girl's cabin was hopping because we had a V.I.P. - Caroline. Above you'll see her enjoying a nice, stiff drink before the ceremony. Among the last few to the wedding were the bride and those of us helping her get ready (yes, we were late). Outside on the street, Caroline started feeling overwhelmed. For the hundredth time that morning, she shrieked adorably, "Oh my God, I'm getting married today!" And then she added, "To James." And as if realizing it for the first time: "I love James!" And she started crying out of sheer joy, excitement, and love.
The ceremony was held at the stunning Fallen Leaf Lake in South Lake Tahoe, boasting glimmering waves and snow-capped mountains, and providing the most breathtaking backdrop for their vows. I can't tell you what a sight we were hiking the 15 minutes in with a pristinely-white bride and several more girls in dresses. And I don't think she'd mind me saying that there may have been a potty break in the bushes for the bride as she walked
down the aisle to the wedding site. Caroline sure knows how to make things memorable! Here's James, awaiting his bride, and Caroline, after her (trek to and) walk down the aisle:
Caroline looked just gorgeous, and she was glowing with such a wild energy-in fact she did a lot of jumping around all day long to expend some of it! Her tears caught up with her as she was walking down the aisle, and again as she was saying her vows. They exchanged vows in both English and French, mostly for the benefit of Caroline's mother, stepfather, and maid of honor, Angélique, who had all come over from France for the special occasion. The vows were so beautiful, so heart-felt, and most importantly of all, so specific to them. One of the best parts was when James interrupted Caroline to show her the two ducks (apparently one of her favorite animals, and a sign of good luck) that had waddled over to witness the ceremony. Grab a tissue, because I taped the vows:
I now present you Mr. and Madame Baldwin!
What did the ceremony end with, you might ask? Well that would be Jay-Z and Beyonce's Bonnie and Clyde, of course. Best wedding music, ever.
Then commenced the photo shoot with the professional photographer, which I emulated with my phone. Enjoy!
The EAP Bologna, Italy crew!
James and Sam, as per usual
Please note, Sam had a broken wrist and still managed to pull this off.
James' UCSD crew
Gio and me
Then we moved the party over to "a rib joint" as James first described it to me. We were in the self-titled "cavern" of the restaurant, which bore a strong resemblance to Disneyland's Splash Mountain, much to my pleasure. There were party favors in the form of jelly beans and gummy bears in canisters with personalized chalk drawings on each, begging the question...whose is whose? You had to figure out which one represented you to the couple, and get confirmation from them personally. Mine, of course, was a gelato cone.
Speeches were made by the best man, James' brother, Mike, and the maid of honor, Angélique. Caroline's mother even said a few words (translated by her daughter), where she good-naturedly announced her retirement from motherhood and her pleasure at the prospect of no more requests for money.
Then we chowed down.
And did some wedding shots.
During the reception, I was speaking with Angélique about what Caroline had told her about James at the beginning of their relationship. Among other things, she relayed Caroline's early sentiments that James was simply "a really good guy" and I got all emotional again, because all I could think is, he is. The best. And for that, he deserves nothing but happiness, and I am so glad he's found that with Caroline!
From the rustic cabins to the lake setting, the French/English vows to the BBQ ribs, this couple made the wedding their own. It was so relaxed, so intimate, and just plain fun. As Caroline said, many couples go into their wedding feeling like they have to spend the rest of their lives together, but for James and Caroline, after so many bureaucratic and governmental obstacles, they feel like they finally get to. Plus, we get to hang on to Caroline, now, too. Even if you guys tried, I don't think you two could ever make a boring married couple. Best of luck to you both-I wish you a lifetime of continued love and laughter!