A Gorgeous Thanksgiving Wedding in South Lake Tahoe

Sarah and Lev tied the knot over Thanksgiving weekend at Tahoe Blue Estate. And it’s needless to say that we’re still swooning over all the personalized touches. So, without further ado, let’s check out this classic black, white, and gold wedding masterfully captured by Holly Shankland Photography!

Sarah and Lev’s paths crossed when Lev was a fifth year at UC Davis, and Sarah was a freshman. They both played club volleyball, and she was instantly attracted to him. But, unfortunately, they were at different stages of their lives. Lev graduated that year and moved back to his parents’ house, while Sarah took a year off before transferring to play D1 at UC Berkeley. As luck would have it, their parents only lived five minutes away from each other in San Jose, so the duo reconnected during that year playing volleyball. And the rest is, as they say, history!

The couple got engaged in the fall of 2019 and started looking at venues, but they didn’t book anything when COVID-19 lockdowns began. After their engagement, they moved to Florida so Sarah could start medical school. The venue search continued organically over the next eight to nine months, including almost any part of California and parts of Florida. “We landed on Tahoe more for what the specific venue offered than the location. But it didn’t hurt that I grew up visiting Tahoe (and my dad’s grandparents used to have a home here where he spent most holidays as a kid), and Lev came here during his time at Davis,” Sarah explained.

Initially, the couple wanted a larger venue, but after realizing how perfectly Tahoe Blue Estate fit everything they wanted and given the COVID times, they decided to go with a smaller guest list and book it. “We knew we wanted a place where our family could stay for a few days, somewhere without a curfew (at least for indoor partying), and where we were allowed to have any alcohol type we wanted. Tahoe Blue Estate gave us so much flexibility. We had it as our home away from home for the entire Thanksgiving/wedding weekend to share with family. That felt like us. Sharing our gratitude for our friends and family is really what we wanted our wedding to be about, so having it follow Thanksgiving felt natural. Plus, Lev’s favorite number is 11, and mine is 27 (it’s a family thing).”

Even though Sarah is in medical school, she didn’t hire a wedding planner or coordinator. “Our favorite thing in the world is to welcome people into our home, feed them well and make sure that any person left behind has a spot where they feel important. That’s why Tahoe Blue Estate was so perfect for us, but I think it also explains some of our choices and unique elements for the day.”

Some personalized elements we love about this wedding include a custom tie patch for Sarah’s dad. “My mom is a badass HR executive (she is many other things, and I am so proud to be hers), and my dad was at home with us for most of my life. During that time, my dad and I built a special bond and developed a shared love of math, physics, science, riddles, and volleyball. He fostered so many things in me but first and foremost, a curiosity about the world. So, it was only fitting that he had a tie covered in math formulae with a patch I had my mom iron on with our favorite saying to each other: ‘Love you to the moon and back.‘ With Sarah coming from a lineage of strong women, her mom also surprised her with a unique bracelet. She had made it with pearls from two of those strong women’s necklaces – her granny Barkdoll and aunt Chris. A family tradition also made its way to the wedding. A while ago, Sarah’s family started taking Bailey’s shots on holiday evenings. So, it was only fitting that her dad poured them to welcome guests. 

Sarah also had a few surprises for Lev. She gave a couple little gifts to Lev at their first look and decided to put them into a jar she had kept from a while ago. There came a moment in their relationship when they both realized this might be forever. After panicking for a few days, Lev drove up to Berkeley and shoved roses through Sarah’s window. “The next day, we drove up to Grizzly Peak (you can see both the Golden Gate and Bay bridges from there), and he gave me this jar, with strips of paper, with 101 reasons why he loved me. If I could point to any moment in time that we had committed to each other for good, it was that day overlooking the city. It felt right to bring that very same jar to our wedding day – where we would commit to each other in front of family and friends. This time, overlooking the lake.” The couple decided to write their own vows and had two of their best friends officiate their wedding. “It was the most personalized, us ceremony, and I’m not sure there was a single dry eye there.” 

Ornate rugs, beautiful crystal shot glasses, storytelling, and toasting are all interwoven into Russian culture, and the duo wanted to bring a piece of that to their wedding. So, it made perfect sense to give rug coasters and shot glasses as wedding favors. For the rest of the decor, Sarah tried to keep it simple. “I knew baby’s breath is fairly inexpensive flowers, and I didn’t really like the overly colorful look, so I sent some inspiration photos to our florist, and she absolutely nailed it.”

With a mutual love of coffee and food, Sarah and Lev decided to give personalized Yeti mugs to the bridal party while opting for Philz coffee tables for their seating arrangement. They named each table after one of their favorite blends and labeled it with an actual pound bag of that blend. Next, they settled on an Israeli street food-inspired menu, seeing that Lev spent eight years of his childhood living in Israel. It’s also where the couple got engaged in 2019 on Mount Masada at sunrise overlooking the Dead Sea. “It felt right – family-style, down to earth, and it is some of our favorite food: falafel, shawarma, Israeli salad, hummus, etc.”

Besides figuring out how the venue will be cleaned up, Sarah also kept the following in mind: It needs to be cheap, reasonable to rent, or something they’ll keep forever. “Nobody would have noticed if our sign was hung from an expensive rented copper stand or the cheap one we got from Ikea. Nobody cared that our seating arrangement had been printed at Walgreens a couple days prior. But what did make a big impact was spending a little extra to get the ghost chairs I always dreamed of. So that’s my advice, spend money on the things that will create the feeling or ambiance that feels like you as a couple. And by the way, hire a florist. I went back and forth on it, but I am so happy we did.” But her number one piece of advice is to see your guests the following morning. “My gosh, that was our favorite thing ever. Getting to be in a relaxed, unscripted environment after such a fun event was just what we needed. We relived some of the best moments with our guests and heard about some while we were off taking pictures or doing something else. Especially if you are doing a destination wedding or you don’t get to see some of your guests often, it’s such a great way to make the most of your time with them and cap off the weekend.”

So, do yourself a favor and check out the beautiful gallery below!

Wedding Vendors
Photographer Holly Shankland Photography / Venue Tahoe Blue Estate / Videographer Little Wild / DJ/MC Cruz Entertainment / Flowers Create With T / Hair + Makeup RAH Hair Studio / Catering Roundabout / Bartender All Beverage / Rentals Celebrations! Party Rentals / Shuttle Reno-Tahoe Limousine / Dress Grace Loves Lace / Bridesmaids Dresses Petal & Pup / Invitations Minted + homemade details