California

I Now Pronounce You.. Minister of a Nondenominational Church

Many of you may remember that just a little over a year ago I was maid of honor in a wedding. A wedding that was elegant, beautiful, detailed – the bride thought of everything. From the lovely bouquets in which she specifically and thoroughly picked which blooms she wanted to include, to the hand-dyed silk ribbons that adorned the bouquets and boutonnieres and wound their way through the reception tables’ centerpieces, to the couture wedding dress that made her look like a Disney princess as she and her groom danced their first dance as husband and wife under the twinkling white lights that were strung from tree to tree.

It was, for lack of better expression, the wedding that every little girl dreams of having one day.

And until a few months ago, I sort of figured that’s how most weddings are. Everything you see on social media is generally the same [aside from the theme and color scheme, of course]. White dress + groom + bridal party + flowers + aisle + alter + wedding guests + reception. All of it is always there.

Well, almost always.

My best friend got engaged two winters’ ago, and, due to the fact that her fiance had never even wanted to get married [or so we all thought], they decided to keep their wedding very small. Family and close, close friends only.

But, even small weddings are costly and stressful. After a couple of months of trying to find a venue they liked under $10,000 [with no luck], they decided to forgo a “traditional” wedding altogether. After a couple of Google searches and a call to the city of San Marcos, it was determined that only two other bodies were needed for the couple to say their “I Do’s” – a witness and an officiant.

And so it came to be, after a drunken FaceTime from the two of them last fall in which my best friend and her fiance asked me to officiate their wedding, that I would be their ordained minister. I used the website my aunt and uncle got ordained through, went online, and [literally] two minutes later I was official. Sarah Jack, Ordained Minister of the Universal Life Church, Nondenominational. At your service!

After a weekend of bachelorette festivities in Temecula, California, and absolutely zero wedding planning whatsoever [save for the location and the accommodations], the three of us set off for Avila Beach, just north of Pismo and just west of San Luis Obispo. A place near and dear to all of our hearts. The groom’s best friend, the witness, was to meet us there.

Up until the week leading up to the wedding, I had no nerves or qualms about the upcoming nuptials. I figured once I knew what my friends’ vows would be, I could form my speech around that. That idea went right out the window the minute I heard that they hadn’t written any vows. “We’ll figure it out when the time comes,” my best friend said. Having nothing to relate to except for the carefully planned and detailed wedding that I had been a part of last spring, I had difficulty wrapping my mind around the casualty of it all. And that’s when my nerves started to set in. Now what would I say? Would I even be able to find words? At what point do I read them the traditional “I Do’s” and initiate the giving of the rings?

I needn’t have worried so much, if at all. The day of the wedding was like any other day of the year. My speech came together that morning, and then the four of us had breakfast on the beach and spent the rest of the day sightseeing. It wasn’t until six pm when it was time for us all to get ready that the soon-to-be bride and groom first parted ways. They were married just after sunset, on Avila Beach, with one witness and one ordained minister – the air was warm, the sky was beautiful, the water was calm – the evening was absolutely perfect. The entire day was perfect. Perfect for them.

The experience itself is one I will treasure forever and never forget. Having the opportunity to officiate a wedding was nerve wracking, but so amazing and unique – something I may never have the opportunity to do again and I’m so, so glad that I did. If anybody ever asks you to officiate their wedding – DO IT. Do it, do it, DO IT! You will not regret it. It is both exciting and humbling, and, for me, it really gave me a new perspective on love. And, while a bit intimidating, it gave me a chance to say something heartfelt and meaningful to two people who are promising their lives and their souls to one another. The last words they will hear before being bound in holy matrimony.

If it sounds so final and so binding – it’s because it is. But it isn’t scary. It’s exciting. It’s the adventure of a lifetime. And having the power to send them off on that crazy adventure is something I hope everyone will be able to experience at one time or another.

 

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Heaven Sent

I am by no means religious. I do not believe in a higher power, and I don’t believe that an unseen “being” has control of every single person’s destiny. I don’t knock it, though. I’ve discovered that having faith in something can bring a lot of people peace and purpose.

I DO, however, believe that there is Heaven on Earth. And it is known as Lake Tahoe.

I am blessed and fortunate enough to have a beautiful home on the east shore of Lake Tahoe (the “Nevada Side,” as those who frequent the lake deem it). Our three-story townhouse is nestled among many other homes and condos along a private beach just north of Zephyr Cove. My dad’s family has a place as well – an old, large cabin just down the beach that comfortably sleeps 15-20 people. This past week, my family and I rented the “Big House,” as the cousins call it, and spent a week in the glorious paradise of Lake Tahoe.

If you aren’t from California or Nevada, and you’ve never been to Lake Tahoe before, you are probably wondering what all of the hype is about. After all, there are lakes EVERYWHERE. While this may be true, Tahoe has a certain aura about it that locals just can’t get enough of.

First of all, it is only two hours from Sacramento. In two hours I can go from a stifling 100 degrees to a comfortable 80 with an offshore breeze. In that same two hours, I can go from miserable, wet rain to beautiful, white snow. Winter or summer, the weather in Tahoe is ideal. And the place is just beautiful. No matter where you are on the lake, the views are immaculate.

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The picture above was taken last week in Glenbrook, Nevada at sunset.

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The above is a photo taken from the famous Thunderbird Lodge, located off highway 29 between Sand Harbor and highway 50.

Another wonderful thing about Lake Tahoe – there is SO much to do!

I’ve been going to Tahoe my entire life. My grandparents bought their condo in the late 1970s, and before that, they brought my dad and aunt up to the cousin’s house every year since as far back as they can remember. I can safely say that the magnetism of Lake Tahoe runs in my blood. It’s beauty and how I’m drawn to it are ingrained in my being. However, because of this, I have spent little time playing tourist. I drive straight to my house in Glenbrook, and then I don’t leave until it’s time to drive back down to Sacramento.

Recent new developments have made South Lake Tahoe a prime tourist trap. In the summer, wandering the strip, window shopping and trying all of the fancy restaurants in the Heavenly area are fun things to do. These options are also available in winter, but it is significantly colder and much more uncomfortable. Guests all around Lake Tahoe can rent anything from jet skis to boats, paddle boards to paddle boats. Anything water-related can be rented and used for pure enjoyment.

There are various restaurants scattered around the lake that, in addition to regular access, also have boat access. Boaters can float right up to the dock and tie up their boat while they enjoy a “Wet Woody” (a famous Tahoe cocktail) and a fantastic brunch in the beautiful Tahoe sun.

Various other activities include camping, zip-lining, riding the gondola at Heavenly in South Lake, horseback riding, paddle boat cruises, and tours of historic points around the lake.

Just a short car ride down the road from my place in Glenbrook is the historic summer home of George Whittell, also known as Thunderbird Lodge. It is best seen from the lake side, as it is completely invisible from the road, but once on the property the views are breathtaking. The home tour itself is not so spectacular – but learning about its original owner and his weird “quirks” is definitely worth looking into.

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The two above photos were taken from the property of Thunderbird Lodge, overlooking Lake Tahoe from the east shore. The top photo shows the gazebo, which allows an almost 360 degree view of the lake. The bottom photo is of a well, which was built for fun, not for actual purpose.

The Thunderbird Lodge gets its name from Whittell’s famous and beautiful wooden boat, which can sometimes be seen cruising around the lake with a boat full of people. The Thunderbird can be rented by anyone for the price of probably your first born child, but jetting about the like in a pristine and classic wooden craft is an experience unlike any other, I am sure.

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The top photo is the entrance to Whittell’s house (or Thunderbird Lodge), and the bottom photo is taken in the boathouse on the property – a rear view of the famous Thunderbird. This summer, the boat is out of commission – the lake water is too low to launch it, and, conveniently, its engines broke down and cannot be repaired without funding and donations.

Although Tahoe offers a wide variety of entertainment options, my favorite thing to do when I am there is just relax. If you’re fortunate enough to stay somewhere with beach access (ahem, the California side is heavily rock-ridden with only dock entrances to the lake), I highly recommend a comfortable beach chair and a good book (and a large bottle of sunscreen; the thin air will fry your skin in no time at all). There is no better paradise than lounging on the beach and just letting time go. And, of course, a cocktail in one hand doesn’t hurt, either.

Whatever your choice of entertainment may be, Lake Tahoe is without-a-doubt one of the most beautiful places that America has to offer. While pricey, it is worth every single penny to be able to enjoy the wonders of nature and a truly serene and wonderful place. I highly recommend a stop in Lake Tahoe, if you ever have the opportunity to come out this way.

**To donate or visit Thunderbird Lodge, visit http://thunderbirdtahoe.org/.