Wedding Inspiration: #VanLife Romance in Sebastopol

Megan Lortez and Ryan Schindler met all the way back in middle school, became high school sweethearts, made it through college at UC Santa Cruz, and lived together for many years before marriage became a serious conversation—on a road trip to Canada in their 1988 Volkswagon Westfalia.

They purchased the engagement ring together since Schindler wanted to make sure they both had rings they'd be thrilled to wear for the rest of their lives. However, it wasn't until months later that he actually popped the question. It was the anniversary of their first date, and they'd left their home in Marin for a weekend getaway at a family vacation home in Mendocino.

"It was sprinkling, and Ryan asked me to join him on the deck to overlook the ocean views with a glass of Champagne," says Lortez. "As we were talking about how fantastic the weekend had been, Ryan began to talk about how special our relationship truly is and proposed to me. It was a beautiful and poetic surprise."

While on the hunt for a venue, the couple scoured numerous wineries in Sonoma County; but once they saw the cascading views of vineyards, apple orchards, and distant mountains of Vine Hill House, they knew they had found the spot.

Their love of adventure carried over into their decor, and naturally they had to include their VW van as a backdrop for wedding photos, draped in floral garlands and tricked out with props including a retro full-length standing mirror, a large rug, wine barrel, a vintage suitcase, and throw pillows. And because the two endearingly refer to each other as "panda," panda bears appeared throughout.

A palette of black, white, pale green, and cornflower blue was splashed through the floral arrangements, decorations and wedding party attire. To complement their signature cornflower hue, Italian ruscus, and cascading seeded eucalyptus adorned the bride's bouquet, while the bridesmaids' flowers were brimming with white dendrobium orchids, white roses, white hydrangeas and a few blue hyacinths and delphinium. The groomsmen's boutonnieres were scaled-down versions to match.

While the bridesmaids selected their own styles of dress—all in the same fabric by one designer—the groomsmen's attire paid tribute ti Schindler himself, riffing on the look he had worn we he took his bride to high school prom: a suit and with old-school Vans high tops. The addition of cufflinks, custom monogrammed with their initials in Art Deco–style font, added a grown-up element.

Vintage elements—a 1970s photo booth, a 1930s photo album used as their guestbook, an antique 16mm reel to reel film projector—accented the decor, while personal bits were found aplenty: Table markers were designed and illustrated by a friend with the van and pandas in Art Deco style; from an old oak tree hung 150 photos that told the story of the couple's romance from the age of 15 all the way up to the big day.

When all is said and done, Lortez offers a bit of advice—to take your time, ignore a lot of recommendations from friends and family and seriously think about what will make your wedding special to both you and your partner.

"You will know what works for you...For our wedding, Ryan and I decided not to follow several wedding traditions. For instance we had a good friend of ours officiate the ceremony, I stood to the right of the aisle rather than the left, we didn't have a garter or bouquet toss, we didn't have a traditional wedding cake, and rather than having a father/daughter dance and mother/son dance separately we did them together. That's all okay, we just found that those traditions did not speak to us but for others, it might. Do what your heart tells you and no matter how difficult it may be, truly relish the moment!"

Venue: Vine Hill House

Dress: Willowby by Watters 'Malta' Starlet Bridal

Makeup: Bloom and Blush

Caterer: Park Avenue Catering Company

Floral design: Floral Designs by Heather

Photography: Dekker Photography