There was never any doubt that high school sweethearts Catherine Grimm and James Gardiner would marry in their hometown of Bakersfield, California. “It’s a very special place,” explains the bride, who grew up against the lush, agricultural landscape for which Bakersfield is known. “It’s the city where we met and fell in love, plus both of our families still live there.” The couple also knew that Catie’s family residence was the ideal location to host the festivities, not only for its sentimental value, but also for the unique beauty of its many acres of farmland.

Though the couple had since moved to San Francisco, they were able to effortlessly plan their big day from afar with the help of wedding planner Mindy Weiss, plus the input of Catie’s mother and sister. The bride and groom wanted to keep the style of the wedding elegant and natural, so they selected a classic color scheme of greens and whites with splashes of eggplant for an eye-catching effect. Mindy Weiss also suggested incorporating a swan motif in tribute to the two special swans Jimmy had given to Catie’s mom as a gift the year before. “We hadn’t initially planned on a theme, but it ended up being perfect!” recalls the bride.

A lovely western-themed rehearsal dinner was held in the Gardiner family barn on the evening preceding the wedding. A long table draped in burlap and lined with a hemstitched linen runner was beautifully embellished with bold arrangements of red roses and genuine deer antlers. Each guest found a cowboy hat and sack of almonds at their seat with an attached tag that read, “We’re nuts about Catie and Jimmy!” After a home-style barbeque, guests were treated to a night of bluegrass country music courtesy of a local band.

As attendees arrived the next day for the ceremony, they were greeted with an unspoiled view of the swans swimming in unison around the center lake on the grounds of the Grimm home. The rear garden of the residence was rich with greenery that contrasted magnificently with the masses of gleaming white azaleas and cyclamens surrounding the area. Specially made candelabras that held votives for each person to light before taking their seats created a “blessing tower” on either side of the altar. “The candles stayed lit throughout the ceremony,” describes Catie. “It brought a wonderful spiritual energy to our outdoor vow exchange.”

The bride looked stunningly regal in a tiered, strapless gown as she walked down the aisle to “Over the Rainbow” with her mother and stepfather. The couple chose to have their respective siblings stand beside them during the Christian service while their four honor attendants witnessed the vow exchange with the rest of their guests. “We have both been blessed with close-knit families” shares Jimmy. “I think the bond we share with them was reflected throughout the wedding.”

After enjoying a memorable cocktail hour complete with a fireworks show planned by Catie’s stepfather, guests were led along a pathway lined with votive candles to the reception area. The custom-lit tent boasted a spectacular entryway created with eucalyptus branches, hydrangea, and ivory roses. The interior of the tent held a breathtaking sight: Scores of assorted flowers, greenery, and candles adorned tables covered in soft ivory linens. Large iron chandeliers blended wonderfully with equally striking crystal chandeliers suspended overhead, producing a warm, elegant ambiance. A delectable surf ‘n’ turf dinner was served followed by generous slices of the couple’s seven-tiered wedding cake designed to echo the lace pattern in Catie’s designer bolero.

When the 30-piece band played their final song, a section of the tent partition revealed a walkway that led to an after party set inside a purple-hued pavilion. Late-night munchies were enjoyed while guests continued to mingle and dance into the early morning. “We wanted our wedding to celebrate not only our love and marriage, but to honor our families as well,” says Catie. “I think we achieved just that, and we have nothing but the fondest memories of our magical celebration,” adds the groom.