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Photography by Lyndsay Undseth
The first time Ryan Merryman saw Shannon Zavoda, she had just finished a shift at Elephant Bar, in a safari outfit and waitress shoes. Fast-forward five years: The doors of Sacred Heart Church in East Sacramento open wide, a trumpet blares, and his beautiful bride is escorted in on her father’s arm. “It was an overwhelming experience—I just started to cry,” admits Ryan.
In fact, from wearing her mother’s veil to the cuff links and love letter she had delivered to her groom the morning of the ceremony, Shannon set out to have a wedding rich with personal meaning. “The things that ended up being special to me weren’t big things,” she says. “Like I collected old [family] wedding pictures to sit on a table at the reception. And I found all these photos of rice throwing—it seemed like such a happy moment. So I decided I wanted to do that, too.” Shannon made tiny bags filled with rice, and guests showered her and Ryan with it. “It didn’t cost much, it was so simple—but I had that same moment [that my grandparents did]; I have that same picture.”
The couple, both accountants, splurged on some things—her dress, his tux, an open bar, a good photographer—and saved in other ways, such as making the invitations and centerpieces by hand, and helping install landscaping and sprinklers in her parents’ Placerville backyard, the site of the reception.
In the end, all of these decisions and details added up to one very special day.
Does she have any tips? “Share a piece of your heart with your guests,” says Shannon.