Soulmates Jennifer and James

  • By Jen Hart
  • California Wedding, Real Weddings
  • comments 0

Magical DIY California Bohemian Wedding at Saddlerock Ranch

Now…at Dreamers & Lovers, we see a lot of love, as you can imagine. Our bride stories are one of the treats that make us feel so blessed! The very-much-unfinished tale of Jen’ and James Caratola, though, is one of the tales that made me think: that’s what I want! The couple share such a deep and powerful love that pours like poetry from every word of her interview, from every line of their self-written ceremony and from the breathtaking photos of Jen’ in her Valentina gown from D&L and James, her VIKING man: I just can’t wait to share it all with you!

The couple created a wedding website, which shared the story of their meeting and touched upon the very powerful mechanism of destiny and God.


The couple met just 5 years ago, despite the fact that they had grown up together on a one-bridge island, just half a mile away from one another…With more than a hundred mutual friends, the couple had been in the same room countless times over the course of their lives until 5 years ago, in a miracle of love at first sight, Jen’ asked her friend…”Who is that?” Obviously, to destiny…and God, it was time for them.

The pair soon discovered that, in addition to their ‘almost-shared’ youth, they’d lived only a breath of 5 blocks from each other when both had stayed worlds away, in Philadelphia, where one had lived, a vagabond graduate student, the other, a blossoming corporate professional.

There first year together was a whirlwind, as James was constantly moving on clinical rotations…Jen’ visited him in South Carolina and on the dock at Charleston Harbour, James discovered their shared curiosity and explorer spirit. When Jen’ departed on the northbound for Philly, he felt taken with longing and almost wanted to chase her down. It was the start of many travels. It was the start of the kind of the love that could make anyone BELIEVE!

Big Sur, in CA, has always been a special place for the adventurers but on September 24th, 2016, it became even more special….While on a camping trip with a handful of their dearest friends, James asked the question that had been on the tip of his tongue for a year, when he asked Jen’ to marry him. With Jen’s beloved ocean below and James’ beloved mountains above, the mountains finally met the sea.

Finding the Perfect Wedding Dress for her Boho Wedding

First up…to find the dress! Jen’s parents had flown in from NJ for the long-weekend, to help with wedding planning and to help their daughter find the ONE (the ‘other’ ONE, haha). With Mom and Dad in-tow, Jen’ booked and attended 4 appointments at different bridal spots. While she tried on so many beautiful wedding dresses at the first two shops, she just wasn’t sold on one yet. That’s when they visited Dreamers and Lovers, where Jen’ tried on more than a handful of favorites!

Browsing one of the racks, Jen’s Mom handed the assistant a laid back wedding dress, asking her to have Jen’ try it on for size. Turns out, Mom knows best, as always…because Valentina was perfect! It was love at first sight for the second time. Jen’ purchased the dress shortly after that and even though she still went to the last appointment, nothing could compared to the Valentina boho wedding dress.


When Jen’ did her first fitting with her two besties, her viking Fiancé sent a gift of flowers to her during the dress appointment, out of the blue. “That is just the kind of man he is and how special he makes me feel”, says Jen’ and we have to admit…she sure is one lucky, lucky Bridechilla.

The lovers invited 125 guests to the event, which was booked at Saddlerock Ranch and Hilltop Estate, a beautiful log cabin on top of the mountains, with views of the vineyard, rolling hills and the ocean (the mountains and the sea, remember…) and while the venue couldn’t have been better chosen, planning was intense, since they had to bring everything themselves…down to the kitchen utensils. The ceremony and reception were held outside the cabin, perfect.


Dreamy DIY Details from the Wedding

Jennifer composed a song herself, on the piano, recorded it and walked down the aisle with her Dad to it but most special was how many guests flew all the way from New Jersey to attend, even their grandparents, a real treat! It would be a night to remember, dancing together with their loved ones under the stars…


The couple wrote their entire ceremony themselves and it only makes sense that we share a few snippets, straight from the day:

The Ring Ceremony (Jen’s ring was custom-made and James’ ring was a unique mix of wood and metal)

You’ve brought rings with you today that shall represent these promises. People say that a ring symbolizes no beginning and no end. But these rings did have a beginning. The stones began as a simple structure that only time and pressure could form. The wood was taken from a tree whose roots grew deep and strong. The metal was forged under immense heat and took effort to shape.

Something miraculous was made from raw elements.

This couple had its own humble beginning. Your love is the process of shaping something beautiful where there was once nothing at all. As you wear these rings over the years, may you carry this love to the end of your days.


And the Vows (With Jen’s favorites in bold)

Jennifer, you’ve made me a better person in countless ways. You’ve taught me strength, patience, attention and humility. You’ve given me perspective into the meaning and purpose of this life. My highest highs and lowest lows need only your presence for enrichment. I want to share every thought, every sight and every feeling with you, my love. I vow to carry when you need, to hold you when you want, and to follow you when you lead. I vow to never lose sight of the amazing person that you are and the great fortune I have, to be your choice.

James, life is grander with you in it and our adventures are unforgettable. You melt my worries and ease my stress. You’ve shown me, and those whom I hold most dear, a love that I never dreamed possible.
I vow:
To always return that same love, now and to the Man you’ll grow to be,
To be the greatest supporter in your life and aspirations,
To care for you when hurt or sick,
To be your partner through thick and thin,

To be your teammate when raising a family

I vow to love you till my dying day and embrace every step of our journey. Never skipping a day to remember these promises, and to always take every chance to see this world that our eyes were meant to see together.


Wedding flowers, by the way, were succulents, greens, white flowers and…purple cabbage!!! It was a standing joke on the day that if the bridesmaids got hungry during the event, at least they could eat their bouquets. Hmmm, good idea, though I worry I’d munch my whole bouquet and stand empty handed, I kinda dig purple cabbage.

Jen’ says that weddings have become so cookie cutter and expensive, it’s important that boho wedding planners think outside the box. The pair did a lot of things on their own, instead of enlisting vendors for EVERYTHING. James made custom leather bowties and suspenders, with handmade leather luggage tags, with names, for the guests as gifts (what a brilliant idea #gottarememberthatone).

Jen’ designed the invites and skipped out on save the dates by sending the invites out early; she also bought terrariums and filled them with succulents grown by her now-mother-in-law, which were used as centerpieces. She also had a good friend work on photos and paid for raw footage of the day but put the video together herself!

Last but not least, as a dessert, the couple had towers of doughnuts from their favorite, DK’s doughnuts in Santa Monica and coupled that with fresh fruit for everyone to enjoy! When ‘cake-cutting’ time came, the couple shared great big, simultaneous bites of the favorite kind of doughnut!!


So you see ladies, real love is REAL THING…DIY weddings can be OFF THE HOOK…and if you plan ahead like James and Jennifer did…and get married over Labor Day weekend, you can plan anniversary getaways for the rest of your (love) lives.

Thanks so much to J & J, who’ve freshly moved house to Santa Barbara, for the blessing of their story…the future awaits!!


Photographer: Kristen Victoria Photography