On August 16 in the heart of Humboldt’s summer, 200 guests gathered on a 40-acre ranch in Carlotta to celebrate Jenna and Cory Sutton’s marriage. While “rustic chic” themed weddings are on trend at the moment, the beauty of Jenna and Cory’s wedding was that its homespun style represented their roots, their community and their love story.

Jenna and Cory were born and raised on opposite ends of Humboldt County (McKinleyville and Ferndale, respectively), and it took the Internet to bring them together. After meeting on a dating website, the two exchanged text messages for two months while their busy lives kept them apart. “I was traveling in Alaska. He was elk hunting in Idaho, so we got to know each other that way,” said Jenna. They finally met in person for dinner at Curley’s and sparks flew. From there, their courtship read like a tour of Humboldt’s most romantic spots, including hikes up Strawberry Rock, walks on Centerville and Trinidad beaches, and trips to Ruth Lake. Jenna describes their romance as the kind of thing “you read about but don’t think will ever happen to you. We were basically inseparable.” Six months after they began dating, the couple bought a house together. Soon after that, they had a daughter, Abbigale.

click to enlarge Final touches up in the saddle. - CHRIS TUITE PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Chris Tuite Photography
  • Final touches up in the saddle.

Cory and Jenna spoke often about getting married, but felt no rush to follow a traditional timeline. They decided to wait to wed until Abbigale was old enough to be a flower girl in the ceremony. When Abbigale was old enough to scatter petals, Cory proposed to Jenna during dinner at the Hotel Ivanhoe by saying, “It’s time for you to pick out a ring.” Jenna says she then “went gung ho” on wedding planning.

Jenna knew she wanted a relaxed, country casual feeling for their wedding. “We’re not stuffy people,” she said. She envisioned a beautiful, fun event that was a little rough around the edges, represented by the contrast of burlap and lace. Instead of hiring a wedding planner, she decided on all of the details herself. She perused Pinterest for ideas and pulled inspiration for design elements from the couple’s life together. She then recruited talented and beloved friends and family to help bring her ideas to life. As a result, every detail of the wedding held personal significance.

The wedding decorations reflected the couple’s shared love of fishing, hunting, horses and the outdoors. Deer antlers decorated the tables. Jenna wore cowboy boots under her wedding gown, and Cory and his groomsmen wore Wranglers. The groom’s cake, baked and decorated by Cory’s aunt, was topped with a doe and a buck in wedding outfits. Jenna’s grandmother even made the flower arrangements on the tables.

Inspired by images from The Princess Bride, Jenna rode into the wedding ceremony on her horse, Cheyenne. She trained Cheyenne for this moment for over a month by riding him with a white sheet draped over Jenna’s shoulders. The breath-taking spectacle of Jenna’s veil and gown streaming down Cheyenne’s flanks was well worth the preparation. After the grand entrance, Jenna’s father lifted her from Cheyenne’s back and brought her gently down into the grass. Jenna walked down the aisle toward Cory with her mother and father at her sides. The ceremony was officiated by Cory’s cousin, Joseph.

click to enlarge The Suttons give stuffy style the boot. - CHRIS TUITE PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Chris Tuite Photography
  • The Suttons give stuffy style the boot.

After the ceremony, guests feasted on stuffed mushrooms and a cascading fruit arrangement prepared by Cory’s aunt Shari (the same gourmet talent behind the doe and buck wedding cake). Dinner was catered by family friends at Blackberry Bramble Barbeque, who served an all-out country feast of pulled pork, tri-tip, pasta, green salads, potatoes, parmesan zucchini and beans.

The couple’s reception was as full of personal touches as the ceremony. Entertainment was provided by KJ Leonard, the karaoke guru from Blue Lake Casino, and a favorite of Jenna, who describes herself as a “karaoke singer extraordinaire.” Not only did KJ Leonard play lots of fun music for guests, he provided musical backup for Jenna when she serenaded Cory with Shania Twain’s “From This Moment.” Not a dry eye in the house.

The wedding guests were clearly touched by Jenna’s singing, but her father was the one who stole the show during the father-daughter dance to Guns N’ Roses’ power ballad “Sweet Child of Mine.” The unorthodox choice was a huge hit. “My father doesn’t dance, so he was super nervous,” Jenna said. “He did it for me. The guests were completely enamored with him.” The dance’s grand finale was Jenna laying down some air guitar. Can a bride be more badass?

As Jenna reflects on the wedding, she is grateful she and Cory didn’t feel pressured to stick to the usual script and instead created an event that reflected their life and love together — that includes all the people they love who helped them ride off into the sunset.
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