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Me, dreaming of getting married. The reason I have a split lip and am donning a child-size wedding gown deserves a blog of it’s own — more on that later…

I have been dreaming of getting married in Lake Tahoe, on the lawn of our family friends’ gorgeous lakeside cabin, since I was a kid. (More specifically, since I fell madly in love with Zac Hanson and watched Hanson’s “home movie” Hanson: Tulsa, Tokyo, & The Middle of Nowhere so many times I wore the VHS tape out. True story.)

But life takes wildly unpredictable (and sometimes vicious) turns, and as it turns out, I’m not marrying Zac Hanson (I have a Hanson pillowcase caked with tears and mascara stains to prove it.) And, for reasons outside anyone’s control, I also might not be able to get married at our friends’ house. After I stopped sobbing over this and calmed down enough to have a rational, adult conversation, Tony and I brainstormed where we’d want to get married if Tahoe didn’t exist — and luckily, it was a no-brainer. Ojai.

A little over an hour outside Los Angeles, it’s where we’ve celebrated our anniversaries and fantasize about raising our future children. (Los Angeles is out of the question, after binge-watching #RICHKIDS OF BEVERLY HILLS.)

So, we scheduled a wedding tour at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa to explore a different wedding fantasy, and my parents rolled into town with their two giant dogs to get in on the action.

Mom & Dad, getting in on the Ojai action.

I’ve been not unlike Rain Man with my laser focus on Tahoe, so I’m embarrassed to say I was a little surprised to find that I LOVED IT. (Obviously it’s an amazing wedding venue, you dingbat! It’s one of the most gorgeous resorts in the world! You sound like one of the #RICHKIDS OF BEVERLY HILLS!) I would be the luckiest bride in the world to get married there. Here’s how the weekend went down…

The view from our room.

Friday, we caravanned to Ojai — me, Tony, Mom, Dad, my little brother Billy, and my Maid of Honor, Katierose. Katierose is my platonic soulmate and Maid of Honor for a lot of reasons. Reason #815: In this stressful, competitive “DIY! Make your wedding YOUR OWN AND UNLIKE ANY OTHER BRIDE’S!” era, she knows how to take engagement photos to the next level:

We drove up just in time for our appointment to take the wedding tour. IT WAS INCREDIBLE. First, we hopped in a stretch limo golf cart (that’s right, it seated 8) and visited all of the gorgeous ceremony locations.

And best spots for photo ops.

And most importantly, we learned how sprawling the resort is; you can put packs of friends together in room blocks and, even better, put the people you are 99.9% positive will make a scene(s) at your wedding way out in the boondocks, where they can say things like “You’re not really going to be married, ‘cause it’s not in a church” all they want, and no one will hear them!

Then, we piled into the hotel’s Suburban and drove to the crown jewel of the Ojai wedding tour: The Barn.

I had a vision. Katierose and my mom had even better ideas to add to my vision. Tony had a vision that everyone mostly ignored, because it included things like his desire to rappel down a rope to the ceremony:

They had friggin’ MINI HORSES, for heaven’s sake! It’s a real working barn! But it was hard for my dad to wrap these visions around the price tag. He’s a lot like Steve Martin in FATHER OF THE BRIDE in that he’s hilarious, loves me more than anything and wants me to have my dream wedding, and CANNOT BELIEVE how much weddings cost. To him, a wedding that costs that much shouldn’t be in a barn, it should be in a ballroom with a Tiffany glass ceiling and diamonds for party favors.

But, doing the wedding in Ojai would be so much simpler than doing the wedding at a private estate. They’ve done a million before; we wouldn’t need to worry about renting tables, chairs, linens, napkins, bathrooms… Instead, we’d be able to spend our time doing things like concocting our own perfume at the Apothecary:

My mom and I took the custom perfume blending class… (How fun would THAT be to do with all the bridesmaids, designing our own signature scents for the wedding?!) In class, we learned my mom is attracted to anti-depressive scents, and I am attracted to ones that boost self-confidence. It went a little deeper psychologically than we were expecting, but I digress. My custom perfume included vanilla, grapefruit, jasmine sambac, and coriander. I was going to name it Xanax-italin, but changed my mind to TONANNIE.

Or, doing things like playing in a wedding golf tournament:

My dad took my brother and Tony golfing. Tony had to borrow my dad’s shorts because he didn’t pack anything dress-code appropriate. (Maybe we should trade in some of those lacrosse tank tops for a button-up or two?) He also hit his ball two holes away (to his left, not even straight) on his first swing.

Or, doing things like drinking cocktails and eating french fries in the hot tub:

Or, doing things like getting facials or massages and lounging at the spa. Or eating at the resort’s fancy restaurant, where they give you a special black napkin if you’re wearing a dark dress so you don’t get lint on it (my mom initially thought she won a prize when this happened.) We were so pampered all weekend. Sunni, the manager who took us on the tour and happens to be the kindest woman alive, sent these to our room after the tour (THANK YOU, SUNNI!!!!):

Look! Our cupcakes would have gotten married in a little frosting dress and tuxedo, if I hadn’t murdered them both with my mouth. (Tony let me eat his. I ate my parents’ without asking. My mom said that wasn’t in my “dress diet.” I didn’t care.)

The entire thing seems so relaxing, the process smooth and seamless, and so different from my Tahoe fantasy of designing every detail myself, down to the gold forks I’m going to rent somewhere (or spray paint, if it comes to that). In Ojai, it would be executed perfectly because it’s been done so well, so many times before; I’d be getting married at a place perfect for weddings, rather than figuring out how to make a wedding happen in my perfect place (without burning my perfect place down in my sparkler send-off, or blowing the power out because I didn’t rent enough generators for all my twinkle lights and Tony’s live Wang Chung cover band).

It’s a lot to think about (Katierose, pick up your phone!!!) But it occurred to me, as I shoveled cupcakes into my face poolside…

One wedding wouldn’t be better than the other. They’d both be perfect because I get to marry this guy:

Oh bye, Ojai! (*This is another joke Tony’s dad would make.)