Walla Walla Lifestyles has talked to dozens of local couples to find out what weddings in Walla Walla look like these days. We discovered three remarkable couples who have found happiness in each other’s arms. 

Ryan and Elizabeth Tackett, representing the stars-in-their-eyes, fresh, young couple, are both musicians and met at the church where Ryan is the musical director. Ryan is a bit of a prophet – he awoke from a dream knowing he was meant to marry Elizabeth. And so they did, at a beautiful ceremony held at the Winn Homestead in Weston, Ore. 

Annette Bergevin and Kristy Olsen got to know each other over time, becoming friends and then lovers. They were married last September after Washington state passed the same-sex marriage act. “We could tell things were changing,” Kristy says. “Neither of us wanted to be domestic partners – we wanted to marry.” 

Rachel Philo and Charlie Mandis each have one child – Rachael has Jesse Ocanaz, who is 2; Charlie has Janelle (Mandis), who is 8. They've blended their families together by maintaining a sense of humor, practicing patience and showering each other with a lot of love. Soon to be wed, Rachel, Charlie and their kids did a practice run for Lifestyles at Primrose on Main, a beautiful mansion in Milton-Freewater. 

With one exception – the wedding of Ryan and Elizabeth – these photos were shot specifically for Lifestyles. They involved a lot of scheduling, last minute rescheduling, frayed nerves and triumphant results – after lots of work on the part of two players in our “A Tale of Three Weddings” story.

Kyle Meliah, co-owner of The Beehive Cut & Color Bar in downtown Walla Walla, along with her talented crew, did all the styling for these brides and grooms (including Elizabeth Tackett.) Walla Walla Clothing Company provided the wedding outfits for Rachel, Annette and Kristy. We couldn't have done it without them.  

These three weddings may have been – and will be –  big or small, raucous or sweetly sentimental, but at their core is the most valuable treasure of them all: true love. 

Ryan Tackett & Elizabeth Fleming

Two weeks after Ryan Tackett started dating his girlfriend Elizabeth, he had a dream that he proposed to her. 

He awoke knowing, “without a shadow of a doubt,” that this was the woman that he was going to marry. Both are musicians, with mutual friends amidst the music scene in Walla Walla, and both attend Blue Mountain Community Church (Ryan is the musical director there), where they met last spring. Elizabeth, originally from San Francisco, graduated from Whitman College with a degree in music. His instrument is the guitar, hers is the piano. They became acquainted with one other, then began dating last April. Two-and-a-half months later, they were engaged. 

The proposal took place on the Whitman College campus, at one of their favorite spots by the water, where the creeks converge, under a canopy of trees. They’d gone there to work on a song together — they often write and compose with one another — and unbeknownst to Elizabeth, Ryan’s family was in on the plan. When they arrived, she encountered a candlelit pathway and floating candles bobbing along the surface of the water. There was wine and dessert, and the rest is history. 

The couple said their vows this past October, outdoors on the lawn of the Winn Homestead — a beautiful old barn in Westin, Ore. — surrounded by family and friends and fellow musicians. 

With their love of music, it might have been difficult deciding what their first dance song would be. “That was one of the things we were most excited about … we had an open-mic session,” Ryan says. Ryan and Elizabeth provided an array of instruments, and one by one, musically inclined wedding guests approached the mic to strum a tune or two. And then the newlyweds, as they had done so many times before and would do so many times again, played a song together.

Annette Bergevin and Kristy Olson

Annette Bergevin is a warm and a vibrant woman — there's something about her that comes so intensely from the inside out, it’s infectious. 

Kristy is the more stoic of the two, possessing a natural elegance. She’s a surfer. You could picture her scanning the horizon, assessing where the next swell is coming from, optimizing her chances of catching that next wave. The two are a perfect balance, and the fact that they’re deeply in love with one other is obvious, as they tenderly joke around and divulge the story of how their wedding came to be.

“I’d become the third wheel to a set of brothers,” says Annette, “Doug Simcock (a local agent for Windermere Real Estate) and his brother, Rick.” Rick lives in Mount Vernon, Wash., which is where Kristy resided before relocating to Walla Walla. Kristy would come to Walla Walla to relax in our small-town setting and hang out with the Simcock Family. 

It was during one such visit, in May 2010, that Kristy and Annette were introduced to one another. “She had been told everything about me,” says Annette, “but I knew very little about her. I was most definitely at a disadvantage,” she says, laughing. 

As soon as they met, they knew that they liked one another. Their friendship grew over the next several months, and in September 2010, Kristy took some vacation days and came to Walla Walla so that they could spend some time together. Four months later, Kristy took the plunge and relocated here. 

The question of whether or not they’d ever marry was already a given. They knew from the start that they wanted to spend their lives together and that theirs was a union built to last. All they had to do was wait for the legislature and public opinion to make this feasible. “We could tell that things were changing, so we just waited. Neither of us was interested in being domestic partners — we wanted to marry,” explains Kristy.

The same-sex marriage bill, which was passed by the Washington state legislature on Feb. 12, 2012, and signed by Gov. Christine Gregoire, provided the legal means for gay and lesbian couples to, at last, marry and be recognized as legally married. 

 This watershed moment has helped hundreds of same-sex couples solidify their relationships, and Annette and Kristy were no exception. 

This past September, Annette married Kristy in her brother’s backyard. The couple and their family cooked and catered the affair, with a little help from T. Maccarone’s owner, Tom Maccarone, who provided his restaurant’s famous antipasto platter. Doug Simcock officiated their wedding and guided them through their self-transcribed vows. It was his turn to play third wheel.

Because of Annette's position as co-owner of Bergevin Lane Vineyards, the grape harvest meant that their honeymoon was delayed until this year, when they’ll head down to Todos Santos, a small surfing community in Mexico. Annette will relax by the beach, while Kristy will work on catching her next big wave.

Rachel Philo & Charlie Mandis 

This is the second time around for Rachel and Charlie, who will marry on Feb. 23 at Primrose on Main (formerly the Gildersleeve House), in Milton-Freewater. 

The guest list is short, yet all-encompassing, for the intimate ceremony and the cozy dinner party to follow. Rachel and Charlie will be joined by their two sets of parents, their two venue hosts, and two very small, very important guests: Rachel’s 2-year-old son and Charlie’s 8-year-old daughter. “I’m working the kids into my vows,” Rachel explains. “‘May I have permission to marry your father?’ That kind of thing.” 

Rachel, manager of The Walla Walla Clothing Co., will wear a Nicole Miller dress, one of the perks that comes from having contacts in the fashion industry. She says that her future step-daughter also has a dress picked out, and while there will be no bridal party or attendants, her young charge has asked to be responsible for the very important task of chief petal-thrower. 

Charlie and Rachel met online two years ago this April. Were they concerned when it came time to meet in person? “Not at all ... because you get a sense of someone from getting to know them from a distance, online or on the phone, and that’s not something that changes all that much when you finally meet,” Rachael says. 

“From a distance” is only half the story. While Rachel has been firmly rooted in Walla Walla due to the demands of running a busy retail business, Charlie’s work is based in West Richland. They’ve been covering a lot of ground in getting to know one another — speaking both literally and metaphorically. After a year and two months of dating between the two cities, Charlie proposed to Rachel this past Thanksgiving. Once they’re married, there will be a merging of households, geographical locations (they have decided that Rachel will move to Richland) and families. 

 

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