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A wedding in the forest: Kathryn and Joey’s story

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Better Place Forests creates and maintains conservation memorial forests for people who choose cremation and don’t want their ashes to end up in a traditional cemetery.

We often talk about the end of one’s life, but today we’re going to share a story of a couple at the beginning of something — the start of life as husband and wife. Kathryn and Joey chose to have their wedding ceremony in the Santa Cruz mountains at the base of their memorial tree, where one day they will return after life.

The couple first met on a coffee date. When Kathryn arrived Joey texted her an inside joke — “someone is staring at you in personal growth” — a famous line from their favorite movie “When Harry Met Sally.” The date then moved to a movie theatre and finally ended hours later after dinner. The two joke that their first three dates all happened on the first. And from there, their love story began.  

Shared grief was a connection that bonded Kathryn and Joey early on. “We both had really close friends that passed on at an early age,” said Joey. “And so that caused us to appreciate the time we have. And to realize we won’t always have it.” For Joey, Kathryn was the first person to truly understand his grief and empathize in a way others weren’t able to.

After building a life together for 11 years, Kathryn and Joey decided they wanted to be married. “We knew in our hearts that we were married,” said Kathryn. “We’ve already committed every way a couple can — this was the last way.”

When they started talking about wedding plans they knew they wanted to do something special. “I wanted something simple, but I just didn’t want to do the courthouse,” said Kathryn. “I thought a tree would be good, and then I said ‘Oh! We own a tree. We should find out if we can get married under our tree.’”

On the day of the ceremony, Kathryn and Joey arrived in the forest with an intimate group of friends and family — and mementos for loved ones who couldn’t attend. One of these mementos was a beautiful wooden bowl made from a fallen Acacia tree in Mill Valley, an area that Kathryn loves in Northern California. They filled the bowl with photos, letters, and other meaningful trinkets from loved ones.

They also brought a meaningful quilt from Kathryn’s friend Amber — another loved one who wasn’t able to attend but whose presence they wanted near them on their special day. There was symbolism in everything in the forest that day.

Surrounded by their loved ones, and the mementos that made them feel close, Kathryn and Joey said “I do.” They were married by their friend Kim, whose wedding had been officiated by Kathryn under a similar tree in San Jose. It was a full-circle moment for both friends.

The couple chose their own rings. Kathryn’s ring is wooden with the depiction of a mountain range and lavender flowers coated in resin, and Joey’s is also wooden but with a guitar string running through it. The bouquet and boutonniere were made from lavender and eucalyptus — symbolizing the calm they each bring each other.

Their wedding cake was made by Kathryn’s sister, a trained baker. And back to their first date, the cake had a special meaning. “If you’ve ever seen the movie ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ they had a gorgeous coconut cake with chocolate sauce on the side — that’s what she made for us,” said Katherine. With edible pinecones made from marzipan and all, the cake was exactly what the two hoped for.

Kathryn and Joey plan to return to the forest for their first anniversary, and someday they’ll return forever. But this isn’t something that scares the couple. Their early experiences with loss taught them that nothing is promised, and now the forest provides solace for them.

“I remember saying in front of the tree ‘This is our place.’ I think that’s what everybody wants is a place to call home, where you can be yourself and feel at peace — that’s home,” said Kathryn. “It’s just… it’s magic.”

We’re giving you the opportunity to save on your own memorial tree. This month only, book a guided online tour to start sharing the love.

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