Claire + Sam are married!

C & A Event Planning, Real Wedding


It’s been a few years now since Claire + Sam got married at Gratitude & Grace in Ithaca NY. Over the years we’ve had the opportunity to work at Gratitude & Grace a few times and each time we love it more and more.

Gratitude & Grace was originally built in 1878 and was a working farm for many years. Ron Riddle, a professional musician, and composer is now the owner of Gratitude & Grace. Now it’s a country estate and has been Ron’s family home for the last 18 years. Gratitude & Grace is unique in that the accommodations and venue are all on the same property. Everything is on site – the wedding barn, ceremony sites, and the accommodations.

their story + the proposal.

“We first met at a bible study for graduate students during Claire’s second and Sam’s first year at Cornell. We bonded pretty quickly over ice cream, Beyonce, and college basketball, but it took Claire running out of gas on a cold November day and Sam coming to the rescue with donuts before he asked her out. We’ve been together ever since!

For Claire’s birthday in April, I made a “Mystery Trip” postcard with only the dates of our trip. Despite many questions from Claire, I gave her no details.

We flew from Dallas to San Francisco on Thursday night, mere hours after Claire learned our flight’s destination. The next morning, I rented a car and we started driving on our adventures for the day. (Not wanting the GPS to give away the destination, I had memorized the turn-by-turn directions in advance.) We drove along Hwy 1, stopping for fruit stands and lunch.

After lunch, we drove inland, eventually turning off the highway onto a winding, sparsely traveled road. We drove up this road for about 10 miles until we reached Fremont Peak State Park. From there, we hiked to the top of Fremont Peak, where we stood alone on a near-cloudless day. I pulled out a copy of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden — Claire’s favorite novel — from my backpack and began to read Steinbeck’s description of the Salinas Valley in Chapter 1, pointing out landmarks as Steinbeck painted them.

I read the first few paragraphs and then paused. I flipped back to the epigraph and read Steinbeck’s letter to his editor, which concludes with the following paragraph: “Well, here’s your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts—the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation. And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you. And still the box is not full.”

As soon as I finished reading this letter about Steinbeck’s box, I reached into my bag again to pull out my own box, got down on one knee, and asked Claire to marry me as I opened the box to reveal an engagement ring. Amid a mixture of laughter and tears, she said yes, and we spent the rest of the weekend exploring Steinbeck’s Eden.”

Unfortunately Claire + Sam were planning their wedding in the midst of the world shutting down and from two different states. As many couple’s chose to postpone – Claire + Sam began to make plans of how to adjust their original plan.

covid wedding.

During covid I spoke with many of our planning couples about sharing their wedding stories – Sam and Claire took the opportunity to share with me. They didn’t anticipate their families having one-on-one time to spend together but this turned out to be the silver lining.

“We had a homemade meal together Friday night to kick off the weekend and really enjoyed every moment from there on. The wedding consisted of our parents and siblings, so much smaller and more intimate than anticipated. I loved how involved our families were in the planning of the wedding. From building the arbor to cooking the meal, it was more DIY than we planned but so much fun! Plus, we ended up getting married in my father’s backyard (in my hometown of Rockford, OH), which was beautiful, and it was so comforting to be in a space that I grew up in. We had planned to get married in Sam’s church in Ithaca and we’re sad to change this plan, but we were blessed with perfect weather and ended up loving every moment.

Fast forward to June 2021 – they had their bigger celebration and it was absolutely beautiful.

Photography: Jacalyn Meyvis Photography

Venue: Gratitude + Grace

Planning: C & A Event Planning

Specialty Rentals: Pretty Little Vintage Co