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SEASIDE WEDDING (Summer 2004)


Actress Annabeth Gish and martial arts expert Wade Allen brought a sense of fun and freedom to their rustic nuptials, exchanging vows on a bluff overlooking the Pacific.

"Nature is really our church," says Gish of the decision to hold the ceremony overlooking the ocean rather than in a house of worship.

Something eerie happened on the set of The X-Files in December 2001, but it didn't involve extraterrestrials, telekinesis or spirits raised from the dead. According to actress Annabeth Gish, who played Special Agent Monica Reyes on the TV drama, it was then that co-star Robert Patrick watched her meet the show's new fight-scene choreographer, Wade Allen, and observed, "That's the man you're going to marry."

Within a week Gish, who has a recurring role as President Bartlet's eldest daughter on The West Wing, agreed to shop for a Christmas tree with Allen. The date led to a romance and a proposal a year later, when the couple went tree-hunting again and Allen pointed out the perfect one: it had a diamond and platinum ring dangling from a bough.

The location - unpretentious yet evocative of nature's splendor - suited the pair perfectly and presaged the place they would choose for their wedding. "We hoped the day would be casual but convey a sense of flair," says Gish. The couple planned the ceremony for October 11, 2003, on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean at the rustic Sea Ranch Lodge in Sonoma County, Calif.

The event was part of a weekend-long celebration, and the 100 guests were told to leave their spike heels at home. "The location called for informal attire," says the bride. Indeed, though Gish, 33, walked down the aisle to strains of Beethoven's "Pathetique" sonata in a diaphanous gown that Allen, 32, describes as "beautiful, but simply beautiful, just like her," she later fended off the chilly ocean breezes by slipping on a pink down jacket by the North Face. Guests, including Rebecca [Romijn] and The X-Files creator, Chris Carter, sipped champagne in the meadow on the bluff before retiring to the lodge's 1890 redwood barn for dinner, which featured crab cakes and California sea bass, followed by dancing. "We're really down-to-earth," explains the bride, whose wedding day nevertheless proved absolutely heavenly.

Keep It Relaxed But Stylish.

Custom-designed invitations and announcements. Instead of going with a standard design for her save-the-date announcements, Gish got creative. She chose sage-green card stock to echo the outdoor setting and included a reproduction of an ink drawing Allen made of the barn at Sea Ranch Lodge.

Bestow distinctive favors. Gish, whose family hails from Albuquerque, N.M., created welcome bags that paid tribute to her hometown. She included locally prepared salsa, two kinds of chips and a cookbook, along with a pressed Gerber daisy, a reference to the flowers Allen gave Gish on their first date.

Make the rehearsal dinner meaningful. The couple selected a menu that continued the New Mexican theme and for dessert served cake to celebrate the birthdays of Allen's father and another guest. A slide show the couple created traced their lives from childhood to wedding day.

Mix up the music. Gish and Allen turned to Nada Lewis of Folkloric Productions in the San Francisco Bay area for music that reflected their taste. A musician played Spanish classical guitar before the ceremony and during the cocktail hour. During dinner a band performed jazz and Latin numbers, and a DJ spun five compilation discs after the meal.

Let the details reflect the setting. Because the ceremony was held outdoors, the couple eschewed formal elements. They opted to hang escort cards for the reception on a line with clothespins, and the bride's bouquet looked as if it had been picked from a country garden.

Foresake tradition if it doesn't suit your style. While a white cake is the standard choice, Allen and Gish decided on chocolate frosting. They also wrote their vows and had guests read from a range of texts, including the Apache wedding blessing and "Love at First Sight," by Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska.
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