Real Couples // Rustic Italian Winter Wedding in Kennewick, WA: Candess + Jess

I (Candess) was born in Camp Pendleton, California. My dad was in the Navy, and my folks were quite young. Fate moved me to a small town in Washington called Finley, where I was brought up raising pigs in 4H, playing softball for years, cheering in high school, and even wrestling for three years.

Jessica was born and raised in Tri-Cities, Washington, where she attended a much larger high school than myself. She attended a Korean church and grew up in a diverse home. Her father met her mother in South Korea while serving in the Army. Jess has explored her skills cooking for several respected restaurants here in her hometown. Earlier this year, saving for our wedding, we even worked side by side as she cooked for a Country Club and I bartended for them! It was fun to challenge ourselves beyond the friendship inside of our relationship we have.

We met in 2011, just before graduating high school. We went on to date others before finding our way to one another, in 2013, when I delivered Jess coffee to work. We went through a series of challenging events—moves, jobs, and emergency surgeries—that required for each of us to spend a year apart. We’ve been happy nesting in our cozy little studio apartment since June of 2016.

The deal was that since I asked Jess out, I’d be ready to get engaged when she was. If it was up to me we would’ve eloped right there! Although I had been hoping the proposal would come, I was surprised when it did. Jess had me swept up by the sea when she got down on one knee!

Our rings honor our personalities so well! Her engagement ring has three diamonds representing past, present and future, and her wedding band is square with her diamonds more protected. My engagement ring has one solid diamond and a twisted band for both of my rings.

We chose our wedding venue because my dad, an electric engineer, actually wired the building a decade prior. Although he did not come to the wedding, it was a great way of incorporating my Italian heritage.

I absolutely loved connecting with Heart Of Bricks for our cake topper we ordered off Etsy. We were able to select and build it ourselves! Amy, the owner of Amy’s Bridal Boutique, was my very own fairy god mother. The set of jewelry I wore was gifted to me by a close friend of Jess' from high school named Megan, who happened to be our jeweler. My sister let me borrow the pearl pin she wore on her wedding day, and my teal garter with my little flask was also gifted to me from our massage therapist and friend, Maddy. I left the same old hoop nose ring in I always wear as my something old! Jess was gifted a necklace from her mom just before our bridal shower that she wore for the day of. Her parents chose not to attend, so it was a nice way of having her mom there close to her heart.

We used "Marry Me” by Train as the walk in song. We just felt like the lyrics and tune fit the moment so well. For our walk out song we chose Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is” as our loved ones accompanied us upstairs to celebrate!

We chose Kat Millicent as our officiant, a local business owner of an art studio who promotes and radiates love. We met with Kat before, and agreed to share the prayer of St. Francis, followed by exchanging our vows. Kat, being the most genuine soul, asked for nothing but for us to start our marriage donating towards a charity of our choice. Treating others how we want to be treated has gifted us so many beautiful opportunities, a moral we choose to live by. Honoring the love we cherish, we chose to donate towards the Domestic Violence Services of Benton Franklin County.

We wanted Italian food at our wedding from the start. Bella Italia was one of the last places we checked out and it was perfect! Not only did they have amazing authentic Italian food, the whole place made us feel like we teleported to Italy for our wedding.

Our two signs we brought were made prior, one reading ”Candess & Jessica est. 2013” and the other being a nail art piece reading “The Paveses” with our colors teal and purple. We used our pride flag as a table cloth for our sign in frame for guest and the “Mrs & Mrs” sign was made for our bridal shower and hung behind us at our table. I loved the gorgeous cherry blossom tree TSP Bakeshop incorporated on our wedding cake and decorating details our friends Miranda Davis and Stephanie Beck assisted with.

We ended our night in the very same room I rented out for Jess’ first birthday we celebrated together in the Clover Island Inn. Our room overlooked the Columbia River where we had the best view of the lighted boat parade and a giant garden tub to soak up in.

Words by Candess, one of the brides, as told by Amber Marlow. Photos by Samantha Starns.

Rustic italian wedding jess getting ready
Rustic italian wedding candess having wedding dress zipped
Rustic italian wedding candess's shoes
Rustic italian wedding candess and jess in front of italian-style brick
Rustic italian wedding candess and jess candid
Rustic italian wedding candess and jess on chair
Rustic italian wedding candess's pearl and diamond hair pin
Rustic italian wedding jess's Boutonniere on suit jacket
Rustic italian wedding embrace under berry vines
Rustic italian wedding couple holding hands in front of door
Rustic italian wedding fun embrace
Rustic italian wedding invitation
Rustic italian wedding cake with lego cake topper; cupcakes
Rustic italian wedding lego cake topper: rainbow heart and bride figures
Rustic italian wedding candess's garter
Rustic italian wedding card box with painted wedding date
Rustic italian wedding box with glass lid reading "you and me"
Rustic italian wedding candess reading vows
Rustic italian wedding jess holding bouquet
Rustic italian wedding just before kiss at altar
Rustic italian wedding couple in front of sign for bella italia
Rustic italian wedding embrace in front of restaurant
Rustic italian wedding couple laughing on high-backed chairs
Rustic italian wedding embrace
Rustic italian wedding close-up on embrace, candess's hair pin, jess's ring
Rustic italian wedding wedding rings
Rustic italian wedding couple holding hands and talking to guests at table
Rustic italian wedding child coloring on custom coloring page. Page: bear scattering hearts from basket, text reading "I couldn't bear this life without spreading love everywhere! 12.2.17, candess & jessica's big day! hooray!!"
Rustic italian wedding table draped with LGBTQ+ flag; card box, picture, bucket, signs
Rustic italian wedding wooden sign reading "here comes the love of your life"
Rustic italian wedding candess and jess cutting cake
Rustic italian wedding cutting cake
Rustic italian wedding jess giving candess cake piece
Rustic italian wedding couple relaxing on sofa in wedding clothes
Rustic italian wedding embrace in front of hotel bed
Rustic italian wedding couple sitting on bed
Rustic italian wedding foreheads touching
Rustic italian wedding kiss in bathtub


Photography | S Photography

Catering and venue | Bella Italia

Florals | Aunt Brenda Smith

Officiant | Kat Millicent

Wedding cake | TSP Bakeshop

Cake topper | Heart of Bricks

Candess's dress and shoes | Amy's Bridal Boutique

Beautician | Courtney Taylor

Lashes | Alicia Williams

Jeweler | Megan Welch

Hotel | Clover Island Inn

Samantha starns s photography


Samantha Starns, owner of S Photography, is a Pacific Northwest Adventure Photographer specializing in intimate weddings/elopements and couples. While based in the Pacific Northwest, she travels extensively through the US and abroad. She openly admits to being a goofball, and most of her clients end up as her friends. Most days you can find her in one of two worlds: out adventuring in the wilderness and riding her motorcycle, OR curled up with her dogs and husband at their home in Southern Oregon.