Jenna Branner & James Jacob Rude
November 10, 2014 in St. John, United States Virgin Islands
Jenna Branner and James Jacob Rude (Jake) met at the Rose Bowl at a UCLA football game the second week of school their freshman year at college. Jenna was with Kaitlin, her best friend and Jake was with his friend Chad. They ended up having the best time watching the game together and Jake even held Jenna’s hand that night to guide her through the crowd. “I felt safe,” says Jenna “and knew he was different than most eighteen-year-old college freshmen.”
Jenna describes herself as a southern girl from North Carolina. Her first impression about Jake was, “why is this California boy such a gentleman with amazing manners?” She somehow found one of the only “southern gentlemen” in the entire state. But they talked and talked for hours and Jenna just remembers thinking how nice this guy was.
Jake proposed to her on the exact day of their “five years together” anniversary at Disneyland, exactly where they first made their relationship official on January 10, 2009.
“Jake asked me to marry him right in front of Disneyland’s castle” remarks Jenna. He had his uncle put a framed picture of them on a bench and when they casually walked past it Jake asked “what’s that?” As soon as Jenna picked up the photo and turned to him, Jake was already on one knee saying “I want you to be mine forever. Jenna Lee Branner will you marry me?” Jenna remarks “I was in such shock that I seriously forgot to say yes at first. Jake basically had to ask me twice!”
Jenna and Jake decided to have a destination wedding. Her parent’s fell in love with the island of St. John on their 25th wedding anniversary when they stayed at Caneel Bay Resort. Soon after, they bought a vacation villa there. Jenna had many fun-filled family memories enjoying the island from the past five-years. It was a natural choice to host the wedding there especially since her entire family lives on the east coast and Jake’s on the west coast.
“We love how green and full of life the island is in November” remarks Jenna. A local wedding planner has been a dear friend of theirs for years, so she was the first person Jenna and her Mom called. She introduced them to the most creative, talented vendors on the island and “we couldn’t have been happier with how our wedding day turned out” says Jenna.
“Even though most couples will say their wedding day was a whirlwind,” says Jenna, “we both felt like time literally stopped for us that day. Personally, I’ve never felt more calm or peaceful. We were simply overwhelmed with the love and support of our friends and family.”
Jake says it was the happiest day of his life. The reception was a fantastic party. "That’s what happens when all of your friends are dancers and performers and you hire the best band on the island. You bring down the house!"
The inspiration for the wedding day was the “Colors of the Caribbean." The couple wanted to showcase the gorgeous waters surrounding St. John and they did so with the bridesmaid dresses, the fabric on the reception tables and even the custom made directional signs that welcomed guests to the ceremony.
Jenna’s Dad is a talented painter and he, along with her aunt Becky, hand painted signs that brought the reception to life. There was a sign connecting every food station to a special part of their lives together. For example, they both love Italian food and Jenna travels to Italy to teach dance every summer, so at the fresh made-to-order pasta station, they had an Italian love phrase written on the sign.
Other details really brought out the life of the island and supported the local people and businesses. Jenna’s gift to her bridesmaids was an island “hook bracelet” with the native Larimar stone. Their specialty drink was the famous USVI “Painkiller” and they danced the night away with a local Caribbean Carnival dance group. The wild island donkeys even showed up to celebrate with them.
Jenna’s brother sang one of the songs the couple had chosen for the ceremony. One of the lines in the lyrics to the song was “Should this be the last thing I see, I want you to know it’s enough for me.” “That pretty much sums up our day” says Jenna. “There was a rainbow when I was walking down the aisle to my groom, everyone we loved and who loved us in return was crying and laughing with us, we danced till we almost passed out, and we would do it all again tomorrow if we could. It was perfect.”