Equestrian Elegance at Willow Creek Ranch

Real Wedding
Zara honored her late mother's memory by featuring two special family members in her nuptials.
Written by
Mackenzie Sylvester


California Wedding Day Fall/Winter 2023

Zara Wells had always imagined her wedding day would be spent with those she loved most. “Throughout my life, I envisioned having both of my parents walk me down the aisle, side by side,” she says. She pictured Clayton Dragoo, her high school sweetheart, seeing her ascend the altar, with her father and horse-loving mother linked arm in arm with her. When her mother suddenly passed away in 2017, Zara’s “world was shattered.”

Since Zara was 5, her mother’s two horses, Nutcracker and Eva, have been a focal point of the family’s life. Following her mother’s passing, the young couple took over their ownership. “The horses have been a huge part of our daily life, and we feel so very connected to them,” Zara says.

In September 2022, it was finally time to officially entwine Zara’s and Clayton’s lives, with Willow Creek Ranch—which is home to Nutcracker and Eva—as the venue. However, because of health issues, Zara’s father was unable to attend the wedding. Without her parents to accompany her to the altar, Zara chose from her other lifelong loves. “In honor and memory of my mom,” she says, “Nutcracker and Eva were the ones to escort me down the aisle.”

With rolling hills and stunning views for hundreds of acres, the ranch offered the perfect opportunity for dreamy golden-hour photos. Rather than miss out on time spent with their guests at the celebration, the couple planned a “part two” to re-create the entire look of their wedding a week later to capture those magical sunset photos with Nutcracker and Eva. Setting aside an intentional time for photos to honor what’s most important to them meant Zara and Clayton got to be with all of their loved ones, even those not physically present. 


Ventura, CA





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