Lake Tahoe love story: Couple who met and reconnected in Tahoe wed on North Shore
When Brooke ONeill and Natalie Vitalie met at Sierra Nevada College five years ago, neither one imagined they would be where they are today.
“No way in hell would we have ever thought this,” said Brooke.
“Never,” says Natalie.
Today, June 15, the two will wed at a private estate in Incline Village, marking a milestone in a relationship seemingly guided by fate — and one with Lake Tahoe at the heart of it all.
“We wanted to get married there,” Brooke said of Tahoe. “It’s not only where we met but it’s where we want to spend our life together … we call that place home.”
Reconnecting in Tahoe
Natalie, a graphic designer who describes herself as a “nerd,” started her first year at Sierra Nevada College in 2013. As a member of the snowboard team — just one of her many outdoor passions — she didn’t have many friends on the team. Truly her only friend, she says, was her teammate with the unforgettable smile.
“She was always so happy,” Natalie said of Brooke.
Despite Natalie being a park rider and Brooke riding boardercross, the two started going on runs together and struck-up a casual friendship.
Natalie, though, ended up not continuing with snowboarding and eventually moved to San Francisco. The two stayed loosely connected via social media, but didn’t really communicate for several years, even though Natalie regularly visited Tahoe.
One evening while in Tahoe, she pulled into High Altitude Fitness in Incline Village and saw a figure running across the parking lot.
“I don’t even know how I recognized her,” said Natalie.
“It was a freak occurrence — like right timing, right place,” said Brooke, who worked at the gym as a personal training coach at the time.
While the encounter started in storybook fashion, it didn’t exactly continue down that path.
As Brooke recalls, she was exhausted after a full day of work and climbing. She just wanted to go eat dinner, so she rushed out after the two quickly caught up.
Natalie framed it in slightly different words.
“She was so weird, she barely wanted to talk to me.” Brooke loudly screamed out a parting message as she hastily left the gym.
That same evening, Brooke sent Natalie a message on Facebook, a message Natalie described as “very forward.”
The next day they had lunch … then drinks at Lone Eagle … then dinner.
“It was like the best date ever,” said Natalie.
At the heart of every great proposal is the element of surprise, explains Brooke.
That’s what she had in mind when the two headed to Monterey to ride in the Sea Otter Classic. When the relationship started, Natalie loved to mountain bike — Brooke did not. But she gradually fell in love with it.
They went out to have some fun with close friends and ended up by the ocean for a picnic. At some point Brooke asked Natalie to come exploring with her. They walked along the rocks and as the wind picked up Natalie walked out to the edge and threw her arms up, resembling Kate Winslet’s character in the movie “Titanic.”
Brooke saw her opening.
“When I turned around Brooke was on one knee,” said Natalie. “I was extremely shocked.”
The shock, as Brooke explained, was due in part because Natalie “had never ever imagined having someone ask her to marry her.”
At the time, Natalie already had a ring and was planning on proposing to Brooke. That proposal came about a month later when the two, along with the same friends from Monterey, were visiting Tahoe.
They were on a South Shore beach. It was another windy day.
As Brooke took photos of the waves, Natalie grabbed their puppy, Nacho.
The next time the two locked eyes, Brooke saw their puppy with a sign around its neck that read “Mommy, will you marry mommy?”
“I was like what? Oh my god.”
Although it may seem like a minor detail, the two proposals were very important.
Both parents thought their daughters would be in traditional relationships with the opposite sex. They saw a traditional proposal and a traditional wedding.
“This was a way we could be traditional,” Brooke explained.
More importantly, though, they both wanted to experience that feeling of having another person ask one of life’s biggest questions.
If everything goes according to plan, today’s wedding ceremony will symbolize the start of life together at Tahoe.
The two plan to move from the Bay Area to the region where they met, reconnected and fell in love.
“The magnificence of Tahoe is in our hearts,” says Brooke. “We love Tahoe.”
They won’t miss the Bay Area traffic, she added.
Traffic aside, they hope to live the Tahoe life: Climbing, paddleboarding, mountain bike riding, hiking, snowboarding and more.
“Everything we have missed,” Brooke said.
And, more importantly, they look forward to doing those things together.
“I couldn’t have a better partner,” said Natalie. “I’ve never had a partner where we love to do the same exact things and we can do them together and not get on each other’s nerves. … It’s incredible. I wake up and I’m just like ‘wow, I couldn’t be luckier.’”