Jessi & Zach
Text by Melanie Saxton
Photos by Caleb Fleming of Big Box Photography
Eight years ago, two teenage athletes met and fell head-over-heels in love. Jessica “Jessi” Lauren Ortiz and Michael Zachary “Zach” Toth both attended Mayde Creek High School in Katy ISD. They knew that college would soon add distance to their relationship. But neither miles not time apart diminished their commitment, which culminated in a beautiful outdoor wedding and storybook reception at Pecan Springs Event Venue in Brookshire. The guests at the event celebrated true love!
The couple has always shared a passion for sports. After graduating from high school in 2008, Zach played baseball his freshman year at Eastfield Junior College in Mesquite and his sophomore year at University of Texas-Permian Basin in Odessa. He graduated from Texas State University in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science with a minor in special education. He is employed as a health and physical education teacher and baseball and football Coach at Cypress Falls High School in Cy-Fair ISD.
Jessi played softball her freshman year on a scholarship at Blinn College in Brenham, then attended Texas State University and St. David’s School of Nursing. She graduated in May 2013 and is employed as a registered nurse at Cypress Fairbanks Medical Center in the Intensive Care Unit.
Jessi was 15 years old when she first spotted 17-year-old Zach walk across the Mayde Creek Junior High gym with his parents. His younger sister, Caitlin, and her younger sister, Rachel, were both on the same volleyball team, and the families were there to cheer them on. “I thought he was so handsome,” says Jessi, who found out from friends that Zach was already in a relationship.
Weeks later, Zach joined Jessi in the hall and announced, “I’m going to walk you to class.” He swung her hand, then parted ways with hardly any conversation at all. Weeks went by before they had another encounter. During Christmas break Jessi made a bold move — she private messaged him on MySpace, and to her surprise he responded and asked for her phone number. After a few exchanged messages, Zach invited Jessi and her best friend to a party with his friends. “I fell can’t-eat-can’t-sleep-reach-for-the-stars-over-the-fence-world-series-kind-of-in-love,” says Jessi.
The couple basically grew up together and experienced many special milestones while dating, such as attending each others high school graduations, leaving home for separate colleges a year apart, adjusting to a long distance romance, celebrating their 21st birthdays and enjoying family vacations at the Guadalupe River and Galveston Beach every summer.
About a year before Zach popped the question, he constantly reminded Jessi that he had no money. He had been working at the student center at Texas State University and “wasn’t really able to save much.” Dinner dates at Taco Bell and Redbox movie nights convinced Jessi that an engagement would happen in the distant future. Still, she had her own ideas about when he would propose — and he knew it. This was why she was truly so surprised when it actually happened.
On July 15, 2013, Jessi started her career as a registered nurse in Houston while Zach was still finishing his degree in San Marcos. He wanted to celebrate her first week on the job with a weekend get away to Galveston. He picked her up from her parents’ house. Although her family is tight-knit, she thought it was strange that everyone gathered in the kitchen to bid them farewell.
The plan was to have dinner and drinks, go to the hotel, then enjoy Sunday at the beach. But after dinner at Jimmy’s on the Pier, Zach announced, “We are going to have to go soon. I have a surprise for you.” He took her on a sunset horseback riding tour, and she was ecstatic. But 10 minutes into the ride, the guide stopped and announced, “This is usually where riders like to have their picture taken.” Jessi reluctantly climbed off of her horse and complained under her breath, while Zach politely shoved her along. Finally, she spotted roses and a picture frame propped perfectly against the fence post that said, “Will You Marry Us?” As she turned around, Zach was down on one knee holding the most gorgeous ring she had ever seen. “I’m not even sure if I took the time to even say ‘yes’ before I grabbed for it,” says Jessi.
After his romantic proposal, their sisters popped out from behind the bushes. They had been taking photos of the entire event. Everyone drove back to Zach’s parents’ home in Katy to celebrate the joyous occasion!
The couple was engaged about a year and a half while planning their March 2015 nuptials. Zach graduated from college and started his first job. They purchased their first home in November 2014 and celebrated their first Christmas together in the same city. When one of their future groomsmen deployed to Afghanistan, they adopted his Labrador Retriever, Gauge. They also attended pre-marital sessions with their officiant, Reid Whiteside.
The bride describes her wedding theme as “Simple Shabby Chic” with wedding colors of mint, peach and gold. She loves an organic garden feel and found inspiration through Pinterest photos. She wanted her ceremony to look and feel effortless, complete with comfortable vibe so that her guests could relax and enjoy the day.
Attire: The bride wore an ivory lace high-low Sottero and Midgley Macie ballgown with an enhanced sweetheart neckline. A champagne-colored belt designed by Allure Bridals was tied in the back in a large bow. White peep-toe shoes by Audrey Brooke were adorned with small silver rhinestones and served as her “something new.” Her “something old” was her mother’s diamond tennis bracelet. Her “something borrowed” was the veil she forgot to bring to the venue! Her “something blue” was her mother’s garter. Bridesmaids wore dresses by B. Darlin and their choice of gold strappy flats or heels. They also wore Kendra Scott Ella style earrings, a gift from the bride.
The groom and groomsmen wore navy slim-fit suits by J. Ferrar, inspired by a photo of Ryan Gosling that the groom found online. The groom also wore a white/pearl colored neck tie, a colorful pair of socks from Express, and Cole Haan caramel wingtip dress shoes. Groomsmen also wore caramel leather dress shoes and matching belts. They were gifted navy ties and Fossil watches with a caramel leather band.
Bridal party: Parents of the bride, Jorge and Melissa Ortiz, joined parents of the groom, Michael and Linda Toth, in witnessing the union of their children. Caitlin Ortiz, the bride’s younger sister, served as maid of honor. Julia Ortiz (the bride’s youngest sister), Rachel Toth (the groom’s sister), Katie Amsbaugh, Amanda Rountree, Emily DiValerio, Jenny Crites and Amanda Garcia served as bridesmaids. Isabel VanDerNoort (the bride’s cousin) served as junior bridesmaid.
Best man and longtime family friend Josh Hamby served as best man. David Ritchie and Blake Ritchie (the groom’s cousins), Colby Harvey, Drake Remington, Matt Steiner, Sean Pilola and Zack Stiles served as groomsmen. Ushers included Gerrit VanDerNoort (the bride’s cousin), Zach Chirtos and Michael Tebo.
Ceremony decor: The bride’s portfolio of Pinterest floral arrangements was the inspiration for a beautiful caged arrangement designed of hydrangeas, Quicksand beige roses, peach stock, peach hypericum berries and seeded eucalyptus to adorn the gazebo arch under which the couple exchanged simple vows. Six Mason jars hung along the aisles (one in front row, middle row and last row) filled with white hydrangeas, peach stock, white waxflower and a wrap neck in twine.
Top Wedding Moments: According to the bride, “Our first kiss as man and wife was magical!” According to the groom, “Seeing my beautiful bride for the first time during our first look and then watching her walk down the aisle were my favorite moments.” Also notable during the walk down the aisle was the guitar/cello duo playing “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N Roses, which was a special surprise for the bride’s father (a classic rock fan). The bride’s sister read a beautiful poem during the ceremony entitled “Love” by Roy Croft.
Both the bride and groom focused on the enjoyment of their guests in an informal setting that allowed everyone to dine, dance and mingle in comfort. A family friend gifted the couple koozies, which were perfect wedding favors with a backstory: they showcased a stick figure of the couple that the bride had been drawing since the beginning of their relationship.
Dances: When the couple first started dating, they heard the song “Amazed” by Lonestar and recaptured that moment during their first dance. The father of the bride was inspired by the YouTube video of “I Loved Her First” by Heartland and suggested it for the dance with his daughter. The mother of the groom chose “Life’s a Dance” by John Michael Montgomery for a very emotional dance with her son. Guests were treated to an eclectic assortment of two-stepping music and line dances, including Copperhead Road, Cupid Shuffle and the Wobble. A live band, 100 Miles Gone, deejayed in between sets and took specific song requests. The groom, a reluctant dancer, became a “dancing machine” and didn’t want to leave the dance floor!
Reception Decor: The bride favored a “wildflower-flowerbox-gardenesque” outdoor theme and chose table candelabra arrangements with the same flowers that adorned the gazebo. The flowers were also scattered throughout the floor of the venue. As a personal touch, the bride provided her own collection of “shabby chic” vintage vases filled with small flowers that seemed to be plucked directly from a field. Her favorite mint green vase sat at the newlyweds’ sweetheart table. Twenty-four tables had settings that evoked an outdoor picnic with Mason jars and utensil holders decorated in burlap.
Framed engagement photos of various sizes added to the romantic ambiance, as well as a chalkboard bar menu, a chalkboard welcome sign and a chalkboard Instagram sign, all handwritten by the bride. The couple also displayed an “in memory of” chair inside the reception hall in tribute to both their paternal grandmothers and a close family friend who had passed away.
Top Reception Moments: The brand-new Mr. and Mrs. Toth enjoyed walking down the stairs and being announced as husband and wife during their grand entrance.
The Exit: The couple left amidst a flurry of bubbles. The bride’s father arranged a trip in a towncar to the Omni Hotel via an Uber driver he met during a Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo committee meeting.
The newlyweds enjoyed six days in St. Lucia at the Sandals La Toc resort, then returned to their new home, blossoming careers and beloved Labrador Retriever.