The Real World
Steal-worthy wedding destinations inspired by five couples’ actual I do’s
By Tessa Woolf
There’s no arguing that the Wasatch Front isn’t rife with killer wedding venues and top-notch florists, bakers, and caterers, but a destination wedding also has plenty of benefits, such as naturally jaw-dropping beauty, a sneaky excuse to keep your guest list under control, the chance to save money by extending your trip to include the honeymoon—and it’s far, far away from your everyday routine. But decisions like picking a menu or hotel for guests are hard enough when the vendors are just down the street: with an entire world at your disposal, how do you decide where to go and how to make it work?
You can certainly flex your fingers for some Internet searching to get ideas, but to really pull it off with panache, nothing beats learning from real-life couples who have been there, done that. Here are five pairs who planned and perfectly executed their weddings in prime destinations, plus pictures from photographers who were happy to join them on the trek up and down Utah, across borders, or overseas. These couples share their stories, style tips, and great local leads so that you can have your dream wedding, and travel to it, too.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Shortly after celebrating their eleventh year of dating, Kasey Stanislaw and Marshall Aune headed south of the border for their 11/11/11 wedding at the Hilton Los Cabos in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The couple fell in love with the resort town when they traveled there for Stanislaw’s grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary.
Easy Access The pair liked the idea of a weekend-long celebration with family and friends, and they figured a trip to Cabo San Lucas would be easy for their fifty-four guests. “It’s only a three-hour flight from Salt Lake City, and an even shorter flight from Los Angeles, where much of our family lives,” says Kasey.
In the Know As the director of Park City’s Harvest Moon Events, Kasey went to her local contacts for the invitation printing (Rowley Press), photography (Sweet Memory Garden), gown (The Perfect Dress), ring (Shane & Co), and linens (Wildflower Linen). The couple’s rabbi, Josh Aaronson of Park City’s Temple Har Shalom, flew to Cabo to officiate the wedding.
Local Flair Festive details like Mexican paper flags and lime green and fuchsia hues decorated the setting. A staged interruption by three banditos on horseback surprised guests during the ceremony—the horses danced, the guests cheered, and afterward, everyone headed to the reception.
In Bloom The bride wanted peonies, her favorite flower, and ordered a few dozen from a wholesaler in SLC, but they were not allowed through customs in Mexico. So the night before the wedding, she and some friends cut stems of the bright pink bougainvillea plants growing near the hotel.
Package Deal The Aunes purchased a wedding package through their hotel, an option they recommend. “Our catering contact was wonderful—she had all the local connections, and, most importantly, spoke the language.”
Following a proposal in Paris, Park City’s Vanessa Di Palma and Jeffrey Wright traveled to the luxe Château de Bagnols in the Beaujolais wine region outside of Lyon to celebrate. They fell in love with the medieval French setting, and knew it was the perfect location for their May 2007 nuptials.
R&R To accommodate their thirty guests, the Wrights rented the château’s twenty rooms for the weekend. Guests enjoyed area activities, including a wine tour and a cooking class.
Local Color Lavender was a central part of the wedding theme, from the invitations to the floral and décor accents. The region’s best wines were paired with the five-course wedding dinner of traditional Lyonnaise fare.
Fine Print The design team at Struck, the creative advertising agency where Jeffrey is a partner, created a book made of antiqued paper for the wedding program and a crest that became the logo for the event. Tabula Rasa Social Stationers designed the couple’s formal French-inspired stationery.
Salt Lake Style Vanessa wore a two-piece Atelier Aimee gown from Alta Moda Bridal—she says the boutique’s owner, Hilary Anderson, made sure the dress was properly packed and shipped safely overseas—and flew out her best friend and hair stylist, Eddie Collins from Salon Zazou, to “provide emotional and hair support.”
The Dotted Line To be granted a marriage license in France, you must reside in the country. So the Wrights made their marriage official in a civil ceremony at the Salt Lake City & County Building after their honeymoon.
Julia Stowell and Zac Oleskey met in Provo as students at Brigham Young University. Julia’s family is from Utah, but she grew up in Winnetka, north of Chicago. When the couple became engaged, they decided to get hitched in Chi-Town. “I wanted to celebrate with friends and family back home,” Julia says. On July 14, 2012, they wed at the Chicago LDS Temple and held a tented dinner reception that evening in the bride’s parents’ backyard.
Very Inviting For the save-the-dates, Julia drew an image of Zac and herself in front of the Chicago skyline; Voila! Press letterpressed the illustration. The Write Image helped coordinate the invitations with Bella Figura in New York.
City Living Immediate family bunked at Julia’s parents’ house; other guests stayed in nearby hotels. The Oleskeys gifted out-of-towners with welcome bags filled with local goodies—Frango mints, Dad’s root beer, Garrett’s Chicago Mix popcorn, Chicago Cubs pens—and the weekend’s schedule.
Caught on Film The couple hired Brittany Cascio of Cascio Photography and videographer Chris Koch of Digital Memorys to capture the big day. “We really liked their styles and personalities, so we flew them out!” Julia says.
Let It Pour A sudden rainstorm soaked the couple while they were snapping photos downtown. They grabbed an umbrella and rolled with it—the surprise weather made for romantic images.
Wise Words “It’s hard to make some planning decisions from afar, without actually seeing the tablecloths or tasting the cake,” Julia says. “A lot can be done online or over the phone, but I recommend taking a planning trip to your location prior to the wedding.”
Logan, Utah and St. Charles, Idaho
While dating, Brandee Butler and Christian Michaelson spent countless weekends at Michaelson’s family farm in St. Charles, Idaho, just northwest of Bear Lake. The area’s scenic roads, golden fields, and tree-lined mountains quickly became a meaningful place. Following their September 2011 nuptials at the Logan LDS Temple, the couple gathered their family and friends on the farm to eat, dance, and be merry.
Made in Italy The Michaelsons love to travel and planned to visit Italy for their honeymoon. They decided an Italian market–themed wedding would be a fun way to get excited for the trip.
Road Trip Resources are few and far between in St. Charles, so the couple hired vendors from nearby Logan and Salt Lake City. Brandee, a wedding photographer, knew the importance of having a professional hair and makeup artist to look and feel her best—she hired Cynthia Dean of Enizio to drive to the remote location and work her magic on-site.
Harvest Season Food played a big role in the festivities and décor. Bountiful displays of earthy fruits, vegetables, and flowers created a market setting. Culinary Concepts brought in a wood-fired pizza oven to cook margherita, Italian sausage, and Mediterranean artichoke pizzas. Italian pastry chef Grace Harvell of the Graceful Baker made an assortment of desserts, including zeppole and a cannoli wedding cake paired with gelato.
Out Cold The solution for a lack of electricity at the farm venue? Generators, which powered the sound system and tent lighting. For restrooms, a local company delivered and picked up porta-potties. Heat lamps helped combat the al fresco setting’s chilly nighttime temps.
On the Rocks
Ann Sweeney and Michael Spear met in Utah and loved living in the state. So when they moved to New York for Ann’s medical residency, they planned to return west for their October 2012 wedding. A campsite outside of Moab’s Dead Horse Point State Park proved to be the perfect location. “Moab is a meaningful place for us because we used to go there almost every weekend during the spring, summer, and fall when we lived in Utah,” Ann explains.
Sharp Shooter The couple hired Heather Nan Photography. “I saw Heather’s work online, and fell in love with her style and ability to capture life in a really happy and meaningful way,” Ann says.
Bunk Up The couple roomed with family at 3 Dogs & a Moose Cottages. Guests stayed at the Cali Cochitta Bed and Breakfast—the location of the casual, rustic reception.
Chow Time David Boger, owner of Cali Cochitta, catered the informal dinner. The menu included burgers, brats, chicken, and potato and pasta salads. The groom had brewed the evening’s beer, and the couple’s families made cupcakes for dessert.
Best Buds Flowers are hard to come by in Moab’s desert location, but Kelly Manna of Manna Floral Design came to the rescue with succulents, ranunculus, dahlias, anemones, snapdragons, and billy balls.
Do-Over Looking back, Ann says she would have reserved emergency rentals like a tent or heaters just in case the October weather had turned stormy. “It’s hard to find those things last-minute in a remote location,” she notes.