This Couple Made It Official on the Same Wyoming Ranch Where the Groom Proposed
Bessie Bucholz's mother, Laura, had been booking trips to Patagonia through Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures, where John Hudgens was the South America program director and her go-to guy. Bessie's mom and John got pretty chummy and soon enough she was sending along photos of her "extremely single, blonde-haired, blue-eyed daughter who travels the world and loves to flyfish." John suggested that Laura write a letter to the owners of the company about starting a program in New Zealand, where Bessie was living. Sure enough, it worked, and Bessie joined the team. It only took a couple of months for Bessie and John to go on their first date. "We knew from the first time we shook hands that we had some undeniable chemistry," Bessie recalls.
Nine months later, he proposed on the ranch Bessie grew up on in Saratoga, Wyoming. The couple—they live in Bozeman, Montana—were out for a summer visit when John suggested they drive up to a spot with 360-degree views of the property. Despite the fact that it was the exact location where her dad popped the question to her mom, Bessie never considered that John would propose then and there. But he whipped out the engagement ring and took her by total surprise. After a few minutes of tears, she happily said yes.
A year later, on August 19, 2017, they returned the ranch—this time with 250 loved ones—for their wedding. Bessie knew it was where she would get married ever since she was old enough to understand the meaning of a wedding. Purposely avoiding anything too rustic that's often found at a ranch wedding, they worked with Easton Events and Jackson Durham Events to design an elegant and sophisticated event. The "ranch chic" soirée drew inspiration from a pale blue paint color inside the house, and hatched a larger color palette of pale pink, greens, browns, and creams to tie in the naturally-stunning surrounds of the property. Since the couple share a passion for flyfishing, subtle nods to the sport (and the great outdoors) were incorporated, and rods that were provided during cocktail hour for guests to use. Other bespoke details, like favors made on the grounds and one not-to-be-missed backdrop behind the band in the tent, made the wedding extra special.
Save the Date
Save-the-dates were letterpressed and edged in a soft blue, and then wrapped with vellum printed with an image of the wedding location at dusk. The pair's initials, stamped into hide rounds to mimic cattle branding, sealed the pieces together along with a feather from a pheasant, grouse, and partridge birds that Bessie and John had shot during that year's hunting season. It was here that the feather motif was introduced, to be continued throughout the celebration via the stationery created by Amber Moon Design.
Amber Moon Design also created the invitations, which were chock-full of meaning. "It all started with Amber's suggestion of using hide pouches," Bessie explains. The couple's crest was printed on a card that was layered over the formal invitations, and a photo of the barn served as the cover page of the thread-bound booklet listing the weekend's schedule. Those pieces were then tucked into the hide pouches, which had been branded with their initials like on the save the dates. "Some people laughed and thanked us for the new iPad holders, while others thought the pouches made for great oven mitts and satchels," says Bessie. "Needless to say, they were a hit!"
Calligraphy by Curlicue Designs rounded out the pieces which were printed in the day's signature shade of blue. The suite was shipped in a box using vintage postage that representing important elements to the couple, such as wild flowers, duck decoys, and bison.
Tying the Knot in Style
Bessie had a premonition that she would end up in an Oscar de la Renta wedding dress. For her trip from Montana to New York City to find the dress, she enlisted the help of Julie Sabatino of The Stylish Bride, to streamline the process. Bessie found out that Mark Ingram Atelier had a gown she had seen online and loved, and her premonition became a reality. She added a long-sleeved, high-neck, lace bolero to wear during the ceremony—making the ivory Chantilly lace and tulle dress feel uniquely hers.
Bessie got cold feet the day before the wedding—about her shoes, that is. But luckily, she and her mom wear the same size and agreed that a swap would not only be funny, but more appropriate. So, Bessie wore a pair of René Caovilla that served as her "something borrowed" and taped a sixpence to the bottom using the same coin her mother had fastened to her own wedding day shoes years prior.
John's tan suit (and the ones his groomsmen sported) came from The Black Tux and hit the right note of formality for the late-afternoon wedding on a ranch. He wore a Brooks Brothers shirt and a pale blue bow tie with pink and green fly patterns from Bird Dog Bay as a subtle way of incorporating the couple's love of fishing.
Amber Moon Design crated hide fly patches as a gift to the couple. Bessie used it to organize her big-day jewelry—including the sapphire-and-diamond bracelet her mother gave her the day before that she had received as a push present from Bessie's dad. She also wore a diamond ring she received for her 21st birthday that has been passed down from mother to daughter for at least six generations and her "something blue" earrings. "When I was trying on dresses, I was wearing blue earrings, and everyone kept commenting that they looked so striking with my blue eyes, so I found blue topaz earrings from Scully & Scully to wear on my wedding day," says the bride.
The ring pillow matched the details of the stationery suite, once more showcasing the couple's initials as a brand on hide. Bessie's band boasted seven radiant-cut diamonds and John's was a straightforward gold band engraved with "To my sweet Hudge, Love, Bess."
The First Look
The hay meadow in front of the house was the scene of the couple's first look. "I so cherished the time I had to see John and savor the gravity of our special day before the wedding, as we were never really alone again after that" says Bessie. "The breeze was just strong enough to create some dramatic flow in my veil, and we were both so excited and elated, so the pictures that Jose Villa took are some off our favorites."
Bessie's bridal party wore minty Jenny Yoo "Annabelle" dresses that could be tied in a variety of ways thanks to tulle panels attached at the waist. Somewhere in her childhood diary, Bessie scribbled a few notes about the flowers she wanted in her wedding bouquet. Twenty years later, Jackson Durham Events made her dreams come true. Among the mix were roses, gardenias, freesia, stock, and maidenhair ferns.
Just as a ranch would have a wooden sign with its name over the entrance, Jackson Durham Events designed one for the wedding day to hang at the fence opening where guests entered the ceremony.
The Ceremony Setting
Jackson Durham Events designed an arch of white roses and greenery to frame the views of the meadows and mountains in the distance. Bessie's father's cemetery (located in the sagebrush and cedars of those mountains) was just visible from the ceremony location. And a patch of poppies planted earlier that summer by the mother-of-the-bride was just beyond the structure.
Of the weather, Bessie says that she's never experienced a nicer day in Wyoming in August than the wedding day. "There was this one little puffy cloud in the big blue sky that remained there throughout the whole day," she adds. "Many of my closest friends and family commented to me afterwards that they felt the cloud was a personification of my father—watching down to see his daughter get married to the man of her dreams."
A harpist and fiddler played beautiful renditions of traditional folk songs as guests were seated, and then Bessie was escorted down the aisle by her brother to the sounds of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." The service itself was led by a neighbor and friend, who incorporated vows the couple wrote themselves, subtle religious undertones, and plenty of sweet and powerful messages that were meaningful to the bride and groom. John's brother (a poetry major) read a poem, and a friend recited Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
"I will never forget saying 'I do' in front of all of our family and close friends—it was such a powerful moment for both of us," says John.
The Flower Girls
Generations of Love
Bessie's mother looked beautiful in a Carolina Herrera dress, and Bessie's 92-year-old grandmother (and namesake) wore the dress she wore to the bride's parents' wedding in 1984 and every subsequent family wedding since.
The Little Ones
All of the bride's older cousins' kids attended and enjoyed themselves throughout the day.
Since Bessie and John both work in the flyfishing industry, many of their dearest friends are deadly with a fly rod. Bessie's mom stocked the ponds with trophy brown and rainbow trout and guests were very quick to get out there and wet a line whilst holding a beer and a conversation. Lots of fish were caught that night! "It was such a fun element that was so reflective of who we are and what we love to do," Bessie says. "If only we could have been out there casting trout that were rising on the glass-clam water that night—what a memory that would have been!"
The bride's former boss from her fishing guide days offered to brew two different types of beers for guests as a wedding gift. "Budge" Bitter Beer (an ode to combining the B from Bessie with her nickname for her husband: "Hudge") and "Hoppily Ever After" IPA. The "brew canoe" held the beer taps on ice and was adorned with garlands of hops. The canoe itself was Bessie's dads—a boat he'd taken on a 250-mile ride when he was around Bessie's age.
Jackson Durham Events had an artist hand paint Bessie and John's crest onto a pair of white oars, which were displayed at the cocktail hour by the pond.
Margaritas and Merriment
When discussing signature cocktails to serve, Bessie and John argued over who could claim the margarita. Instead, they served a selection of four: watermelon-mint, smoky, classic, and pomegranate with habanero simple syrup. Napkins were printed with the same crest that appeared on the invitations.
Love Notes for the Love Birds
The guestbook, made of hide and linen, matched the rest of the décor of the day.
A Tented Reception
The tent was pitched in a meaningful and picturesque spot on the property right next to the ponds—which were where Bessie learned to fish and row a boat. To maximize time on the dancefloor and minimize wait time for plated courses, food stations were set up—which also cut down on the formality otherwise suggested by the dress code and allowed guests to really socialize.
The menu was mostly inspired by the region, but with a bit of a Mexican flair since it's the couple's favorite food to eat. Hide napkin rings were a fun touch.
Around the Round Bar
The focal point of the dinner tent was a round bar with an antler chandelier found on the property hung overhead. A custom circular shelving unit held glassware while also supporting a large floral arrangement on top.
Setting the Tables
Jackson Durham Events drew inspiration for the tablescapes from the interior of Bessie's childhood home as a way of having guests feel like they were at someone's house for dinner. To lend an air of luxury to the environment, typical ranch elements, like hide rugs, were juxtaposed with fine furniture and delicate tabletop pieces. Groupings of dahlias, roses, and Queen Anne's lace were placed along blue-washed tables topped with runners and plenty of candles in assorted glass vessels.
"The inspiration for the reception décor was 'lodge chic'," says event designer and planner Lynn Easton of Easton Events. Bessie and John's love of the great outdoors, fishing, and hunting, motivated Easton Events to channel a hunting lodge in the dinner tent.
"Being that it was a cocktail reception and not a seated dinner, we were able to better utilize the space in the sailcloth tent and have lounge seating for guests to enjoy throughout the entire evening," adds Heath Alan Ray of Jackson Durham Events. "We incorporated authentic cowhide rugs and ottomans paired with linen sofas and armchairs to create a soft inviting space."
The First Dance
Frank Sinatra's "The Way You Look Tonight" was performed during the first dance. "He is a favorite of ours and we took dance lessons over the winter to make sure we didn't look too clumsy," Bessie says of the song selection.
"The band brought a remarkable energy into the tent and had people dancing so hard that they were aching the next day," says Bessie of Gen8. "I actually broke the cap off my heel from dancing so hard! People were on stage, I had a dance-off with my brother-in-law that I totally lost, and everyone was dancing with everyone by the end of the night."
Easton Events and Jackson Durham Events wanted to make a statement with the stage, so framed prints by John James Audubon and various antler mounts were hung as a tribute to the couple's love of birds.
Honey collected from beehives on the ranch filled customized jars accompanied by wooden dippers for guest to take home as a sweet memento from the night.
An Ending That Sparkled
Bessie changed into a short dress from Talulah for the sparkler sendoff. The newlyweds then drove off in a Polaris Ranger that Bessie's mom gifted them (they've wanted one forever) to start their happily ever after. "We were blown away by how many of our friends and family turned out for a wedding in rural Wyoming, and we will never forget how fun it was to dance, drink and play with them all throughout the weekend," says the groom of the festivities.
Photography, Jose Villa
Event planning and design, Easton Events
Catering, Epicurean Group
Flowers and furniture, Jackson Durham Events
Stationery, Amber Moon Design
Crest, Arabella June
Calligraphy, Curlique Designs
Cake, Sweet Marie's Bakeshop
Hair, Divine Beauty Artists
Makeup, Liz Wegrzyn
Bridesmaids' dresses, Jenny Yoo
Flower Girl dresses, Isabel Garretón
Menswear, The Black Tux
Lighting, Technical Event Company