An Elopement Overlooking the Mountains of Utah
James and Gabrielle were each finishing different parts of their medical training in 2015 when they met in their favorite city in the world: New York City. They got engaged four years later during a winter vacation on a vineyard in South Africa. "It was the most perfect surprise, and we spent the rest of our trip traveling the country, ending our first vacation as new fiancés on a safari," says Gabrielle.
As soon as they returned from their trip, the couple booked their dream venue on Italy's Amalfi Coast to ensure the perfect spring wedding date. "We spent the next year working with the most fantastic team of vendors to build our wedding week, with the hopes of sharing this amazing part of the world with our families," says Gabrielle. However, as the date grew closer, so did the chaos surrounding COVID-19—which, at the time, was devastating Northern Italy. "As the pandemic continued to spread, we knew that the safety and health of our friends and family needed to be top priority," Gabrielle shares. "After months of seeing the devastation and loss, we realized that the most important thing to us was to be together in the present, and to be grateful for the love that we are able to share." The pair made the difficult decision to cancel, rather than postpone, their original plans and—realizing they both had an upcoming week off from work—decided not to further postpone their lives together. They pulled together their elopement in less than two weeks.
"We envisioned our wedding to be remote, private, and safe," says Gabrielle, who, together with James, decided on The Lodge at Blue Sky in Park City, Utah, based on its breathtaking scenery and secluded location. "We had both never been to Utah, which was part of the beauty of it! We loved the idea of getting to still enjoy nature and outdoor activities in a safe and socially-distanced setting." Focused on creating an entirely stress-free and romantic day that would allow them to be present and grateful, the pair worked with Hannah Popick, the venue's event coordinator. "With only a couple of emails and phone calls, she was able to create not only the most beautiful, but most meaningful day of our lives," says the bride. "She listened to every idea that I had in my head and made the reality better than anything I could have dreamed of."
One piece of wisdom the pair would offer to other couples planning their nuptials during the pandemic is to remember is that it all comes down to committing to the person you love. "All of the other details are just part of the party, and while it is still an important aspect of the wedding experience, it can always be rescheduled," says Gabrielle. "We could have never dreamt what would be going on in the world today, but somehow it brought us to the wedding of our dreams. We hope that our story can inspire others to live in the present and that it is okay to not postpone the things that are important to you."
Gabrielle purchased two wedding dresses for the event they had planned in Italy. "I had a more traditional lace gown (that I still hope to wear one day!) for our original ceremony, but my Karen Willis Holmes gown felt absolutely perfect for our location in Utah," she says. The ivory, wrap-style number was composed of an exquisite blend of silk and cotton, and featured long, sheer georgette sleeves.
The Petal Coop created Gabrielle's bouquet by accenting classic white blooms with rosemary, wild sage brush, and olive branches. "It was organic and stunning—I wish I could carry it every day!" says the bride. The stems were wrapped in a raw-edged, cream-colored silk.
Their first look took place on a beautiful creek-side pathway lined with trees, wildflowers, and sage brush on the resort's property. "Before, I felt very calm, because I spent my time getting ready thinking about how lucky I was," says James. "During, I felt ecstatic because she looked so beautiful and I couldn't wait to spend the rest of our lives together." For Gabrielle, the experience was foreshadowed with excitement and followed by emotion. "Our photographer even told us he rarely ever sees grooms cry during the first look," she says. "It was such a sweet moment." After, the pair strolled over to their service site, overlooking the mountain peaks, together. "We chose to have our ceremony at the highest point of the property so that we could get married with the most amazing, panoramic view," says the bride.
James' pale suit in a soft shade of sand complemented Gabrielle's bridal attire; his boutonnière was composed of simple dried flowers with just a touch of greenery.
A Delightful Surprise
The couple had a Zoom meeting with their officiant ahead of the big day, which gave them the opportunity to get to know each other in advance. "We asked him to not share his reading with us prior to the ceremony so we could be surprised," says Gabrielle. "He did such an amazing job capturing how we feel about each other and what love, partnership, and support truly means."
A Great Exchange
They traded wedding bands by Minneapolis-based Wixon Jewelers. Gabrielle's was a double loop of diamonds set in yellow gold, while James received a handsome mixed-metal ring. The couple also exchanged traditional vows. "We did not write our own vows, mostly because we are both very emotional and ugly criers!" laughs the bride.
Husband and Wife
The newly-married couple shared an emotional embrace after the vow exchange.
Dinner for Two
Gabrielle and James sat down to eat at a minimal, locale-driven table overlooking the mountains. "Our favorite memory was seeing our wedding dinner set up for the first time and getting to spend the whole evening laughing and connecting while watching the sun set over the mountain peaks," says Gabrielle. "It was the best day of our lives." Table linens were simple and topped with birchwood candle holders and beautiful gold flatware. "We kept the entire setup very simple to focus on the beauty of our surroundings," she adds.
An Eclectic Menu
"One of our favorite things is to spend an evening with great food and drinks, so we knew the menu would be a huge part of our day," says Gabrielle. "We chose an amazing seven-course tasting menu by the restaurant's chef that was cooked for us table-side." A colorful cheese board was offered to start, and the pair's bartender kept their favorite drinks—Casamigos tequila with soda and an old fashioned—filled throughout the night. "It was a truly amazing experience," says the bride.
A Personal Touch
Menus for the elaborate meal were printed with the duo's names.
A lovely centerpiece that featured elegant white flowers tied together all of the natural elements that surrounded Gabrielle and James on their special day.
Taking the Cake
The couple's tiny cake was textured with flecks of gold leaf and featured a tier of vanilla crumb with cookies and cream filling followed by a layer of Funfetti with cream cheese icing. "We were actually so full by the time we finished dinner that we had to pack up our cake and enjoy it later that evening with Champagne!" says Gabrielle.
Photography, Branson Maxwell
Venue, The Lodge at Blue Sky
Event Coordination, Hannah Popick for The Lodge at Blue Sky
Flowers, Natalie Cruz for The Petal Coop
Stationery, The Lodge at Blue Sky
Officiant, Reverend Craig Gordon
Bride's Gown, Karen Willis Holmes
Bride's Shoes, Vince Camuto
Groom's Attire, Suit Supply
Groom's Shoes, Allen Edmonds
Groom Timepiece, Rolex
Hair and Makeup, Leslie Jo for Versa Artistry
Engagement Ring and Wedding Bands, Wixon Jewelers
Catering, Yuta Restaurant
Cake, Annie's Cakes
Transportation, The Lodge at Blue Sky