Rich Tones and the Couple's Love for the Great Outdoors Inspired This Textural Wedding on a Private Ranch

bride and groom looking into each other's eyes
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Claire Van Beek, a software consultant, and Mark Dowling, a software development manager, have their careers to thank for bringing them together. They met through work at a Dallas, Texas-based company in July 2016 where Claire managed all of the social gatherings for employees (and always coordinated them with the hopes that Mark would be there!).

The pair's relationship developed outside of work over the years, and they became engaged in Norway in September 2019 during a trip to see the Northern Lights. "On our very first date, I told Mark that having the opportunity to see the Northern Lights in Norway was at the very top of my life-long bucket list and I always dreamt of getting engaged there," Claire recalls. "It was very early on during our trip and we went out to chase the lights and as soon as we saw them, Mark popped the question. Needless to say, it was the trip of my dreams."

After celebrating their engagement, Claire and Mark set their sights on hosting their wedding day for August 29, 2020. The health and safety restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic made them change their plans, though: They threw a micro wedding with immediate family on their original date and tied the knot with all of their loved ones in attendance on August 21, 2021, instead. "Waiting a year to finally throw the wedding we had always dreamt of was so incredibly moving and so cathartic," the bride shares. The couple hosted 130 guests at Mark's family ranch in Wapiti Valley in Wyoming, just outside of Yellowstone National Park, which they consider their happy place. "We love the area so much, so we really wanted to capture the heart of Wapiti with a local, romantic, and even whimsical approach," Claire adds.

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Fly-Fishing Forward

wedding invitation suite with teal accents and flowers
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Penny Layne and Paperleaf Press helped tie in the foraged and natural elements that Claire and Mark love about Wyoming, including "all things adventure, fly fishing, local cuisine, and textural details from Wapiti Valley," into their invitation suite.

  • An Eco-Friendly Guide to Wedding Invitations and Stationery
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Mountain Breeze

bride holding bouquet showing off dress skirt
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After trying on a few different wedding dresses, Claire knew her Wtoo by Watters gown with tulle and embroidered appliqués fit the venue perfectly. "I wanted something more whimsical that felt like I could stomp through the mud and the grass all evening," the bride shares.

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Rich Bouquet

bride holding warm hued fall floral bouquet
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Wildflowers, sunflowers, roses, white phlox, and other native, local florals filled Claire's bouquet crafted by The Wild Blume, which connected to the pair's "wild, earthy, and polished rustic approach" to the big day. A plant-dyed terra-cotta ribbon fastened the arrangement together.

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All That Glitters

gold sparkle wedding boots
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"I paired my dress with glittery boots, a simple but complementary veil, and earrings," Claire says. "I wanted my accessories to bring the look to life!"

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Tonal 'Maids

bride with bridesmaids wearing various warm hued dresses with different silhouettes
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Bridesmaids chose dresses in an array of natural hues. "We wanted a real mismatched look, and I wanted all my girls to be able to wear their dresses again, so we mixed up the earthy color palette to have something that was complementary of the space and the flowers," Claire says. "It also really popped against the greenery and the landscape."

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Close Up and Personal

groom wearing blue suit and textured feather accessories
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Mark wore a blue Tommy Hilfiger suit with a brown belt and shoes to match. To complete his look, the groom sported a bow time from Brackish and handmade "fly" boutonnière that Penny Layne, who also planned and designed the event, gifted the groom at their micro wedding in 2020.

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Dapper in Blue

groom with groomsmen in matching blue suits and bowties
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The groomsmen also wore Tommy Hilfiger suits; Mark gave each of his right-hand men custom bow ties, too.

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Their First Look

bride and groom embrace
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Since Claire and Mark didn't do a first look at their micro wedding, they were able to enjoy it before their larger nuptials. "I think because we were already legally married and had done it a year prior, there was no sense of nervousness or anything like that—we could really just be in the moment and celebrate this huge milestone together," Claire says.

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Trolley Arrival

wedding trolly for guests driving on gravel road
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The couple used Cody Trolleys to transport their wedding party and guests to the ceremony space—a small trip that was a major highlight. "It felt like everything was finally happening and coming to life and that got us all the more excited," the newlyweds share.

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A Warm Welcome

wedding welcome sign
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The couple welcomed their 130 guests to their outdoor event with custom signage that spoke to the event's color palette.

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Here Comes the Bride

outdoor wedding ceremony set up in the mountains
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Claire's father walked her down the aisle during the scenic ceremony, which unfolded in front of a mountain.

  • How to Choose the Perfect Processional Music
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Wildflower Arch

wedding ceremony arch in the grass with sunflowers and roses
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Penny Layne and The Wild Blume conceptualized a growing wildflower installation filled with greenery, local blooms, wild sunflowers, roses, and foraged branches for the altar; it perfectly framed the mountain backdrop.

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Renewing Their Vows

Bride and groom exchanging vows at the altar
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The couple wrote their own vows for the second time. "It was so special to recite our vows again a year later. They were a bit different and anecdotal and allowed us to look back on our first year married—and the future," shares the couple.

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So Joyful

bride and groom recessional
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After saying their I dos, the pair walked back up the aisle to "Real Love Baby" by Father John Misty.

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No Rain on Their Parade

wedding guest carrying other guest through the wet grass
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Right after the ceremony, it started to pour—but the newlyweds shared that this actually created some of their favorite big-day memories. "It made people that much closer and was such a great conversation starter!" says Claire. "Everyone who was there was down for anything, and I can't imagine it any other way."

  • 10 Times Rain Made a Wedding Even More Special
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Setting Up Camp

outdoor wedding tent in grassy field overlooking mountains
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"We had to bring full tenting, power, lighting, running water, and more to the property, so having an expert production eye allowed us to relax and really enjoy the wedding that was so many years in the making," Claire says of working with Penny Layne.

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Drink Up

specialty wedding cocktail menu
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BBBs, a classic smash, and a whiskey orange (the duo's signature drinks) were served during cocktail hour.

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Funky Calligraphy

wedding escort cards with fish hook illustration
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Penny Layne made the custom calligraphed seating cards for the reception.

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In Bloom

table centerpiece with gold hued flowers
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Wildflower arrangements were placed in clay and terra-cotta compote vessels and accentuated with sienna-hued candles.

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A Little Rusty

wedding place setting with menu and gold utensils
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The design team mixed classic white stoneware with matte gold flatware and accented each setting with vintage glasses for wine and recycled olive tumblers for water. Terra-cotta linen napkins and a deckled edge menu, detailing the local cuisine, were the finishing touches.

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Grill It

outdoor smoker for wedding food
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The menu by Sauce Catering highlighted local ingredients and seasonal produce, including arugula and flathead cherry salad, golden trout, bison tenderloin, roasted fingerling potatoes, Brussels sprout hash, and pork belly.

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Marbled Cake

three tiered wedding cake with amber colored buttercream and flowers
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Bluebird Sweets created the terra-cotta marbled cake, which included a vanilla top layer and lemon filling and a strawberry bottom layer with huckleberry filling. The entire confection had almond frosting with marshmallow fondant.

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Their First Dance

bride and groom first dance as married couple
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The duo danced to "You and Me" by Dave Matthews Band for their first twirl, which had a sentimental meaning for them both. "They've been a huge part of our story and we listened to them a ton during COVID, so it was only fitting for our second 'first dance' song," Claire recalls. "This is also the song I processed in to at our first micro wedding!"

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bride and groom walking in the grass overlooking mountains
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Photography, Orange Photographie
Wedding Planning, Event Design, and Paper Products, Penny Layne
Flowers, The Wild Blume
Stationery Printing, Paperleaf Press
Bride's Gown, Wtoo by Watters
Hair and Makeup, Indulgence Salon
Menswear, Tommy Hilfiger
Groom's Accessories, Brackish Bow Ties
Engagement Ring and Wedding Bands, Collections Fine Jewelry
Music, Joe's DJ Service
Catering, Sauce Catering
Cake, Bluebird Sweets
Rentals, Gallatin Event Rentals, Montana Party Rentals, La Tavola Linen
Trolleys, Cody Trolleys
Tenting and Lights, Gallatin Event Rentals

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