Elopement/Real Weddings

An Intimate Forest “Mini Wedding” At A Utah Airbnb

Intimate Enchanting Forest Elopement in Park City Utah – Gabriella Santos Photography 1

When we started suggesting to brides & grooms in March to postpone their weddings and opt for “minimonies” and elopements in the meantime, it was a heartwrenching thing to advise. We could only imagine the amount of wedding heartbreak ensued.

But now, we’re finally receiving photos from all of your intimate “I dos” and it proves everything we’ve been preaching, small weddings are just as beautiful & meaningful! Alex & Shawn’s Park City “Mini Wedding” has all the love & beauty of a larger affair & we’re enchanted by the ethereal forest scene.

Originally planning a 135 person wedding this August, the couple decided to postpone the larger celebration to next year and keep their wedding day (here are other ways to celebrate your original wedding date). Alex & Shawn said their vows in front of close family and friends amidst the aspen trees, then retreated to the adorable lodge-style Airbnb they rented for an alfresco dinner.

This brings me to my last point, if you’re pivoting to a small wedding there’s never been a better time to check out our list of amazing Airbnbs suitable for events.

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Our Love Story

Four years ago we met working at Montage Deer Valley in Park City! Shawn worked as a valet, and Alex worked at the front desk. Shawn pranked Alex several times including shaving creaming and plastic wrapping her car which certainly got Alex’s attention. We connected over both attending high school in Virginia less than 40 miles apart, and ending up in Utah!

During a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia in Nov 2019, we were riding bikes around Stanley Park where we stopped at Third Beach to take in the views. Shawn propped up his camera on self-timer and before I knew what was happening, he was down on one knee! It was a total surprise and just the two of us which made it so special.

We hopped back on our bikes and finished the route with beers at a local brewery! The next day we went to the City & Colour concert which was so special to us, and we danced to their song “Northern Wind” as our first dance as husband & wife at our wedding.

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The Planning

We were planning on a much larger 135 person wedding at a different venue in Alta, Utah but 2020 had other plans. Early May we made the tough decision to postpone the larger celebration, and still get married on our original date of August 8, 2020, with our close family and friends.

We wanted our day to feel simple, natural, low stress, and utilize the outdoor mountain setting we fell in love with. We landed on the Bonanza Flat area after seeing the beautiful aspens, and it was just over the pass at Deer Valley where we first met! Our vendors were amazing and worked with us to create our vision of intimate & outdoors, scaled down to a “mini-wedding”.

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The First Look

We chose to do a “first look” without Shawn seeing me just to have a moment together before the ceremony to calm our nerves.

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The Dress & Attire

I kept my look simple and comfortable with a crepe dress with flowy bottom and flowers in my hair, and my mom’s earrings. Shawn knew he wanted blue for his suit, and complemented with a blush pink bow tie to match his mom’s dress and dad’s tie.

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The Ceremony

We chose to keep our ceremony setting simple just framed by the trees and our families. We wrote our own vows for the ceremony that were so meaningful and emotional, our Reverend led us through a spiritual and meaningful ceremony pulling from nature.

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The Photography & Videography

We are actually close friends with Gabriella so the photographer decision was a no-brainer! Not only that, but she is professional and extremely talented. Her light & bright style and fun-loving nature made her perfect for our day. She made us feel so relaxed and at ease and blended with our families so well. It was so special to us to have her there as our friend too.

We found Tews Visual through Instagram, and immediately loved their simple style that incorporated drone footage of the Utah landscape. When we met Pierce, he was so down to earth and extremely easy to work with! He captured the simple moments and we will cherish the video for years to come.

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Favorite Moments

Alex: I loved having my mom cook and my dad walk me down the dirt path to the ceremony. I know it meant so much to them to have that time together, and I will cherish it. I also loved being outside in the mountains where be both feel most alive and got to share that with our family. Also, our first moments after the ceremony alone together were so special.

Shawn: Our first dance to Northern Wind, our song. Being in the outdoors & mountains. Hiking with my dad on the morning of the wedding.

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The Reception

For the reception, we found a beautiful lodge style AirBnB where we stayed the night before with a perfect backyard for the dinner. We knew we wanted our dinner to feel intimate and family style, sharing stories, good food & wine. We set up bistro lights for soft lighting over the tables, and chose natural and handmade farmstyle tables from a local rental company. We chose an Italian menu with local ingredients sourced from the farmer’s market, and my mom (bride’s mom) cooked the whole meal (she’s an amazing chef!).

We added fun touches with our custom neon sign that the bride’s handwriting was transformed into, and a polaroid film camera to capture shots throughout the day.

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The Florals & Decor

We chose a florist who specialized in sourcing locally and sustainably, with touches of wildflowers, grasses and greenery. We chose olive branches for the center of the table with simple gold candle votives for sparkle when the sun went down (Italian touch).

 

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“Overall it was a dream day!”

– Bride Alex

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The Cake & First Dance

We had a simple cake cutting & danced to Northern Wind by City and Colour on the deck as our first dance.

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Advice to Other Couples

Support local! I was lucky enough to work in the industry (as a Hotel Event Manager) and knew a lot of vendors, however, there were so many to choose from. I would say to choose those who feel like friends, and you have an instant connection with. Stay local in your vendors because they know the area best. I used Instagram for a lot of researching as well!

As far as budget, prioritize what means the most to you both from the start. For us, that was the venue and the “intimate dinner” feel, and spend less on the less important stuff. Also, be creative and leverage your family to help! We set up the bistro lights and a lot of the décor ourselves. My mom cooked which saved us a ton, and we all kind of had a part in the big day so everyone felt invested even more.

“Day Of” Advice: Just stay present. It all goes so fast, and if you try to look too far ahead you’ll miss the little moments. Also, take a moment just for yourself: I journaled and did yoga the morning of just to sit and reflect. Shawn went on a hike with his dad the morning of. This really helped to ground us both before all of the excitement of the day!

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The Honeymoon

After the wedding, we went on our honeymoon to Big Sur, California! We flew into San Jose and drove down the coast (in a convertible, of course!). It was absolute magic. We stayed at the all-inclusive Ventana Big Sur that felt like we had it all to ourselves.

In the time of COVID, we were a little apprehensive about traveling, but the resort was so professional and all dining and activities were distanced. This fit us so well because it was part beach, part mountains and forest and it felt like we were worlds away. Highly recommend!

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