Our wedding day was
probably definitely the best day of my life! Everything (mostly) came together so perfectly and I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. I’d like to recap the whole entire wedding, but let’s start at the beginning with the engagement!
We took a trip to Morocco last September and everyone we knew kept saying he was going to propose there. I wouldn’t have minded it, obviously, but I think I knew deep down that he wasn’t going to. So I didn’t expect it, but getting engaged here woulda been pretty sweet.
After we got home from Morocco it was sort of this waiting game. I knew it was coming, but I wasn’t sure when. He ended up going to a jeweler right after we got home and designed my ring. He told me one night that he was going to ask me sometime between now and 9 months from now- yeah, thanks, but not helpful bruh.
I was under the impression that he was going to propose at a tree farm. That was the same day a year ago that he’d met my family and it was the day he said he knew he loved me. We were going back out to the same farm to take Christmas card photos. My brother was tagging along so I thought for sure it’s happening today. Stephen will be the built-in photographer and I’ll have Izzie and it’ll all be super romantic.
His plan was to propose that day, but the ring had just shipped and hadn’t arrived yet. We went to my mom’s house after this and he could tell I was grumpy about something. He knew what it was, but obviously couldn’t say anything, haha.
The ring arrived about a week later and he stuck it in his dresser until the perfect moment came. He’d asked everyone he knew if it was okay to propose during the holidays and the general consensus was a big fat “no!” So he let Christmas Eve, Christmas, my birthday, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s day pass by without even a hint that he was ready to propose.
He ended up going out of town for work the first week of January so that wouldn’t have been nice either. He says he didn’t want to ask me to spend the rest of his life with him and then take off for 7 days. Which I understand, haha. Then he had the idea of making the photo book which he’d done and was all set to propose, but the book didn’t arrive in time. So there went another free weekend.
The next weekend rolled around and the book was supposed to arrive by mid-week, but it was delayed. He had arranged a photographer and made plans for that Saturday but when the shipping delay notification was sent he canceled all of it. So we went out as usual for our weekend hike and donut run. While we were out he received an email that said the book had been delivered after all!
Now he’s in total panic mode about whether or not he should just do it anyway, even though the proposal wasn’t going to go as planned. We’d previously made dinner reservations at a favorite restaurant of ours so I knew we were going out that evening, but I thought the afternoon was free.
We’re at home and Pete starts getting ready like 2 hours before we needed to leave and was SUPER nervous about something, but I didn’t have a clue. I think I even told him to sit down and relax, haha.
After about 30 minutes of pacing back and forth in the living room, he asks me to go get ready. I question him a little bit and then tells me he has a surprise for me. Okay fine, I’ll go get ready. Afterward, I come back out to the living room and hands me this photo book that he made. As we’re sitting on the couch reading the book, both laughing and crying I knew that he was getting ready to propose. The book takes the style of a children’s book and it is Pete writing about all the things he’s seen with me as his girlfriend. I locked down a total sweetie, didn’t I?
The last two pages have the above picture and another one of me looking at him smirking and he writes “But even though she looks at me like this (which makes my heart skip a beat), the one thing she’s never been in any of these pictures…” and the next page says- “…is my wife.”
I can’t even remember what he said, but he got down on his knee and asked me to be his wife. After we got all the crying, hugging, and laughing out I finally stopped to actually look at my ring. We both exclaimed something along the lines of “Oh my god, we’re gonna get married!”
We excitedly announced the news to the immediate family, close friends, and then made it public on our social media channels. Because y’all know, it’s not real unless it’s Facebook official :p.
Wedding planning – the beginning
Both of our families came to our house the following day for an impromptu celebratory engagement party. Wedding ideas were tossed around, a lot of opinions and options were thrown our way, but nothing seemed right. Everything that was pitched to us was the perfect idea for someone else. Not even 24 hours engaged we were sort of already overwhelmed with the whole thing.
Our idea was always to do a destination wedding and actually a few weeks prior to the engagement we began talking about just the two of us eloping. The more we thought about it, the more we wanted that. However, moms are moms and both of them would probably disown us if we just took off and got married.
By Sunday evening we had a few options in mind – we could
a: elope, not tell a single soul, and suffer the wrath when we came back home
b: have a small destination wedding somewhere in the world with just our immediate family in attendance
c: get married on our Europe trip this fall, having my brother be the only one who knew about it
d: do a whole thing somewhere local and invite everyone
When we sat down and wrote out what we wanted we came up with:
- Something private, small, and personal. No crowds or extensive readings. Somewhere we can write our own vows and just get “goddamn married,” as Pete says
- Something that dispenses with the typical American excess of giant cakes, bridal showers, dinners we wouldn’t get to enjoy, and late-90s dance music
- Something that celebrates our love of travel, adventures, and the outdoors
- Somewhere that is special, and that we can share with our children someday, rather than a rental to be disposed of at the end of the evening
After the first demoralizing 15 minutes looking at local venues, we were grumpy and exhausted. Nothing seemed to fit all of those bullet points. And we definitely weren’t going to settle on our wedding day.
I can’t quite remember how the idea to do a National Park wedding came up, but we suddenly found ourselves looking at Banff and Zion. We spent a few minutes scrolling through photos of both locations and finally said: “We have been talking about doing the Mighty Five in Utah, so why don’t we take a hiking trip out there and just get married?”
Pete asked me when the earliest I could get off of work was and I responded, “probably May”. We decided on the 17th because Pete felt 17/18 would be easy to remember, haha. Now that he picked the date, he will never have an excuse to forget our anniversary.
We went to bed Sunday night feeling SO much better. One day engaged and we had a venue and date picked out. By Tuesday night we had also booked our flights, lodging, photographer, and I’d found a dress. Quadruple check.
The wedding day
Pete’s family had rented a house in La Verkin which is about 20 minutes from Springdale and my family was staying at a hotel in Springdale. We knew we weren’t having the ceremony right in Zion because there are only a few sites that are available for this. And they’re all on the shuttle route. Which kinda sucks.
Early that morning I went out to Hurricane to get my nails done and they turned out to be terrible. I was so bummed but hoped that no one would be able to tell from the photos and video. I later complained to Tracy (my hair and makeup artist) about them and even she said she doesn’t know of anywhere nice to have a manicure done.
I met up with the rest of the girls in La Verkin for breakfast and drinks, however, I was so nervous I couldn’t eat or drink anything. We sat around talking for a while and then Tracy arrived about 12:00 to start doing hair and makeup – things really started to feel real then!
About 2:30 or so all the photographers and videographers met us in La Verkin. The girls stayed to take photos and videos of me getting ready.
Dustin and Joey went to photograph the guys who were back in Springdale getting ready/hanging out at the brewery.
After the girls were finished getting ready and taking photos, we met the guys out at the ceremony location. Now, this location was a bit of a surprise. McKenzi, our photographer, had sent me a dropped pin on Google Maps somewhere along the Guacamole Trail Head which was about halfway between Springdale and La Verkin. She had suggested that we all rent 4 wheel drive cars because the road getting up to the site could be tough to do if it had rained the previous days. Lucky for us, it hadn’t rained.
We ended up leaving one car at the main road and all piling into 3 cars to take up the mountain/cliff/ridge – the photographers/videographers in one, the girls in one, and the guys in the third. Driving up this “road” is not for the faint of heart- it’s barely a dirt road, it is full of potholes and rocks, it’s winding, and at certain points, there are hundreds of feet of drop-offs. Oh, and it’s only wide enough for one car even though there can be two-way traffic. What keeps the traffic down is that there is literally nothing up there but mountain bike trails and some makeshift campsites.
About 10-15 minutes of driving later we arrive at the top of the mountain and some coordinating happens between everyone but Pete and I. We decided to do a first look so we both stayed in our separate cars while McKenzi chose the best site for us.
The first look was incredible and I will always recommend couples to do that. It’s such a sweet and private way to say hi to each other before everything starts. And for us, it brought this overwhelming sense of calmness and we were finally able to relax. I can’t remember who said it, but one of the girls said that they knew we were right for each other because of how quiet and anxious we were prior to the first look compared to how calm, relaxed, and happy we were after.
We were already a bit crunched for time because it took longer than anticipated to get up to the site so we decided to do the ceremony first and then family photos afterward. The ceremony was absolutely perfect for us. Pete’s dad, Frank, was the officiant and he wrote a nice paragraph about love and marriage and commitment.
We previously asked both of our moms to do a reading as well – Pete’s mom, Laura, went first and read my very favorite poem, I carry your heart by ee cummings.
My mom, Jody, went after and read a really sweet paragraph that starts with “you have known each other from first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment…” – if you don’t know that paragraph and are trying to plan a wedding, Google it! It’s absolutely perfect.
Then we read our vows that we had written. I told Frank a couple days prior that I wanted to go first because I was worried I would cry too much during Pete’s. So off I went reading my 1100 word vows which brought down the house. They were so funny and well written that everyone was laughing and crying through all of it.
Pete went next and his vows were just perfect, too. He used a “yes” theme throughout which was really clever and turned out very sweet and funny.
We told Pete’s dad that before he says “you may kiss the bride” he had to be out of the photo. He was so nervous he would mess it up that he completely walked away without saying it! Haha. He eventually did and we ended up with a great series of first kiss images 🙂
We also had a champagne toast with dixie cups :). We decided very early on in wedding planning that we wanted to do a toast with bathroom cups – why? God only knows, but it ended up being super cute!
Once the ceremony was finished we all went back to the first look site and took family photos. This was probably one of my favorite parts of the day. Our families all hang out together anyway so everyone knows each other. It’s nice that we didn’t have any of that awkward families meeting for the first time which sometimes happens at weddings. Everyone also seemed to be in rare form and were extra hilarious that day. My family tends to be a little more uptight and Pete’s family is just totally crazy. As a result, we have probably 150 family photos and in 90% of them, we are laughing so hard our eyes are practically closed.
After we took photos with my family we sent them back to Springdale to manage the food situation. We grossly underestimated our timeline and by this point, we were at least an hour late in accepting the dinner delivery at our lodge. Obviously, there is no phone service out there so we couldn’t call and let them know. I was just hoping they wouldn’t stay and wait for us and if they left they would actually come back!
We quickly finished family photos with Pete’s side and we all piled back into the cars and headed towards Springdale. The photographers and videographers were in one car with Pete’s mom and we (Pete, myself, Frank, John) were in the other. Pete’s brother, John, was driving our car and we ended up losing the other car and we got totally lost on top of this mountain. It took us like 30 minutes to figure out where to go and get back down to the third car which we left near the highway. Everyone was super stressed so if anything went wrong that day it was definitely this, haha.
We get down to the highway and hop out of the car, Frank opened his door and his entire arm is covered in blood! I was like “Oh my god, Frank, what happened to your arm!?” Best I can think was bouncing along the dirt road over rocks and potholes he must have hit it on the door frame and got a huge skin tear.
Laura grabs a water bottle and tries to wash Frank’s arm and Pete and I are just like “we have to get out of here,” haha. We took our car and headed back to Springdale, it took us about 15 minutes to get back to our lodge so that was a nice time for us to be alone and talk about everything. We had reserved the table and grill area at our hotel so we quickly threw some decorations out on the table and had dinner.
A couple months ago my mom and I went shopping for the table decor. We had no clue what the flowers were going to look like and just bought a bunch of random stuff that was in the color family that I like and hoped for the best. It was like the heavens were shining down, everything was coordinated and looked incredible together.
For dinner, we catered a taco bar from Whiptail Grill which is the greatest idea and dinner everrrrr. In the weeks leading up to the wedding, we kept thinking we would just grill some brats or something and have a few side dishes. I was never too keen on this idea, but we wanted to keep things simple and not be bothered with catering and restaurants.
Well, the day before we left I went to see my mom and nearly had a breakdown because I was so stressed and worried about everything- dinner included. She asked what I wanted and I said a taco bar so she got on her phone and looked around at Mexican restaurants in Springdale and found the delicious Whiptail Grill. She called them up and spoke with the owner who said they don’t usually cater, but they’d be happy to. Done and done.
After dinner, we did the cake cutting which is surprisingly difficult! McKenzi said that everyone struggles with cutting the cake – I don’t know if that’s true or if she was trying to make us feel better. We ordered the cake pretty last minute as well because we weren’t entirely sure that we wanted one to begin with. I’m so glad I went ahead and did it anyway!
The cake came from the delicious Sweet Tooth Fairy in St. George. We ordered the deluxe toasted coconut and oh sweet baby Jesus it was one of, if not the best, cakes we’ve ever had.
Once I ordered the cake I went on Etsy and bought a really pretty wire cake topper, but sadly it didn’t arrive in time. After I finished stressing out with my mom regarding the dinner I went to Hobby Lobby and bought a couple succulents and made my own cake topper. And I think I like it even better than the one I ordered!
Then it was time for more pictures! If I’m being honest I was just ready to sit down and enjoy some time off camera and I think Pete felt the same way. We had originally planned to go into the park and up to an overlook site for photos, but that plan was kiboshed with our timeline struggles. McKenzi said she knew of a few other places we could go and I think we probably gave her some resistance, but being the great photographer she is, she got us out there. And I’m SO glad she did because the photos are the bomb.com
We first went up this little hill next to our lodge which we dubbed the “trash hill” because it looked kinda gross, but it had wonderful views of the park. About 10 minutes into taking photos here we notice there is a snake slithering around! Cue minor freak out moment. He ended up being a harmless snake, but still scary.
The lighting up there was so perfect and approaching PFM. After about 15-20 minutes up there, they took us to an area near one of the park campgrounds. It is a huge field with incredible views and we were out in the middle of it and basically forgot anyone else was around. We started dancing, talking about the day, and enjoying some time away from everyone.
We said goodbye to our videographers and photographers and made our way back to the families. Then the rest of the night was spent hanging out by the fire and planning our Friday hikes. After everyone left we took the 1254 bobby pins out of my hair then proceeded to sit on the couch and eat the rest of our wedding cake, hahaha!
And that’s that! Now we’re married and ready for life’s next adventures.
If you’re looking to plan your own wedding in Utah check out this guide!
Founder of Packing for Plenty in July 2017. Along with her husband, Pete, she is on a mission to visit most countries. And wants to take y’all along as well! On PFP Steff provides travel itineraries ranging from a weekend trip nearby to 2 weeks living abroad like a local…detailed destination specific travel tips that aren’t readily available elsewhere…and unique and interesting bucket list worthy experiences.