“From the Bride”
One of the first long-distance trips Christopher and I went on together was out to Jackson Hole, WY, where he grew up visiting. I had never been out to this part of the country before and instantly fell in love with the gorgeous landscape and lifestyle of Jackson. Our favorite things to do together are to travel and explore the outdoors, hiking, camping, and surfing. To me, Jackson felt like the perfect place for us to unwind and explore together, free from the hustle-bustle of LA.
I knew immediately after Christopher proposed that Jackson was where I wanted to get married. I think there is something really special about being able to go back to the place where you stood to say your vows to one another and remember that special moment. To get to stand alongside the Tetons and say, “this is where I committed my life to you,” was so exciting to us and we knew Jackson would now have a forever place in our hearts that we could visit again and again.
We quickly jumped into planning, even making an extra trip out to venue hunt. We knew we wanted views of the Tetons and an outdoor wedding, so we narrowed our venue options down to a few different ranches. Christopher and I both wanted a more formal, traditional ceremony and a big ole’ party to celebrate afterward… which pretty much sums up both of our personalities. We wanted our guests to feel relaxed and at ease, with full bellies and always a drink in hand, but we didn’t want to go full-on casual BBQ, which you see a lot in Jackson. We aimed to keep the theme of our wedding simple and fun… emphasis on the FUN. With so many friends and family coming out to celebrate us (139 total) and experiencing Jackson for the first time, we wanted them to fall in love with the beauty and ease of this special place, just as we did.
We both are all about quality over quantity so I knew I wanted to approach planning with a less is more attitude. We had our wedding completely planned and ready to pull the trigger – an outdoor ceremony at Snake River Ranch with a huge tented reception on the same site. We went to sign the paperwork and something didn’t feel right for me. The vendors were adding up, the rentals were adding up, and the cost was adding up. I already felt overwhelmed with all of the moving pieces of a tented reception in the middle of a field (you forget that there’s no toilets or electricity out in these beautiful remote locations!) before it had even begun. I would fall asleep at night and try to picture myself dancing under a white tent with flowers and twinkle lights, and while that sounds like the most beautiful evening ever, it didn’t feel like “me.” The most important thing Christopher and I decided while planning was that we wanted to look back on our day and remember it. We kept hearing about how weddings can be a whirlwind or you blink and it’s over, but our goal was to savor every sweet moment. It was at this moment, I realized I wasn’t a “bells and whistles” bride. I told Christopher I wanted to reset. I took a night to regroup my thoughts and while falling asleep, I saw this image of me dancing in my white dress in a dive bar – not your typical wedding site, but to me sounded just right! I told Christopher I had this idea to move our reception to The Mangy Moose Saloon, an awesome, spacious saloon that is a Jackson staple while keeping our ceremony on the ranch. I was nervous he wouldn’t be able to envision it, but he was immediately on board! We were so excited to make the change in plans knowing this felt so much more authentic to us. Fewer vendors, fewer shipments, less stress, more fun. We could have our beautiful outdoor ceremony on the ranch and a big ole party reception at the Mangy Moose afterward. NOW we were excited!
The wedding day was perfect. It snowed in the morning while we got ready. We had a moody overcast sky during the cocktail hour before we started the ceremony. The guests bundled up in blankets and sipped hot toddies before we walked down the aisle. Minutes before we started the ceremony, the sky opened up and the sun warmed us up as we said our vows. A moment I will never forget is feeling the sun on my back when I kissed him at the end of the ceremony. It was magic.
The decor we kept simple and let the landscape do the talking. I wanted to play off of the rich, deep fall colors and let the golden fields pop with romantic natural hues. Classic and forever beautiful was my goal with our attire. I didn’t want to play off trends and look back on photos and regret wild design elements. I told my florist and my make up artist I wanted simple, natural elegance to match the outdoor setting… but I had to pop in my wild side with my red heels. I let those come out a play a little more at the reception:) The ceremony felt effortless and natural which I think the most gorgeous kind of beauty.
We kept our bridal parties small to alleviate some of the stress of managing too many people on the morning of. My bridal party included my 2 sisters as my maid and matron of honor and his sister as my bridesmaid. His bridal party included his brother in law and his 2 closest friends from LA, whom he is the godfather to their child. His cousin, who was also best man officiated the wedding. I still wanted to honor some of my closest girlfriends for being there for me on my day, so I asked them to be my something blue for good luck. Each of them held a small blue bouquet and sat on the front row next to me at the ceremony. It was a really special detail for me.
With my wedding gown, I wore my Granny’s mink coat and her veil, which my mom also wore on her wedding day. I had a silver bracelet on that belonged to my MeMe and wrapped around my bouquet was a necklace brought over from Lebanon by Christopher’s great great grandfather. My mom wore a fur wrap that I got for her with one of her mom’s diamond pendants on it. SO many meaningful pieces from that day to remind me of the people I love who couldn’t be there with me.
The reception was a blast! I changed into a vintage fringe party dress after our first dances so I could get my boogie on. We booked an incredible band, Changing Lanes Band, that brought down the house – I even got on stage and sang “Proud Mary” with them! My dad surprised me and broke into the most epic dad dancing ever to Aretha’s “Respect” after we slow danced to Somewhere over the rainbow. My Chi O sisters (which include my mom, his mom, and all of our real-life sisters) surrounded Christopher and serenaded him with one of our songs. My favorite moment was hearing the entire reception sing along to our first dance, “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive.” We danced and danced and danced. The evening ended with a sparkler send off and the most perfect day came to a close. So thankful we trusted our guts and stayed true to ourselves. It allowed our personalities to shine through and let the people who love us most enjoy their time in Jackson because it was a reflection of us.
– The Bride, Erin Miller Wray