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Real Weddings: Jen & Mike

Jen and Mike share the story of their wedding: a beautiful, unique affair at 11,550 feet.

The Scene: June 1, Arapahoe Basin Ski Resort in Colorado

Our wedding day was exactly as I had envisioned it would be: a bluebird sky, a blanket of fresh snow on the ground, high altitude, sentimental and fun! A blizzard had hit the area just two days before the wedding, and while it had some people biting their nails, Mike and I were skiing and relishing in the fact that we would get the perfect “summer winter wedding.”

We started our wedding day at sunrise on top of Loveland Pass for our first look. This might sound crazy to some, especially when you factor in the freezing temperatures and gusty winds, but Mike and I fell in love over our mutual passion for the alpine environment, and it just seemed fitting to start our day off like true mountaineers: really early and really cold!

The Ceremony: I wore my mother’s kimono for the ceremony, which is the same kimono that she wore to marry my father. Putting on a kimono is no easy task, and I really enjoyed watching my mother put her heart into all the details, from tying all the ties to making sure my collar was just so. We both teared up when she handed me the 600-year-old family dagger, a symbol for protecting the honor of my family—both old and new.

The ride up to the ceremony site  with my father was very special and not unlike the chairlift rides we took when I was a child and he was teaching me to ski. We talked about our excitement, laughed together and even teared up together in the cold silence. When we got to the top, Mike was there waiting for us, looking so handsome in his Marine Corps uniform.

My uncle Tom was our officiant. He had been skiing with us (read: skiing in front of us as we tried to keep up) during the first sparks of our relationship and I’m pretty sure he knew we were soul mates before either of us did. He did an incredible job leading our ceremony, which also included Mike’s sister gracing us with “Ave Maria” and a reading by a family friend.

The Party: I changed into my gown for the reception and loved walking, dancing and just moving in the dress! It was such a sentimental and love-filled wedding, I was tearing up at any given moment (and I think most of the guests were too). It was  a treat to watch people enjoy themselves!

The Details: We have so many wonderful friends and family who contributed to the wedding! And because there was so much snow on the ground, the service road wasn’t accessible, so everything had to go up and then come down on the chairlift! It was no easy task planning a wedding at 11,550 feet, but it was worth it.

My friend, who is an interior and event designer, took on the huge task of styling the wedding for me—everything from the vintage skis “guestbook” to the blue chevron table runners and the flowers. We chose blue and orange as our accent colors and ended up having a perfect blue-and-orange sunset!

Mike and I wanted to minimize the impact of our day on our special environment. We sent out electronic save-the-dates, used seed paper invitations and chose a venue that prides itself on its eco-friendly business practices. In lieu of wedding favors, we volunteered at various environmental organizations. Also, as a tribute to our families’ histories in the armed services, we asked our guests to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project in lieu of any gifts.

My Look: For the reception, I wore a James Clifford gown with amazing detailed scalloping at the sweetheart neckline and hem and a train/bustle to swoon over. I also wore a Nina birdcage veil and carried a Sondra Roberts beaded minaudière box clutch.

My Wedding Stylist: Audrey Moon at the Nordstrom Wedding Suite in Lone Tree, CO

My shopping experience with Audrey was nothing short of spectacular. I was feeling a bit over my head with such a daunting task, but Audrey was so accommodating, and I loved that she pulled so many dresses for me to try on. The problem was that I loved every one of them!

The decision came down to two very different dresses, and Audrey was very encouraging about going with what I wanted. In the end, I chose the James Clifford gown for its classic lace and modern cut. From that point, accessories were easy! Audrey knew exactly what was required to accomplish the look that I wanted. She made herself available to me anytime; it was comforting that she was so responsive to my emails, phone calls and text messages.

I didn’t know how overwhelmed one dress could make a girl, but she kept me sane and made me beautiful for my wedding day!

Our Special Moments: There are two! The first is when we exchanged vows. Mike wrote them when I was away on a business trip, and I couldn’t have been happier with the result. They spoke to our love of the mountains and of our commitment to each other and we both bawled our eyes out.

The second was the chairlift ride immediately following the ceremony. The initial idea was that the ride was just for the photos, but it also gave us a quiet moment together to reflect on the epic event that just occurred. It was incredible!

Photography by Jen Neal, Photos by Shew Photography

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