We love that a ceremony can take place just about anywhere. From white sand beaches, to floral gardens, and to tree covered mountains like our sweet wedding today. Taylor and Johan’s Colorado wedding ceremony took place overlooking a valley and they celebrated the rest of their big day with family and friends at a restaurant in Vail valley. Between her blush Watters gown and the breathtaking scenery, you’re sure to get inspired for a mountain wedding!
Photography by Ashley Sawtelle.
Do you have any budget tips for other brides? I saved a ton of money doing all of the stationery ourselves. We sent our save-the-dates via Paperless Post and I found this saint of a woman on Etsy named Rachael who runs Pretty Prim Press and she helped me design my entire wedding stationery suite (table numbers, signature cocktail signs, escort cards, menus) just one week out from the wedding. My sweet husband was up printing menus at 1am the night before our wedding!
Is there anything that helps tell the story of your wedding? We wanted to make a weekend celebration out of it and we did just that. The Friday before the wedding, everyone who was in town got dropped off at the top of Vail Pass and rode 18 miles downhill on bikes — so much fun and definitely a must-do! That night we met everyone out for drinks at the Westin and on Saturday morning we took the Turtle Bus out to Dotsero for some Turtle Tubing down the Colorado river. Having everyone out all weekend and doing so many fun activities together helped our guests all get to know each other so well over the weekend.
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? Sometimes planning a wedding isn’t as glamorous as it’s made out to be and sometimes it really, really sucks — you’ll feel more stressed than you’ve ever felt in your life. Remember what’s truly important and when it gets down to that weekend you’ve been waiting for your whole life, let everything be and just be present and enjoy every single moment no matter what may come up because it truly does all go by in an instant.
What was the best advice you received as a bride? The piece of advice I’m most thankful for was from my photographer and great friend, Ashley, urging us to do a First Look before the ceremony. I was against it from the start because I’d always had this idea in my head of how romantic it would be to see my husband for the first time on our wedding day while walking down the aisle. I’m not super traditional but that was one wedding tradition that had always been important to me. I ended up being talked into it and I’m so grateful for that because it was probably one of the most beautiful and surreal moments in my entire life and one that I will never forget. It also turned out to be one of the only moments we were able to be alone for the entire day.
“We’ve lived in the Vail valley for a few years now so we were familiar with many of the venues in the area and spent a few months trying to find the perfect one. I was always able to find something wrong with every space but when we saw the Overlook Lawn at Cordillera for the first time we knew instantly it was what we were looking for. The lawn is so simple yet it offers the most breathtaking views and that’s all we really wanted. The best part was that we didn’t even need to dress up the space. We brought in white fold-out chairs and that was it!”
Your ceremony in three words. Effortless, timeless and romantic
How did you go about planning your ceremony? Our officiant was really helpful when it came to planning the ceremony. He made it easy for us to customize our ceremony readings, and helped to inspire me when I had trouble writing my own vows. It was important more to myself than Johan that the ceremony be more spiritual than religious and Matt was respectful of that. Logistically, everything would have been a disaster if it weren’t for my wedding coordinator, Kara Delay, and her assistant Rachel. They took control of everything and were so pleasant to work with — like having your most reliable girlfriends around doing everything for you. The ceremony and reception were executed flawlessly and it’s all because of these ladies and what they do behind the scenes. Every bride should really do themselves a favor and hire someone to help them — at least just a day-of!
Event Planning & Design by Love This Day Events.
Who officiated your ceremony? Our wedding planner, Kara, introduced us to Matt Reynak via e-mail and we drove to Winter Park to meet with him for lunch. She called him the “Jimmy Buffet of officiants”, so we were both like “ok, that’s our guy.” Talking to him was like hanging out with a cool uncle — we were looking for someone who we felt comfortable and relaxed with and someone who wasn’t too “stuffy” if you will. We hired him on the spot and he made the whole process so enjoyable and easy. We absolutely love him!
What was your ceremony music? Classic love songs like “In My Life” by The Beatles and “Just Breathe” by Pearl Jam. I walked down the aisle to “Wild Horses” by The Rolling Stones.
What were your ceremony readings? Oh the Places You’ll Go – Dr Seuss.
What were your vows like? We wrote our own vows, Johan wrote his in a matter of about 15 minutes and was done several weeks before the wedding and I was still working on mine the night before. I planned to say the last part of my vows in Afrkaans to surprise Johan and his family but that language just does not roll off the tongue for me at all. His best man, Riaan, and I were working on pronunciation still just moments before the ceremony started. I had been so nervous about writing our own vows but I’m so glad we did. Johan’s were so touching and and hearing those self-written vows come out of his mouth was one of my favorite moments ever in my life. I think I got them good with the broken Afrikaans as well!
Is there anything else that you’d like to share about your wedding ceremony? We were so fortunate to be able to have our sweet, 10 year old golden retriever, Dallas, walk down the aisle at the wedding — it was very important to us that he be there. While everyone had their head down in prayer, all I could hear was him breathing super hard and I look over and he is doing everything in his power to drag my niece over to Johan and I. One of my favorite memories from that day for sure.
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? Johan’s favorite moment was when I said this that his vows were so much better than mine immediately after he finished his.
For me, hearing Johan say his vows was a huge moment in my life and definitely one of my favorites moments from the entire day. Another moment that really sticks out was when I had just finished walking up the stairs to the Overlook Lawn and was about to walk down the aisle. I remember someone telling me to stop when I got to the top and to just take a deep breath, and take in everything around me in that moment. Standing there for just that one second to breathe and take in all this beauty, happiness and excitement was just so surreal for me and I’ll never forget that.
“We were completely against any ballrooms and were looking for something different from many of the rustic, Colorado weddings done in this area and didn’t want anything catered or selected from a banquet menu. Johan was the Sous Chef at Zino at the time and it has been one of my favorite restaurants in the valley for quite a while. At Zino we were able to completely customize our menu which was priceless and they were willing to be so much more flexible with timing and setup than any of the other venues we had checked out, which was super important to me. They have not only a beautiful and very open two-story dining room but a huge outdoor patio covered in string lights, complete with a bocce ball court and views of the river. The first time I ever walked in to that restaurant I remember clearly saying I could throw an incredible party there so in the end it was just meant to be.”
Did you have a signature cocktail? Our signature cocktail was called the “Come to Papa” and it was a HUGE hit. It’s vodka, strawberry purée, balsamic honey, lime juice and basil — it’s even better than it sounds!
How would you describe your reception? The first thing that comes to mind is just how fun it was. Having our friends and family together in Vail, many of them meeting for the first time and establishing great friendships as well — you could just feel the love and great energy in the air that night. The food was outstanding and our DJ was playing the best music all night. Great friends and family, great food and great music are all you need to throw an unforgettable party and that’s exactly wheat it was!
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? The natural beauty of the Vail valley and the European-inspired decor at Zino, which is the ambiance that we were going for. Both venues fit in perfectly with this idea we had of a ultra-romantic ceremony and soft, candlelit dinner that turned into a sexy dance party — which in the end was wild and everything we were hoping it would be.
Menu: Antipasti: Olathe Sweet Corn Soup, Paprika Mascarpone Crostini, Red Bell Pepper Relish or Palisade Peach Salad with Candied Pistachios, Crispy Pancetta, Castelrosse Cheese, White Peach Balsamic // Secondi: Roasted Prime New York, Wild Mushroom Risotto, Veal Reduction, Seared Naked Scallop Wild Caper Berry Piccata, Heirloom Cauliflower Puree, Beurre Fondue. The restaurant also surprised us by serving everyone oysters as an amuse-bouche which was such a special touch and really set the tone for an incredible dinner.
Catering provided by Zino Ristorante.
Are there any DIY details you’d like to tell us about? We ordered some two ounce glass vials with cork top lids from Etsy and filled them with Amarula (a yummy creamy liquor that comes from South Africa, where my husband is from) and had them sitting at each guests’ seat for toasting. I also created our wedding website through Squarespace which I highly recommend. I didn’t have any experience with building a website but I found Squarespace to be very helpful and easy to navigate and understand. Having a website was super helpful being that we had a destination wedding and it also helped us save a lot of money on stationery with having all of our wedding information located in one place.
What was your favorite moment or part of the reception? Johan’s favorite moment was being introduced as husband and wife for the first time in front of our closest family and friends before coming down the stairs. For me, it’s a toss up between my first dances with Johan and my dad and letting lose with everyone on the dance floor.
What was your first dance song? We kind of surprised everyone with a fast-paced first dance to an Afrikaans song called “Baby Tjoklits” by Gerhard Steyn. He taught me how to do this South African style of ballroom dance on the ship where we met. Johan is a great dancer and it was so much fun! My dad and I danced to “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys, and Johan and his mom danced to “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles.
Music by Rob Meagher of Elite DJ.
What type of cake or dessert did you serve? We served a naked vanilla shortcake with strawberries and blackberries as our wedding cake which was absolutely fabulous. We really wanted a cake that was not only pretty to look at but actually tasted good too and we definitely didn’t want anything too fancy and intricate. My friend Christine Clancy reached out to us when we got engaged and offered to do our cake as a wedding gift. She isn’t just any pastry chef — we used to work together and she is now the Executive Pastry Chef at a five-star hotel in Aspen. She is hands down the most talented and creative pastry chef I’ve ever met and she’s also so much fun to be around and work with. I talked to her maybe twice for a span of five minutes each about the cake because I was just too bogged down with other details at the time. I trusted her to create whatever she wanted for us and she really delivered for us. All of our guests raved about how delicious our cake was — let’s be honest, how often does anybody compliment how good the wedding cake was?
Please tell us about any other special details or moments from your reception. We purposely shared our wedding date with Johan’s best man’s birthday and surprised him with a birthday cake and everyone sung him happy birthday before blowing out his candles.
If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently? We wouldn’t have procrastinated so much, that’s for sure! During our engagement we moved, changed jobs, received promotions and continuously put off wedding planning for as long as we could. In the end we started to run out of time and that just added unnecessary stress and drove not only us, but our vendors crazy. Don’t do that!