Sarah & Jason’s Ouray Wedding in Yankee Boy Basin
Ceremony: Undisclosed location in Yankee Boy Basin
Reception: Secret Garden
Transportation: Switzerland Of America
Entertainment: Aiko Aiko Sound
Beauty: Salon Envy
Invitations: CJ Card
Floral: Willow Creek
Dress: Traditional Vietnamese Ao Dai
Q: Tell us about your wedding! What was the inspiration behind your day? Did you have a specific theme, style or color palette? Did you incorporate any cultural or religious traditions in any part of your day?
A: Living in Colorado, we are a mixed race couple who are inspired every day by the mountains. Much of our free time is spent in the wilderness, whether that means hiking, backpacking, skiing, or snowshoeing. So when it came to our wedding, there was no question that we’d bring friends and family into our world of peaks, waterfalls, and wildflowers. We also incorporated ways to honor Sarah’s ethnic heritage, such as each of us wearing traditional Vietnamese ao dai and symbolizing unity through a shortened tea ceremony. Since we paid for everything ourselves (including lodging for immediate family members), we were able to dictate all of the elements. It turned out to be such a fun and intimate weekend celebration with our favorite people in one of Colorado’s most beautiful destinations.
Q: Let’s talk wedding decor. How did you decorate your space for the ceremony and the reception? Was any part of the decor DIY?
A: The ceremony location was held in an alpine basin and required no decorating beyond what nature provided. We were ringed by the summits of the San Juan mountain range. Cascading Twin Falls, fed by snowmelt, offered a stunning backdrop to the ceremony as well as background “music.” Our reception was held in town at the Secret Garden Bed & Breakfast and had fantastic landscaping, so all we had to do was decorate the underside of the dining tent with Asian paper lanterns and umbrellas in reds and yellows. Our DIY centerpieces involved vases from second-hand stores, mitsumata branches, and over 100 origami birds and butterflies folded by Sarah’s brother-in-law. Jason’s mother and father created the “Bride” and “Groom” signs for our dining chairs as well as a beautiful upholstered box to receive cards.
Q: What were the florals like in your wedding? Did you use flowers in any of your design elements like the bridal bouquets, centerpieces or ceremony backdrop? Did they play an important part in the overall style of your wedding?
A: Mid-July in Colorado has always held a special place in our hearts. It’s when the montane forests and alpine tundra are taken over by a dazzling carpet of wildflowers. It meant a lot for us to have our guests experience this first hand and the reason for why we chose our date of July 13. We carefully stood among asters, columbines, bluebells, yarrow, roseroot, candytuft, and paintbrush of all colors. Shoulder-high larkspur edged the rocky paths. At the reception, the Secret Garden B&B was already decked out with colorful hanging baskets, fruit trees, and flower beds, so there was not much else we needed to do. But for a more exotic look, the bouquet and boutonnieres were made up of an array of orchids put together by Willow Creek Floral.
Q: Did you personalize the day in any way (food trucks, guest entertainment etc.)? What were some of your favorite parts of your wedding?
A: Since we paid for the entire wedding ourselves, we were able to personalize the experience as much as we wanted. We held the wedding events in our favorite mountain destination, which was a five to seven hour drive for nearly everyone. On the actual day, we hired a caravan of high-clearance 4WD vehicles with experienced backcountry drivers to transport our guests over a rugged, dirt shelf road to the ceremony site at treeline. Sarah’s brother officiated the proceedings. We chose not to have attendants. There was a cocktail hour back at the Secret Garden B&B with lawn games and trivia that we had printed on cards with questions such as, “Find the four guests with whom the couple loves to ride motorcycles,” or “Find the nine guests that have hoofed it up to the top of a Fourteener with the newlyweds.” We also curated the wines and craft beers to be only from Colorado producers. One of our favorite parts of the wedding was being able to mingle with our guests before dinner; we had pre-planned a few extra minutes to show up during cocktail hour so that we could enjoy each person’s company, especially since they had traveled all that way to be with us.
Q: Let’s talk fashion. How did you choose your wedding day look? How did the groom? Describe both looks in detail.
A: Sarah was born and raised in Michigan, so there were many cultural aspects of her Vietnamese heritage that had not been part of her daily life. However, she understands the stories and sacrifices of her roots, so we wanted to honor that. Sarah wore a white silk ao dai with sunny yellow trim and delicately embroidered leaves and branches to keep with the theme of nature. Although Sarah had for a long time imagined that she would wear a Vietnamese ao dai on her wedding day, it never crossed her mind that Jason would want to wear the male version of it… until she showed him some pictures. Jason was immediately smitten with the idea of having a giant embroidered gold dragon on his wedding outfit. He also deeply appreciated the Vietnamese legend behind it and what it symbolized. Red is the traditional celebratory color in SE Asia, but we agreed Jason’s eyes would shine in a rich blue ao dai. We ordered these through Sarah’s aunt in Vietnam, who took the measurements and desired designs to an ao dai dressmaker. Sarah also added a non-traditional sash to her outfit that she had custom-made on Etsy for a more defined waist. We both chose not to wear the traditional headdresses that usually go with wedding ao dai.
Q: How did you meet? Tell us about the proposal.
A: We work in the same industry, though Sarah is an engineer and Jason is in finance. We had some loose yet mutual connections on LinkedIn.com. Jason was living in Virginia at the time and posted that he’d be traveling to Colorado in January to visit family; he was wondering if anyone there would be willing to meet with him. So we met one evening at a local coffee shop. Although we hadn’t planned to fall in love, our connection was electric and undeniable. By the end of the year, Jason had found a way to transfer his job to Colorado. We shopped together for rings at local jewelers. Sarah had narrowed it down to two simple but gorgeous options. She told Jason to choose but not tell her until the proposal. One October day after work, Jason’s car needed tire service. By the time we left the mechanic, we smelled like tire rubber and engines, but Jason suggested that we take a little walk around Garden of the Gods Park. The public park is Colorado Springs’ crown jewel with its jutting red sandstone rocks, white limestone formations, and miles of meandering trails. Jason claimed he wanted to practice taking photographs with his new DSLR camera as we were traveling to Patagonia the following month. After walking for several minutes, we found an overlook tucked away in privacy. As Sarah admired the view of the rocks and Pikes Peak amid all the autumn trees in brilliant golds and reds, Jason got down on one knee. When he calmly asked her to marry him, Sarah didn’t even look at the ring as she said YES YES!
Q: What was the most anticipated or special moment of your wedding day?
A: For Sarah, it was seeing Twin Falls appear around the bend as the 4WD vehicle she was riding in crawled towards the ceremony site. To her, this pair of cascades was going to be the backdrop to the moment she and Jason were to become a married couple. Jason’s most anticipated moment was the First Look of his bride – he had hiked a little way below the falls so that when she emerged, would be appearing along a rocky path between dense crowds of wildflowers.
Q: Do you have any wedding planning or marriage advice that you’d like to share with other couples planning their day?
A: Three pieces of planning advice: 1) We cannot overstate the benefits of an engaged couple paying for the entire wedding themselves. If you host the wedding you can afford, each piece of it becomes that much more meaningful… and you have all the control. 2) If you’re going to choose one thing to splurge on, do it with the photography. The wedding day is a whirlwind, but a skilled photographer will capture specific moments and emotions you won’t even remember. Research their portfolios and interview potential photographers to find the style, personality, and work ethic that syncs with your expectations and budget. We spoke with three professionals before we chose to work with Ben Eng. We were (and still are) absolutely thrilled with his work! 3) The best decision we made was to host a casual Open House the evening before the actual wedding day. The original idea was that since this was a destination wedding, the Open House would provide incoming guests the chance to visit with us, see the next day’s reception venue, and get some grilled burgers and brats (on us). Given that it was a Friday in a popular summer destination, we didn’t want people to have to hunt for an available table after a long day of driving if they didn’t want to. However, after it was over, we realized the Open House actually benefited us more than the guests. Seeing our friends and family in this informal setting on the eve of the main event made us more relaxed going into the next day. It settled our nerves and made us realize that even if everything went wrong on the wedding day, everyone we loved was there for us. It was all going to be just fine.