When friends find out that my husband and I chose to get married in the month of February, I get a few perplexed expressions. Here on the western slope of Colorado, we experience an unpredictable wintry mix of weather, ranging from snowy conditions and cold temperatures, to bluebird afternoons and shorts-weather. So, why February?
Simply stated, harvest.
As romantic dreamers, envisioning a late-fall, amber-hued wedding sounded magical to us. As realistic grape farmers, whose busiest season falls within the months of September and October, having that fall dream wedding sounds nightmarish. We’d never be able to slow down enough to actually enjoy our anniversary, let alone get away for a few days, so we opted for a date during the slowest season possible.
We chose February 22nd, 2019, as they date we’d tie the knot, since that was our proposal anniversary. Months earlier, when deciding upon that date, we had no idea what the upcoming weather would do. As the date grew closer, a forecast for snow persistently showed up in our weather apps. Snow or shine, we were committed to getting married in our vineyard, just the two of us, at the very spot, where we decided to embark upon this crazy winemaking journey together.
We even managed to keep it a secret from family and friends, until we revealed the news the next day.
That’s right – we eloped!!
Neither of us would change a thing about our choice. We made this day entirely OURS, and we were intentional with every decision. Being new business owners, keeping our purchases within budget was key; however, keeping our ceremony small allowed for a few extravagances that made our day incredibly unique and special – beautiful photos, delicious cake, gorgeous flowers, and great wine.
I relentlessly searched online for a used wedding dress, since I didn’t want to spend a fortune for something I’d only wear once. When I found the exact one that I wanted, I pulled the trigger. I found a classic, once-used, sleeveless BHLDN dress on eBay for just over $200. Although it wasn’t necessarily the most winter-friendly dress, its classic simplicity ended up pairing perfectly with the snowy weather and really allowed the flowers to stand out. Amazingly enough, I made ZERO alterations to the dress – it was a perfect fit straight from the box. I also purchased an ivory chenille wrap that kept me warm and stylish during the below-freezing temperatures. I wore my mother’s pearl necklace, gave my nails the rare polish, and kept things practical by wearing my rugged work boots.
It was a no-brainer for us to hire our friend Olivia Emmer, a local photographer, who honestly takes the most beautiful portrait shots, to capture our wedding day. She’d already beautifully captured our first harvest season, just months earlier, and she was so easy to be around. From getting ready and fine-tuning the details, to hiking out to our chosen spot and cutting the cake, we wanted to capture the entire feel of the day. Sure, we could have shared the day together, just the two of us, and gotten a few iPhone shots, but having a professional photographer there to document the afternoon was a solid call. We could truly relax and focus on each other.
And the snowy backdrop was just perfect.
I especially enjoyed having Olivia there to capture the two of us getting ready for the ceremony. There are a few photos that give a peek into what was going on in our lives that day. We were deciding upon bottle shapes for our upcoming wine release, and we had samples strewn across our living room. I’m glad that I didn’t take the time to make the house look perfect because seeing those details bring me right back to that time of such uncertainty and excitement.
GETTING THE CATS INVOLVED
My best advice to anyone planning a wedding is to stay true to what personally matters to you. For us, we wanted our cats to be part of the celebration. We wore matching socks with our cats’ faces printed on them, the most endearing gifts from our friend Keelan. Months prior to our wedding, I had been following Kelly Mendenhall, owner of 3 Leaf Floral in Grand Junction, on Instagram and admiring her striking floral creations. Kelly was so fun to work with, and she dialed in both the style and color scheme for our flowers. When I asked her to create flower crowns for our cats, in addition to our bouquet and boutonniere, she was eager to make that idea happen.
Despite our attempting a few practice rounds, Kazu and Ash didn’t warm up to the feel of wearing flower crowns. It was more of a “hey, let’s hold these flowers next to the cats’ heads and pretend they’re wearing them, until we get a good photo” situation. The cats eventually cooperated, Olivia got a few good shots, and we all did more laughing than actually posing. The girls were such good sports about the process, and after drying the flowers, we now have those adorable, tiny crowns to commemorate that day so beautifully.
In Colorado, couples are able to self-officiate their wedding, so we were thrilled to be able to share our vows together – just the two of us – and keep those moments private and personal. We both donned thermal leggings, stretched on two layers of socks, grabbed our warmest coats, and braved the cold temperatures and snow.
We threw together a backpack with extra shoes, blankets, and wine, and we embarked on the half-mile hike to the southwest corner of the property. We exchanged our vows at the very spot, where we fell in love with this property back in 2016, where we knew this project was meant for us to pursue. In the middle of dormant Chardonnay vines, we popped a special bottle of wine, a 2009 J. Schram sparkling wine from the Schramsberg winery. We’ve been longtime fans of this California sparkling wine house, ever since we poured its brut rosé by the glass at the restaurant we worked at last, Shanahan’s.
There’s definitely a positive outcome of the weather – snow works as a superb wine-insulator, and we didn’t have to worry about warm bubbly. 😏
TOASTING WITH WINE TANK SAMPLES
One of the most endearing memories I have of our wedding was the timing and how it aligned with what was happening within our business. We’d been farming grapes for just under two years, and we hadn’t even released our first vintage of wine. In fact, the wines from our inaugural vintage were still in tank. This might sound uneventful, but we had never made wine before. Everything we did was a first. Our entire business and its longevity was resting on the success of those not-yet-bottled wines from the 2018 vintage.
We were terrified and excited and nervous and elated about the outcome of our upcoming wine release, and we felt the weight of its possibility even on our wedding day. After we exchanged our vows, we walked back to the winery. We shared a toast with tastes of our 2018 Chardonnay, poured directly from the tank. We toasted to our bravery, our craziness, and our future together.
CUTTING THE CAKE AND POPPING THE DESSERT WINE
We ordered a small, custom cake from our friend Hannah Halladay, of Blue Sky Baking, here in Hotchkiss, Colorado. We opted for a champagne cake with citrus icing and thinly sliced strawberries between each layer. Steve and I both have a slight obsession with plants, especially succulents, so we asked Hannah to incorporate both live and stylized, icing versions of succulents. The cake, made with locally sourced and organic ingredients, was so delicious and exactly what we envisioned.
We paired the cake with a bottle of sparkling ice wine, made from Cabernet Franc grapes, picked in 2012, by the famed Canadian ice wine producer, Inniskillen. This dessert wine was lively with bubbles and bright acidity, and the notes of cranberry and tart cherry played perfectly with the creamy richness of the cake and the sweet strawberries. Because I’m such a sucker for decadent wedding cake, I ate two generous slices for dinner that evening.
SENDING OUT SO MUCH GRATITUDE
Thank you to my incredible husband and business partner, Steve Steese, for loving me and letting me hang out with you for the rest of my life. For listening to both my wildest dream-rants and my deepest fears. For holding both of those extremes close to your heart, with care and without judgment. For creating the most delicious meals and making the most mundane of tasks a celebration of silliness. For being the hardest worker I know. For sharing my vision of relentlessly striving to be better every day.
I love you!!
Thank you to the incredibly talented individuals and companies, who made this day one of the most magical days of our lives:
- Photography – Olivia Emmer of Olive & West Photography
- Flowers – Kelly Mendenhall of 3 Leaf Floral
- Cake – Hannah Halladay of Blue Sky Baking
- Wine – 2009 Schramsberg J. Schram, 2012 Inniskillin Sparkling Cabernet Franc, and 2018 Chardonnay from The Storm Cellar
- Dress – BHLDN
And thank you for reading our wedding story. I have wanted to share this day here for a while, and writing about it and looking through these photos tangibly brought me back to that special day. It also brought up so many feelings about working alongside your partner and taking a massive leap of faith on a shared dream. I couldn’t do it with anyone else.