Samantha and Alan’s engagement coincided with the start of the pandemic, and like many couples, they put their destination wedding plans on hold. Samantha found my company through a recent publication and called me while relaxing in the bath, declaring, “Michelle, I need you to be my wedding planner.” Shortly after, we signed a contract, and within 72 hours, they flew to New Orleans where we spent time enjoying way too many beignets, drinks, and laughs at Bar Marilou.
To our surprise, a few days later, the world went into a complete lockdown, and we, like most people, assumed it would only last a couple of weeks. While the pandemic raged on, Samantha and Alan spent most of their time away from cities in remote jungles in Central and South America, which gave us ample opportunity to bond over our shared love of culture and new experiences. They would often send me nuptial ideas from their travels, but another adventure always seemed to be on the horizon. Until recently, when Samantha called me from Sedona with some exciting news, and I knew it was finally time for them to tie the knot.
Originally, their idea was to simply sign papers and then have a larger celebration, but Samantha and Alan were worried that it wouldn’t feel special enough. With only a week to plan from a distance, I knew exactly what I had to do to create an intimate and unique experience that would make the occasion unforgettable. Planning elopements is one of my favorites because I get to focus solely on the couple and execute their vision without any guest concerns that might get in the way of what they really want.
Given they had lived in the red rocks of Sedona for the past year, I wanted to give them an experience that was different from the typical desert landscape. I needed to transport them to a whimsical, lush, and green oasis, and L’Auberge in Sedona was just the right venue. Nestled in a canyon with its own secluded creek, the top premium Creekside cabin provided ultimate privacy, romantic views, and a sense of serenity.
I took care of everything from wardrobe to the cake while touring Taormina, Italy, allowing them to focus on their photography and makeup selection. Which was picture-perfect thanks to SLC Portraiture and Paige at Love, Kyra Beauty. Understanding their need forunderstated elegance, natural luxury, and simplicity, I chose an ivory silk suit for Samantha, complete with crystal-studded kitten heels and pearl earrings. Then, I made Alan an appointment in Scottsdale for tailoring where a dark chocolate suit had his name on it. We made the day of decision to put him in sockless Gucci loafers.
With incredibly meticulous ordering and planning, everything arrived on time for their April 25th ceremony. Despite keeping it quiet to avoid disrupting the excitement of the larger celebration to follow, word got out, and their room was filled to the brim with lovely keepsakes and goodies from close family and friends. Ditching ideas of separate preparation, they opted to get ready together. Of course, Samantha’s primping went a bit longer, so Alan enjoyed champagne by the babbling creek while waiting for his bride. They then set off to the Sedona Court House, which was arranged to remain open just for the two of them, allowing a private civil ceremony with absolutely no interruptions.
Following a photoshoot, they returned to their private cabin, where a full course candlelit dinner awaited them on their porch overlooking Oak Creek. Being the cheeky couple that they are, they indulged in their wedding cake first, which was a heart-shaped retro ode to old Vegas with “Just Married” written on it, and I wholeheartedly approved. Satisfied both in their bellies and hearts, they were ready for some stargazing. The activity was originally planned with a local astrologer. However, they decided to enjoy the dark sky views from privacy of their own outdoor areainstead. They later shared their first dance indoors, alone by the fireplace, and capped off the night with an outdoor cedar shower under the stars.
The next day was intentionally slow, with the couple enjoying coffee by the creek and taking a nap on a nearby hammock. They then headed to Cress on Oak Creek for a lovely breakfast, nestled in a nook under a canopy of trees. Their day continued at a leisurely pace, with sound healing in the artist cabin, a romantic picnic on the creek red rocks where they exchanged private vows, and plenty of pampering at the apothecary spa, complete with lunch delivered to the pool and refreshments by an outdoor fire. It was a meticulously planned 24-hours of relaxation, and everything went seamlessly. Smooth as butter.
With such a thoughtful celebration, they plan to return every year for their anniversary to relive the magic created. And that, for me, is a win. The key takeaway is that there are endless ways to make a civil ceremony special, and it’s crucial not to skip or skimp on it. I’m thrilled that the couple approached me when they did, allowing me to step in and create the memory they deserved. In short, take the time to make your special day unforgettable or hire the help of someone who can make your dreams a reality. Elopements are so precious. Give them the love they deserve.
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Planner: Michelle Norwood Events
Venue: Sedona Court House, L’ Auberge de Sedona
Photography: SLC Portraiture
Floral: Sedona Mountain High Flowers
Makeup: Love, Kyra Beauty
Cake: Karen’s Gluten Free Bakeshop
Catering: Cress on Oak Creek
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