Carly + James. Desktop Image

Carly + James

(December 12, 2020 in Pray, MT)

This blog post is about the writer's wedding experience, from planning to execution. The writer and their partner had to change their original plan due to the pandemic and ended up having a small, intimate wedding in Montana with the help of a local wedding planner. The writer shares how their vision for the wedding evolved and how it all turned out to be perfect despite the challenges they faced. The writer also talks about their favorite moments of the day and the importance of choosing the right vendors. Lastly, the writer gives their #1 tip for future brides: to trust their instincts and make decisions that are true to themselves.

Carly was absolutely beautiful in our Heidi gown by Essense of Australia. This dove satin ballgown is perfectly timeless and elegant. The bodice features a v-neckline and dainty straps. The back of the gown features a stunning sheer back with exposed boning, as well as buttons all the way down to the edge of the train. Side cutouts help accentuate the waistline AND this dress has pockets!

By our real bride, Carly:

What was the vision for your wedding?  

The vision for our wedding definitely evolved over time. We went from our original plan of a large indoor wedding in Spokane with 250 guests down to a small, intimate event in Montana with only our immediate family members. Our first plan was easy! Since we both grew up in Spokane, it took us no time to figure out what vendors and venue would be the best fit for our winter wedding. When the full effect of the pandemic hit the US 6 months later, we were certain our big wedding wouldn't happen even though it was months away at that point. At first, we thought we would postpone a year. We stuck with that idea for a couple months, and then in August 2020 we decided that, after 5 years together, we were ready to be married. We didn't know when or if we would be able to have a big party in the future, and at the end of the big wedding day, our marriage is what will really matter. Don't get me wrong, it was an extremely painful decision that I wish we didn't have to make! 2020 brides, you feel me? At that point, we started from scratch completely and with a much smaller guest list.

We found Sage Lodge and knew it was our place! It is located outside of Bozeman, MT, and I swear it is the most beautiful setting on Earth. A new location brought a new set of challenges, though. We had no vendors! I took a risk and hired a wedding planner I knew nothing about, and that was the best decision I made. Our wedding planner, Kris, was local to the area, so she brought a ton of suggestions and made re-planning a wedding in less than 3 months a dream. Thank goodness I already had my dress!

With our new venue, our vision for the day completely changed. We went from an industrial building in downtown Spokane to a modern-rustic resort in Montana. Nothing was the same! Instead of a lot of white florals and greenery, we went for more vibrant colors that would incorporate the rustic-feel of Sage Lodge. Instead of multiple tables throughout a large room, we had one long table where we could enjoy each one of our guests. The vision for our wedding started one way and turned out very different. Looking back, I wouldn't change a thing. Truly, I think James and I felt pressured to have a big wedding because that's what you do! We were forced into having a small wedding, but if we are honest with ourselves, we know that our real vision was exactly what we ended up with. For that, we are so thankful.

How did it go the day-of?  

People have always said that your wedding day goes fast, and now I understand! I feel like we blinked and it was over. The day-of was truly a dream. Since I couldn't have my bridal party there with me, I got ready with my mom and sister. It was so relaxing! We got up early, but I didn't do anything until noon. I lounged and snuggled with my pup while my mom and sister get their hair and makeup done. Looking back, I am so grateful I had those quiet moments that morning. Once I was in the makeup chair, that's when things started to fly by. All of the sudden I was putting on my dress! I can't explain the feeling once you put on your dress FOR REAL. At that point, I had tried it on multiple times for alterations, but the real deal is unbeatable.

Once I was dressed, I did a first look with my dad. My dad is my guy, so I wanted to have some time with him before I saw James. I started sobbing before I even started walking out the door. It was such a special moment for both of us, and I am so glad we did it! After I said goodbye to my dad, it was time to do the first look with James. I think I got all of the jitters out when I saw my dad - the tears were gone and I could not wait to see James. We had been apart all day, which seemed like an eternity. Like so many brides experience, James's reaction was priceless. I have never seen him so overcome with emotion.

Though all of that was great, the ceremony was my favorite part of the entire day. We wanted traditional vows, concrete promises that we can go back and remember, but we also wanted to personalize our ceremony a bit. We each wrote letters to each other to read out loud before we said our vows. All of our family members said the letters were the best part of the ceremony. It allowed them to get a little peek into the intimate parts of our relationship that make us love each other so much. Standing up there with James felt like we were in a bubble. I had no awareness of anyone else in the room - just him. It was an absolute dream.

Our vendors were also a huge part of our day. I wish I could do it all over again because they made the day perfect. Our photographer, Cassie, was the kindest human I've ever met. She made us feel so comfortable and captured our day perfectly. Our wedding planner, Kris, was an angel. I didn't have to think of any logistics the day of. Everything was perfect because of her. I also have to mention our hair and makeup artist, Brittnee. She was a dream vendor for me, and we are so lucky we got her on such short notice. All of this to say, don't underestimate the impact your vendors can have on your big day!

What is your #1 tip to future brides? 

My advice would be to go with your gut on every decision you make! You know yourself and your future spouse better than anyone else. There are so many opinions and people saying "you should..." especially now with all of the uncertainty the pandemic has brought. Do you want to wait and have a huge wedding when you can? Do it! Do you want to elope? Do it! I definitely got caught up in the guilt of choosing to do a smaller wedding that excluded a lot of the people we love, and I wish I wouldn't have let that enter my mind at all. Your friends and family are important, but you are starting a new family with the person you love the most. That's just one example, and every bride will face a different set of struggles. Be confident in yourself, your spouse, and your decisions - you cant lose!

Dress: Heidi by Essense of Australia

Veil: Stephanie Veil by Sara Gabriel Designs

earrings: Michelle Earrings by Sara Gabriel Designs

Photographer: Cassie Trottier

Venue: Sage Lodge

Florals: Rowan and Larch

Hair and Makeup: Brittnee Madill at Ethereal Hair + Makeup

Wedding Planner: Kris Bart, Happenings

Rings: Tracy Jewelers

Tan: Spray Tans by Brandi

Cake: Sweet and Tarte

Suit: Hugo Boss

Rehearsal Dinner: Chico Hot Springs

Pre-Wedding Skin Prep: Sarah Hamilton Face