Top Planners Share Their Favorite Weddings

What leads one wedding to become a planner's favorite? Start with good friends, great food and a dreamy setting. Here, three top design pros give us a peek at their most memorable celebrations.

Snowy Bliss

People flock to Utah in the winter to ski. What they don’t typically want to do there this time of year is get married. So when designer Michelle Cousins, founder of Michelle Leo Events, got a call from a couple saying they wanted a black-tie wedding at the Blue Sky Ranch near Park City in January, “I was stoked!” she says. “I knew that a blanket of white snow would be our backdrop, so I let that be the inspiration for all of the décor." The focal point of the destination resort is a smoky blue barn, off of which is a grand patio that provides sweeping views of the mountains and canyon below. Cousins chose that spot to set up a heated tent for the ceremony and cocktail hour. The nearly 200 guests arrived by chartered buses and were greeted with mugs of hot cider. After the vows and cocktails, everyone moved inside the barn for dinner and dancing. Here, Cousins used a mix of table shapes and sizes for visual interest. Long farm tables were left bare, while the round tables were dressed in navy and cream — and the cake table stood out on a white sequined overlay. Rose gold flatware, copper chargers, flickering candles and soft bistro lighting cast a warm glow throughout. At one end of the barn, a wall dotted with unique mason jar lights was the perfect backdrop for the live band. “The couple wanted to show their guests the best of Utah,” says Cousins. “I think this wedding did that — and more.” 

 A light snow fell as the couples said "I Do":

winter wedding ceremony

Bridal beauty:

winter wedding bride

A hint of dark blue in the bouquet’s anemones picks up the wedding’s accent color:

winter wedding flowers

The wedding party’s blue-hued attire gave a nod to the surroundings:

winter wedding bridal party

A wintery welcome to Utah for guests:

snowy winter wedding

Handwritten escort cards and menus were both elegant and rustic:

winter wedding

winter wedding place setting

Long, blue-glazed farm tables were left uncovered:

winter wedding table decor

Fresh roses atop tiers of buttercream perfection:

winter wedding cake

Photo Credit: Gideon Photography

Friends First

It's one thing to share your wedding plans with friends, quite another to hand over the creative reins to your BFF. But that’s exactly what happened when Katie Werkin’s friend Kristen, got engaged. “Believe it or not,” says Werkin, who is the Columbus, Ohio–based designer with Chancey Charm Weddings, “we bonded watching Father of the Bride 1 & 2 while my husband and her then-boyfriend pulled all-nighters at the hospital where they work!” Given their taste in movies, it’s no surprise that Kristen’s only directive was that she wanted a ballroom wedding that felt timeless and elegant. Werkin’s first step was to enlist the floral design team at HeatherLily, in Cleveland, who are known for show-stopping “field-to-vase” arrangements. They fashioned gold-toned vessels that towered over several tables and were brimming with fragrant, blush-toned blooms and cascading greenery. “When guests entered, it smelled like they were walking into a garden.” Shimmery gold touches were everywhere — from the bamboo chairs to the table settings and sequined linens. Later in the evening, guests were treated to scoops of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream (a Columbus treasure) and bubble tea (the groom’s favorite sweet). After the last dance, guests pulled out fanciful ribbon wands to give the couple an Oscar-worthy send off. “Every wedding I do is special in its own way,” says Werkin, “but being able to pull off the wedding of her dreams for my friend is something I’ll always treasure.”

bride and groom

In-season peonies in the bride’s bouquet:

bride with bouquet

Little lovelies:

flower girls

Fragrant flowers set the stage:

wedding reception entrance

The grand setting called for tall centerpieces:

weddng centerpieces

Elegance ruled the tables:

wedding place setting

Candles cast a warm, intimate glow:

wedding centerpieces with candles

Local goodies welcomed guests:

wedding welcome basket

A classic buttercream cake adorned with fresh flowers:

classic wedding cake

 Photo Credit: Henry Photography

Nature Calls

When a down-to-earth but world-traveling couple called the design team Alison & Bryan to help them plan a wedding celebration that felt like a dinner party, little did they know they’d met their match. “The four of us were meant to meet,” says Alison Laesser-Keck, who founded the company with her husband, Bryan. “Their tastes were our tastes.” The couple's wish list, in order: Good food. Natural environment. Relaxed, approachable atmosphere. Make guests feel special. “That was all they said to us before giving us full creative freedom,” says Laesser-Keck, who splits her time between Santa Barbara, California and southeast Michigan, where this celebration took place. For the summer affair, they rented out a bucolic horse farm that doesn’t typically host events. Because the couple were self-described foodies, the design duo didn’t scrimp on the farm-to-table fare that was served family style. “We designed the tablescape to make the food the star.” Tucked among the the centerpieces, for example, were fresh peaches, herbs and heads of cabbage. Each table held several raised wooden planks to hold the serving platters that guests would pass. “We hand-tied several tree branches to each tent pole so that guests would feel like they were dining al fresco. Candles and bistro lights were also hung from the branches and across the ceiling and lit when the sun set. It felt like we were somewhere in the French countryside.”

One tent for both dinner and drinks gave the space an intimate vibe:

outdoor wedding reception in tent

A just-picked boutonniere:

green bridal boutonniere

Cocktail hour featured local brews and wines:

wedding chalkboard cocktail menu

The menu was screen printed onto the napkins:

wedding menu card

Food and flowers mixed in the centerpieces:

wedding table decor

Branches tied to tent poles lent an al fresco air:

outdoor wedding table decor

Horses were welcome guests:

horses at wedding

Dinner was served family style:

wedding food 

Photo Credit: Jill Devries Photography