Charlotte Mitchell and Blake Riley may have met in New York City, but the mountains of Colorado have always held a special place in their hearts. After meeting through friends in 2015, the two spent a lot of time there together. “I grew up going to Vail and knew that I wanted to get married there well before Blake and I got engaged,” says Charlotte, who works in American art at Sotheby’s. So when Blake, who works for a real estate private equity firm, dropped to one knee on an unusually quiet and cold Tribeca street in February 2019, there wasn’t a question in either of their minds about where to hold the ceremony.
Of course, their original wedding date of July 2020 got sidetracked by the pandemic. But, Charlotte and Blake took it in stride. They had a small wedding then with immediate family only, and postponed their big celebration for a year. When another snag hit, the couple chalked it up to good luck.
“We had originally committed to a different ranch in the area which fell through, and I can’t help to think that it was the best thing that happened to us during the planning process,” says Charlotte. “Our wedding planner then showed us Eaton Ranch and introduced us to the owner, Mike Eaton, who we immediately connected with.”
The private ranch was the setting of their dreams, with a secluded aspen grove for the ceremony and a lush meadow below for the reception. They let its Aspen trees, bright blue sky, and wild aster, larkspur, and daisies inspire the celebration from the decor to the food. “We kept coming back to the notion of ‘mountain elegant,’” says Charlotte. “We wanted to complement the natural beauty of the ranch as much as possible.”
Keep reading to get all the details of their modern mountainside ceremony and reception, as planned by Jennifer Pletcher of Gemini Event Planning & Design and photographed by Rachel Havel.
A stationery suite by Sweet Zion Paperie introduced the evening’s lush botanical theme and green and natural palette. The company also created the escort cards and place cards as well as the table numbers which, like the invitations, were personalized with a wax seal.
“I loved getting ready with my bridesmaids at my parent’s house,” says Charlotte. “We had such a fun, relaxed day, and it really set the tone for the celebration. My parents, who I’m very close with, were a big part of it, too, so it was nice to all spend time together before the festivities.”
Charlotte wore a Mira Zwillinger fitted V-neck lace dress embellished with unique 3D elements. Funny enough, it wasn’t the first one she picked out. “I originally selected a different Mira Zwillinger dress but had second thoughts a few months after purchasing it,” she says. “Luckily, the designer hadn’t started to make the dress yet and was incredibly flexible and let me try on some of their other designs, which is when I discovered the one.”
The bridesmaids chose their own light blue dresses, with the only guideline being that they pick out something they’d love to wear again. “We ended up with a wonderful mix of prints, silhouettes, and textures that complemented each other well,” says Charlotte.
I don’t wear much makeup normally and wanted to be sure I looked like myself.
The bride wore her mother’s diamond earrings and bracelet and a veil made by her tailor in New York. She kept the makeup natural and glowy—“I don’t wear much makeup normally and wanted to be sure I looked like myself,” she says—with a simple chignon that showed off the back of her dress. Lily of the valley, her great-grandmother’s favorite flower, created her bouquet.
Blake complemented his blue Ermenegildo Zegna suit with a green Salvatore Ferragamo tie and a watch that Charlotte gave him for his 30th birthday. His boutonniere of baby’s breath and greenery also had thistle accents.
There were no rules or expectations about what should or should not be included.
Before the ceremony, the couple decided to take photos throughout the natural landscape of the property. Eaton Ranch’s towering aspens and meadows set a beautiful backdrop.
“The most fun part about planning a one-year anniversary celebration rather than a traditional wedding was that there were no rules or expectations about what should or should not be included,” says Charlotte. “Blake and I had a lot of fun brainstorming the structure of the ceremony and tailoring it to reflect us as a couple. We were already married, so definitely less stressed!”
The aspen grove at the ceremony site created a gorgeous outdoor cathedral and natural photo booth for the wedding party and Charlotte and Blake’s families. Event designer Enjoue Studio accented the setting with naturalistic fresh and dried arrangements.
The groomsmen also wore blue. However, they all wore "matching blue suits and bolo ties, as a small homage to the American West," notes the bride. "The bolo ties were designed by our close friend who is an incredibly talented jewelry designer based in Vail—she sourced all of the stones and each one was a little bit different."
Natural beauty shined through at the ceremony. Green and white flowers lined the center aisle, creating the illusion that they were growing from the ground. The guests’ ghost chairs disappeared into the woodland setting. At the front, a horseshoe-shaped altar made of a variety of green and white florals mixed with dried pampas grass created an ethereal outdoor sanctuary.
Charlotte waited with her bridal party to walk down the aisle in a sailcloth tent from local vendor Sperry Tents.
Clear bubble umbrellas—translucent like the guests’ ghost chairs—saw the gathered crowd through a brief pre-ceremony shower.
The couple's parents and wedding party processed to “Fields of Gold” by Sting. Blake and Charlotte then followed, walking down the aisle together to a rendition of the Rolling Stones’ classic “Wild Horses” played by a live violinist and cellist. “My dad walked me down the aisle last year for our intimate wedding, and we liked the idea of doing something different,” says Charlotte.
"Because we got married last year, we wanted the ceremony to feel like a celebration of our marriage rather than a wedding ceremony," shares Charlotte. A friend of the couple Justin kept things lighthearted while officiating the celebration, in which they read each other a brief reflection on their first year of marriage along with a short favorite quote and reaffirmed their vows. Charlotte skewed serious with an excerpt from a letter that Georgia O’Keeffe, one of her favorite artists, wrote to Alfred Stieglitz the year before they married. Blake kept it light with an Adam Sandler quote from The Wedding Singer.
They recessed to the reception site in the meadow below to a live rendition of the upbeat U2 hit “Beautiful Day.” Charlotte adds, "I loved our music selection for the ceremony. It was a little bit different but very us."
Additional sailcloth teloungents from Sperry Tents housed the reception, while a teepee tent from Under the Sky Teepee Tents sheltered an outdoor cocktail bar. Enjoue Studio also set up spaces with modern Scandinavian furniture and soft fur pillows for guests to enjoy.
"I loved our escort card table, which was covered with blooms, greenery, moss, and varied height stumps with the place cards sticking out like flowers,” shares Charlotte. Enjoue Studio created this “table garden” by styling a blonde wood table with birch risers, moss, and soft blooms that looked as if they were growing up from its surface, then suspended the Sweet Zion Paperie escort cards above for guests to find.
Choosing the largest size double-pole tent allowed Enjoue Studio to create a feature lighting element in the center of its ceiling. Over 40 natural-weave pendant lights were suspended to float over the dance floor, which was framed by a 42-foot farm table.
The tabletop palette of blonde wood, light blue, white, cream, and sandy blush played off the natural surroundings. Blue and white runners from La Tavola Fine Linen Rentals were topped by low, full arrangements of fresh and dried flowers, including garden roses, delphinium, ranunculus, bleached ruscus, dried scabiosa pods, blue thistle, greenery, and mosses, designed by Vintage Magnolia. Each place setting was completed with a gray-blue hand-glazed charger and matte gold Scandinavian flatware from Enjoue Studio and a celadon menu card created by Sweet Zion Paperie.
As the sun went down, lanterns and pinspot lighting illuminated the tent’s entrance marquee, which was framed with live trees, as well as a path to an outdoor fire pit lounge. There, guests could bundle up in cozy throws and sink into Adirondack chairs to hang out and take in the bright starlight night.
As the reception went into full swing, guests dined on a menu featuring many locally sourced foods like peaches and Colorado trout. Charlotte adds that she loved the speeches during dinner. “My dad, matron of honor, Laura, and Blake’s two best men all knocked it out of the park. They managed to both make me laugh out loud and bring me to tears," she recalls.
“The dance floor was electric,” says Charlotte. “I don’t think it was ever empty." She and Blake shared a first dance to the live band the Sultans’ rendition of “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody),” by The Talking Heads. The bride danced with her father to the Led Zeppelin tune “Thank You.” The groom and his mother chose the Guns ’n’ Roses classic “Sweet Child O Mine.”
This moment on the dance floor was one of Charlotte’s most memorable of the night. “I don’t know who coordinated it—and I need to thank them if I ever find out!—but all of a sudden a group of people lifted Blake and me into the air and we basically crowd surfed," she says.
Charlotte's advice for anyone planning a wedding? “For starters, I would advise against planning a wedding during a global pandemic!” says Charlotte, joking. More seriously: “I’d heard this from several friends, but it’s definitely true that the bride and groom set the tone for the weekend. If you’re stressed and anxious, guests will pick up on it, whereas if you’re having the time of your life they will too.” After a year of waiting to celebrate, she and Blake led the crowd in kicking back and enjoying the day to the fullest.
VENUE Eaton Ranch Colorado
PLANNER Gemini Event Planning & Design
EVENT DESIGNER Enjoue Studio
BRIDAL GOWN DESIGNER Mira Zwillinger
BRIDAL SALON Saks Bridal Salon
WELCOME PARTY ATTIRE Rosie Assoulin
HAIR Brittani Estes
MAKEUP Carrie Stockert
GROOM’S ATTIRE Ermenegildo Zegna
MOTHER OF THE BRIDE ATTIRE Loro Piana
LIGHTING & DRAPING Little Mad Events
TENTS Sperry Tents; Under the Sky Teepee Tents
FLORAL DESIGN Vintage Magnolia
INVITATIONS AND PAPER PRODUCTS Sweet Zion Paperie
MUSIC The Sultans /Jerry Bennett Entertainment
CATERING Red Maple Catering
CAKE Hovey and Harrison
RENTALS Premier Party Rentals, Colorado Party Rentals
TRANSPORTATION Vail Coach
ACCOMMODATIONS Four Seasons Vail
VIDEOGRAPHY Elysium Productions
PHOTOGRAPHY Rachel Havel