Stealing Kisses

A Non-Traditional Asheville Wedding


January 22, 2020
Words by Lauren Ertl
Photos courtesy of Laura Grier

Among the reasons to choose a destination wedding are having fond memories of the location as a child. Our real bride today, Lara, first visited the Biltmore House in Ashville, North Carolina when she was just seven years old. The dream to marry at the castle-like house took flight that day. Now, just to find the prince…

To say the couple’s beginnings were whimsical would certainly be appropriate. Groom Justin had an idea for a small group of friends to go to a private island off the coast of Honduras. Lara had previously met a few of Justin’s friends at a Summit Series event – and it turns out that they were enlisted to help the island adventure go from a dream to reality. The first night in Honduras, Justin and Lara stayed up talking into the early hours of the morning, and, needless to say, they started a lifelong journey right there. 

Justin proposed to Lara on New Year’s Eve amongst a colony of penguins while the two were dressed in penguin onesie outfits (adorable, right?). Lara had found her prince and knew exactly where she wanted to start forever with him. Now, planning could commence.

“Like any project you aim to accomplish, you are only as good as your team, but it also depends on how you work.  Justin and I are a very intentional and proactive team,” Lara says. “Being decisive is an extremely helpful tool, especially if you often get stressed out,” the two advise.

Because of their positive and forward-thinking mindset, the couple says their overall experience of planning was phenomenal, plus they simply wished to learn as much as they could about the wedding industry itself. 

The first item on the list was to find a wedding planner. Locating a local planner who not only knew the destination but had already planned a wedding at the Biltmore House was absolutely paramount to ease the process. Sara Fields Bridges with Wed Connections made a perfect match.

However, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows along the way. “The main issue we encountered,” the couple says, “was designing and executing a “non-traditional” wedding at a very traditional venue.” But nothing quite conveys style to vendors like Pinterest boards and DIY projects, both of which the couple felt eager to do. See a list of just a few of their personal touches below:

  • glued bright blue butterflies on tree branches for cocktail hour
  • put Justin’s favorite quotes in frames for the tables
  • spray-painted gold forest animals to use as place cardholders
  • A 90-foot pine tree fell in Lara’s family’s yard that has been there since her birth so she had it cut up and used in underneath Bell jars with fairy lights in them.
  • framed poster-sized photos of their other two wedding ceremonies (first being at Burning Man and the second eloping at a courthouse in Santa Barbara)

Many of the couple’s guests were flying from international locations, so the logistics of it all created a potential for a headache, but the two remained undeniably positive. Luckily, Biltmore House had two hotels on-property that the couple booked room blocks for, so lodging was checked off. Working closely with their planner on the ground, they crafted their special day with joy and excitement along the way.

When the special day finally arrived, there wasn’t a single thing that could rain on their parade… not even rain itself! “On our wedding day, there was a massive rainstorm and everyone was freaking out.  The only thing we could do was remain calm and think of an epic sunset when it stopped raining…which actually happened,” Lara says. A stunning mist fell atop the blue ridge mountains as the even sun broke out, creating a fairytale scene. 

Aside from the stunning backdrop, Lara and Justin felt joy looking back on how they worked together, built each other up and enhanced each other’s realities of the day. Plus, being surrounded by family and friends that shaped the two of them was priceless. 

“If you have these elements,” the two say, “then no matter where you decide to have your wedding it will be one of the most epic events of your life.”

Vendors: Photographer: Laura Grier, Beautiful Day Photography; Videographer: Justin Mitchell; Wedding Planner: Sara Fields Bridges with Wedding Connections; Ceremony/Reception Site: The Biltmore House; Florist: Sandra Walker with Southern Traditions; Stationery: minted; Hair & Makeup: Zhenya Lazarchuk at Salon Zhenya (hair) & Cameron Cohen (make-up); Gown Designer: Julie Vino Bridal; Groom’s Clothing Designer: Tom Ford; Bridesmaids/Groomsmen’s Clothing Designer: JovaniTom Ford; Vintage Car: Air Haven; DJ: Sammy Taggart; Musical Guests: Mike Smith

The Honeymoon:
We don’t typically cover the couple’s honeymoon, but Justin and Lara’s was too epic not to! They went on a luxury river cruise down the Amazon River onboard the Delfin III boat with Delfin Amazon Cruises. Check out the images and the list of what they did below:

-morning skiff boat rides birdwatching and looking for wildlife
-kayaking in the rain
-jumping in the amazon river
-piranha fishing
-relaxing on the boat; pool, bar, spa, couch areas, robes in the room, food demonstrations, music, etc
-food on the boat…amazing award-winning chefs on board
-jungle walk
-village tour and giving school supplies to the children
-Lakshmi Land Lodge and Shaman ritual
-Al Frio y Al Fuego floating restaurant in the Amazon Iquitos, Peru 

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