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Masterful Destination Weddings

How well the words destination and wedding fit together—one describes the culmination of a journey and the other the exciting start of a new one. We were thrilled to host some of the top destination wedding experts during Laurie Arons’ Wedding Planner Masterclass in April. Laurie Arons Special Events is a San Francisco-based business that has managed over 600 events, including tailored destination weddings. Laurie and her Masterclass team (see below), challenged the idea that “nothing’s perfect” by sharing their orchestrated refinement and insider knowledge with talented colleagues and attendees. They turned the rustic beauty of The Ranch at Rock Creek into a Western story book romance. We’re pleased to share some of the Instagram highlights here, although we highly recommend you delve deeper by searching #weddingplannermasterclass for yourself.


Q & A with Laurie Arons

While she was here, we couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to pick Laurie’s brain for our 2015 brides and grooms. Laurie answered some of the pressing questions that arise when planning a Montana destination wedding.

We hope you enjoy these masters in their element: Laurie Arons, Mindy Rice Design, Casa de Perrin, Amber Moon Design, Curlicue Designs, Montana Party Rentals, Elan Event Rentals, Jose Villa Photography, Paula LeDuc, Barn Relic, Blush Roses, Joel Serrato, Style Me Pretty Weddings, Geraldine Magazine, Czar Press, Creative Candles and Fellini Salon.

Laurie Arons Masterclass included expertise from renowned wedding photographer Jose Villa and instructions on staging shotsLeft: @pitbullsposies captures master photographer Jose Villa at work. Right: @smpweddings with the results.

What wedding trends do you expect to see in 2015?

Gold has been the metallic accent color of choice for the last couple years, but for the Wedding Planner Masterclass, I wanted to focus on a metal I think will start to inspire a new trend in weddings—pewter. This metal works beautifully with more rustic weddings because of its muted tone, and is more unexpected than gold or silver.

Both the welcome dinner and the formal dinner incorporated pewter through Mindy Rice’s design and Casa de Perrin’s pewter chargers and flatware.  I also loved the pewter letterpress ink on the printed materials.

Wedding details by Mindy Rice design augmented the natural beauty of the bride, groom and Montana landscape during the Wedding MasterclassLeft:@lauriearons bridal shoot. Right: @mindyricedesign‘s inventive boutonnieres with found objects. 

In what ways can social media enhance my wedding?

Creating an Instagram hashtag for your wedding continues to be one of the ways couples view and share photos from their wedding day. Let your guests know about it in their welcome letter so they can start tagging the weekend. I’ve also had Bay Area couples create Facebook groups leading up to their wedding, so guests could talk about attire, coordinate travel and post photos after the weekend.

What wedding colors would enhance the natural beauty of Montana’s landscape as it changes throughout the year?

We fell in love with the colors of the Montana landscape during the Masterclass in April. The snow had melted and the hillsides were a soft green and warm gold. In our decor, we used warm neutral linens in shades of burlap and barley, and florals in blush with touches of the soft green too.

A flower girl plays with a beautiful wedding dress during a Wedding Planner Masterclass photo shootLeft: @lauriearons captures a tender moment during the styled shoot. Right: @eduncanevents showcasing Mindy Rice’s floral design.

In summer when the hills are more vibrant green, think of incorporating the more saturated colors of wildflowers. For winter weddings, I always love white florals—nothing is more romantic against a snowy backdrop.

How do I determine if a destination wedding is right for myself and my guests?

Destination weddings are wonderful for brides and grooms who really want to interact with their guests over their wedding weekend. The most successful destination weddings offer a variety of activities guests can sign up for to bond during the day, before the organized wedding events at night. It creates a communal atmosphere, almost like summer camp for adults. It’s also great for couples that have family members scattered throughout the country, because it brings everyone together to visit for multiple days.

Wedding attendees enjoy destination weddings because they can take part in outdoor activities, like horseback riding and fly fishingLeft: @mindyricedesign admiring the Rod & Gun Club’s flies. Right: @ and the Masterclass team.

How do you incorporate vintage elements in a unique way?

For our staged wedding at the ranch, we loved the true vintage farm chairs and cake base offered by Montana Party Rentals. Many rental companies offer “vintage looking” pieces, but these were authentic and truly beautiful.

Vintage stamps are a beautiful way to complete the look of the wedding invitations. And for our formal dinner in the barn, we also incorporated vintage embroidered napkins and pewter candlesticks to complete the tablescape.

The wedding reception scene at the 2015 Laurie Arons Wedding Planner Masterclass

Left: @ Laurie Arons’ tablescape at the farewell dinner. Right: @ with a closeup. 

Brides should also look to their family members for authentic pieces to have on the day—vintage handkerchiefs, jewelry, prayer books and champagne coupes are all beautiful items your grandmother would be honored to lend you for the wedding.

What’s the key to planning a wedding that will happen in another state or across the world?

Definitely hire a wedding planner. A lot of couples think a destination wedding is simpler, almost akin to eloping, but in fact the complexity of planning a destination wedding can be overwhelming. Having an experienced planner who can not only find vendors and run the wedding weekend, but who can also field the millions of questions from guests about travel and accommodations, will keep you calm and relaxed throughout the process.

The wedding stationery and welcome dinner setting were fully customized for a spring Ranch weddingLeft: @goldfinchevents won the Instagram of the week. Right: @ Laurie Arons’ welcome dinner tablescape. 

How do I make sure I actually enjoy my wedding day?

Be present with your fiancé, family and friends, not caught up in the minor details. Hire your trusted team of experienced wedding professionals, then let them be in charge of executing the wedding day while you are a guest at the wedding.

Paula LeDuc was chosen as the expert caterer for Laurie Arons Masterclass. The Ranch's culinary team also provided a culinary itinerary for the MasterclassLeft: @ styles the orange cardamom s’mores. Right: @ practices her technique with Chef Drage’s salmon bruschetta. 

The most special memories from the wedding will be the hugs, the kisses, the toasts, the dances, the moments you share with the people you love. Be “in the moment,” not trying to coordinate the next ten steps down the line.


Read more about The Ranch at Rock Creek’s destination events and possibilities. See more ranch wedding photos on Instagram and on our “Destination Weddings” board on Pinterest.