When they met the first night of college, Natalie Gordon already thought Jeff Bader was the “sweetest,” so it wasn’t shocking that a couple of years later, their friendship turned romantic. The proposal came one night as the twosome – now living together – walked their dog, Tuna. Natalie noticed that their pup’s tag had been changed to read, “Will you marry me?” and Jeff presented her with a sparkling round diamond ring. She excitedly agreed yes, having no idea their walk would continue and lead to a surprise brunch to celebrate their engagement with all their friends and family from Denver, New York City, and Chicago. 

Natalie took the lead in the wedding-planning process with the support of her husband-to-be, their parents, and an expert wedding planner. Though the bride tried to prioritize organizing the dreamy details that she and Jeff wanted, planning a fairy-tale wedding with 200 loved ones in attendance was no easy feat. “I wanted to make everyone happy, and it did at times become emotionally draining for me,” she confides. 

The couple opted to host their big day in Scottsdale, Arizona, where Natalie’s parents had just moved from New York. “The weather is always perfect, so it made for a fun, easy vacation for everyone,” she says. Selecting an upscale resort that would allow for the ceremony, reception, and also accommodate all their loved ones, the bride and groom decided on an elegant and timeless concept that guests got a glimpse of when they received their custom-designed invitation suite featuring a watercolor desert landscape on the envelope liner. “I’m very simple and easy, so I left a lot of the design decisions up to my vendor team to make my style come to life,” admits the bride. 

“We wanted our wedding to represent our relationship: romantic, simple, and fun.”

Preceding Natalie were bridesmaids wearing long blush gowns in designs of their choosing, an adorable flower girl in a frothy vanilla dress, and the ring bearer “security team” who easily stole the spotlight before the bride made her grand entrance. When she finally did appear, Natalie was a vision wearing a timeless off-the-shoulder gown and carrying a loosely tied bouquet of ivory garden roses with natural, exposed stems. Her beloved waited for her at the end of the grassy aisle beneath the floral-adorned chuppah. Jeff wore a modern black suit with matching tie and a crisp white pocket square. 

A traditional Jewish service – perfectly documented by Maya Myers Photography – was performed with a modern twist: the officiant was the bride’s brother. “Our ceremony was so romantic with vows we wrote and having my brother officiate was very special,” remembers Natalie. As the newlyweds made their way up the aisle at the conclusion, friends and family followed and enjoyed a cocktail hour filled with champagne and an array of delicious, tray-passed hors d’oeuvres. 

Dinner service – including sea bass, chicken, beef, and vegetarian dishes – was provided on the rooftop terrace, which showcased hundreds of suspended fairy lights and offered pretty panoramic views of the desert scenery, a fun contrast to the wintry, snow-themed dance party indoors adorned with blue-lighting elements and frosted trees. “Bader Ski Lodge” also highlighted “snowing” Colorado projections – as a nod to their new home state. “It was a fun surprise for our guests,” smiles Natalie. “We live in Colorado for the mountains and the beer, so we had to include a beer donkey as well!” 

The new Mrs. reminisces on the first night they met and how she knew Jeff was something special. “Ten years later, here we are, still best friends. We wanted our wedding to represent our relationship: romantic, simple, and fun,” she explains. “And that’s exactly what it was!”

This real wedding was originally published in the expanded digital edition of the Winter 2024 issue of Inside Weddings magazine. 

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