"We knew from the start that it was something special," says Derek Clark of his relationship with Jude Steele. So, it wasn't a huge surprise when he decided to pop the question while the couple was vacationing at Las Ventanas in Mexico. "He bought a placeholder ring from a vendor on the beach," Jude recalls, "and found a picturesque spot to propose." The real shock came more than three months later while the couple was dining at the same restaurant where they'd had their first date. Derek casually slipped off the plain band Jude had been wearing since the proposal at Las Ventanas, and replaced it with a heart-stopping, one-of-a-kind custom ring that left the bride stunned. "He had secretly designed it with my business partner [and fellow jewelry designer] Frances Gadbois," says the bride, who is the "Jude" in JudeFrances Jewelry. "Frances knows my style so well that the ring was just perfect."
While Jude may have had no input on the ring, when it came to the wedding, she was the main decision maker. "I trusted Jude to it all," says Derek, whose only request was that they marry in a house of worship. With an intimate evening event in mind, Jude settled on a destination wedding in Aspen. "We wanted to spend quality time with our guests and give the wedding a personal feel," she says.
The ceremony took place in the Aspen Chapel, a charming non-denominational church that underwent a romantic makeover for the wedding. "The path up to the chapel was completely candlelit and lined with white roses," Jude remembers. "The chapel was stunning," Derek agrees. A monochromatic, winter-white color scheme included trees with twinkle lights, as well as a little help from Mother Nature. "It had snowed the whole day," says the bride, who arrived at the church wearing Vera Wang, a white mink coat, and an intricate diamond cuff by JudeFrances. "It looked like a fairy tale." Jude's friend, opera singer Jill Johnson-Tucker, sang "Ave Maria" for the 40 assembled guests, and then the couple exchanged vows with each other and their respective children. "Derek's son took me as his stepmother, and my three teens took Derek as their stepfather," Jude explains.
The reception at The Little Nell hotel continued the monochromatic color scheme, with bouquets of white calla lilies, hydrangeas, orchids, and roses displayed in clear glass vases atop creamy table linens. The backs of chiavari chairs were wrapped in snowy satin, and the stone mantle of The Little Nell's fireplace was set with more white flowers and candles. "It was simple and chic," says the bride. After the white cake dotted with sugar snowflakes was cut, and the last glass of champagne enjoyed, the happy couple settled into a suite at The Little Nell for the night before leaving for their honeymoon. The destination? Las Ventanas, the scene of their engagement, where a simple ring on the beach resulted in a beautiful day in the snow.