Just hours after Andy Slavens met Cynthia Rae, he prophetically claimed to his friends that he was going to marry her. Years later, during a trip to Santa Barbara, California, Andy proposed to Cynthia on a beautiful sunny morning. "The proposal was a complete surprise," she remembers, fondly. Not so for Andy, however, who had been working for quite some time with Cynthia's sister and her husband, both diamond dealers, to design the perfect emerald cut ring for his bride.
Thanks to the thoughtfulness of others, Cynthia was all set in the "borrowed" department immediately after becoming engaged. Her mother, Laurie Waterhouse, passed on her own wedding gown for Cynthia to wear, and friends offered up their picturesque Jackson Hole home for Cynthia and Andy's reception. The property, cleverly named "Udderly Grand," was once a dairy farm and boasted an unmatched view of Grand Teton, the highest peak in the Teton mountain range. "We had guests traveling from all corners of the country, and we could not have imagined a more beautiful backdrop for our very special day," says the bride. The couple embraced the idea of a tented party on the grounds but chose to say "I do" in a more traditional church setting. During the service, family members read biblical passages, guest musicians from the nearby Grand Teton Music Festival filled the building with jazz, and the entire congregation serenaded the couple with meaningful hymns; their rendition of "Amazing Grace" proved to be the most memorable. "Everyone was singing with such gusto, I thought we might blow the roof off the church," jokes Cynthia. "It was just so amazing, joyful, and beautiful to have all of our guests participate on that level."
The reception's decor evolved from a desire to focus on the natural beauty of the surroundings. Only instead of opting for something more predictable, such as a western ranch-like theme, Cynthia, an interior designer, decided to focus on sweet and whimsical elements of nature that represent the joy of new life. She incorporated songbirds, nests, and tiny eggs into all aspects of the wedding, from the invitations to the favors. Assisting her every step of the way was her mother, also an interior designer with whom Cynthia works on a daily basis. "My mother and I are very much alike and share a passion for visual aesthetics. It's in our blood to pay attention to the details."
A delicate display was achieved for the celebration by remaining loyal to a cream, pale pink, and Robin's egg blue color palette as well as the avian theme. Bird-stamped escort cards were nestled in wooden boxes filled with birdseed, and centerpieces of loosely gathered flowers were created around bird cages and tiny nests filled with eggs. Branches, feathers, and dainty lanterns were sprinkled throughout the space to complete the look.
The meal was perhaps the one element that was regionally influenced, with parmesan-crusted flank steak, roasted new potatoes, and grilled vegetables as the main course. But the chocolate wedding cake was in keeping with the delicate theme: its layers were decorated with spun sugar birds nests and its top featured a pair of lovebirds given to the couple by Cynthia's sister.
Guests were given sweet little favors in the form of chocolate eggs in cellophane bags. The tag on each one quoted a fitting Chinese proverb: "A bird does not sing because it has an answer; a bird sings because it has a song."
There was a moment before the reception where Cynthia and Andy were worried the majestic view they had hoped to share with their guests would fail to "sing." Storm clouds threatened overhead, but the weather took a last-minute turn for the better and the landscape assumed a beauty more powerful than ever before. "The most gorgeous light lit up the valley outside the tent," recalls the bride. The photographer pulled the couple outside to take advantage of the scene and some alone time. "That time spent with Andy was so special," continues Cynthia. "We had a moment to slow down and realize how grateful we were to have all of these people we love together and how close we felt as a married couple."