We have been together for five years. My family owns a restaurant in Buzzards Bay, MA. For about four years before I returned from New York City, Lisa had been working there for about four years. Where I had been working as a manager for Marriott International.
I had come back to my family restaurant as acting GM and, at one point, was planning a staff meeting. I asked for input from everyone about what topics they wanted me to cover or for any suggestions they may have. During that planning process, I was able to really talk to Lisa for the first time. I was instantly impressed by her insight and professionalism and found out that she had a background in both social work and project management. A quick friendship stemmed from that conversation. After a bit of unexpected, mutual flirtation, paired with a timely blizzard where we found ourselves snowed in together (long story). We realized that we were more than friends.
And the proposal?
In 2017 Lisa planned a ten-day trip out of Las Vegas in an Escape Campervan. Each of their vans is spray-painted by local artists with themes ranging from nature scenes to cartoon characters. I am not going to lie. I was a little hesitant at first, but we knew we would love it as soon as we hopped into the van. We planned to go to Zion, Bryce, Sedona, Joshua Tree, and end in Los Angeles. Bryce Canyon is one of Lisa’s favorite places in the world, and knowing that we were heading there, I had a plan of my own.
A few months before the trip, I made an appointment and took a ride to Boston to visit the Brilliant Earth showroom and purchased Lisa’s engagement ring. Each of their rings is custom made. So after it was done – the anxiety of keeping it a secret really set in. Lisa figures EVERYTHING out! She is so hard to surprise. I was utterly convinced that she would find the ring box – even if she wasn’t looking for it! I was somehow able to keep it hidden from her for the months leading up to the trip. When it came time to pack, I made sure to put it in a safe place hidden at the bottom of my carry-on bag so that I didn’t risk losing it if my luggage was misplaced. There we were in the airport security line, when all of a sudden, my bag was pulled for a random security check. They pull up the x-ray on the screen and start looking through the bag. I am not kidding you. I could see the rings at the bottom of my backpack through the x-ray, and I felt like I was going to throw up. Convinced that Lisa would see it and question what that weird thing was at the bottom of my bag. She does not let things go, and I am an awful liar. So plan B would have to be to just propose in the security line. Luckily, Lisa was busy putting her shoes back on and situating herself while the TSA officer looked at the x-ray and through my bag. I was so relieved to get my bag back and head towards our gate Now to just get through five more days of vacation before Bryce Canyon!
The morning we woke up at the KOA near Bryce Canyon. I was a nervous wreck! I told Lisa that we should shower and get ready at the KOA because they had nice bathrooms that were warm and roomy, and we should take advantage of that while we had the chance. So after taking a little time to get ready for the day, we were on our way.
Now my big dilemma…How I was going to propose. I had never been to Bryce Canyon before, and I wanted it to be a private moment, but how was I supposed to know if we would get one of those at a National Park? Do I do it before the hike? After the hike? During the hike? There were a LOT of unknowns. We arrived at Bryce Canyon Visitors Center, and after some lookout point and hike recommendations, we hopped in the car and headed towards Bryce Point. When we got out of the car, we could see some of Bryce was still covered in snow due to the altitude. It was absolutely beautiful to see the white against the fire-like coloring of the hoodoos. Despite the snow, the temperature was mild and as we walked down a secluded little path tucked underneath the big overlook. It seemed as though we had our own private viewing of the canyon. Snow is very special to us (remember that blizzard I was telling you about), so I felt I had to incorporate it into the proposal somehow. A few people came in behind us and were taking some photos. I drew a little heart in the snow, and Lisa snapped a quick picture and then turned away to get a few more shots. Once the other people made their way back up the path, I scooped the ring box out of my bag and made sure Lisa was still looking away. Placing the ring box at the center of the heart I had drawn in the snow. As she turned around, I asked her if she would take one more picture of the heart in the snow.
After a little protest, she made her way over to snap another shot of my drawing in the snow. Once she saw the box, she paused for a moment, not entirely understanding what it was. She looked at me, and I nodded for her to pick it up. I felt so nervous and was afraid I would pass out as she lifted the box and opened it. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to say everything that I wanted to. And if I did, it would come out super corny and not in the romantic way that I had intended it. So all that I said as Lisa looked over was, “Will you grow old with me?” I saw her eyes smile a millisecond before her lips before she leaned in to kiss me and say yes. I then handed her a five-page letter expressing everything that I wanted to say at that moment. From Bryce, we continued with our road trip and had a wonderful time exploring Utah, Arizona, and California before making our way back home.
We were engaged for two and a half years. Since time was of the essence, we postponed the wedding by one year to focus on fertility treatments for Lisa.
How did you come to decide to elope?
The actual decision to elope was pretty stressful in itself. We loved the idea of exchanging our vows secluded in a beautiful place but making that reality didn’t seem possible.
The more we looked into traditional wedding plans, however, the more enticing elopement became. It wasn’t that we didn’t like planning – we both love hosting and organizing and are incredibly detail-oriented. Knowing us, the issue was that we would become so focused on the details and make sure everyone had a great time to lose the entire meaning of the day.
We had heard so many people tell us that their wedding day was one big blur. That they enjoyed themselves but that there was so much going on that it went by in the blink of an eye. We didn’t want that. Of course, we wanted to celebrate our marriage with family and friends, but we wanted the actual day that we were married to be just about us. We wanted to remember every single minute of it.
Our solution was to have a big party in Provincetown, MA, on September 22, 2019, in place of what would be a traditional “wedding reception.” We still enjoyed all the fun of planning, including picking table-scapes, menu choices, favors, etc. We loved celebrating with our loved ones. But on September 26, 2019, deep in the Arizona desert, we exchanged vows in the heart of a slot canyon. We were present for every moment of that day and can’t imagine it any other way.
Talk to us about the big day!
Our wedding day was something we had been looking forward to for over two years. We didn’t think anything could make it even more impressive than it was already going to be. But having our daughter “there” with us (even if she was only the size of a grape) seemed like something short of a miracle.
The morning of our elopement, we woke up and got ready in our hotel room at Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas (the idea of two women getting ready for their wedding in a van didn’t seem like the smartest decision).
We then met Jordan (our photographer) and Debra (our officiant) for the first time at the Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon Tours office. Where we filled out some waivers and hopped into the 4X4 vehicle that would take us to the canyon. Our tour guide, Chant, whose grandparents owned the land that Secret Canyon is on (along with thousands of surrounding acres), drove us on a rollercoaster-like ride six miles into the desert. We then walked about 1/4 mile into the canyon (which wasn’t as easy as it should have been since we were in full wedding attire walking through beach-like sand!)
Jordan and Debra went ahead to scope out the best spot for the ceremony based on lighting as we made our way over. We had a beautiful ceremony in the heart of the canyon. Debra actually stood behind Jordan, making it even more intimate. We were so wrapped up in each other that her voice seemed just to be flowing from the canyon versus being physically right next to us, it was pretty amazing. She came forward only when she needed to hand us something like our rings or the sand and jar for the sand ceremony.
When the ceremony was over, Debra (who had her own permit to drive on Navajo land) left us to explore and take some portraits with Jordan. When our time was up, we met Chant at the truck and headed back into town.
We were trying to figure out where to go next since we were waiting to go to Horseshoe Bend at Sunset. So Jordan suggested heading over to the Glen Canyon Dam Overlook. We were all hungry, so while we were waiting for the sun to go behind some clouds, Lisa made us some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that we ate inside the van and hung out for a bit. After lunch and spending some time at the Dam Overlook, we decided to take an hour to refresh and then meet back up to carpool to Horseshoe Bend. After reconvening closer to sunset, we noticed the sky getting dark with threats of rain and storms.
At this point, it was nearing the end of our day. We were so tired of being in the dresses that we all decided it would be cool if it started down pouring when we got to Horseshoe Bend. We figured it would make for some good photos and memories, and the rain would feel beautiful after the hot day we had.
To our surprise, the rain held off, although there was some thunder and intense lightning in the distance. The sky was incredible, leading up to the sunset. We were having a blast walking around and taking some portraits in such a beautiful place. Then all of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, a full-arch rainbow appeared. Jordan was even more excited than we were as we rushed to get some shots in before it disappeared. The sky following the sunset looked like it was on fire…it was breathtaking. We couldn’t have asked for a better ending to that day.
Advice for other couples planning a wedding?
Sit down, just the two of you, and figure out what you want in a wedding. Think about what would mean the most to you. Is it a big wedding, an intimate gathering with your closest family and friends, or even an elopement?
Try to remember what the entire purpose of marriage is. To commit yourself to each other for the rest of your lives. So it should be just how you want it! Wedding planning can be so exciting and extremely stressful when trying to figure out what you both do and don’t want. Try and realize that you will need to compromise on some things.
Without a doubt, your family will want to have some input. Which is understandable because they love you and maybe helping you out financially. It is essential, though, to sit down with family and express what you both want and what is important to you, and why. This day should be exactly as you both want it, and hopefully, your family will understand that and be supportive.
Photographer Jordan Voth
Bridal Boutique Alexandra’s Bridal Boutique, BHLDN
Ceremony Venue Secret Canyon – Horseshoe Bend Slot Canyon Tours
Celebrant & Planner Monumental Arizona Weddings
Engagement & Wedding Rings Brilliant Earth
Florist Roots Flowers & Events
Gown Designer BHLDN, Stella York