Nestled between the vast, flat expanse of Phoenix and the mountainous San Francisco peaks, a magnificent, desert oasis exists. There, striking red rocks kiss crystal blue skies. Its enchanting energy makes it feel like a fairy-tale. In Sedona, the sun shines more than it doesn’t. Through late summer monsoons and winter snows, there isn’t a time of year when Sedona isn’t perfect. It’s magical. Really. Is it any wonder that some people dream of getting married in Sedona? For some, like me, dreams do come true. I had never heard of Sedona until I did. My first encounter moved me, viscerally. I couldn’t fully understand or articulate the feeling, but, it spoke to me. That was 17 years ago.
It took many, many visits over many years to find my way. My journey was long and arduous, filled with fear and trepidation, great abundance, and great loss. I always felt that there was a purpose for me here, though I couldn’t see it until I did. In January 2015, Sedona became “Home.” That spring, I met a man in passing. Our paths would cross several times, though not meaningfully until meaning was due. Timing truly is everything. When our time did come, in the summer of ‘17, he turned my world, and my heart, around. I knew that my Sedona reason had arrived when he asked me to be his wife. I was thousands of miles from my family and friends—those indispensable people that offer time and assistance, taking the reigns when the bride-to-be stands flustered and overwhelmed. My fiancée kept saying, “Baby, we can do this ourselves. It’s our wedding; how hard can it be?” I love him incredibly and trust him implicitly. He’s a brilliant man. So, I believed him. How very wrong we both would be!
I’ve never before married; this would be my first. I will say, undoubtedly so, this is my last. “Until death do us part” almost came preemptively, many times before we spoke the words and sealed our fates with the kiss. We planned with the best of intentions but found that, if something could go wrong, it will. And it did, many times over. But this story is not about the obstacles that came our way without warning and seemingly without end. I would love to share the details of our wedding and the serendipitous roads that led us to it. But I have only the space for 1,000 words. So, this wedding story, my wedding story is about the ordinary, extraordinary people who took my nightmarish experience and created a wedding dream come true. It’s about a community of friends and strangers coming together as one single unit and making magic happen. This story is for them.
We planned a small, intimate event and chose our location. It then became unavailable. We chose another and then finally, the winner—a gorgeous, secluded space beside Oak Creek. Canopied with breathtaking trees, between which the sunlight streamed, it was ideal. The location, typically unavailable for events such as these, was a blessing for us. To be afforded such an alluring space, I thank Chris Hilt, Wes Lugviel, and the entire staff at Junipine Resort. I then went to my friend Phyllis Cline, owner of Heartline Café in West Sedona. I’d dined at Heartline many times. Two years prior, I attended a spectacular wedding reception that Phyllis catered; I knew her menu was exceptional. She dried my tears (remember, 1,000 words) and told me she would make it happen!
I’d already ordered the arbor for the ceremony from Verve Events and Tents in Cottonwood, but now I everything! So, Dani Simson, again, gave me her undivided attention. Working ever so closely with me, ensuring everything I required was available, the assistance she provided was invaluable. We ordered tables and chairs, linens and dishes, glasses, forks, knives, spoons, a dance floor, and lighting. I even reserved a weather-permitting canopy— just in case the gorgeous Sedona weather decided not to be. After years in Sedona, May was most lovely. Always. What could go wrong? (Rhetorical question). Our friend—a photographer scheduled for the day—had to cancel. Enter Stacy Burk. Stacy came to us through mutual friends who rescued us. They connected all the dots; and, on our day, Stacey was there to capture the magic of every moment.
Sedona Media Services arrived early to set up all their cameras to record…everything! I tip my veil to the sensational vision and talent of Ron Melmon and Angelo LaMarco. Forevermore, I can relive the loving moments of that blessed event, from an entirely new perspective. Amy Mills is one of the most amazing people on the planet. The lead designer of Bliss Extraordinary, her attention to every detail had gone above and far beyond any expectation I could have never imagined. I shared with Amy my vision but gave her sole responsibility to create my bouquet, corsages and boutonnieres, arbor and table-top arrangements and cake topper. Every piece, right down to the rose petals flaking the runner, took my breath from my chest.
Mother Nature decided to throw some wrinkles our way a week from the event. The temperature fell from the eighties to the fifties and rained. Every day. All-day. I called Dani at Verve again. Could walls and a heater be added? The Verve team arrived on location the day before, set up the canopy, walls, and heater, the bistro lighting, and the arbor. The morning of, Verve made a special trip to our location. They removed unsightly sandbags holding the arbor steady and replaced [them] with beautiful, wood wine barrels. Amy Mills decorated the barrels with rose petals and candles. Until I rounded the canopy wall, I wouldn’t see the breathtaking beauty that everyone—family, friends, and vendors together—created. I stepped into my wedding day wonderland.
Heartfelt kudos to Downtown Browne Productions. Owner Gabriel Browne and Master of Ceremonies, DJ Blake, were exceptional. Selecting the one who plays the music will ‘make or break’ your event. Choose wisely. To our officiant, Carla Riedel, your light radiates. We experienced such joy in the love you exuded that day and every day I have known you. Wes and Rebecca Schemmer of Vino Di Sedona, your family, and entire staff, I thank you for making my bachelorette party, and other blessed life events, so enjoyable and memorable. To Jill Galea—owner of Sedona New Day Spa—your serene space and talented masseurs provided my Man of Honor and me a much needed day of relaxation and pampering. To the one and only Martha Lourie Edwards who came from the Universe to save me. Neither business owner nor vendor, you are a beloved friend. Our day, without you, would not have happened as flawlessly as it did—despite every obstacle. Words will never express the love, gratitude, and appreciation that my family and I hold for you.
My final thanks are to my husband. Thank you for asking me to be your wife, to share in this crazy, exhausting, fun-filled, and love induced adventure. You are my best friend, my dream come true, and my happily ever after.
“To all the businesses, individuals and magicians mentioned here—and others unmentioned who are equally important—thank you. I dedicate my Essential Wedding to every one of you.”
Story written by Kimberly Shilkaitis Photos Provided by Verve Events & Tents and Stacy Burk Photography