This Jaw-Dropping Red Rock Canyon Wedding Will Also Warm Your Heart

Kimberly had always dreamed of beautiful destination “I dos” on the beach, but when her mom was diagnosed with ALS—a terminal neurodegenerative disease—in October of 2013, her only wish was that her mom would make it to her wedding one day. At the time, she hadn’t even met her now-husband Cris, and wondered if her mother would be there when her big day finally came around.

When Cris popped the question in February of 2016, Kimberly knew she had to fast track the engagement to make sure that her mom could take part in their special day. Read more about the truly memorable and heartwarming wedding:

My mom is confined to an electric wheelchair and her ability to travel is severely limited, so I knew that I had to find a place that was wheelchair accessible. My long dreams of a beach wedding in Mexico were out the window. However, I was determined to remain positive because the most important thing was that my mom was going to get to see me get married; and that was worth more than any beach wedding.

 Jaw-Dropping Red Rock Canyon Wedding Will Also Warm Your Heart
I still wanted a destination wedding, with a dramatic, beautiful landscape—I wanted it to be “epic.” I have travelled to 37 countries and without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places I have seen on earth is the Southwest in the United States. I took a road trip with a friend through the Southwest the spring before I got engaged, and I realized that this gorgeous red desert landscape I had grown to love would be a perfect place for our destination wedding.

 Jaw Dropping Red Rock Canyon Wedding
We chose Red Rock Canyon, outside of Las Vegas, due to its striking landscape full of contrasts. We are both avid adventurers and hikers, and frequently travel internationally to hard-to-reach destinations, and I wanted our wedding to reflect those elements of our life. In addition, Calico Basin, which was within Red Rock Canyon, had a wheelchair accessible platform! Perfect. I was sold, and booked the venue without ever having seen it in person a few days after we were engaged.

 Jaw Dropping Red Rock Canyon Wedding  Jaw Dropping Red Rock Canyon Wedding

Cris proposed to me on my 30th birthday, at our college alma mater, the University of Washington. While we didn’t meet here (we met online), the University of Washington holds a special place in both of our hearts. I absolutely love the campus and it’s one of my favorite places in Seattle! He blindfolded me and drove me around the city. Before he removed the blindfold, I thought for sure we were downtown—but boy was I wrong! When he removed the blindfold, I realized we were on campus. It was the absolute perfect location.

 Jaw Dropping Red Rock Canyon Wedding

Cris studied nursing at UW, and I studied Law and Women’s Studies. The campus is divided into upper campus and south campus, with all science and medical departments residing on the south campus. He picked a location that is between both locations to symbolize us as individuals coming together as one. I couldn’t have imagined a better proposal. The thought he put into it was heartwarming, and I loved the symbolism. We eventually had our engagement photos taken on campus. Now, it will always be an even more special place for us!

 Jaw Dropping Red Rock Canyon Wedding

I wanted the landscape of Red Rock Canyon to be featured prominently on our wedding day. I wanted the deep, tonal reds to be a dominant color in the photos, so I chose complimentary colors—coral, linen, goldthat would still provide a pop of color against the rocks, without it being too distracting. I knew I needed a dress that would be easy to move in (we had some rock climbing planned!), and that reflected the location, while still remaining elegant. I chose an asymmetrical chiffon dress with ruching that reminded me of the undulating rock formations in the park. I wore my sister’s bridal jewelry—my something borrowedon my wedding day, and rhinestone flip-flops, because I knew heels were out of the question given our location. I really wanted to carry a piece of my Mom with me all day, so for my something old, I took her grandmother’s cameo locket and a pin, and put them together to attach to my bouquet.I also put a quote in the locket from Harry Potter, which read:

“You’ll stay with me?”
“Until the very end.”
“They won’t be able to see you?”
“We are a part of you, invisible to anyone else.”
Harry looked at his mother and said, “Stay close to me.”

 Jaw Dropping Red Rock Canyon Wedding

This passage has provided me with great strength when thinking of the impending loss of my mom, and I knew it would give me strength and solace on my wedding day. My bouquet was filled with desert plants like succulents and coral colored flowers that complimented the landscape around us.

 Jaw Dropping Red Rock Canyon Wedding

 

One of my favorite moments of the day was our continual amazement of the geography around us at every turn as our group moved through the Scenic Loop in the park. We all oooh-ed and ahh-ed, and being an avid photographer myself, I wanted to stop at every turn to take my own photographs, which made me very excited to see how our photos would turn out! My vision and hope for the canyon was exactly as I had imagined. The ceremony and photo shoot locations were challenging to get to, but the end result was worth it, and I felt like it represented our relationship and important elements of us perfectly.

 Jaw Dropping Red Rock Canyon Wedding

Our photographer, Sarah Rose, was amazed at what I was willing to do to get a shot in my dress; hiking, crawling, and scrambling over the rocks to get to the desired vantage point. She kept telling us to be careful as we were at times perched precariously on the rocks, and I joked back that I would be ok since we had a nurse with us (my now husband is a critical care nurse)! I just had to laugh, because the entire thing felt so very “us” and natural to who we are as a couple and as individuals, and we both felt very comfortable and at ease. My bridesmaids remarked, “Of course Kimberly would get married out in a canyon, in the middle of gorgeous rocks,” and that the location was “so Kimberly.”

 Jaw Dropping Red Rock Canyon Wedding

Our photographer selected three distinct locations for our shoot based on my preferences: an area with deep red sandstone formations that the park is famous for, alongside the road that winds through the park nestled between rock formations, and finally, in the grassy canyon in Calico Basin. I think she chose perfect locations that all produced varied and dramatic results. She was an absolute dream to work with. She ran with my OCD, overly planning personality and delivered on what I wanted. I highly recommend her!

 Jaw Dropping Red Rock Canyon Wedding

One of my best friends, who played the role of a bridesman and officiant, who happens to be British and gay, officiated our ceremony for us. It was important to me that someone special and close to us performed the ceremony. I had Colin wear a coral shirt to reflect that he was a member of the bridal party, while still standing out and looking distinct. On our wedding day, there happened to be incredible wind gusts and my veil even flew off into the canyon. It made everyone laugh because we were all trying to hold everything down so it didn’t blow away! 

 Jaw Dropping Red Rock Canyon Wedding  Jaw Dropping Red Rock Canyon Wedding

I would say our wedding theme was adventure and travel. Our wedding invitations set the tone for the weekend, featuring a photo of Red Rock Canyon and the words, “Our Adventure Begins” across the top in coral. And our day-of signage encouraged guests to “add to our adventure.”

 Jaw Dropping Red Rock Canyon Wedding

 

One of the DIYs I made was our seating chart, which was a world map that said: “Where in the World are you sitting?” International destinations Cris and I have travelled to together, as well as our honeymoon destination (Bora Bora), served as table numbers. The table markers were photos I had taken, with a LOVE directional arrow overlaid on the images. I also made a photo book that served as our guest book. The title was “Our Adventure Begins,” and it featured love adventure quotes on each page.

 Jaw Dropping Red Rock Canyon Wedding

Our cake topper was gold and glittered and read: “Our greatest adventure.” One of the funniest moments of our wedding was when I realized our cake was the wrong cake! Our correct cake was later found, and brought out to the reception, but not before the incorrect cake was served. Some poor couple ended up without a cake on their wedding day! I felt badly about this and hope it was rectified…

Because it was a destination wedding, we gave all of our guests welcome bags upon arrival in their hotel rooms. While it was a very significant cost, I am so glad we did this! It helped set the tone for the weekend, and the bags included mini bottles of alcohol, cans of Coke and Red Bull, snacks, and Vegas emergency supplies like Advil, Rolaids, Alka Seltzer, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, gum, mints, and Band-Aids. There was also a welcome letter that provided guests with all of the information they needed for the weekend and the wedding, and items that the Vegas Visitors Bureau sent me for free, including Las Vegas mints, pens, postcards, and informational brochures and maps. Putting these bags together was one of the most fun things for me in the entire planning process. It was so worth it when it was clear how much people enjoyed the bags!

 Jaw Dropping Red Rock Canyon Wedding

My advice to brides planning their own weddings would be to think about who you and your partner are as a couple and as individuals, and create something that represents you both that you will be comfortable with. It will come through in the wedding and later in the photos! Prioritize the things that are important, and get rid of those that are not. It will help immensely with budgeting! Focus on creating an event that you would like to be at, and make everything easy for your guests. One of our guests wrote in our guest book that, “This was the best wedding I have ever attended, hands down!!!” It was one of the best compliments we could have received.

 Jaw Dropping Red Rock Canyon Wedding

 

VENDORS

Photography: Sarah Rose Photography and Shana Wells Photography
Ceremony Location: Red Rock Canyon – Calico Basin
Day of Coordinator: Tina Weghorst of Events to Remember
Reception Venue: Maggiano’s
Hair and Makeup: Smooth Brides
Bride’s Bouquet and Boutonnieres: Gaia Floral
Hotel: Vdara Hotel and Spa

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