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A Design-Forward Desert Wedding in Zion National Park

by Staff

Since the very beginning, Olivia Pei and Graham Keggi’s relationship has been defined by adventure—skiing, hiking, exploring, cooking, and creating. It’s how they met, how they got engaged, and naturally, how they got married. 

“We met through mutual friends in Tahoe while skiing in January 2015,” Olivia recalls. “Graham and his friend cooked for me and my friend, and that was the beginning of a very foodie relationship.” Almost exactly five years later, in January 2020, Graham got down on one knee. “He proposed atop a mountain in Banff while we were skiing; he has some flair for the sentimental in that way,” Olivia says. “It was very exciting because right afterward we got to ski down the mountain.” 

From the snowy mountains to the scorching desert, the duo planned a wedding in Virgin, Utah, for 125 guests. The unique location was a canyon resort, Under Canvas Zion, smack dab in the middle of Zion National Park. “We wanted a place where we could bring all of our family and friends together for the whole weekend; having everyone stay in the same place was really important to us,” Olivia says of the planning process. “We love the outdoors and are particularly drawn to desert landscapes, so this glamping venue was perfect to represent us as a couple and accommodate all of our guests—who may or may not be outdoorsy.”

The couple also loves hosting dinner parties, so that was the vibe. “We wanted the weekend to basically feel like one big dinner party. In addition to bringing in our favorite people, good food was imperative. We wanted the wedding to be fun, easygoing, and festive—one to be remembered.”

As for the fashion, the choice was obvious. “I’m so lucky because Vera Wang is a dear family friend, which made the dress-shopping experience very easy,” she says.

It certainly was. Read on to see all the chic details from their June 6, 2021, wedding, planned by Emmily Jones of Gatherist, and photographed by SoCal Standard.

Their vision for the day was modern and design-forward, incorporating the natural textures and tones of the Utah desert and pops of vibrant color. Planner Emmily Jones and floral designer Jenevieve Hubbard of Wild Flora helped bring the vision to life, beginning with the bouquet. Using soft desert floral and wild foraged textures, Hubbard created an arrangement for the bride and tied it with a single wrap of plant-dyed light blue ribbon. “It was built in minimalist form with an emphasis on shape, movement, and negative space,” Olivia says.

Groom Graham donned a white linen Hawes & Curtis suit with a classic fit, ideal for the climate. “We knew it was going to be a hot day in the desert and wanted something simple and not overly formal,” he shares. “The relaxed look and cool fabric was perfect for the occasion.” He accented it with shoes in a deep blue shade to bring in some color. 

When I saw that back I thought, ‘This is the perfect amount of special.’

With the help and advice of Vera Wang, Olivia selected a soft crepe asymmetric bias gown with crisscrossing back straps and cowl one-shoulder detail, accented with a single draped sleeve.

“I was looking for something simple, elegant, and understated. And when I saw that back I thought, ‘This is the perfect amount of special,’” the bride shares. She paired the gown with bracelets sourced from Etsy and minimalistic earrings. “Due to the gravel and dust all over the venue, as well as the hot weather, I opted for the most comfortable wedges I could find, the Idelle shoes by L’Amour Des Pieds,” says Olivia of her choice of footwear.

Because the arch was such an imposing piece of art, we decided against having anything else other than white chairs for our guests.

“[Our planner] Emmily had this vision of a monolith-like wooden arch with a blue interior,” Olivia remembers when discussing the ceremony décor. “It was not at all what we were originally thinking, but once she brought it up we said, ‘Sure, let’s do it!’”

“We’re so glad we did, because it provided such a cool juxtaposition with the desert backdrop. Because the arch was such an imposing piece of art, we decided against having anything else other than white chairs for our guests.” Sparkling water, fans, sunscreen, and bug spray were provided at the entrance to the ceremony.

The bride’s nephew Liam led the procession as ring bearer in a white shorts and light blue suspenders. “Liam was very grumpy right before walking down the aisle—‘It’s too hot! I don’t like these flowers!’” Olivia recalls with a laugh. “But as soon as he saw everyone looking at him, he immediately realized he was doing something important and cheered up, taking his role very seriously,” Then came the couple, each entering the ceremony accompanied by their parents.

Parasols were provided to help guests block the sun during the ceremony. Of course, they also looked seriously chic in photos. 

Graham’s best friend, Joonsuk Lee, was our officiant,” Olivia says. The duo wrote their own vows, and curated a series of readings from “Mountain Thoughts” by John Muir, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, and “The Master Speed” by Robert Frost. “These were meant to represent a few things that are important to us: the outdoors, cooking, and mastering our individual endeavors,” Olivia says.

After “I do,” the couple recessed out to the tune of “Only Wanna Be With You” by Hootie and the Blowfish.

“It was so windy right before the ceremony! That giant arch actually fell over, and everything that was set on the reception tables started flying away,” Olivia remembers. “Emmily and her team somehow made it all work, but it was really intense!” Though at the time it was a stressor, the wind made for some beautiful photos of the bride’s veil. “I was not planning on wearing a veil, but during one of my dress fittings, Vera told me that I should get one, and so I got one,” Olivia says. “I am very glad I did, because it really put the whole outfit together. I opted for an extra long and narrow veil, which blew in the wind like crazy!”

By adding complementary pops of color in design-forward ways, we created a modern take on the desert wedding.

“Our color scheme focused on colors complementary to those found in the desert,” Olivia says of the natural inspiration. “By adding complementary pops of color in design-forward ways, we created a modern take on the desert wedding. The color focus was blushes, sage green, sky blue, mustard yellow, and cobalt blue. We aimed for a modern and design-forward concept.”

The couple’s advice to other to-be-weds? “Everything happened so quickly,” they share. “Make sure you document everything really well in the form of photographs, recordings, videos—whatever floats your boat!”

Though there was a small bridal party, they opted for non-traditional attire. Graham’s brothers served as groomsmen and wore suits from their own respective weddings. Bridesmaids chose their own attire, too. “My mother is French, and in France, there is no such thing as bridesmaids’ dresses or bridesmaids, really. There are only witnesses,” Olivia says. “I wanted my two best friends to wear what they wanted—something comfortable that they would be happy to wear over and over again.” The only guidance they were given? “Desert chic.” 

The reception took place underneath a soaring wooden structure that resides permanently at the glamping venue, with epic views of sandstone cliffs and red rock in the background. There were unique activities for guests to partake in before dinner. “We had canvases with paint-filled balloons that our friends could throw darts at, made by Bougie Balloons,” Olivia says. “Now we have a triptych at home hanging proudly above our couch that reminds us of what a blast the wedding was.”

“Because we were going for that dinner-party feel, we had linen cloth,” the bride says. “Our favorite were the striped napkins, which just felt so congenial!” Olivia handcrafted the colorful ceramic bowls—she and Graham together own Craftd Goods, a small business for ceramic tablewares and granola. “It was a very fun winter of playing with different clay bodies and mixing glazes to get the right colors to match the wedding color palette,” she says. And it made for a very personal touch day-of.”

“Jenevieve Hubbard of Wild Flora turned them into masterpieces with her minimalist and wild floral arrangements,” Olivia says. “We sought soft earthen tones in locally sourced and sustainably arranged florals to mirror the desert sand, desert blooms, and red rock.”

She adds, “All of the paper design was by Camila from Carta Plena. We aimed for a bold and colorful design that would really stand out on the tables. Our guests’ names were meant to be oversized and feel like they were stumbling off the place cards. The menu was a bold mustard yellow with a cobalt blue text.”

There were lots of little details that we inserted into the wedding to really make it ours.

In a surprise performance, Olivia serenaded her new husband with the song “Your Love Is My Home” by The Light The Heat. “I love planning surprises, big and small, for Graham, and so this felt like something that was, despite being in front of everyone, just for us. Because I wanted it to be a true surprise for Graham, I only got to rehearse it by listening to it with headphones—no singing out loud—so I made a lot of mistakes when I performed the song. But according to Graham, it made it that much more endearing and memorable.” 

“There were lots of little details that we inserted into the wedding to really make it ours,” the couple shares. “In addition to incorporating our own Craftd Goods ceramics and granola, we designed a bingo game to encourage people from the different stages of our life to meet each other. Additionally, we offered Normal Ice Cream during the reception; dessert before dinner highlighted the easygoing nature of the weekend, and how we didn’t stick to convention when it came to the wedding.”

Guests sipped two signature cocktails, another personal touch. “The Runner’s Rye was a rye-based cocktail with tepache, lemon, and ginger; the Singer’s Soother was a tequila-based cocktail with aloe liqueur and honeydew,” Olivia says. “Both were very refreshing and were meant to represent each of our primary activities, Graham as a runner, and me as a singer.”

“Picking our caterer was the easiest part of planning,” Olivia recalls. “We organized a tasting with Chef Evan Francois of Saltd Catering Co. at the last minute, so he didn’t really get the chance to get the overview from our wedding planner about what we were looking for. Yet somehow, his tasting was spot-on, exactly what we were looking for. We care a lot about food, and we were blown away.” They aimed for a family-style meal that felt like an intimate dinner party, complete with wine bottles on the table. “We are avid cooks ourselves and have always gravitated towards vegetable-forward meals. We also wanted the produce to be seasonal and colorful.”

There was more dessert after dinner. “We decided to have s’mores as the primary dessert, instead of cake,” Olivia says. “Flour & Flourish made gourmet vanilla and chocolate marshmallows, pizzelles, and graham crackers. We did have a delicious Samoa cake—like the Girls Scouts cookie flavor—available on the table as well.”

The newlyweds took their first turn around the dance floor to “California” by The Lagoons.

The bride danced with her father to “Je l’aime à mourir” by French singer Francis Cabrel—and then the party was on. “DJ Chu was the best,” Olivia says. “He kept the party going all night and all of our guests loved him. We mostly had tunes from the ’00s, since that’s when we were in high school and college.”

After a magical evening, guests left with favors from the couple’s company, Craftd Goods, including bags of granola with custom labels. While the newlyweds made visits to Lake Powell and Moab on the drive home, the adventures are just beginning for the bold couple. “We’re waiting until the world (hopefully) gets back to normal before we start planning a honeymoon,” they share. “There are lots of places we think we will want to visit as soon as we can.”

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