Texas couple Ellen Heighten and Blake Lafitte met in late 2016 through mutual friends, and got engaged almost exactly three years later in November 2019. “We drove up to Blake’s parents’ fishing cabin on a Friday—just us two—for a quiet weekend, and he proposed early Saturday morning while we were on a walk,” Ellen remembers. “We left the cabin right after to head back to Dallas and celebrate with friends and family.”
They got engaged where Blake’s family vacations—and they got married where Ellen’s does. “My family has been frequenting Jackson Hole for a number of years. Blake and I have spent a lot of time there together as a couple, so it’s a really special place to us,” Ellen says. “I always wanted to get married in Jackson, and we loved the idea of a fall destination wedding with our closest family and friends.”
The biggest hiccup in planning, naturally, was the pandemic. The couple postponed their nuptials an entire year and did most of the planning virtually—working with Jackson-based planner Elizabeth Kelleher—and traveled just twice to Jackson Hole to meet with vendors and coordinate details. “Our wedding planner is very knowledgeable in the area, so we let her take the lead in building out our vendor team,” Ellen shares. They landed on Snake River Ranch, a family-owned cattle ranch near Grand Teton National Park that boasts an incredible setting for outdoor weddings. But, that comes with its own set of challenges. “Building a venue from the ground up requires a lot of attention and there are a lot of moving parts, so we really couldn’t have done it without Elizabeth.”
All in all, “we’re pretty easygoing,” Ellen admits. “That’s how we wanted the day to feel. We wanted our guests to be comfortable, never wait in line at the bar, enjoy the food, and dance!”
Read on to see all the laid-back details of their September 18, 2021 Jackson Hole wedding, planned by In Any Event and photographed by Liz Banfield.
“I loved the idea of a fall wedding with a lot of color—reds, yellows, oranges, pinks,” Ellen says. “The trees by the end of September in Jackson are starting to change, so I really wanted to play that up.” Their 130 guests received invitations in the rustic color scheme, complete with a mountain motif watercolor. “At the end of the day, we knew we were getting married in a naturally beautiful place, so we wanted to keep it simple but complement the space at the same time.”
Two nights before the big day, the couple hosted a welcome barbecue at the bride’s parents’ home, complete with live bluegrass music. “The attire was ‘cowboy casual’ and everyone had a lot of fun with the theme,” Ellen recalls. “It was so fun to be able to welcome our friends and family who traveled so far to celebrate us. It was such a nice night—and everyone was blown away by the sunset!”
The following night was the formal rehearsal dinner. Ellen donned a Zimmermann dress for the the occasion, paired with JW Anderson shoes and Jennifer Behr earrings.
“Leading up to the wedding I got a facial every month,” Ellen says of her prenuptial beauty routine. Her only other key treatment? “Lots of moisturizer! It’s very dry in Jackson Hole, so I wanted to make sure my skin was prepared.” For the wedding day, she opted for a natural and glowy makeup look, and a low chignon. “I knew I wanted my hair out of my face and pulled back,” she says—and it turned out to be a smart choice. “It was a very windy day, so I’m extremely thankful I went with my hair up.”
Mira Zwillinger’s A-line Jamie gown—with microbeaded branches and an open tulle-bow back—was one of the first dresses Ellen tried on. “I knew I would come back to it,” she remembers. “It was so unique and beautifully detailed, and I thought it fit the setting of our ceremony really well. I had never seen anything like it.” She got the gown in time for their original wedding date, then found herself with an extra year to fall in love with it. “After we postponed, I decided to add a shawl with the same detail and tied it into the bow on the back of the dress. It was perfect!”
Floral designer Emily Lacoste of Lily & Co. crafted a lush and colorful bouquet that popped against the wedding gown and played into the fall palette.
I had been dying to show him my dress for almost two years!
“A first look was important to us so we could have a couple quiet moments alone before all of the craziness,” Ellen shares. “I also knew that it would ease my nerves seeing Blake before I walked down the aisle.” She adds, “I had been dying to show him my dress for almost two years at this point, so I was just really happy to finally be able to share that with him.”
“Blake didn’t want to go with the traditional black tux, and I gave him creative liberty,” Ellen says. “His suit was custom by Knot Standard; one of our good friends, Kimberly Khourie, helped him with the design. It looked really good in the natural setting.”
With a large bridal party, Ellen didn’t want anything too matchy-matchy, so she gave her bridesmaids free rein to select any navy dress. “I wanted them to pick something they loved and would wear again,” she says. Her sisters and maids of honor opted for gowns by Markarian, which “has the most flattering designs,” Ellen adds.
The vision for the ceremony was “natural and refined,” Ellen says. “The ceremony site at Snake River Ranch is secluded in a grove of aspen trees, so it feels intimate but you still get the direct views of the mountains; I didn’t want anything obstructing the mountain views. The florals for the aisle were very natural with lots of texture.”
The groom’s niece and nephew served as flower girl and ring bearer, in a white dress with flower crown and tiny white tux. “It was adorable,” Ellen remembers. Then the string quartet took up a wedding classic—Canon in D—as the bride walked down the grassy aisle with her father.
The couple exchanged traditional vows during the short ceremony and, following their romantic first kiss, recessed out to The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.”
It was a fitting song choice. “We had some interesting weather throughout the day, and the forecast said it was going to rain right around the time of our ceremony,” Ellen recalls. ”Even so, I was determined to get married outside, so we ended up risking it. All of our guests were hurried to their seats 10 minutes early and we started the ceremony ahead of schedule to hopefully avoid the looming rainclouds.” They made it through the ceremony without a drop—and then just as the last guest stepped into the reception tent, it began to downpour. “After about 30 minutes of rain, the sky completely cleared and the biggest rainbow appeared,” Ellen shares. “Everyone was able to move outside and take pictures before we sat down for dinner. Such a whirlwind!”
Luckily for the couple, the ranch’s reception site is ultra versatile. “It’s very wide open in a large meadow, and you have surrounding views of the mountains,” Ellen says. “There is a lot of room to build any kind of venue you want.” They decided on a clear tent so guests could enjoy the mountain view, and outfitted it with lush and colorful florals. “We lined the ceiling with smilax and starry lights. The tables were a combination of farm tables and rounds, and were adorned with bright, colorful floral centerpieces and candlelight. We scattered antlers around the tables for a touch of the West.”
We threw in a surprise lift at the end to catch the crowd off guard and get everyone laughing.
“Our first dance was really fun, surprisingly,” Ellen remembers. The tune? “Green Eyes” by Coldplay. “We aren’t typically the best dancers and we only took one single dance lesson before the big day. I knew our routine was elementary, so we wanted to throw in a surprise lift at the end to catch the crowd off guard and get everyone laughing. The crowd loved it and it’s something we’ll never do again, so I’m glad we have that memory to look back on.”
Parent dances followed; Ellen and her dad chose “All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles, while Blake and his mother danced to Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young.”
Following a seated family-style dinner of salmon and beef tenderloin, the newlyweds cut into a lovely cake made with tiers of honey lavender and whiskey caramel.
“Our band was also amazing; they had everyone dancing the moment they stepped onstage,” Ellen remembers. “We also brought in a bunch of fun props to play up the Western theme. We had horsey sticks, cowboy hats, and monogrammed bandanas. Everyone had something and it made for hilarious pictures!”
Looking back, the wedding was a lesson in letting go. “Don’t fixate on the small things,” the bride advises other couples. “I had a very specific vision in my head for what the day would look like, and, I’ll admit, I was a little thrown by the weather. But, at the end of the day, everything turned out perfectly and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”