On their first official date, Steph and Hank went roller skating, which was something she hadn’t done for at least 15 years. It was the…Best. Time. Ever. From that moment on, roller skating was a regular thing that became extra special when Hank proposed on one of their roller skating dates (pic below, and more here!). Shares Steph, “He had friends hiding in the crowd to document the whole thing. It was really cute!”
Originally, these two organized a big garden wedding in South Carolina, but all that changed when the pandemic hit. Concerned for wellbeing of everyone, that plan was shelved in favor an elopement inspired by a 2019 trip to Tokyo. Says Steph, “We found Haley Nord, who specializes in elopements and “small, wild weddings” in the Southwestern deserts of the United States, through her blog. She helped us choose Canyonlands National Park as our ceremony location, and our AirBNB where we hosted a small private dinner under the stars for a few close friends and family afterwards.”
Get the scoop on Steph’s white and red wedding gowns, her very special wedding guest, and their honeymoon that began with a red convertible from our bride below!
How did you know Hank was “the one”?
“When he suggested a trip to the beach within a month of meeting and planned the whole thing! We went to Rosemary Beach, FL (one of his favorite places), and we sort of just really started falling for each other during that first trip as a couple. Lots of trips and memories since!”
bride’s finery: white gown, Lea-Ann Belter Amaris via Gamberdella | red gown, East Meets Dress | photographer: Haley Nord Photography | florals: Wild Flora | tuxedo and suiting: Indochino
How did you guys get engaged?
“Our first “real date” after meeting up initially for a drink was a roller-skating outing. Super silly, super original! I hadn’t been roller skating in probably 15 years—it was a blast. As a couple, we continued to go roller skating regularly—on our anniversary/Valentine’s Day weekend 2020 (right before the pandemic took hold), Hank proposed on 8 wheels. He had friends hiding in the crowd to document the whole thing. It was really cute.”
Tell us about your outfits! How did you choose your gown?
“We selected a venue for our wedding (a garden in South Carolina) in April 2020, when the world was still optimistic the pandemic would come and go quickly. Lea-Ann Belter is one of the talented designers that Mary Gamberdella (a family friend) carries at her boutique in Baltimore. I wanted something comfortable, very feminine, and playful—the dress needed to be a little sexy, too. When I saw the Amaris, it checked all the boxes on the hanger—but how would it look on? I’m happy to report that it was the one—especially after Mary suggested we add a skinny belt to it. The floral appliques were reminiscent of cherry blossoms, the neckline and open back were really flattering, and the slightly puffy bottom with pockets was just my speed! When we added a Peter Langer veil to it, I could only say yes to the dress! The plan was to put Hank in a complementary custom tux, and to just be fancy for our garden party.
We also did a wardrobe change for dinner, as a nod to both Stephanie and Hank’s Chinese heritage (Hank is 1/16th Chinese). Stephanie wore a custom red cheongsam from East Meets Dress. Hank wore a custom black suit from Indochino after changing out of his custom tux, also from Indochino.”
Tell us about your day!
“As the pandemic raged on, we ultimately didn’t feel comfortable having a large wedding. So, inspired by a trip we took in 2019 in Japan, where we hired an incredible photographer (Jaime Forson) to take portraits of us around Tokyo, we started to look for elopement photographers. We found Haley Nord, who specializes in elopements and “small, wild weddings” in the Southwestern deserts of the United States, through her blog. She helped us choose Canyonlands National Park as our ceremony location, and our AirBNB where we hosted a small private dinner under the stars for a few close friends and family afterwards.
The day of, we incorporated our family and friends into our wedding by bringing notes from them with us out to the desert in lucky “red envelopes” and reading them during photos before dinner. My mom was a guest at the wedding, which was very emotional. About a year earlier, she had been very sick from COVID-19 (on a ventilator for over a week, needed to relearn how to walk). Hank brought his best friend from the Navy as his best man, and three of Hank’s college friends came along to document the day on film. At our dinner party, we had local R&B singer Cherry Thomas serenade everyone. She sang an entire custom setlist of our favorite soulful tunes to create a whole vibe for the night. “
What was your first dance song?
“‘Get You’ by Daniel Caesar.”
One detail you couldn’t live without?
“Not sure, maybe my gray boots—which were fun to frolic around in, even paired with a traditional white gown!”
What was the most important aspect for you, in terms of planning your wedding?
“Safety of our guests, and gorgeous one-of-a-kind photos.”
Where did you go on your honeymoon?
“We drove to Vegas because we wanted to avoid flying during the pandemic. We drove across Utah in a red convertible. It was so fun!”
Any tips for couples getting married?
“The only thing that really matters is that you have a marriage certificate at the end of the day!”
Steph + Hank’s Elopement in Canyonlands National Park Vendors
bride’s finery: white gown, Lea-Ann Belter Amaris via Gamberdella/ red gown, East Meets Dress | photographer: Haley Nord Photography | florals: Wild Flora | tuxedo and suiting: Indochino
Were you a Lea-Ann Belter bride? We’d love to see your pictures and share your story! Email [email protected].
Elopement in Canyonlands National Park, Utah | Steph + Hank
January 19, 2022 | Category: Lea-Ann Belter Brides | Tags: Amaris, elopement, pandemic