A Miraculous Deployment

Sarah & Brian

I was born and raised in Jackson and grew up in the outdoors skiing, backpacking, biking, and most importantly, fishing. Brian and I met through mutual friends and went fishing on our first date. We initially connected by recognizing each other’s impeccable backcasts, but quickly we also found that our hearts were one and the same. 

It was 2016, and Brian had just enlisted in the Navy, and I was in graduate school studying physical therapy. Our unconventional and mostly long-distance relationship consisted of US Navy Basic Training in Illinois for seven weeks (when we could only write letters to each other) and a deployment to the Philippines and the Middle East. Brian was never in the same place for very long, so I tried to follow him by obtaining a traveling physical therapy job. Eventually, it became too difficult to predict his schedule. Luckily, love conquers all, and after moving to Jackson in 2019, Brian asked me to be his wife. 

Brian couldn’t have picked a location closer to my heart to pop the question. He got down on one knee in cross-country skis in the middle of untouched powder at the top of Shadow Mountain. The sun was shining and the Tetons were towering behind us, reminiscent of my entire childhood. It was the easiest decision I’ve ever made. 

Planning a wedding amidst the COVID-19 pandemic—and with the US Navy changing deployment plans—was no easy task. We considered waiting until 2021 and booked a date for June of that year, but we were then told that Brian would be on the other side of the world by that time. So, we canceled that date and decided to get married on August 30, 2020. After that, everything fell perfectly into place. 

I grew up skiing at Snow King, Teton Village, and Grand Targhee. But when Brian and I started dating, we found ourselves mountain biking and skiing at Targhee more than any of the other resorts. For this reason, we decided to make the resort the backdrop of the most wonderful day of our lives. The venue was perfect, as it provided lodging for guests, catering for the reception, iconic views of the Tetons—making for dramatic pictures—and home-town Wyoming feel that we both love. 

We chose local friends as our vendors. I grew up with our florist, photographer, wedding cake baker, and even my makeup artist. I saw an opportunity to support friends and provide for them in an industry that sometimes overlooks the beauty of simplicity and authentic, local tastes. We had a tight budget, but we were able to work with the resort, friends, and family to make a “destination wedding” that was located in our own backyard. 

Brian and I were busy during the months leading up to the wedding: Brian prepared for his deployment, and we readied ourselves for a possible move to San Diego, all while dealing with the looming possibility of altering our wedding plans due to pandemic restrictions. During this time, Brian was continuously patient and loving when approached with hundreds of questions. I consulted friends, Google, and the Zola app to make sure all the boxes were checked before our big day. I received inspiration and ideas from my patients at ALL Body Therapy in Jackson, along with complete support from both my photographer and DJ. 

Planning our wedding was a preoccupation for me and a beacon of light that shone in a summer riddled with coronavirus news. The pandemic gave us a chance to review our guest list and only invite those nearest and dearest. It also gave us some space to focus on what our wedding was all about. I initially prioritized the dance party. However, we didn’t really know who would show up, how close people could dance, or if the resort would even be open to hosting a dance party at all. The only thing we knew for sure was, come the day after, we would be husband and wife.

Our wedding turned out to be a succession of miracles. Our guests were ready for a party but compliant with wearing masks throughout the entire weekend. The weather was perfect, despite waking up to snow the morning after. Everyone was healthy, and no reports of illness followed. Our officiant collaborated closely with our DJ, subsequently performing a magnificent ceremony unique to the setting and our union. The relentless August smoke from the California wildfires cleared right before our photo session. And, the staff and event planner at Targhee, Suzanne Rees-Smith, made our wedding day revolve around us.

Using Grand Targhee as our venue meant our guests were there for an entire weekend. Every time we walked outside, we saw someone we loved. I hopped on my bike at 7 a.m. to ride singletrack on the day of the wedding and fulfilled my dream of hiking in the shadow of The Grand in my wedding dress. Brain got the chance to show his family from Arkansas why he loved the area and watched his nieces ride horses for the first time. No transportation or relocation planning was necessary. 

Looking back, we have no regrets. We are happier than ever and are looking forward to a life together chasing powder and casting for trout. 

Remember Your Reason 

Prioritize your ceremony. Everything else can go wrong, but it won’t matter as long as you walk away married in the end. The Tetons are beautiful, but love outshines all when you choose vendors you love and trust, delegate jobs to friends and family, and provide coverup couture for your bridesmaids (it is always cold here). Also, make sure to find a venue that lets you have your dog.

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