Lina & Mike
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to get married in the town where my father grew up. I spent every summer and winter of my life in Wilson, Wyoming. It has always been where my heart felt most at home. There was just one thing missing—a groom.
Mike and I met in college at Ohio University. He played football, and I played field hockey. As athletes, we found ourselves in the same social circle. But between practice, workouts, travel, and academics, we hardly had time to socialize (aka, flirt).
But that didn’t stop us.
During the second semester of my freshman year, we became close friends. By the end of that year, I considered Mike my best friend. Then, he lost a friendly bet, which resulted in driving eight hours to spend the Fourth of July with me. He asked me to be his girlfriend, and I politely declined, saying we will see what happens when we get back to school. By the start of preseason, we were official. We spent the next three years cheering each other on from the stands, studying together, and fantasizing about our future.
After college, I moved to Pittsburgh with Mike and nurtured my love for animals with a rescued/fostered barn kitten and a few dogs, who soon became our family. We found our cat on Mike’s father’s farm in Pennsylvania when he was about five weeks old. We met Licorice when we signed up for a program that trains shelter dogs to become service dogs. Nola came to me on a work trip in New Orleans. I saw a tiny puppy on the street with a homeless man. I asked him how much he wanted for her, and he said $20. I called Mike at 3 a.m. to tell him that I had bought a dog, and she came home with me that day.
Mike and I visited my family in Wilson as often as we could. We made multiple trips per year to Wyoming to ski, hike, and enjoy the outdoors. One Christmas, we were in a barn off of Granite Ridge Road in Teton Village—one of my favorite places in the world—singing Christmas carols and basking in the love of family. Mike looked at me out of the blue and said, “I could get married in a barn like this someday.”
My dream was coming true.
But the dream almost died as soon as it was realized, as there were still two critical pieces missing: a venue and a ring. Jackson and Wilson were both out of reach for our budget. Besides, what venue would allow us to bring all three of our animals?
We broadened our search.
I had recently been to a family friend’s house in Alta, Wyoming, and loved the beautiful view of the backside of the Tetons. The son of the family had just gotten married, and I, immediately, had hopes of asking them to use their home for my wedding someday. But they sold it the next summer, so it was back to the drawing board.
I kept searching the Idaho side of the Tetons for a potential venue (keep in mind, we were still not engaged), but most of the venues I looked at didn’t have a direct view of the Tetons.
I remember thinking to myself, Why isn’t there a venue in the valley with this view? Then I thought, Why not get married on our own land?
Were we engaged yet? No.
And honestly, after eight years together, I began to wonder what was taking so long.
Both our families are large, and we wanted everyone to be able to attend our wedding. So, instead of booking a venue, we looked into buying land in Tetonia. At the time, buying a property to host our wedding was a better deal than renting most venues we considered in Jackson. Plus, we could build a house on it someday.
In November of 2020, Mike’s job kept him at home (or so I thought) on my visit to see family in Wilson. My parents wanted me to come home before the holidays, and before the snow really piled up, so we could still be outside and social distance.
Wishful thinking …
When I arrived mid-November, a fresh two feet of snow greeted me, and it was a typical gray bird day. Bummed about the weather, about Mike not being around, and annoyed that he wasn’t answering my calls or texts, my parents suggested I go for a walk with the dogs behind my grandparents’ house. There’s a spot on the dike I like to walk to that frames the Snake perfectly in between the Tetons and West Gros Ventre Butte. It’s a place I always go to clear my head.
As I walked to the back of the property, I was thankful to find fresh footsteps in the snow so I wouldn’t get wet feet. (It never crossed my mind whose footsteps they could be!) I was climbing over the fence at the back of the property—and in a not-so-graceful position—when I heard a familiar laugh. I looked up to see Mike on one knee in a snowbank with a small wooden box in his hands.
The rest fell into place. We bought the land and planned the wedding of our dreams.
I have been a bridesmaid and Maid of Honor in quite a few weddings, helping my friends plan and prepare for their big day. I actually found out I have a knack for it! So, when it came to planning my own wedding, I left no stone unturned, including sticking to my budget. Of course, that meant haggling on Facebook Marketplace for votives, vases, and chargers, repurposing old chandeliers from a garage sale, and waiting for custom cups to go on sale. From building a road to fencing an area to keep out cattle—I paid attention to all the details, so that our guests had an unforgettable experience.
The day of our wedding was truly the best day of my life. The weather was perfect and getting ready with my bridal party at Teton Springs was such a pleasure. I felt the way I imagine every bride feels on her wedding day—beautiful.
Our animals go everywhere with me, so it came as no surprise to those who know us that they participated in the wedding. We did have a few guests who were surprised to see our cat, but he thinks he’s a dog, so there’s that …
Our ceremony went off flawlessly thanks to all the hard work from our friends and family. We took pictures in my dad’s 68 Pontiac that he’s owned since he was nineteen. We had so much fun dancing, playing cornhole, and a huge game of flip cup (bride versus groom, of course). And, most importantly—after almost a decade of being together, including four moves, three pets, five years of Division I athletics, and a pandemic—I married my absolute soulmate on a piece of land that was just begging for a celebration.
Don’t’ Be Afraid to DIY
When it comes to a DIY wedding, you might spend twice as long planning. But if you are willing to put in the work, you can have a six-figure wedding without the six-figure price tag.
Wedding Date: July 23, 2022
Ceremony and Reception Location: Bride and groom’s property in Tetonia, Idaho Officiant: Jeff Monteith Photographer: Roslyn Smithers Videographer: Tennison Stanley Films Hair and Makeup: BreiAnne Elizondo Florist: Molly at Twigs in Jackson Consultant: Alpenglow Events (couple’s business) and Emily Classen Caterer: Three Peaks Catering Desserts: Three Peaks Catering and Paisley Cakes Rental Service: Rigby Wedding Rentals and Nordic Skies (tents) Stationary Design: Truly Engaging by MagnetStreet Other Specialty Vendors: Discount mugs (custom mugs), Cufflink Depot (button covers), Wear Your Love (dress)