There is a statistic that most couples allocate a mere hour and a half to plan their marriage, but a whopping 15 months to plan the wedding. There are weddings, and then there are weddings. Considering this is a $4 billion per year industry, it isn’t surprising that marketing for this once-in-a-lifetime day has convinced us that the more lavish the reception, the more in love the couple must be. As little girls, we spend our playtime mimicking fantasy brides such as Cinderella. When we slightly mature, the days of dress-up are exchanged for daydreaming about our future white weddings, complete with choosing bridesmaids from our seventh-grade class, first-song selection, and color scheme—evidently, envisioning the lucky someone who will be sharing vows is insignificant at this point. Some of us even covertly skim bridal magazines, imagining ourselves as the cover girl dressed in the perfect gown and cathedral-length veil. For most, our actual weddings fall short of our years of conjuring the perfect day, but for a few, their dream becomes a reality.
Aspen has all the components of turning fairytales into truths. The combination of a spectacular setting, five-star service, and accommodating anything you desire with a substantial bankroll is all a girl needs to become a real-life princess, at least for a day. If you conjure visions of the most elaborate Kardashian nuptials, Aspen luxury weddings do not disappoint.
The level of intensity for throwing a perfect affair was showcased in the Calabrese/Kruger wedding held in September 2017. What catapulted this day from a lovely experience to an are-you-flipping-kidding-me extravaganza was the meticulous detail and simply out-of-the-box ideas from the bride, Laura Calabrese — such as having the St. Regis ballroom re-carpeted in all white just to keep the theme of the ultimate white wedding. Her vision was executed with the aid of veteran wedding planner John Tobey and his team of ten, who were flown in from Denver.
The scenic Roaring Fork Valley, sprinkled with newly turned autumn leaves, was the backdrop for the ceremony. The location was picked because of the couple’s sentiment for their Roaring Fork? home, and their love for their country club community, whom they describe as going above and beyond normal requests. Guests arriving at the outdoor venue were greeted by heaping vases of hydrangeas and roses. A ceramic walkway embellished with the Kruger crest paved the way for the wedding party to gather at the alter. We would later see the Kruger crest present throughout the many regal details of this gala. After the pronouncement of husband and wife, the couple was whisked away in a convertible blue Bentley, to the next phase of the day.
Entering the Something Blue cocktail hour at Aspen’s St. Regis Resort courtyard felt like arriving at an elegant soiree. A quick photo op at the step and repeat, personalized with the slogan je t’aime, made you feel like you were walking the red carpet. The décor of infused French country and Chinese motif with white lacquered furniture, empire lounges, and Chinoiserie vases was inspired by Calabrese’s love for design. Custom linens and silk pillows were made to accent the courtyard. Blue and white Persian rugs and antique Chinese statues completed the ambiance. Guests were invited to partake in this lavish party prior to the formal reception.
The bride and groom entered down the grand courtyard staircase to be met by Chefs Club Master Sommelier Jonathan Pullis, who swiftly sabered a jeroboam bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne. Guests splurged on passed hors d’oeuvres and signature cocktails: The Warren, The Lala, and a French Kiss, to name a few. The center of the courtyard housed a castle of charcuterie and a mountain of fresh seafood, showcased by a ginormous iced sculpture of the Kruger crest. Crooner Meredith Seidel of Soul Fusion from Baltimore serenaded us with light jazz and soft rock songs that enhanced the sultry vibe. Many of us have enjoyed cocktail receptions in between the ceremony and the reception, but this extraordinary affair was so extreme, it could have been the main event. In fact several people actually left because they sincerely thought the reception was over!
The anticipation of what would await the primed guests was palpable. It would stand to reason that the encore to the ceremony and Something Blue party would certainly not disappoint. And the White Wedding reception that awaited friends and family was nothing short of spectacular. Imagine walking into a floor-to-ceiling heavenly space rich with towering floral arrangements set in imported crystal vases. (Calabrese hand selected and purchased all of the reliquary to support the more than 6,000 flowers as a tribute to her mother, who was a Waterford collector.) Canadian florist Frank Rea was pursued months prior to the wedding. While the logistics of using an international floral designer came with its own set of complications (and expense), Calabrese’s admiration of his work that she had seen in magazines cemented her choice. In fact, when the final touches were placed, Rea was heard saying, “I hated to copy my own work, but I’ve outdone myself!”
The abundance of flowers was only one component to this White Wedding anomaly. The ballroom was transformed with Grecian hanging mirrors, sparkling chandeliers, and estate seating surrounding the custom acrylic dance floor and six-foot-tall wedding cake. The Louis XVI chairs accenting the 40-person table were procured after a coast-to-coast search. Forget the standard plates, cutlery, and glasses that are normally used at a sit-down dinner—Calabrese ensured the cohesion of her dream by importing porcelain china, Reidel stemware, and linens embroidered with the Kruger crest.
While the atmosphere was mesmerizing, the entertainment was invigorating. On opposing platforms, two entertainers intertwined different genres of music, alternating between one another. Jimmy Hopper from California, seated at a white grand piano, played four decades of retro tunes including the first dance, “Meet Me Halfway.” The song was selected to reflect the colorful journey of this Tulsa businessman and his bride, who has dedicated her life to charity work, which culminated in a surprise proposal at Kruger’s 60th birthday bash.
Next, DJ Kat Vi from Chicago cranked up the volume with pop songs, accompanied by her playing the electric violin. The dancing started the moment the bride and groom entered the ballroom and didn’t end until they danced out under an umbrella of sparklers.
What does a princess wear to such an event? Of course one dress would not suffice. Calabrese first stunned in an ivory Isabella Armstrong dress made of silk and organza accented with Swarovski crystals. Custom Joyce Echols shoes and 32 carats of diamonds adorned her ears and wrist. Later the bride would change into a white lace gown with crystal straps, custom made by designer Pnina Tornai and purchased at the exclusive Kleinfeld Bridal salon in New York City. The ongoing joke regarding the cost of ensembles and multiple trips to New York for fittings was, “Forget the price of the dresses and shoes—all of the trips to the Big Apple to make sure they fit doubled it!”
The level of luxury showcased in this celebration, which began with a 100-person over-the-top rehearsal dinner at a Starwood estate and culminated with an opulent White Wedding, would certainly rival any Hollywood dream. And if it does stand to reason that the more elaborate the wedding, the more in love the couple must be, then Cupid must have struck Warren and Laura Kruger with a 24-karat gold arrow.
John Tobey Event Design: John Tobey, Shannon McLaughlin, and team (planners). Forget Me Not Flowers, Canada: Frank Rea (flowers). Imperial Events, Miami: Katy (furniture). Donovan Designs: Mary Donovan (monogrammed napkins). Jeff Hughes Construction, Tulsa (carpet). Eclectic Hive (flooring and draping). Piranesi of Aspen (jewelry). Noori Collections, Aspen (rugs and statues). Paul Werlin (ice sculpture). D’Elissious (cake). Queen B Salon, Aspen: Rita (hair). Full Circle: Cheyenne (makeup).
Premier Party Rental, Aspen (rehearsal dinner). Conundrum Caterers: Kip (rehearsal dinner). Maru Sushi (rehearsal dinner). Jimmy Hopper, California (singer/entertainer). Soul Fusion, Baltimore: Meredith Seidel, vocals, and Ro Cube (performers). DJ Falomi (entertainment, rehearsal dinner).