Senator Cory Booker Officiated This Couple's Organic Lakeside Wedding in Aspen, Colorado
Jessica Gersh and Aaron Leff knew each other for the majority of their lives but they still took their time getting together. "We knew each other growing up in Los Angeles," explains Jessica, adding that they reconnected when they randomly crossed paths at Coachella in 2015. Jessica, however, was no longer living in L.A., which meant that they had to wait until she was back in town to have their official first date (Aaron invited her over for a drink). That date led to a two-year-long long-distance relationship before Jessica decided to close the distance by moving back home in 2017.
It took Jessica several months (and trips!) to get settled in L.A. Aaron took advantage of her final journey homeward (which she calls her official "move") to pop the question. After collecting her from the airport, he suggested they head to the Soho House in Malibu. While walking on the beach, he got down on one knee: "I did not anticipate it would happen so soon!" recalls the bride.
Just over a year later, the couple tied the knot on a ranch in Aspen, Colorado—a locale that's special to each of them. They worked with event planner Lisa Vorce to craft an event that put the breathtaking lakeside venue—with a sprawling view of the nearby mountain range—on full display. "We wanted to embrace the setting and celebrate our beautiful surroundings and the incredible barn," Jessica explains, which they did by curating understated ceremony and cocktail hour décor that allowed the backdrop to speak for itself. "We had guests enter through the barn, which really gave them a sense of place, and then, upon exiting, they were met with views of the lake."
The resulting event was a beautiful reflection of both Aspen and the couple—and one full of plenty of surprises, from a canoe processional to a high-profile officiant (presidential candidate, Senator Cory Booker!).
Welcome to Colorado
"We knew we wanted to get married in Aspen," explains the bride, who vacationed there as a child. That wasn't the only reason why the destination was meaningful to the couple, though: "It became a special place for us. We'd often meet there during those long-distance days."
Back on the Ranch
On the hunt for the perfect Aspen venue, the couple scouted Chaparral Ranch; the locale immediately spoke to the groom-to-be. "Aaron and his dad loved canoeing together when he was a kid—and he planned to ask his dad to be his best man—so when he saw that the venue had a lake, it all clicked." The bride had her own reasons for falling in love with the ranch: "It felt authentically 'Aspen' and was enough of a blank slate for our planner, Lisa Vorce, to work her magic."
Understated invitations by Wiley Valentine, complete with simple gray calligraphy and envelopes, foreshadowed the style of the event to come.
With These Rings
Jessica may have been more surprised by her wedding band—a Cartier eternity band composed of emerald-cut diamonds—than by her engagement ring. At the altar, Aaron gifted his wife the "band I'd dreamt of, but didn't know I was getting." "I was shocked," recalls the bride of the moment the bauble fell out of the jewelry pouch.
A Train and All
"Picking a wedding dress was not easy for me!" says Jessica. "I was actually set on a different gown, but had some ordering snafus." She returned back to the Monique Lhuillier atelier and found the "Kingsley," a garment that wasn't available when she started her dress search a few months earlier. "I put it on and knew it was the one (I also knew I couldn't drag the process out much longer, so it kind of had to be the one unless I wanted to revisit dresses I'd ruled out!)." Her second choice couldn't have been more different than her first, an understated sheath. "In the end, I went for it, train and all!" she says.
Jessica completed her bridal ensemble with Jimmy Choo pumps, vintage diamond and sapphire earrings, her mother's diamond bracelet, and her grandmother's wedding band.
The bride's lush, heart-shaped bouquet reflected the organic, snow-capped mountain scenery. Prema Style used Colorado-grown peonies, queen artemesia, nigella, ranunculus, earl grey roses, sahara spray roses, lisianthus, phlox, dusty miller, silver dollar eucalyptus, white tweedia, blueberry branches, blue thistle, veronica, and a few forget-me-nots to bring the arrangement to life.
Floral and Blush
Jessica's bridesmaids wore opaque blush and floral-patterned gowns; the bride encouraged them to select their own attire. Her only requirement? "I wanted something soft that went with the venue," she explains. Her 'maids carried bouquets similar to the bride's (theirs were simpler, and also included astrantia for texture). All mixes were tied off with ribbons via Silk & Willow.
The Groom in Navy
Keep It Together
Jessica predicted Aaron's emotional reaction to their first look—which is why she slipped him this cheeky handkerchief just as he turned around to face his bride for the first time ("It was almost too late," jokes Jessica).
The duo's first look was a moment of relief for the bride. "With all of the day-of commotion, all I wanted was Aaron's comfort and to debrief everything with him," she explains. "I was so relieved to be in his arms and spend the rest of the day and night by his side."
Aaron's groomsmen wore looks nearly identical to his own; they even accessorized with the same Hermès ties, which were gifts from the newlyweds. The gentlemen all wore boutonnières made with waxflower, blue thistle, and spiral eucalyptus; Aaron's featured a white spray rose.
A Ceremony with a View
Jessica and Aaron's lakeside ceremony site was anchored by a birch bark chuppah decorated with foraged aspen branches, eucalyptus, birch branches, wild smilax, Queen Ann's lace, delphinium, thistle, roses, ranunculus, and nigella.
The aisle's entry—which was tied off with a bay leaf, eucalyptus, and ribbon garland—was flanked with lush floral arrangements placed in low gray urns; potted lobelia plants and climbing white floral lattices completed space's organic décor.
Quite the Entrance
The second Aaron laid eyes on Chaparral Ranch's lake, he knew exactly how he'd make his big-day debut: via canoe. At first, however, Jessica wasn't sold on the idea—but in real-time, Aaron's entrance became one of her favorite wedding memories. "I was looking through the window of the house I was waiting in, anxious to walk down the aisle, thinking, 'Why on earth did we think this was a good idea?'" she recalls of the seconds before her now-husband came into her line of vision. "Then, I spotted him and his dad off in the distance—and saw our guests' reactions as they realized it was him. The relief I felt when he stepped out of the canoe, having made it successfully, was unparalleled!"
Silver City Strings played "Here Comes the Sun" by The Beatles as Aaron and his father paddled their way to the chuppah.
Another Memorable Debut
The couple's officiant, Senator (and presidential candidate!) Cory Booker, was a major ceremony highlight, explains the bride. Booker, a close friend of the couple, oversaw the duo's Jewish nuptials, delivering a sermon that blended a myriad of tropes—religion, humor, and the bride and groom's relationship history, included.
An Unforgettable Service
"Cory's sermon wove together our story, our Torah portion, and [quotes from] Martin Luther King," says Jessica. "It was very meaningful, incredibly beautiful, and very unique to us." Following Booker's words, Jessica and Aaron exchanged hand-written vows.
Time to Party
The couple attended their cocktail hour ("This was very important to us!" says Jessica), where an open bar served up beer, wine, and cocktails.
A Bite to Eat
During the interlude, waiters passed around tasty appetizers, including lobster tacos, curried chicken skewers, wild mushroom quesadillas, short rib bahn mi, cantaloupe-wrapped crab, and truffled salmon tartare.
Into the Barn
The couple approached their reception site—the property's lofty barn—differently than the majority of couple's who'd previously tied the knot there. While most duos typically drape off portions of the structure, Jessica and Aaron "wanted to embrace the space—so we kept the bones of the barn exposed and filled some of the extra space with Aspen trees," explains the bride. "We got married in Aspen for a reason and wanted guests to feel like they were there and enjoy the town that means so much to us."
As for the rest of the party's décor? Vintage chandeliers were suspended from the rafters, while vintage pieces of linen and velvet furniture accented the barn.
On the Tabletops
Simple, elegant centerpieces punctuated the wooden farm tabletops, covered with oatmeal-colored velvet table runners, ivory hemstitched napkins, and mixed china and glassware. Fresh charcuterie boards were waiting for guests as they found their seats; they were then served farmer's market vegetable salads, followed by a family-style meal of Colorado lamb, trout, and assorted sides, catered by Caribou Club.
A Meaningful Dessert Table
A distressed dessert table held much more than the couple's wedding cake—the vignette, dressed up with taupe taper and votive candles and a bottle of Champagne, also displayed family wedding photos of generations past.
A Just-as-Meaningful Cake
The couple's golden velvet, berries and cream, and carrot-flavored confection, baked by d'Elissious Cake Studio Aspen, was finished off with another meaningful accent: the bride's grandparents' cake topper.
The First Dance
"Although we were surrounded by over 200 of our closest friends and family, that dance felt like it was just the two of us alone. It felt like when we'd practiced, but better—and time felt still," the bride recalls of the couple's first spin, which they took to "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)" by Natalie Cole. "Towards the end of the song, Aaron swung me out wide and I came twirling into his arms with 40 pounds of wedding dress (when I envisioned the first dance, I was sure this was when I would land on my face). That was truly a moment I will never forget."
Photography, Rachel Havel
Venue, Chaparral Ranch
Event planning, Lisa Vorce
Catering, Caribou Club
Flowers, Prema Style
Videography, Red Mtn Productions
Officiant, Senator Cory Booker
Stationery, Wiley Valentine
Calligraphy, Anne Robin
Rentals, Premier Party Rental; Eclectic Hive; Town & Country Event Rentals; Colorado Party Rentals; Alpine Party Rentals; Bright Event Rentals; Found Vintage Rentals; Dish Wish (china); Aspen Branch (chandeliers and sofas); La Tavola; Go West Events (restrooms)
Welcome boxes and canoe paddles, Amber Moon Design
Bridal Stylist, A Stitch in Time
Hair, Cristina Rocha
Bridesmaids' hair, Lather Salon
Makeup, Phoebe Ogden
Groom's suit, Ralph Lauren Purple Label
Lighting, Halcyon Productions