A One-of-a-Kind Texan Desert Wedding
Lara and Chad
Back in 2006 Lara Bandler was a public relations manager at an NYC-based company when Chad Hogan started as creative director. The minute their boss walked Chad around to meet everyone and stopped at Lara's desk for an introduction, she knew she already had a crush.
Cut to eight years later. Lara (who now owns her own PR company) and Chad (who now owns a design company) had moved into their dream home in Topanga Canyon, California. For the Fourth of July weekend, the pair and a group of their mutually outdoorsy pals set out on one of their epic outdoor trips, this time to Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon. After a 12-mile hike into the canyon, the group setup camp by a stream. The next morning they all geared up for a fun day of adventuring through waterfalls and trails, and midday through the day during a lunch break, Chad asked if Lara wanted to take a little dip in the water nearby. So they swam and splashed around until Lara realized that Chad was on one knee ("I didn't know because we were under water and I was sitting on his lap," she notes). He pulled a ring out of his swim trunks and popped the question right then and there. "I couldn't believe he had carried the ring while we cliff jumped and swam all day," Lara says. After saying "yes" the pair returned to their friends who were all jumping and screaming their congrats.
On Saturday, March 28, 2015, with as much revelry and a healthy dose of inspiration from nature, the couple and their 140 guests gathered in another desert—in Marfa, Texas. Though remote, the destination was equidistant between California and New York, where most guests traveled from, and offered a weekend getaway for all. With bold colors, artistic touches, and DIY details—including a one-of-a-kind chuppah built by the groom—Lara and Chad sealed their fate and celebrated under the stars once again.
Being a designer, Chad knew he wanted to do something special. The letterpressed suite incorporated a font called Mojave, which was fitting of the desert nuptials. In addition to that typeface, another one was added, as were festive icons such as arrows and an RV trailer that nodded to the welcome party at El Cosmico—a trailer-based venue.
Because music is super important to Chad (in the past he was a graphic designer who created album covers), the invite doubled as a soundtrack, with the intention that guests would listed to the mix in their rental cars on the drive out to Marfa. The couple included songs that were meaningful to them, their relationship, their friends, and their family.
Skipping no detail from the start, Lara and Chad crafted a special billboard with their initials and other witty wording that was installed next to the old Holiday Inn sign, by The Thunderbird Hotel, where many of the pair's friends stayed for the weekend.
At check in guests were gifted welcome tote bags printed with a map of Marfa, the wedding date, and the wedding logo. Healthy goodies (many of which are clients of Lara's PR agency) for guests to snack on over the weekend, ibuprofen to help the day after, and an eye mask for a bit of R&R filled them up.
A Love Note
One of Lara's friends came over to spend time with her before the ceremony and to pick up the tie that Chad left at their house. Lara sent her back with a love letter for her soon-to-be-husband, asking him to meet her at 6pm to get married and spend the rest of their lives together. "He loved it," Lara says with a smile.
A Group Shot
Because there wasn't a large bridal party, Lara invited all of her girlfriends over to the house a few hours before the wedding started for a Champagne toast. Everyone got together for this group pic and gave the bride air kisses for good luck.
Lara went the custom route, working with Carlyn Calloway from Atelier Thumbelina. They started with the bohemian-inspired ceremony gown, which was designed with modern touches. "I kept saying during the design process that I didn't want to feel like a bride," Lara recalls. "But as soon as I put the gown on, I knew that I definitely wanted to feel this way and to look soft and romantic." The soft white lace reminded the bride of an English garden. And an embellished belt made from vintage glass beads, lace appliques, and wisps of hand-dyed ostrich feathers gave the dress an extra special look.
In Her Shoes
Lara accessorized with open-toed sequined Badgley Mischka.
In addition to her grandmother's antique gold and diamond bangle that was borrowed from her sister, Lara wore emerald chandelier earrings on loan from her favorite jewelry store, XIV Karats, where her wedding band and engagement ring were also custom made.
Chad's mother gave him two miners cut diamonds that had belonged to his grandmother, Dorothy, who had been a huge part of Chad's life and the woman who kickstarted his love for the outdoors as a child when she introduced him to many of the country's national parks on a two-month road trip. He took the stones to XIV Karats and worked with them to design a custom engagement ring. He bought a matching miners cut diamond and made a three-stone piece. "I feel so special wearing something from Dorothy because she was such an amazing woman," Lara says.
As for the wedding bands, the couple worked on these together. Lara's rose gold band has an inlaid diamond and Chad's is yellow gold with a black diamond. On the outside of both are engravings of important elements of their lives—their initials, IX for the nine years they'd been together prior to getting married, HF for Havasu Falls where they were engaged, the infinity sign, and MMXV for the year in which they wed.
Written in Ink
Right before heading to Marfa for the weekend, Lara and Chad decided to tattoo crossed arrows on their ring fingers—a symbol they love for its simplicity and the notion of two merging in to one.
"Flowers were priority number one for me," Lara says. "I am in awe of Bows and Arrows, and gave them inspiration by telling them my colors and the types of flowers I love, and they turned around and created the most magical floral design I have ever seen." Her bouquet included bougainvillea, poppies, ranunculus, clematis, and roses, all tied together with trailing silk ribbons.
The Bridal Party
Lara's sister Jillian served as maid-of-honor and Chad's friend Campbell was the best man, with no other bridesmaids or groomsmen. Jillian's gold chevron Adrianna Papell dress was accessorized with a petite fuchsia and orange bouquet that mimicked the bride's.
The Flower Girl
The Ring Bearers
A Pre-Ceremony Beverage
Before the ceremony, guests helped themselves to Italian sparkling lemonade and water, and cocktail napkins foil-stamped with their names and the wedding's hashtag #camphogan.
An Alternative Chuppah
In planning the non-religious wedding, there were a few elements of Lara's Jewish roots that she wanted to incorporate, the first being getting married under a chuppah. Chad being a designer and builder, wanted to make a unique structure—which the couple dubbed a "chup-tee" (pronounced hooptee)—which he crafted using wood from a local hardware store and antlers from a nearby thrift shop. Fresh bougainvillea finished it off, and vintage rugs were laid out to create a warm and cozy aisle.
The Ring Bearers' Entrance
The ring bearers practiced walking with rings every day for about six months leading up to the big day. "They were the best ring bearers ever," Lara exclaims.
The little guys, and the rest of the wedding party walked down the aisle to "Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley.
The Bride's Entrance
Lara and her parents walked down the aisle to Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers to Cross" before her father gave her away. "We did the traditional thing of not seeing each other from midnight of the previous night until the ceremony and I never knew the impact that would have on me until she came around the corner and my first sight of her caused me to hiccup and cry simultaneously," Chad says.
The bride and groom worked closely with their officiant (Chad's brother Patrick) to write a ceremony with personality and warmth. The twosome wrote their own vows, keeping them secret until it was time to recite them at the service. "I was so excited to read Chad mine and will never forget the feeling in my heart when he read me his," Lara recalls.
The Breaking of the Glass
Another Jewish tradition integrated into the service was the stomping of the glass at its conclusion. The newlyweds exited the service to "SpottieOttieDopaliscious" by Outkast. In addition to it being one of their favorite songs, the lyrics talk about the transformation of people from one phase of life to the next through circumstance and love, which the groom notes as very appropriate to their story.
An old school reggae mix played during cocktail hour as guests enjoyed passed hors d'oeuvres, beer, wine, and signature "dranks"—a spicy grapefruit margarita for him and an extra dirty martini for her.
The Escort Cards
Cards calligraphed in gold ink guided guests to their seats and were on display with a mix of fresh blooms in the reception area.
A vintage typewriter was set out below the escort cards for guests to type well wishes or advice for the couple. The notes were later put in a book with the photobooth images by the maid-of-honor.
An Instant Reaction
"When I first walked in to the reception room, my mouth dropped and tears started flowing," Lara says. "Every detail was exactly what I wanted and then some. My vision and dream for the day was realized and it was truly the most amazing thing to see."
Macramé installations holding terracotta pots with assorted flowering plants hung from the rafters. Small gold animal figurines were set out next to place cards with each guest's nickname penned in calligraphy. "It was a great way for people to share with others at their table and invoke stories," Lara says.
A mix of marble, glass, and terracotta vessels held potted plants, a mix of interesting greenery, and flowers like hydrangea, protea, bottlebrush, ranunculus, and poppies. Antlers and rock crystals added more color and texture.
An Outfit Change
While Lara was working with Atelier Thumbelina on her ceremony dress another fabric caught her eye—a chevron pattern that articulated her obsession with all things geometric (specifically arrows). With not much time to go, the dress designer was able to source just enough yardage and make a reception dress for the bride to dance the night away in. "It was an absolute departure to her ceremony gown," Carlyn recalls of the bateau neckline, petite train, and long sleeves. Not to mention the deep plunging back and delicate white caviar sequin beading that were reminiscent of the 1930s. She added a Texas touch by slipping in to her vintage cowboy boots too.
The letterpressed menus atop each napkin outlined the southern feast that would follow: barbecue brisket and pork spare ribs, old fashioned mac-and-cheese, sweet potato salad, sautéed veggies, chopped salad with pickled carrot dressing, buttermilk biscuits, and cornbread.
A tumbleweed installation hung over the dessert table, bringing in the notable element of the Marfa landscape.
A burnt-sugar flavor cake covered with salted caramel frosting made by Cake Walk Bake Shop anchored the dessert display. Fresh flowers surrounded the petite confection, which was topped with a pair of felted figurines made by Facci Designs—a squirrel in a baseball cap for the groom and an owl in a veil holding a bouquet for the bride.
Also on offer in portable jars for guests to grab? Funfetti cake, brownies, and these s'mores pies. Chad's "other mother" Kathy made the flag picks that identified each different option.
The First Dance
"Retrograde" by Jamie XX played as the newlyweds took to the dance floor.
Dancing with Dad
Since childhood, the bride and her father have shared a passion for music.
Sade has been someone they both loved, so "By Your Side" was a natural fit. Because Lara's father is battling Alzheimer's disease, this first dance was their special moment to celebrate where words were less important than sharing in a moment just for the two of them.
Dancing with Mom
Chad and his mother Muriel danced to "If I Could" by Regina Bell—a song that she loves because the lyrics remind her of her son.
Both Lara and Chad's mothers gave touching speeches, followed by the maid of honor bringing the bride to tears with recollections of beautiful and personal memories, and the best man getting everyone on their feet shouting and laughing hysterically. A perpetual slideshow also ran throughout the night with photos of the couple, their family, and friends.
A Surprise DJ
Chad is a massive fan of London-based DJ Benji B, and downloads his weekly radio shows on BBC One and shares them with friends who have now become fans themselves. "My good friend played him for me on a trip four years ago, and since then I've played his mixes on every backcountry and camping trip I've been on," Chad explains. "I've become his unofficial outdoor PR guy."
So one pal reached out to Benji's manager to tell him the story of Chad and his loyalty, who thought it was awesome, so awesome in fact that Benji actually flew out to Marfa to play the wedding. Lara kept the plan under wraps until two days before the wedding, when she put Chad on the phone with Benji who told him he was en route. "That moment was epic," Lara remembers. "Chad could not believe it." Benji brought the party to life by playing all of the couple's favorite music—a mix of old school hip-hop, trap, reggae, and house.
The Sparkler Sendoff
The newlyweds rode off on an old-school gold tandem bike on loan from the hotel across the street, which a group of their friends had decorated with glow-in-the-dark signs, streamers, and cans. The crowd held sparklers making a tunnel of light for the duo to pedal through as they ventured down the street.