A Celestial-Inspired Wedding on a Mountaintop in Big Sky, Montana
Layne Kula and Michael Allen had been dating for nearly nine years when he surprised her on a rainy night in Paris: He got down on one knee and proposed with a custom ring. A year-and-a-half later, on October 6, 2018, they hosted 165 guests for a destination wedding weekend at Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana, complete with custom boards for a cornhole bracket championship, bottomless s'mores at a welcome barbecue, and an outdoor ceremony in a clearing with panoramic views of the mountains.
"We are such travel-obsessed, adventure-loving, go-big-or-go-home kind of people, whose family and friends are our world," says Layne, a professional event designer and stylist. "The theme was a little bit of Michael's Texas-BBQ-camp vibe mixed with my wild, celestial, disco, Stevie Nicks soul." Layne and Michael, a TV and film development coordinator at That's Wonderful Productions, planned a family-style tented reception that took its color cues from the scenic location, while adding "a heavy dose of glitter." A last-minute change in the weather forecast, however, forced Layne and her team of vendors to rework the entire setup and move the event inside. "I think the coolest thing about the entire wedding planning process was watching Layne replan the entire wedding in 36 hours," says Michael. "Watching her spring into action like that, just so in her element, was amazing."
For Layne, it was a chance to follow the advice she always gives to her own clients: "Something will always go wrong on your wedding day—it can be super small or incredibly large—but you have to be able to let go of the idea of what it's supposed to look and feel like in your head," she says. "You spend so much time worrying about those silly, insignificant details that you forget why you did this in the first place."
Layne worked with her friend Asia Forbes of Boldhouse Creative on the invitation suite, which included a one-of-a-kind custom embroidered patch as a save-the-date. The yellow rectangle was adorned with a moon and mountains logo (which the couple repeated on their invitation), the location, dates, wedding website, and the couple's hashtag: #BigSkyFullHeartsCantLose.
Layne and Boldhouse also created a custom hand-lettered booklet that was digitally printed on organic cotton paper, sewn together with teal embroidery thread, and sent in a teal envelope with a custom Kraft paper liner embellished with stars and constellations. A foil accent on the front of the booklet combined a moon shape with mountains and trees, while the booklet inside included hand-lettering, doodles, a map, and even a packing list.
Layne began the search for her dress with a long list of must-haves: "I was looking for something that was high fashion, edgy, editorial, ethereal, comfortable, felt like me but was still a wedding dress, and the kicker? I wanted something no one else had, or had worn." She tried on nearly 20 different dresses over the course of six months, but nothing felt right until she came across a tulle gown with plunging neckline from Galia Lahav. "I found a picture of the dress online and stopped in my tracks," she says. The gown, covered in white sequined stars, reminded her of the Montana sky, while a custom-made cape in the same fabric created a little contrast between her ceremony and reception look.
The Sky's the Limit
A stylist from Boomswagger Salon gave Layne long, loose waves that she accented with a tiara she helped create. "I worked super closely with British designer Tilly Thomas Lux to design a bespoke, asymmetrical crown that was covered in stars, moons, and lightning bolts," she says. "It just may be my favorite thing I own." She kept the rest of her jewelry understated, pairing diamond earrings that had belonged to Michael's grandmother with mismatched "celestial-inspired" studs from her own collection.
Michael's textured black suit from Hugo Boss wasn't nearly as hard to find as Layne's dress. "I always sort of assumed I would wear a blue suit, but the black was the first one I tried on and after trying on a few different options, I purchased it on the spot after my first day of looking," he says. He wore it with a J. Crew shirt, Banana Republic tie clip, and custom green-and-white printed tie and pocket square from Neck and Tie Co.
Michael had designed Layne's engagement ring—which she calls "the moon rock ring of my dreams" with jeweler Lauren Wolf of Esqueleto. "It's a European cut diamond flanked by a gray trillion diamond, and a sapphire, another diamond, and a pear-shaped diamond, all cast in rose gold," says Layne. "It's so me, it's crazy." When it was time to choose their wedding rings, the couple returned to Esqueleto for Michael's matte gold band from Adeline and a pair of rings for Layne—a diamond archer to go above her engagement ring, and a bottom band made with gray diamonds and a point-up brown cushion cut. "It's the stack of my dreams," says Layne.
Layne gave her bridesmaids the go-ahead to pick non-matching gowns, ending up with a color palette that perfectly fit her earthy, natural vibe for the day. "I really wanted them to feel and look incredible, and since we were going for a more fashion-forward-meets-editorial look, I let them choose their own dresses," she says. The women donned gowns from For Love and Lemons, Michelle Mason, BHLDN, BCBG Maxazria, Reformation, and Fame and Partners.
Layne gave each of her bridesmaids a custom brass cuff with crystal accents to wear during the wedding: "Something more high-fashion that they would be able to keep forever," she says. For the ceremony, florist Nikki Pettus of Strega Flora decorated each cuff with a sprig of baby's breath that took the place of the usual bouquets.
Michael's best friend's nephew joined the wedding party as the ring bearer, sporting a gray three-piece suit, a cowboy hat, and a vintage bolo tie.
Their First Glimpse
Layne and Michael chose to see each other before the ceremony for a first look and portraits. "There are so many nerves and emotions that doing a first look really gave us a chance to check in and just breathe a bit together," says Layne. For Michael, the first look became a special moment for the couple that also freed up time to celebrate with their guests later. "We really wanted to be able to knock out as many of our photos as possible and join our friends and family at cocktail hour," he says.
A Breathtaking Bouquet
Layne had one request for her bouquet: "I knew I wanted to carry something transcendent," she says. Strega Flora provided a bouquet of Layne's favorite plant, lunaria. "There's something so magical and special about those gorgeous silvery-iridescent pods," says Layne. "They were also a flower that my grandmother always had in her house when I was growing up." Sparkling gypsophila, the only other bloom in the bouquet, called back to the glittering accents on her dress, shoes, and tiara.
Weather (or Not)
Montana's famously unpredictable climate gave Layne and Michael a run for their money in the week leading up to the wedding, serving up everything from snow to sun. "The day of the wedding, it snowed a little in the morning but the rest of the day was gorgeous and misty with a couple of sun showers here and there," says Layne. "It was drizzling right before the ceremony, and like magic, the sun came out just as our processional began."
A Cozy Carriage
Nearly 100 of the couple's friends and family stayed on property at Lone Mountain Ranch, so Layne and Michael arranged for a horse drawn carriage that transported those guests to the ceremony bluff.
The Scenic Ceremony
For their outdoor ceremony, the couple chose the Ridge—a clearing on the Lone Mountain property that offered sweeping views of the surrounding mountains. "The space where we were getting married was so epic and special, I didn't want to put up an arch to cover or block that," says Layne. "It would also just pale in comparison to Mother Nature behind it." Instead, she turned to one of her favorite accents—glittering disco balls—and clustered them with dried tumbleweeds and grasses to create textural, high-contrast art installations. More disco balls lined the aisle, which was created by two groups of backless benches, and threw sparkling reflections around the ceremony space as the sun moved overhead.
At the start of the ceremony, Layne's mother and father joined her to walk down the aisle as her favorite song, LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends," played in the background. "It was a life-changing experience," she says. It was also an emotional moment for Michael: "I would hands down say the most memorable moment of the day was watching Layne walk down the aisle," he says. "We were nervous that doing a first look might take away from this moment, but it didn't at all. It was so epic."
The ceremony, co-officiated by the couple's best friend along with Rabbi David Gruber, included readings from Michael's sister and two other friends. "We also did our interpretation of a seven blessings and had seven of our closest family members and friends come up and speak them in English, and our rabbi translated them into Hebrew," says Michael. After the ceremony, the newlyweds exited to "Oh, It Is Love," by HelloGoodbye, as guests banged cowbells, blew vintage trumpets, and shook maracas for a festive accompaniment.
The wedding was a true family affair with the couple's English Bulldog, Luna, dressing up to join the festivities.
Turning the Tables
The last-minute changes to the reception location meant that the couple had to redo their menu, too, trading the family style meal they had planned for a selection of food stations that included fried chicken with mashed potatoes, bison short ribs, and turkey pot pie. Long farm tables were interspersed with high cocktail tables and lounge seating from Montana Party Rentals. Tablescapes included concrete, terra cotta, and clay vases, brass candlesticks, dried flowers—including lunaria, foraged foliage, and tumbleweeds—quartz votives, and sprinklings of sand and crushed glitter "to really achieve that glowing, celestial vibe," says Layne.
Song and Dance
Layne and Michael decided to surprise their guests with a first dance that went from traditional—"She's Every Woman," by Garth Brooks—to unexpected. "As soon as it was over, we busted out into a surprise, choreographed version of 'Cheerleader' by Omi," says Michael. "It was insane!" It also gave Layne a chance to change into a more party-ready gown—a white slip dress from
Stone Fox Bride
that she wore with Miista star boots.
A Candlelit Cake
A white and gold carrot cake covered with chamomile frosting was the work of Jasmine Lily Creative. The confection was adorned with painted constellations, gold stars, and white and gold asymmetrical candles. "It was magical," says Layne.
The rest of the dessert table included confetti cookies, salted chocolate pretzel cupcakes, and homemade Pop Tart-inspired pastries filled with blueberry lavender jam or local apple butter.
DJ Aubrey Henderson of Haute Mobile Disco ended the night at 2 a.m. by playing "Rivers and Roads" by the Head and the Heart. "It escalated into this insane bear hug with 100 people singing and laughing and crying," says Michael. "I had never experienced anything like that, and that sense of full, total, enveloping love was the most incredible way to start our new life together." Layne agrees: "It was something I will carry with me for the rest of my life, and I can't listen to the song without crying anymore. It takes me back instantaneously."
Photography, Rebecca Hollis Photography
Location and Catering, Lone Mountain Ranch
Event planning, Layne Kula
Flowers, Strega Flora
Videography, Luna Bay Films
Stationery, Boldhouse Creative
Calligraphy, Layne Kula
Cake, Jasmine Lilly Creative
Music, Haute Mobile Disco
Rentals, Montana Party Rental
Bride's gown, Galia Lahav
Hair, Boomswagger Salon
Makeup, Skin Chic
Groom's suit, Hugo Boss
Menswear, The Black Tux
Bride's Rings, Esqueleto
Groom's Ring, Adeline