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An Intimate Wedding Held at a Vintage Solarium in Denver

By Shayna Seid | Photography by 

Keli Photography

Claire Fontanetta, the former senior beauty editor at Refinery29 and co-founder of boutique social media marketing agency Metta Society, met Kyle Hamlin, a senior machine learning engineer, the day before leaving for a three-month trip to Morocco. The two were studying at the same college in Colorado, and it was the week of finals, just before school let out for summer. A mutual friend introduced them, and thankfully, they stayed in touch through social media throughout Claire’s north-African holiday, scheduling a first date for as soon as she got back.

Eight years of dating later, and Kyle proposed to Claire during a camping trip upstate. The NYC-based couple was at a site in Phoenicia, right by a river, when he got down on one knee. “I was so surprised I almost fell into the river!” Claire says. After a romantic weekend filled with champagne under the stars, Kyle surprised his fiancé again with an engagement party with all of their closest friends and family in attendance in the city. 

Claire knew she wanted a wedding venue that celebrated her and her fiancé’s love for the outdoors and didn’t need too much decorating. “My aesthetic was rustic chic meets whimsical garden fairy princess (only half kidding here). My friend and wedding planner Gabby, of FRVR Events, helped me find the Denver Botanic Gardens—which was the most whimsical and romantic venue we’d seen thus far. It was absolute perfection,” says the bride. From the day the location was secured, the whole event, for an intimate 40 guests, was planned in only 52 days

Because of the time crunch, the Lela Rose dress that Claire had tried on wasn’t going to be ready in time, so her mom stepped in and made her dress. “Good thing my French mom is the most amazing seamstress—she used to work alongside the late photographer Guy Bourdin for years—and she was able to make it happen in a month! I helped her hand cut, sew, and embellish more than 300 silk organza flowers, before she applied them to the dress,“ the bride says. Her accessories were also affected by the short deadline. The Miu Miu that didn’t ship in time were replaced by simple silver sandals from DSW. 

Beauty, however, was easier for the bride to manage. As a beauty editor, Claire knew she wanted a natural, glow-y look, and even decided to do her own makeup for the day. With seven years worth of products to choose from, she packed two large makeup bags with around 30 lipsticks, eight foundations, 10 eyeliners, and more. “I was so glad I overpacked my beauty products because the morning-of the wedding, I had a very minor panic attack and realized that my long-wear foundation formula I was planning on wearing didn’t match my skin-tone in the natural light (every beauty editor’s nightmare), so I used my usual go-to for events: Tom Ford Waterproof Foundation.”

In an intimate corner of the gardens, inside a vintage solarium, the bride walked down the aisle to “La Vie En Rose.” The couple was married by their friend Andy, who kept the laughs coming and made for a hilariously perfect officiant. Claire, who dislikes public speaking, was so at ease that any nerves she had about saying her vows melted away. “We each spoke our own personal vows and we both cried—thank goodness for waterproof mascara, am I right?”

During the reception, there was an open bar with three signature pre-chosen cocktails: a Sage Bees Knees (a favorite from Bar Belly), an Aperol Spritz (which they exclusively drank together on a trip to the Amalfi Coast), and an Old Fashioned (Kyle’s favorite). “Since it was such a small party, we were really able to spend time chatting with every single person at the reception, which was so nice,” Claire says.

For dinner, the newlyweds had their favorite upscale, Cuban restaurant, aptly named Cuba Cuba, cater. A shrimp curry dish, lechon asado, ceviche, a tropical salad, and a veggie habanero dish were served to guests on vintage platters, sourced by Kyle’s mother from local vintage shops. “All water jugs were recycled wine or liquor bottles, which all had unique shapes, that we also had Kyle’s mother ‘source’—aka, drink and wash. She didn’t mind that part,” says the bride. For dessert, the two cut a white cake with floral detail, buttercream frosting, and fresh berry preserves, made by Ruby Jean Patisserie.

Throughout the evening, a five-piece jazz band played a mix of French ballads and jazz. Late night, those still going relocated to a local brewery called Ratio for the after-party. “I wore my dress, which in hindsight, probably wasn’t the best idea,” Claire laughs. “But it was fun to say the least!”