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An Elegant, Camp-Inspired Forest Wedding in Sun Valley

By Alexandra Macon | Photography by 

June Cochran

During the summer of 2012, psychiatrist Eleanor Woodward was living at her parent’s home in Sun Valley, Idaho before starting medical school in the fall. She was working as a server at the buzzy Italian restaurant in town and on the first day of work spotted Andrew Sarda, one of the chefs. “I really think it was love at first sight,” she admits. “We quickly became friends and I would find any excuse to perform a task that meant I could talk to him more, including squeezing hundreds of lemons for lemonade.” After she started school in New York, Andrew, now an entrepreneur launching a line of gourmet camping meals, went to visit her on the same week that Hurricane Sandy hit and they both ended up getting stuck in her small dorm together for 10 days—yet no one was complaining.

Five years later, the couple were enjoying a getaway weekend in the Santa Cruz mountains, in which Eleanor suspected a proposal might be imminent. “I quickly got that idea out of my head when I realized that we were one a very adventurous hike in the rain, traversing fallen trees across a river, and I noticed that none of his pockets were zipped shut!” she says. Later on in the day, they stopped in a redwood clearing when Andrew pointed out an interesting rock he had found in the rushing river. “There I discovered a sparkly sapphire engagement ring! I was completely shocked; we shared such a special moment in the woods in a light drizzle.”

They immediately knew they would be getting married at Eleanor’s parents’s home in Sun Valley, the place where they had met and spent so much time together. “The most important thing was celebrating the natural surroundings, which includes my mother’s amazing garden, the groves of aspen and cottonwood trees, and the Big Wood River, which flows through the property,” she says. They hired planner Amanda Seaward and worked on creating an elegant but camp-inspired festive party. First up, working with Design House of Moira on the wedding stationery. “Every part of our wedding suite was perfectly crafted with the flora and fauna of the region,” she says. “Even the envelopes were painted with mountain wildflowers.” For dinner, they chose a teepee tent from Undercanvas Events, and set up the dance floor on a converted paddle tennis court. “The flower arrangements were wild and looked like they had been plucked from my mom’s garden,” the bride adds. “We incorporated owls, nests, feathers, and other woodland animals into the table arrangements.”

Eleanor wore a number of stylish outfits for the wedding weekend, starting with a 90s Krizia dress that she found at Los Angeles vintage bridal store, Happy Isles, paired with western mules from Freda Salvador, for their rehearsal dinner. For her welcome party the day after, she wore a Brock Collection dress with vintage cowboy boots, which she felt were very “prairie-bridal.” As for her bridal dress, she fell in love with an Oscar de la Renta design at a trunk show at Jin Wang in San Francisco. “It was simple, chic, and had some unique elements like the back that reminded me of a waterfall,” Eleanor explains. A sturdy shoe was necessary due to the rustic nature of the venue, so she chose sage green Gianvito Rossi sandals, and finished off her look with her mother’s diamond studs and a family heirloom diamond bracelet from her grandmother.

The groom, meanwhile, wore a blue Brooks Brothers suit and a tie from Salvatore Ferragamo. As an extra touch, his boutonniere was a thistle cut from his mother-in-law’s garden. The bride’s two sisters served as bridesmaids and chose floral dresses from Erdem in the same print but in different styles.

On the July day of the ceremony, the couple kicked off the event by digging up a bottle of bourbon the bride’s father had buried at the ceremony site one month earlier to ward off any rainy skies. “Both Andrew and my family gathered around and passed the bottle around—good to calm any nerves!” Eleanor admits. The couple got married by Big Wood River under an arch created from two existing aspen trees, which included elk antlers, daisies, and natural greenery. The bridal procession music was a Radiohead song played by a violin quartet and the bride’s college advisor was the ceremony’s officiant.

After they were declared husband and wife, guests enjoyed cocktails and appetizers from CK’s Real Food. For dinner, everyone migrated over to the teepee tent and took in the forest view along with a number of hilarious toasts by the couple’s family and friends. When it was time for dancing, Eleanor and Andrew chose to open with “The Pretender” by Jackson Browne—“One of the first songs we listened to together when we started dating,” she says. When everyone joined them on the paddle tennis court dance floor, a shotski suddenly appeared and a few guests ended up taking in many tequila shots. “One of my favorite moments was when Andrew played our favorite Steely Dan song on guitar with the band,” the bride shares. “The cake cutting was also up there. Neither of us had planned toasts, but gave very heartfelt spontaneous toasts with my great-grandmother’s silver champagne goblets.”

Halfway through the dancing, Eleanor felt a strong urge to change into something more comfortable, even though she didn’t have an after-party look planned. “I ran into my bedroom and changed into white jeans, a white top from Zara and mules!” she says. “This was not planned but I loved it and looking back on it love the spontaneity and the casualness.”

As the reception came to an end, the couple left in Andrew’s vintage white Mercedes beneath a gauntlet of sparklers. “My brother-in-law and sister decorated it as kitschy as possible with strings of Campbell’s Soup cans!” Eleanor says. “We loved it.”