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This Couple is So Glad They Skipped Their Vows at Their Montana Wedding

By Shayna Seid | Photography by 

Audrey Nguyen of Fenetre Photo

“It was an instant connection,” Haley Connolly, the woman behind Meridian Boutique, says of meeting her future-husband, Joshua Bowden, in Big Sky, Montana. Timing wasn’t exactly on their side, but a year-and-a-half later, the two bumped into each other, when he was out with friends. He offered her a piece of gum, and the rest was history. The two dated for five years, living in Bozeman, Montana, Las Vegas, and Venice Beach. After being engaged for one year, they moved from California to Central America for two years before the wedding. 

Josh proposed at dinner during their stay at the Michelberger Hotel in Berlin in the summer of 2016. He handed her his phone, so she could scroll through photos from their day trips, and she saw pictures of him holding the ring up behind her back at museums, castles, and gardens from their day trips. “I started hysterically laughing, and then he snuck the ring on my finger under the table. No one around us knew—not even the waiter!” Haley says.

It was a slow one-year process for the couple to land on exactly how they wanted to get married. “We explored all options, but realized that we wanted our friends and families celebrating alongside us in the most, fun, relaxed way possible,” the bride says. They ultimately decided on Bozeman and booked Foster Creek Farm for the ceremony and reception. “Our main focuses were great food, even better drinks, and live music,” Haley says. To help plan everything (because they were living in Nicaragua at the time), they hired Leslie Lukas of Lukas Trudeau Design Co

Originally, the bride was set on not wearing white and going with something a bit more outrageous. She and her close friend went to Happy Isles in L.A. to try on dresses with the owner Lily Kaizer and were torn between two looks—one white and one with a colorful print. Ultimately, Haley chose the white dress with Mongolian shearling by William Travilla. “When I put it on, I simply felt like I was going to marry Josh in Montana,” she says. She completed her bridal look with purple-green Manolo Blahnik slides. 

After getting ready, the couple did a first look and then went to greet their guests before the ceremony. “It really took the edge off and made it more relaxing,” Haley says. “We wanted the whole day to naturally flow without feeling like we were all following a schedule—as if everyone was over at our home for a dinner party.” 

The two made their way down the aisle to an acoustic version of  Three Little Birds by Bob Marley, played by the bride’s cousin. Then, their officiant and close friend, Sarah Kirkpatrick, beautifully performed the ceremony. The two had thought about reading personal vows, but scratched that idea last minute. “We were trying too hard to put our feelings and chapters as a couple from the past seven years into a few sentences. It was the best decision to cut them out, so we were free to enjoy and fully be present while listening to Sarah’s work.”

After the first kiss, guests lounged on the lawn and around the charcuterie tables with drinks before moving inside the barn for dinner. I had traveled to Peru months prior to the wedding and brought textiles back to layer over the main table, where we made it look like a king’s feast tablescape. The other tables were very simple and minimal with pretty olive branches and candles,” she says.

For entertainment, Haley’s cousin’s bluegrass band, The Tall Boys, reunited after 10 years for the wedding. The newlyweds were anti-first dance, but when the first chords of The Rolling Stones’s “Wild Horses” were played, they knew they had to relish in the moment. After their first dance, the band continued to play into the night as people floated in and out of the barn, under a visible Mars and a full moon.

After guests left on buses headed back to town, the newlyweds’ families continued singing with the band late into the night and slept in safari tents set up on the grounds under a starry Montana sky.