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This Couple Had Their First Look on the Ski Slopes in Sun Valley

By Shayna Seid | Photography by 

Christine Marie Photo

Vanessa Renée Vigoren and Matthew James Gafencu met in Sun Valley after skiing and snowboarding “on an epic powder day,” she says. “I was at the River Run Lodge waiting for my mom to meet me for après drinks, and he was across the bar at a table with his friends. He came up to me and said in his sing-song Canadian accent, ‘I want to take you out!'”

She wasn’t interested at the time, but her mom walked in and was “immediately smitten by Matt.” Five minutes later, Vanessa wrote her name and number on his red cast. She remembers, “He asked me to meet him at a local Ketchum bar that night, and I never showed up…a month later of texting back and forth, we went on our first date.”

After three years together, he proposed while back in Sun Valley, as they were crossing the River Run bridge. “As I was looking up river, he got on one knee and proposed [in] ski gear and all,” she recalls. “It was magical and sums up our love perfectly.”

The engaged couple considered Mexico and California for their wedding, but after COVID hit and because Matt’s family is in Canada, they knew Sun Valley was the perfect location and set their date for April 3, 2021 (4/3/21). “My parents have been married for 43 years, and their wedding date was 5/6/78, so our wedding date was an homage to them, and it magically worked out,” Vanessa says.

In February, we learned that Matt’s family would not be able to attend due to the borders being closed, so we had a tough decision to make,” Vanessa remembers. “After very emotional calls with his family, they wanted us to go through with the wedding and not postpone.”

The bride’s mother and sister took the planning reins and helped to book the couple’s favorite restaurant, Warfield Distillery & Brewery, for the reception. And photographer, Christine Marie, referred them to their florist Tara Bella and beauty team, Ashley Hurley and Bonnie Snell of The Feathered Flip. To set the tone for the day,

Vanessa found her wedding dress at The Dress Theory in San Diego. She had her eye on a Rue de Seine dress, but stylist Rhianon pulled a Toni Maticevski gown first, and the bride fell in love with it. “It was stunning!” she exclaims. “I tried on the other dresses and knew the first dress was it.”

For jewelry, she kept it simple with her emerald-cut engagement ring and wedding band, made by Stuart Benjamin & Co. with stones from her grandmother’s Art Deco, emerald engagement ring.

Although they didn’t have a wedding party, Vanessa’s sister was her unofficial bridesmaid and wore a beautiful Stillwater dress. And Matt looked handsome in a custom suit by Savile Row.

For their first look, the two hit the slopes—she wore her rehearsal dinner dress to save her wedding dress for the aisle. “I love the picture of me standing in the doorway in my ski boots, and Matt walking over to see me,” Vanessa says.

Then outside at the bride’s sister’s property, Vanessa and her father walked down to the ceremony to guitarist Kevin Ware’s rendition of “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles. The couple’s good friend, Aaron, previously got ordained and married them in a perfectly touching 30-minute ceremony. “Once we were officially married, we walked back to my parents,” she recalls. “There’s a picture of Matt and I kissing with his leg kicked up—that sums up the way we felt and the rest of the day.”

Before the reception, the newlyweds drove over to the iconic Sun Valley barn to take portraits, and then they rejoined everyone and enjoyed food stations by Chef Jay Veregge. “Matt and I had a little 2 top table reserved for us to eat, but we barely even sat down that night,” Vanessa says.

The new Mr. and Mrs. had their first dance to Mazzy Star’s “Fade into You,” and the bride’s parents’ joined them on the dance floor. Then the couple cut their Milk Bar Funfetti cake, and the party remained on the dance floor until Vanessa and Matt made their exit around midnight.