An Epic, Fashion-Forward Elopement in the Utah Desert

“This year has taught us to appreciate the relationships we have with the ones that are closest to us,” says Serena Hampton of her wedding with Marvin Yates Jr. 

Nothing exemplified that more than the couple’s elopement with 11 guests in Moab, Utah. After canceling plans for an estate wedding with 150 guests in Virginia, the Washington, D.C.-based couple swapped to the one place they knew they wanted to say “I do” with an intimate group: Utah. They landed on Dead Horse Point State Park for its breathtaking views and unique colors of the rock formations, then set about fusing certain elements of their original day, like the flowers, with the Utah venue. They hosted the reception at the Airbnb where they stayed and added in activities like off-roading on ATVs to show their guests how much they appreciated their presence during a pandemic. But they were also quick to throw out any tradition that didn’t make sense anymore, including a white dress, and find unique ways, like a custom handkerchief, to represent family who couldn’t be there. 

“We wanted guests to be wowed by the striking desert setting but also to feel like they were being treated to a luxe soiree that reflected our personal style,” Serena says. “We wanted our guests to have a great experience, especially after agreeing to share at this moment during a global pandemic.” 

Read on for more details of Serena and Marvin’s elopement in the American West, planned by Juniper and Lace Events and photographed by Elizabeth Wells Photography

“Our vision embraced the adventurous landscape of our destination,” Serena says of the day, which started with prayers with her bridesmaids and mother.

Green is my favorite color, so it didn’t take much persuasion for me to order this dress.

Serena admits she never envisioned wearing an emerald green wedding gown, but the dress ended up being the perfect look to represent her style. “Green is my favorite color, so it didn’t take much persuasion for me to order this dress,” she says of finally opting to press the buy button online for her Milla Nova gown. She worked with a friend over Facetime to source the headpiece and earrings from shops in Los Angeles. 

Marvin also donned a green look for the day, a custom seersucker suit he had made at Indochino. He paired the look with a green pocket square and custom-tinted Cartier sunglasses. 

“We planned this elopement in three months because we were adamant about getting married on September 6, 2020,” Serena says.

This year has taught us to appreciate the relationships we have with the ones that are closest to us.

“The planning process was an adventure all in itself,” Serena says. “Putting trust in people that you never met is another level of anxiety. You have to remain optimistic that everything will be fine.”

Luckily, she says, it exceeded their expectations.

The ceremony took place in Dead Horse Point State Park, a park they picked because it wasn’t as touristy as others. “Nothing prepares you for that type of beauty,” the bride says of the venue. “It’s an out of body experience.”

Prior to the wedding, Serena shared mood boards of outfit inspiration for their guests. She hoped they would all don neutral tones so that the guests would coordinate nicely with the green colors of their outfits. She called the final result a “masterpiece” as they all perfectly accented the landscape. 

Serena’s mother escorted her down the aisle to meet Marvin at an altar space flanked by pampas grass and flowers. In fact, the couple’s arrangements were created by a florist in Virginia, disassembled and shipped west, then rebuilt at the park. 

Marvin’s father got licensed in Utah just so he could officiate the wedding. It was one of the couple’s most favorite memories of the day. 

The couple exchanged their own vows during the ceremony. “I was inspired at the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in D.C. during a morning run,” Marvin says of writing his vows. “There was a quote on the side of the statue, that says ‘Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.’ I thanked Serena for being my stone of hope.”

Marvin creates balance and peace for me. I’m so blessed to spend forever with him.

“Marvin creates balance and peace for me,” Serena says. “He is the most consistent man I have ever met. I’m so blessed to spend forever with him.”

The guests looked on as Serena and Martin took their first spin as husband and wife to Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon in the Sky” overlooking the Colorado River.

The party returned to the Airbnb for an outdoor barbecue of locally raised lamb chops, grilled salmon, and peach crisp. Everyone sat at one long wooden table, covered in massive pampas grass and palm frond arrangements, candles, and rose gold accents.

“We chose colors that complimented the desert landscape: warm neutrals, amber, peach, rusty orange, rose gold, and turquoise,” Serena says. They added market lights and statement chargers to elevate the alfresco affair. 

After dinner, guests munched on assorted sweets from a doughnut wall as one guest ran music through a portable speaker. For just a fleeting moment, Serena says, it felt like everything was normal once again. “It was nice to have this time, despite everything going on,” she says. “To have our parents and friends come and support us on our wedding day.”

Wedding Team


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