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A Magical Lakeside Fourth of July Wedding in Montana

Planned by the couple.

In the summertime, Big Sky Country can feel like “the entire world’s coming to town,” says Lauren Pratapas. Vendors, rental cars, hotel rooms all get booked up ages in advance. But that didn’t stop Lauren and her now-husband, John Legittino, from pulling together their 30-person wedding at his parents’ home on Flathead Lake on July 3, 2021—quite possibly the busiest weekend of the whole year—in just three months. 

If anybody could pull off such a feat, it’s Lauren and John. The two met during the U.S. presidential debates in 2016: She’s vice-president of communications for CNN, and he’s a co-founder of Advoc8, a creative marketing agency headquartered in Washington D.C. that has worked with CNN among other media, nonprofit, and corporate clients. Needless to say, they’re pros who’re used to getting things done under pressure. With so much event planning experience between them, they weren’t going to let a few challenges get in the way of their dream wedding.

The couple visited John’s family’s place every Fourth of July since they started dating. They even moved out there during the pandemic, when their jobs became more flexible. After they got engaged while hiking in Glacier National Park in August 2020, they knew they wanted to wed at the next year’s gathering. So, they made it happen. 

“There are few places more magical than Flathead Lake in the summer,” says Lauren. “We envisioned a whimsical fete that would feel at once magical and chic, but stay true to the natural outdoor setting. John’s family’s property has several different settings, and we want to incorporate them all: a lakeside terrace and boat dock, a grassy grove surrounded by tamarack trees, and a sprawling lawn with panoramic mountain views.”

Keep reading to get all the details of their classic ceremony with a vintage twist, as planned by the bride and groom and photographed by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography.

Black and white close-up of bride Lauren Pratapas smiling

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Lauren wanted a “simple and timeless” look for the day. “I really wanted to look like myself—not too much glam,” she says. Jennifer Behr drop earrings and a gold Cartier Love cuff brought just the right amount of polish to her long-sleeved Monique Lhuillier gown.

Black and white close-up of bride fastening the ankle strap of her Jimmy Choo pumps

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Bride Lauren Pratapas wearing a long-sleeved Monique Lhuillier gown

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Her pearl-accented Jimmy Choo Sacaria 100 pumps and a veil from the Australian company Sphere Bridal (that she originally saw on Instagram) were the special finishing touches to the look.

Bride's attire

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Lauren found her deep V-neck column gown at Monique Lhuillier in Los Angeles, which she visited with John’s aunt Tricia. She was a bit skeptical going in, since her pared-down style isn’t exactly what the brand’s known for. “I wasn’t sure if Monique Lhuillier would have a lot of options that went with the look and feel I was hoping to achieve,” she says. “I tried on three dresses. I bought the second dress I tried on. This all happened in under 45 minutes.” It was a rush order, but that wasn’t a problem. “The team at ML are absolute pros," the bride adds. 

Outdoor wedding altar and chairs with Flathead Lake in the background

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Floral wedding altar with Flathead Lake in background

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Wedding aisle decorated with florals

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Lauren’s only instructions to their floral team for their ceremony flowers: Use a blush and white palette, and don’t obstruct the views of the lake. The resulting flower arbor was “absolutely breathtaking,” Lauren says. “I hadn’t seen it prior to arriving at the top of the aisle with my dad, and I was in complete shock. It was just so perfect and exceeded my wildest dreams.” The flowers in the arbor and lining the aisle featured blooms including roses, snapdragons, agapanthus, Italian Ruscus, Smilax, and silverberry. 

Groom

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Groom standing at floral-themed wedding altar

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

John and Lauren opted to have their friend and CNN political analyst Gloria Borger officiate the ceremony. She walked down the aisle with John. He wore a black Suitsupply tux with a bracelet given to him by his late mother. 

Bride and father of the bride walking across a grassy lawn

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Bride Lauren Pratapas walking with her father down an aisle of rose petals

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Lauren’s father walked her down the aisle to the sound of a live rendition of Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” handpicked on guitar and accompanied by fiddle. The thick layer of white rose petals underfoot felt like “walking on clouds,” she says.

Bride and groom standing at a floral wedding altar with guests in foreground

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Bride and groom recite vows during outdoor ceremony at Flathead Lake

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Lauren and John exchanged vows they wrote themselves in front of their 30 guests. “John’s were incredible,” says Lauren. “John and his late mom used to talk a lot about the way a husband ought to treat a wife. She instilled those commitments and values into him at a young age, and those conversations morphed into what would become his vows. He had everyone in tears.”

Flower girls

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

John’s 12-year-old twin sisters held onto the couple’s wedding bands, then brought them up during the ceremony. 

Bride and groom walking down the aisle during the recessional

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

I truly loved how intimate the wedding was.

Couple kissing

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

“I truly loved how intimate the wedding was,” says Lauren. After exchanging their vows, they recessed back down the aisle to “Home,” by Phillip Phillips.

Groom and bride walking through a grassy meadow

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Couple portrait

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Close-up of wedding bouquet

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Beyond the lakeside, Lauren and John stopped to take photos in a grassy grove surrounded by tamarack trees. Lauren loved her bouquet, which included the same blush and white palette of flowers used for the ceremony. “I may have already told my husband that I’d like the bouquet re-created into a flower arrangement in the future, just in case he needs any ideas for our first wedding anniversary!”

Bride and groom toasting with glasses of champagne

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Some couples might balk at the idea of planning a wedding in three months with only the help of their spouse-to-be, but Lauren and John embraced it. “It was crazy but an absolute blast,” she says. “Some of the biggest events we’ve been a part of have been planned with little time to spare, so we had a lot of confidence that we could pull it off.” 

Bride and groom kissing in a meadow as the sun sets in the background

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Bride and groom celebrating by tossing flower petals in the air

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Lauren’s best piece of advice for couples forging ahead without a planner: Assign trusted family members specific tasks. For instance, Lauren asked her sister to take photos on her own iPhone throughout the day. “Having dozens of pictures on my phone helped hold me over until we received our incredible personal photos.”

Bride and groom kissing on a boat with Flathead Lake in the background

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

It was our first moment alone, and we looked at each other in awe of the beauty of the moment we’d created.

Bride and groom walking on the dock with Flathead Lake in the background

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Lauren and John spent their post-ceremony cruise around Flathead Lake surrounded by mountains and basking in the golden hour glow. “It was our first moment alone, and we looked at each other in awe of the beauty of the moment we’d created in short order and against the odds,” says Lauren.

Reception

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Table

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Long, decorated table at outdoor wedding reception

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

“We knew the epic sunset and endless starry night were essential elements for our dinner and reception—obstructing that with a tent wasn’t an option,” says Lauren. So they finagled alternative ways to bring in all the elements they needed, including custom-built furniture and crystal chandeliers that disappeared into the towering pine trees.

Close-up of wedding reception place setting

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

A vintage feel infused the place settings. A friend of the couple who’s a caterer in D.C. shipped the china to the couple as a surprise wedding gift. “It truly made the table so beautiful. One of my friends told me it was Alice in Wonderland meets French chic,” says Lauren. 

Guests eating dinner at outdoor wedding reception

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Before sitting down to dinner, the crowd sipped on Aperol spritzes. Both John and Lauren’s families originally come from Sicily, so the dinner table was spread with an epic Italian feast prepared by a local chef, Antonella LoPresti, who hails from Milan. The menu included Italian sausage skewers with polenta, mozzarella, and a basil balsamic drizzle; ricotta and grape crostini; Brie and peach tarts; a citrus, fennel, and arugula salad; bucatini with cherry tomatoes; eggplant parmesan; and, for dessert, grilled peaches with vanilla ice cream and a honey-balsamic drizzle.

Kids playing on dance floor during reception

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Bride and groom dancing

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Bride and groom slow dancing

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

The intimate party kicked off with the couple's first dance to Chris Stapleton’s “Millionaire.” 

Close-up of two-tiered wedding cake topped with bride and groom figurines

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Groom carrying two-tiered wedding cake

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Bride and groom cutting into two-tiered wedding cake at reception

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

A vintage-inspired bride-and-groom figurine topped the couple’s white cake with salted caramel filling and vanilla bean buttercream frosting.  

Bride and groom watching fireworks with guests

Photo by Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

Putting on a fireworks show the day before the Fourth of July in Montana was a tall order. “Let’s just say our hopes weren’t high,” says Lauren. But, luck was on the couple’s side. A last-minute cancellation landed them one of the top fireworks companies in the area. Lauren and John had them set up in secret during dinner. Then, during the reception, they asked everyone to head down into the yard. They didn’t quite know what to expect from this company, but “within 10 seconds we realized we were in for one of the best fireworks shows we’d ever seen,” says Lauren. “It looked like what you’d expect from a city’s fireworks display. We honestly couldn’t believe it, and neither could our guests, who yelled and cheered until the last sparkle left the sky.”

Wedding Team

Bridal Gown Designer Monique Lhuillier

Veil Sphere Bridal

Jewelry Jennifer Behr; Cartier

Shoes Jimmy Choo

Hair Bailey O’Day

Makeup Marcela Cloud

Groom’s Attire Suitsupply

Wedding Bands Stephen Isley Jewelry

Floral Design Mum’s Flowers

Music Luke Lautaret Band

Catering Antonella LoPresti

Cake Montana Wildflour Baking Co. 

Rentals Barn Door Event Rentals

Photography & Videography Jeremiah & Rachel Photography

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