When Sean Bender and Ashley Schermerhorn met in Colorado in 2007, he was the one who encouraged her interest in medicine, and it was his support that led Ashley to move to Philadelphia to study to become a physician's assistant. When she came back to Colorado five years later, a stroke of luck led Ashley to a job in the same hospital where Sean was an emergency physician. “I planned a birthday party for him shortly after I returned, and that night it hit both of us: There was something much bigger and more exciting in our hearts than we’d ever realized!” Ashley remembers. Their first date was in November 2013, and they each immediately knew they had found the One.
Almost two years later, during a trip to Ashley’s hometown of Aspen, the pair went to meet some friends at the John Denver Sanctuary Park. “When we got there, an elaborate picnic had been set up,” Ashley remembers. Instead of taking her on a hike near town, Sean got down on one knee and proposed. The Colorado couple wanted to get married where Ashley grew up, choosing the Snowmass Cottages as the perfect place for a weekend with the people they love. “It captures the beauty of the Roaring Fork Valley and has cabins across six acres where we could spend one day playing music around a campfire along the river and get married with all the accoutrements the next,” the bride explains. The relaxed celebration took place in the gentle mountain breeze on June 25, 2016, with 110 guests gathering at the river’s edge for a sweet and personal ceremony before settling in for an indulgent meal that was entirely locally sourced. Even the specialty cocktails were made locally by a friend! The beautiful photos, by Lisa O’Dwyer, will have you ready to head to the mountains—and we’re right there with you!
How sweet are these little cottages? The couple and their families spent the entire weekend on the property, enjoying the mountain air and a totally relaxing getaway.
The bride kept her shoes practical and comfy, opting for navy-blue Cole Haan wedges perfect for the mountain terrain. Her dress was a stunning Claire Pettibone design covered in lace and with a sheer back. “The simplistic beauty matched my personal style more than some of the traditional designs I tried,” says Ashley. “I can’t stress enough how important it is to be properly measured and have a great seamstress, especially for a dress with so little structure like mine.” Her bouquet of peonies, roses, lysimachia, freesia, and anemones was soft, feminine, and slightly wild.
The ceremony took place overlooking the Roaring Fork River, with arrangements of white hydrangeas and roses flanking the altar. Ashley's father escorted her to the site, with family and friends gathered in the Colorado sun to watch the couple exchange vows.
Sean’s son, Liam, was the ring bearer. “He chose his seersucker suit and bow tie and did a fabulous job!” says Ashley.
She and Sean wrote their own vows, searching the web for inspiration. As the ceremony proceeded, a group of rafters floated by, their cheers adding a hint of humor and levity to the moment.
We can’t get over the sheer lace back of Ashley’s gown. The silhouette and style were perfect for the couple’s relaxed mountain celebration! And Sean’s navy Versace suit and light-blue tie fit beautifully into the couple’s theme.
Guests gathered around barrel cocktail tables, sipping barrel-aged Vieux Carré made by one of the guests. The cocktail, named for the French Quarter of New Orleans, combines rye whiskey, cognac, Benedictine, two types of bitters, and vermouth. The barrels were engraved with Aspen Mountain’s logo and the couple’s wedding date.
In the reception tent, long wooden tables were topped with lace runners, while round tables were draped with lace tablecloths. Centerpieces combined peonies, anemones, and local wildflowers with seeded eucalyptus and other greenery.
Gold votive holders added a dose of shine to the tablescape, while small clusters of monochromatic flowers kept tables looking laid-back but still elevated. As a little something extra, pops of blue blooms made their way into a few otherwise-white arrangements.
For dinner, guests dined on local Colorado lamb and elk. The newlyweds cut into a chocolate-mousse cake, then guests gathered around a fire pit for s’mores! Once the meal was complete, one of Sean and Ashley’s guests performed “Stuff That Works,” by Guy Clark, for the couple’s first dance, then they took to the floor with their parents.
The cool summer night ended with a sparkler exit. “I’m so happy we hired a wedding planner,” says Ashley of Ellen Massey of PJ West Events. “The process was stressful at times, but Ellen made it enjoyable!”