Just after sunrise on September 1, 2015, Melissa Fortunato was dancing in the desert at Burning Man. “One of my best friends had just gotten married at sunrise, and we were all celebrating,” Melissa remembers. Another group of friends came to join—including a mysterious man with a gorgeous jawline wearing huge goggles. That man was Zach Sharpe, and he and Melissa ran into one another a few more times throughout the week. “We had an instant connection that kept getting stronger, even though Zach was wearing those ridiculous goggles every time I saw him,” says Melissa. Finally, on the last day, Zach took off his goggles, and Melissa couldn’t believe how handsome he was. “We shared our first kiss, then he ran off to catch his ride home,” she says.
On December 21, 2016, Zach took Melissa on a hike above their home in San Francisco, then surprised her at the top with an early Christmas present. He handed her a leather-bound notebook titled “Field Notes on Melissa Fortunato,” filled with the timeline of their love story. “There was a picture from the day we first met, a screen shot of our first text conversation, and details of so many incredible moments we’ve shared,” Melissa describes. On the last page, it read: “Day 478: The day I ask her to marry me,” and when Melissa looked up in tears, Zach was on one knee.
Just eight months later, Melissa and Zach tied the knot in Crested Butte, Colorado. “Zach’s grandfather built a cabin near Crested Butte in the ‘60s, and his family has a reunion there every July 4th,” says Melissa. “We went in 2016, and on a hike nearby, we stumbled upon Ten Peaks, an outdoor wedding venue on Mt. Crested Butte. We weren’t engaged yet but couldn’t help ourselves and basically planned our entire wedding while we were there.” When they finally did get engaged, they called the resort immediately, expecting a long wait for an available—but were surprised to discover that August 12, 2017, was open. They enlisted Melissa’s sister, Aspen-based florist and stylist Ali Fortunato, to take charge of the on-the-ground planning and trusted her to recommend vendors and style the celebration. “We were so lucky that most of Ali’s favorite vendors were available. We ended up with a dream team!” says Melissa.
With some of the state’s top pros coming together, including Ashley Sawtelle behind the camera, you know this is a mountain wedding celebration you don’t want to miss!
The nearby mountains played a huge role in the wedding design, including on the custom invitations. “Our graphic designer created silhouettes of Mt. Crested Butte and Gothic Mountain, which we layered into the design,” says Melissa.
Melissa’s sister created a textured and organic floral comb to accent her soft waves.
Once she realized she didn’t want the lace dress she’d envisioned, Melissa had a hard time finding a gown that really spoke to her. She finally found a Rime Arodaky design she loved, but the cut wasn’t quite right. “I found a similar dress in the collection online, and called shops all over the U.S. to see if they’d ship it to San Francisco for me to try on,” says the bride. Thankfully, LOHO Bride in L.A. carried the style, and sent it to their San Fran shop. “The dress got lost in the mail, and I thought it was a sign," she remembers. "But it finally arrived, and I knew it was the one the second I put it on.” A few tailoring snafus meant Melissa didn’t know if her dress actually fit until she put it on on her wedding day, but luckily the crepe and embroidered tulle design fit like a glove!
One of the bride’s favorite parts of her gown was the floral-embroidered overskirt. “It showed off the buttons on the back of the dress, and really highlighted the double ribbon straps. It gave me two dresses in one, because I could take it off after cocktail hour for a more sleek silhouette,” Melissa says. She matched the gown’s clean lines with a bouquet of clematis, hellebores, lysomachia, and ferns.
The bride added braided gold Manolo Blahnik sandals for a little touch of shine.
Melissa's bridesmaids wore a combination of dresses in blue, sand, and blush, while her sisters served as maids of honor in a muted floral pattern.
“We didn’t put anything up at the altar, so as not to compete with the incredible view of Gothic Valley,” says Melissa.
The back row of bistro chairs was draped with garlands of clematis, matching the bride’s bouquet.
The couple’s nieces served as flower girls, with the older of the two running up to the altar to give the groom hug after her walk.
“Zach and I wrote our own vows, and saw it as an opportunity to talk about what marriage means to us,” Melissa explains. “We wrote a portion of the vows together so that we’d be making the same promises to one another, which we did the week before the wedding. It was so nice to take some quiet time to reflect on the decision we were making to share our lives.”
How cute is this couple's wedding-day squad?
Guests were in town for four days, enjoying a family barbecue, lawn games, and a group hike. “We love looking back on photos from the weekend to see people from all different parts of our lives having a great time together,” says Melissa. At cocktail hour outside the tent, guests sipped on cucumber mint fizzes as Zach’s bluegrass band, the Bow Ties, played (with the lead guitarist’s girlfriend taking over for Zach on bass so he could mingle).
Those mountain silhouettes made another appearance on the escort cards, as the shapes and names of local peaks led guests to their seats.
In an effort to create an intimate setting, guests were seated at long tables beneath a tent lit with string lights. Mismatched white ceramic urns and bowls lined the tables, filled with clematis, lysomachia, and ferns. Decadent ivory velvet napkins topped each white charger, adding a surprising and luxurious texture to the space. For dinner guests chose between a duet of Colorado elk sirloin and Rocky Mountain trout, Rocky Mountain trout and wild mushroom risotto, or vegan rustic ratatouille.
The cake, designed by Megan Joy Cakes, was decorated with thin strips of fondant painted in shades of sage, pale blue, ivory, and soft peach. “Megan took inspiration from my sisters’ dresses, and I gave her free rein to create something beautiful,” she says. Inside, guests were treated to citrus olive oil cake with lemon white chocolate ganache, caramelized pine nuts, and honey rosemary buttercream or chocolate pistachio cake with luxardo cherries, milk chocolate fudge with salted pistachios, and chocolate buttercream.
“My parents’ 46th wedding anniversary was two days later, so we surprised my parents by having the band play their first dance song,” says Melissa. From there, Soul School kept the dance floor absolutely packed. “In fact, those who didn’t fit on the dance floor started their own satellite dance groups outside of the tent!” says the bride. During the band’s last song, the newlyweds took to the stage for their final dance. “It was so exhilarating to look out and see all of our family and friends just having the best time, she says."It was overwhelming, full of love, and the perfect way to end the evening.”
Wedding Styling & Floral Design: Ali Fortunato Botanics + Styling
Wedding Coordinator: Lucky Penny Events
Bride's Dress: Rime Arodaky
Bride's Shoes: Manolo Blahnik
Bride's Jewelry: Lizzie Fortunato
Hair: Brittani Estes Hair
Makeup: Faces by Liz
Bridesmaids' Dresses: BHLDN
Groom's Attire: Tailors’ Keep
Groomsmen's Attire: Indochino
Engagement Ring: Anna Sheffield
Paper Products: BRYLO Wed
Catering: Crested Butte Mountain Resort
Cake: Megan Joy Cakes
Videography: Kasala Productions