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  • A Rustic, Bohemian-Inspired Destination Wedding At The Essex Culinary Resort & Spa in Essex, Vermont


  • Photography By:

    Birke Photography


    June 14, 2014 in Essex, Vermont

    Minnie Miller and Leo Bogdanov were high school sweethearts. Surprisingly, their paths probably crossed for the very first time when they were four years old and both lived in the same neighborhood in lower Manhattan. Their respective buildings were on the same block and despite growing up in the same school system, they didn't get to know each other until they were 14. 

    Their hometown of Darien, Connecticut runs a volunteer ambulance service that allows teens to become certified EMTs. Both Minnie and Leo joined. After four years of being just friends, sparks flew while at a party during their senior year of high school, and they have been together ever since.

    Leo proposed on December 27th, 2012, their ninth year dating anniversary. They were invited to a friend's wedding in Houston, Texas that took place over winter break. They decided to do a little tour of the state when they ended up in San Antonio, known for its beautiful River Walk. The River Walk was decked out in Christmas lights for the holidays, and Minnie was enjoying the experience. 


    While they were walking to dinner to celebrate their anniversary, Leo paused on a bridge overlooking the river and all of the lights. He held onto the railing and looked a little bit nervous. He then he got down on one knee and proposed. “It was completely amazing and wonderful and I wish I could remember every nice word that he said,” notes Minnie “but I was just so excited and happy.”

    Minnie had always hoped to have a wedding in the woods. “I love nature and have felt the most at peace in the forest. Despite living in Manhattan, Leo and I both love hiking and other outdoor activities, and Vermont is one of our favorite places.” For the ceremony, they chose Rock Point Chapel in Burlington. For the reception, they chose a venue that was forty-five minutes away. Even though they knew it would be a bit of a logistical challenge, they felt they just had to do it. 

    Having a wedding in the woods posed its own challenges. “The space is so natural and beautiful,” says Minnie “so we wanted to keep the decorations and floral design minimal.” The ceremony site sits on a cliff overlooking Lake Champlain, and on the day of the wedding, the sun shone through the trees and a light breeze blew through her veil as they were standing at the stone alter. Because of the complexities of getting married in the woods and then transporting guests 45 minutes away for the reception, coordination with their event planner and other vendors was key in making sure that the event ran smoothly and that guests enjoyed the adventure of the day.

    “For both our guests and ourselves, we wanted our wedding day to feel enchanted and special, but also low key and a little bit bohemian, just like us” says Minnie.  Yellow school buses transported guests from the hotel to the ceremony site. There was a ten-minute walk into the woods, so they provided flip flops for the guests and made silly signs for the route. Acoustic music welcomed guests into the clearing in the woods where the ceremony was held, where they mingled until Minnie walked down the aisle to "Something" by the Beatles. 

    The priest from Minnie’s local church, The Church of the Incarnation in Manhattan, traveled up to Vermont to perform a traditional Episcopal ceremony.  Leo was born in Russia, so they incorporated a traditional bread and salt ritual, which is meant to signify hospitality and the home that the couple will create together.  

    “We love the song ‘Do You Remember’ by Jack Johnson” says Minnie “because there is a lyric in it that says ‘Over 10 years have gone by, you're still mine, we're locked in time,’ so we adapted the lyrics to tell our love story and had our ceremony musician sing it as one of the readings in the middle of the service. It was absolutely amazing!”

    As the ceremony ended, "Sugar Magnolia" by the Grateful Dead played and their guests tossed flower petals in celebration while Leo and Minnie walked back down the aisle as husband and wife.  

    For each of them, their wedding day was filled with anticipation that was replaced with excitement and joy as the day went on. “I remember while we were at the alter,” says Minnie, “both of us looked up at the sky just to take it all in, and we just couldn’t believe that we were getting married in that moment! On the bus to the reception, Leo and I sat in happy silence with each other which was a nice moment of peace before the fun of the reception began.”

    The Ponds at Bolton Valley where the reception was held, is essentially a big cabin nestled in the woods overlooking a pond, which is exactly what the couple had envisioned. “My love of Christmas lights was evident in the thousands of bistro lights that were strung on all the beams of the room and created a romantic mood” remembers Minnie.  

    The theme colors were mostly neutral whites, golds, and grays, but with hints of berry tones to reflect the enchanted forest vibes.  They opted for natural, low floral arrangements in mercury glass vessels, with lots of white pillar candles and berry accents. The wedding favors were maple syrup bottles with little tags that read "love is sweet” and instead of cake, guests were served mini pies. 

    “Though we wanted our wedding to be a truly Vermont-esque experience,” says Minnie “it was also important to bring in aspects of our life together in Manhattan. Leo and I listen to a lot of live music, so we brought up one of our favorite bar bands, the Polka Brothers, to play at the reception. The night ended with a Polka chant, so it goes without saying that they created the perfect wedding dance party and completely fit with our woodsy, bohemian theme.”

    Their first dance was to Ho Hey by the Lumineers. The couple had taken several dance classes in New York to practice - he's 6'6" and she is 5'3" so even with heels, that height difference made dancing together a challenge. “I can't say that we danced well on our wedding day,” laughs Minnie “but it was so fun to practice together.”

    The night ended with a sparkler sendoff, and the drizzle that had held off all day started very lightly just as they got outside, which actually made the sparklers seem even more romantic. 

    “Our wedding day felt so surreal, even when it was over” says Minnie. “It was such a beautiful day, and even though I was focused on every detail throughout, I feel that we were both able to take the moments needed to let it all sink in. It was exactly the day and night that we had hoped for and planned for during our entire engagement, and we were thrilled to finally be married.”

    Two days after the wedding, the newlyweds embarked on a twelve-day honeymoon in Costa Rica. “We wanted to go somewhere that was idyllic, but with lots of activities and adventures to be had together” says Minnie. It was the perfect experience to share right after the wedding. They hiked, surfed, went scuba diving, zip-lined, rode horses, and explored remote beaches and towns on an ATV.


    Location: The Essex Culinary Resort & Spa, Essex, VT; Event Design and Planner: VT Enchanted Events, Hyde Park, VT; Floral Design: Creative Muse Floral Design, Bakersfield, VT; Wedding Dress: Monique LhuillierHoneymoon: Costa Rica

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