Amber & Celena

Exceptional planning experience leads to brides’ big day bliss

Celena Quist (left) and Amber Edens. Photos by Laura Segall Photography.

By KJ Philp, August 2018 Issue.

Amber Edens and Celena Quist met three years ago. The Arizona natives had each returned to their home state – Edens, from a deployment serving in the Army in Iraq, and Quist, from veterinary school in Oklahoma.

“We met three weeks after I graduated from veterinary school and the week Edens was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Quist recalled. “Going through her treatment by her side really led us through many of life’s challenges more quickly than your average relationship.”

Knowing she wanted to propose, and not wanting Quist to see it coming, Edens went about planning romantic monthly dates for the two of them.

“We went on a boat cruise at the lake with music, horseback riding, special dinners,” Edens explained. “All so when we planned a trip out of town [it] didn’t seem suspicious.”

The Proposal 

“So, I planned a winetasting tour weekend in Cottonwood,” Edens said. “On our drive up, I told her we would be arriving too early for our dinner reservation. Being the animal lover that she is I suggested we stop at a park where I was told we would see lots of wild life.

Upon their arrival, Edens had a hired photographer ready to capture the moment incognito.

“The whole ride up I knew the words I wanted to say,” Edens recalled. “But when it came down to it, she saw it in my eyes, and we both started crying. So I could only whisper the words. Thankfully, she said yes! We celebrated the whole weekend with a very romantic stay at The Tavern Hotel.”

For the next 14 months, leading up to their April 14, 2018, wedding, the couple went about planning the details of their perfect day.

The Venue 

When considering where to host their wedding, the couple’s list of must-haves included a site with beautiful landscaping and a lot of greenery, one that wouldn’t require a ton of decoration, a space that could accommodate the ceremony as well as the reception, a day-of coordinator and service staff that was included.

After “an exhaustive search,” visiting at least 20 or so locales, the brides-to-be decided on The Secret Garden Event Center as the backdrop for their big day.

“When we walked onto the property of The Secret Garden we both knew instantly,” Quist explained. “Not only did it have everything we were looking for, but the people we met, that would be a part of planning and pulling off our day, were the upmost professionals and exactly who we wanted by our side. They became like family to us during the planning process.”

As a bonus, the venue included two bridal/groom suites and a family suite, which made ceremony preparations convenient for the two brides and wedding party.

“We were very appreciative when going on their social media, to see that they promoted many gay couples,” Quist added. “Let’s not forget about the grand staircase which makes for a very, very dramatic entry during the ceremony!

Catering by Creative Hands Cuisine and a cake (no extra charge) from Inspired Sugar is included with all wedding packages at The Secret Garden.  The caterers provided the brides-to-be with four different menus and a tasting evening with their family on site.

“We could provide wine and enjoy a night while we decided on our menu,” the brides said. “The food is unlimited at the wedding, so {service continues] as long as guests are still enjoying [it]. The presentation and execution are awesome.”

For their cake tasting, the brides chose four different cake flavors with four different fillings from a long list of both.

“You tell them how large your guest list is and they tell you what an appropriate number of tiers are, and there is no extra charge no matter how big the cake,” the brides shared. “On your one year anniversary they make you a single layer, so that you don’t have to freeze one and eat it later.”

The Vendors

Finding gay-friendly wedding vendors, was a priority to Edens and Celena Quist. They carefully researched every vendor before committing to ensure that they were advocates of the LGBTQ community. To kick off this process, the couple attended a bridal expo in February 2017 – something they recommend others do as well, especially because this events like these offer exposure as well as discounts.

The Beat Booth served as the Dj for the wedding and reception.

“Nathan and Erica are the most professional and incredible DJ duo anyone could ever dream of hiring,” the brides agreed. “We had guests from all over the world who have said this was the wedding of a lifetime, and we attribute that largely to these two! They were perfection …”

The brides hired Laura Seagall Photography to capture their big day.

“We hired Laura because we were looking for someone to capture the majority of our wedding in a candid light rather than with posed pictures,” the brides shared. “Her ability to be a fly on the wall and tell you the story of your wedding night like you did not get a chance to see it it is a gift. Her background is in photojournalism and this translates well to capturing intimate stories throughout such an important night.”

The wedding rings were custom designed by Black Starr & Frost.

“We worked closely with Gianna, Sylvia, and Sophia,” the brides recalled. “Every time we visited with them we were greeted with champagne or cocktails, love, hugs and genuine interest and investment in where we were at in our process; we feel we have gained friends for a lifetime.”

The wedding was officiated by Lynn Madsen.

“Lynn took the time to meet with us on two separate occasions for no additional charge, getting to know us as a couple so that she could personalize our ceremony rather than making up a cookie-cutter presentation,” they shared. “Our ceremony was personal, funny, emotional, heartwarming and just long enough to incorporate everything we wanted. We became friends with her to the point that we asked her to stay for our reception. She is a strong advocate for the gay community. She also loves whiskey!”

In planning ahead for their first dance, the brides paid a visit to Arizona Ballroom Champions.

“We really enjoyed working with Arizona Ballroom Champions to choreograph our first dance, a bachata, that we would remember for a lifetime,” they said. “There was nothing but smiles ear to ear, whistles, screams and pure joy as we celebrated the sexiness of our union!”

The Attire 

Edens wore a tailored women’s suit with a sexy lace bodysuit, as opposed to a shirt, with black patent leather dress shoes and silver earrings.

“We weren’t sure exactly how to make her style come to life in the wedding until we met Duane Althoff at Nordstrom’s,” Celenda said. “No one could have pulled through and done a better job than him.”

Althoff, a personal shopper at Nordstrom’s at Scottsdale Fashion Square, uses the ideas his clients present to create custom looks to try on at no additional charge for his service.

“No one could have pulled through and done a better job than him,” Quist said. “He not only nailed it with Amber‘s look, but provided options we never would have dreamed of ourselves. And when all was said and done, [he] made her look and feel like the most beautiful version of herself we could’ve ever dreamed of.”

Quist wore a traditional wedding dress, from Roxanne’s Couture, and veil, by Lillian Lottie, with Swarovski crystal jewelry.

“I searched many bridal stores for my wedding dress and no one, absolutely no one, deserves the business like Lillian Lottie does,” she said. “They have the best selection, the best prices and the best customer service hands-down of anywhere that I shopped.”

While Quist found her dream dress at a couture store, which wasn’t a bridal shop, she wished she could have given the additional business to Lillian Lottie.

“They were the experience that every bride deserves,” she said. “I love them so much I went back for my veil and also for my preservation cleaning of my wedding dress after the ceremony.”

The brides, their mothers and their bridesmaids had their makeup done by Britney-Rae Sanchez, who can be found at Biltmore Fashion Park working the Armani counter at Saks Fifth Avnue.

Jamie Calderon, a stylist at the Red Door Salon at Biltmore Fashion Park, did the brides’ hair.

“He is no stranger to weddings … [or] to models on the runway of New York Fashion Week … and receives the honorable mention for our wedding day,” they said. “With two brides, 12 bridesmaids and two mothers of the bride, he completed 14 different and beautiful styles on the day of our wedding with ease and no stress … all professional, all day.”

The Wedding Party 

Both Edens and Quist had six bridesmaids.

“There was no one that stood by our side that we could have done without.” Quist said. “Each of us have been through our own personal trials and tribulations – from the tragic loss of [my] mother to Amber’s battle with cancer – that have proclaimed these women necessary to stand by our sides. This is our personal tribe.”

The wedding party also included two ushers, a greeter and their family as guests of honor.

“Our related family was integral [to] our day,” Quist added. “Amber with her mother, grandmother, sister and stepfather; and [me] with [my] father, stepmother, stepsister and cousin.”

 

The Ceremony

The brides decided on a unity ceremony that was extrapolated from many cultures and can be described as a lasso ceremony. For this, a beautifully beaded piece of jewelry, which closely resembles a rosary, is placed around the neck of each participant while a blessing is said. This lasso then remains in the home eternally.

Quist’s stepsister was selected to be responsible for lasso ceremony – to bring it up during the ceremony and help the officiant place it around the brides.

“We walked down the aisle (processional) to John Legend’s “You and I” and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house,” Quist said. “And we celebrated the recessional to the song “Cheerleader” by Omi.

The Reception

Following the ceremony, the reception included a thank-you speech by Edens, along with champagne toasts by several of their bridesmaids.

The first dance, which Quist made a quick outfit change for, was one of the couples’ favorite moments. They danced a Bachata to the Prince Royce version of “Stand By Me,” which kicked off the rest of the reception.

“We did dollar dances (about five songs) and a dedication dance to our parents, followed by one hell of a dance party,” Quist said.

They had a cake cutting, tossed their bouquets and finished with a sparkler exit out to their getaway car.

 

The Honeymoon

Edens and Quist did a honey fund rather than a registry and booked they’re romantic pot-big day vacay at ZOETRY, an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic.

“We did wait for one month to take our honeymoon, which turned out to be a great decision,” Quist said. “It gave us time to enjoy our out-of-town guests the day after the wedding, get back into the routine of her normal life and then have something to look forward to a few weeks later.”

The five-star health and wellness resort, which they described as “amazing,” was very gay friendly.

“This time is imperative together to sit back and relax and just enjoy and celebrate your marriage,” she added. “The wedding planning process keeps you so busy, and the wedding night at self is so fast and you’re surrounded by so many people, that the honeymoon is the amazing opportunity to take it all in, relax from the craziness and celebrate your new life together.”

The Biggest Lesson

After more than a year of planning, the newlyweds agree that their big day was perfect. In hindsight, they also agreed that they could have used a bit more time.

“Create a timeline and stick to it, the planning process goes quickly,” Quist said.

“Taking time to enjoy it all allowed us to enjoy the entire process.”

The brides, who had nothing but praise for the vendors they worked with, offered one important tip for couples embarking on their wedding planning.

“Ensure every single vendor is supportive of the gay community,” Quist added. “You don’t ever want to feel like they aren’t 100 percent on your side … Surround yourself with your tribe – the best of the best people in your life.”