After nine years together, 500 days of which were spent apart—separated by our atmosphere—we began a new journey. This time it would be our lifetime journey.
Since his return, our lives seemed to be flying at 17,500 mph—the speed of the International Space Station—here on Earth. But a year after his return on the 2nd anniversary on March 27, 2017 of his launch for his yearlong mission, he proposed.
The ring fit, as did the idea of marriage for both of us. So together, we said, “yes.”
We weren’t in a rush to begin our planning as Scott was to publish his memoir, Endurance: A Year In Space, A Lifetime of Discovery, in October that year. We set aside wedding planning until the release of his memoir and after an extensive whirlwind book tour that took us across the U.S. and six other countries—including Canada, U.K. and throughout Europe.
Meanwhile, Scott and I had been traveling extensively as a 2-person team for motivational speaking events. Following his return, Scott had quickly become a highly sought-after public speaker—and with my former background as a NASA public affairs officer—we had become not only life partners but work partners.
Teamwork makes the dream work,
something I reminded Scott of during some of our toughest times apart on our yearlong mission that is now our mantra in work, life and love.
Planning Our New Life Journey at the Speed of Sound
After the book tour, life really hadn’t slowed down. Nor had we.
So we knew once we decided to start planning our wedding, the person to coordinate it would need to be ready to fly at the speed of sound.
We instantly knew the perfect person: a Texas tornado transplant in the mountains of Colorado where we were engaged. We called Pam Donaldson of Celebrations Event Planning, a seasoned wedding coordinator, servicing Austin and Denver (now expanding to Houston) to share our news. Pam is also a family member through previous marriage of Scott’s and has been a longtime friend to both of us.
We then burst the bubble on what can be deflating news to any wedding planner and family member:
We paused just long enough to let that sink in, then, we explained that despite our plans to elope, we needed her help still to plan an after-wedding celebration for family and friends.
Pam with her natural exuberance agreed without hesitation. Her infectious bubbly personality and positive can-do attitude immediately settled our nerves as we knew the task ahead would be a difficult one.
A Minor Detour
Our original plans to travel to Tibet and venture to Everest Base Camp to exchange our forever vows didn’t go as we originally thought, (to legally marry, we would need to marry in the U.S.) but it set the theme for our wedding.
Getting to Tibet would be a challenge of its own, so actually getting married in a remote area amongst the Himalayas, ultimately, became our honeymoon before the wedding and the inspiration for our reception.
We didn’t let the legality of our plans deter us, however. Our destination wedding was a matter of sentimental reasons, a matter of the heart.
Our Wedding Inspiration: A Place Picked From Space
Scott and I talked about the many places we would travel to once he returned to Earth but mostly we talked about visiting near these lakes north east of the Himalayas he viewed from his perch aboard the ISS, flying 250 miles above our planet.
He had taken a photo of one of them while he was in space, naming it the “bluest lake on Earth”—Lake Cuo Womo—that now served as our wedding inspiration and, coincidentally, appeared to be the shape of a heart modeled out of blue play-doh surrounded by powdered-sugared funnel cake that were snow-capped mountains.
Using this photo as our inspiration, we announced to our family and friends we were eloping in Tibet but were planning a celebration immediately upon our return.
Still traveling for speaking and other business-related events, we wouldn’t be home long to manage much, if any, coordination.
Royal Wedding Weekend
Pam took the helm of our wedding at Mach speed. We found a window—a mere weekend—when we would be home and available to plan our wedding. As chance would have it, it was the weekend of the Royal wedding, an inspiration springboard to our own celebration.
Pam had already begun gathering the information she needed from us to begin and was ever flexible with our plethora of ideas, which involved planning a somewhat unconventional wedding celebration, a worldly event relevant to Scott’s recent worldly tour and our collective passion to explore our planet.
Since we couldn’t bring our family and friends to Tibet, we wanted to bring Tibet to them by incorporating some cultural aspects of our journey as well as sharing personal experiences from our adventures along the way. It would be a mashup of Indian and Asian culture, vibrant colors, some unfamiliar traditions, personal bits from our lives and while neither of us are religious—Buddhism influences.
Our dear framily/wedding planner, flew to Houston in May to button up our aggressive ideas for a July celebration. She only had a weekend to nail it as we would be leaving for Europe and onward to begin our wedding journey the following month. We would return home only a week before our celebration.
In three words: she nailed it.
Pam arrived in Houston fully prepared with a concisely organized weekend of venue touring, cake and food tasting, linen and décor shopping, wedding favor making that involved actual hand grinding spices with a mortar and pestle and, yes, Royal Wedding watching.
Scott and I were immensely impressed with how well organized she was. By the end of the weekend, we were left more convinced and more confident our envisioned celebration was in good hands.
Pam kept us on track every step of the way. Though, she has long been considered family, she was the consummate professional from beginning to end. She had developed a warm rapport with all of our vendors, communicating our vision to each of them to ensure our big day would be all that we had hoped for and more.
With an open mind, she provided us with several options as we toured each venue. We were content but not blown away with the first venue we toured, but still she provided solutions for some of the quirks we weren’t completely satisfied with that made it seem more doable. She encouraged us to keep an open mind and to press on. Each venue continuously progressed with meeting our vision and desires. By our third venue, it was lunchtime and we were solidly convinced we had found our place. She encouraged us to check the final place. When we drove through a neighborhood and pulled up to our final venue on our tour, we were feeling uncertain, growing tired and hungry.
Immediately upon entering Las Velas, I announced, “this is it.”
Scott said, “You haven’t looked at it yet. But ultimately, it’s your decision,” he added.
Immediately upon our arrival, Elmira, the owner of Las Velas, met us from the top of the stairs near the entrance. She exuded warmth, compassion and happiness.
“I’ll be right down,” she called down to us in a joyful sing-song manner.
This was definitely it.
We toured the venue from room-to-room, admiring the diverse design and architecture with Spanish and Italian influences that would make it easy to bring in Tibetan and Asian décor without forcing a style. It seemed to match the diversity of not only our worldly experiences but also the diversity of our family and friends. Our wedding guest invitees spanned the United States from coast to coast and were as far reaching as Saudia Arabia to Japan.
Marigold Strands, Floating Flowers and Bursts of Color
Pam captured snapshots of the décor, linens and our invitation to begin a storyboard of sorts that helped us pull together an overall vision. She immediately began working with her longtime partner in floral design Angela Surber of Petals and Posh, a former resident of Houston, so she was already familiar with the venues we were touring.
We set up a private Pinterest board shared with Pam and Angela and pinned inspirational styles that worked with the items we had already decided upon, including Scott’s photo of Lake Cuo Womo he took from space that served as the focal point of our handmade Tibetan prayer book wedding invitations.
Angela presented a thorough floral design proposal that somehow incorporated everything we wanted—wildly varied and colorful—for an overall stunning, elegant look that fit the themes we chose without forcing the style or competing with other style elements. Angela provided several options of vases, risers, candle holders and flowers. In a single phone call, we were able to complete the floral plan.
Nothing prepared me for the reveal.
And So The Journey Began
Scott and I began our travel, leaving the U.S. and our final wedding planing behind for a month.
Despite our time-zone differences and some connectivity issues, Pam kept the plates at home turning, updating us along the way. She had our larger components secured following her trip to Houston but was stitching together the little details that typically seem to fall through an unseen fault line on a big day event.
Like tossing hot potatoes, we threw in a few extra requests such as Bollywood dancers to kick off our celebration. We wanted our celebration to honor our guests—those who had supported us over the years through our valleys to our peaks. The Bollywood performance would be a surprise for our family and friends. Pam enthusiastically took every challenge we presented.
Executed brilliantly, it was a hit!
We even requested our wedding cake to be placed on a swing. Wait, what?
I know, it’s not the kind of thing most people would think to do. Seems counterintuitive. Place a fully intricately decorated multi-tiered cake on a swing made for motion. Perhaps, a recipe for disaster.
But it was absolutely beautiful. And very special for me.
My dad who is talented at and passionate for wood craftsmanship built us a swing from a wood, a fir, found largely in Tibet. At set up, he stabilized the swing to prevent any cake catastrophe, so no cake crashes or smashes. Pam coordinated his access to the venue while we were out of the country with the venue owner and made a connection that may last a while longer.
The cake swing is now in hot demand. We decided not to keep the swing as now that we are living life constantly on the road or in the air officially as nomads, we have no place to store it. My dad, in cooperation with our venue Las Velas, is happy to rent it for future Mr. and Mrs. seeking something unique for their special day.
Since we were unable to coordinate a legal wedding ceremony in Tibet, we decided we would be married in a private room with our family only before the reception was to begin. We had asked the Mayor of Houston of our beloved hometown if he would perform our legal ceremony. Mayor Sylvester Turner would be traveling overseas on the night of our reception, but he graciously offered to marry us the evening before on Friday the 13th.
As unconventional an idea this may be for some, it seemed perfect to us. We quickly arranged a private ceremony with our family at our residence party room overlooking Houston’s downtown green space Discovery Green.
Pam worked with our florist, Angela, who was as equally flexible and willing to help us make our private event as special as the occasion itself.
Our Out-of-This-World Wedding Coordinator
We couldn’t have been happier with the entire experience from our initial consultation where Pam gathered our ideas and our vision to management of our budget, venue and vendors down to the smallest details that included wrapping blue Nepalese twine around Himalayan smudge sticks one night in Houston as we watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding (Scott’s choice, no kidding) and adding requested sentimental parts that may not have seemed to fit the theme (like gardenias and hints of jasmine amongst vibrant orange marigolds, blue delphinas, fuchsia peonies, red orchids and all the colors representing Tibet), and a Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon graphic t-shirt that flew in space during Scott’s yearlong mission), incorporating lost loved ones and inside moments of our own.
Happily Ever After
It was a night of family, love and friendship—a night forever etched among our best memories for not only the significance of the occasion but also for the very virtues we had experienced in Tibet: kindness, compassion and immense empathetic joy that also exemplify a loving, lasting marriage.
Our very special thank you to Pam (Celebrations Event Planning), Angela (Petals and Posh) and everyone behind the scenes who made our wedding celebration a night to forever remember.
DJ and Music Entertainment – LG Entertainment
Bollywood Dancers – Infused Performing Arts
Linens – Aztec Events & Tents
Floral & Décor – Petals and Posh
Cake – Cakes by Gina
Cake Swing – Dwight Hewitt (contact Las Velas for rental)
Bar Service – Las Velas
Catering – Kiran’s
Lighting – LG Entertainment
Hair – Studio A Salon
Makeup – Lisa Pelayo
Photographer – Laurie Perez
Officiant – We do I dos
More photos from our Wedding and Reception: Inside Our Wedding