An adventurous couple imprints their love of nature on their wedding day.
Kathleen Tell and Russ Urban are not only in love with each other – they also adore the great outdoors, the oceans, mountains and all of nature. As they envisioned their wedding, one thing was clear: no walls could contain them indoors. “A 100% outdoor wedding was the goal,” says Kathleen, “with nature as our background.” She knew the perfect venue. Her brother Patrick’s beautifully landscaped, terraced backyard, overlooking Lancaster Country Club’s 13th fairway.
The wedding’s locale also marked a full-circle moment. Patrick’s home was where the two were first introduced. Patrick was all in for hosting the event. “My first thought was, ‘Kathleen and Russ are amazing, and I want to do anything to help them,’” he recalls. “And my second thought was, ‘how much work is this going to require?’”
With the help of Tomlinson Bomberger, a local landscaping company, it was not much work at all for Patrick. TomBom’s Jeannette Wright Fertig planted over 600 violas (timed to bloom just in time for the wedding), trimmed trees and added flower boxes and boxwoods, making the gardens and grounds immaculate and party-ready.
While the couple spends most of their time in Florida, Lancaster was the logical choice for their wedding because “many of the people who we love are in Lancaster,” Kathleen explains. Among the 150 guests, half were family members. The rest came from as far away as Nepal, Mexico and Europe. Phil Hess, the officiant, returned to his Lancaster roots from London, turning down the chance to witness King Charles’ coronation. (Now that’s a loyal friend!)
Russ is a Cornell grad who settled in Lancaster through his career in hotel management for High. Kathleen is a Lancaster County native whose four siblings have remained local for most of their lives, building their entrepreneurial careers. Together, the two have celebrated their passion for adventure by climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, sailing the waters of the Bahamas and Florida, hiking in Nepal, paragliding in India and scuba diving in Bali.
Planning a wedding was just another adventure. (No wedding planner needed.) “We were immersed in every detail,” says Russ, “and we collaborated on everything.” They envisioned an informal garden party that included a wedding ceremony. And lots of celebration!
The bride and groom turned the tables on their guests with the invitation, requesting that all guests wear white. They chose to wear blue. “The colors of the ocean and sky, which signified our love of the outdoors,” Russ says. “And we could always find each other among the guests!”
During their exchange of original vows, surrounded by their guests, Kathleen and Russ took a page from tradition with a wine box. On the eve of the wedding, each had written love notes to the other, which they sealed in a wine box with a special Cabernet Sauvignon, to be opened someday in the future.
Fellow Cornell alumni joined Russ in a surprise tribute to the bride with an a cappella rendition of Nat King Cole’s L-O-V-E. Beginning with Russ’s solo, eight of his fellow former Cornell University Glee Club members joined him in four-part harmony, the band’s tenor sax player next adding his riff, then the seven-piece Eliza Rush Band completing the song and transitioning into the couple’s first dance, which launched the second phase of the party.
As dining and dancing continued, Kathleen and Russ had their eyes on the brilliant blue sky. They had planned their getaway to be by hot air balloon. The decision to launch is extremely weather-dependent and last-minute. “Any little front coming through to create weirdness in the wind can make it impossible,” says Russ. Ultimately, the balloon’s pilot declared it possible! The 100-square-foot, roped-off area behind the house was the site of the couple’s ascension, serenaded by Russ’s pals singing Good Night, Sweetheart with guests holding Champagne glasses high in salute. Kathleen and Russ spent the next hour soaring over Lancaster County on a picturesque day in May, “sipping Champagne and wondering how did we get so lucky,” says Kathleen, who shares they enjoyed a soft landing in a Gap-area backyard.
What was next? A honeymoon aboard their sailboat, Vive L’amour, in the remote Bahamian Islands. In the great outdoors, of course.
How did you do that?
- Photographer: Sarah Crowley, SLCPhotography, email@example.com
- Band: Eliza Rush Band
- Caterer: Cracked Pepper Catering
- Alcohol purveyor/bar service: Steve Smith, Special Event Spirits
- Tents, tables, chairs: Hess Tent Rental
- Landscaping: Jeannette Wright Fertig, Tomlinson Bomberger
- Florals: Jill Long and Carla Chevrient Kienzle, Whimsy Twins
- Bride’s hair and makeup: Envy Studio
- Hot air balloon: Lancaster Balloon Rides
- Drone Photos: Tyler van Roden