A Natural Connection

 In Feature, Photos, Style

An environmentally-conscious couple heads to the country for a sustainable celebration of their nuptials.


THE BRIDE: Cheryl Carnoske, 32, Program Manager in Public Health
THE GROOM: Phil Valko, 32, Director of Sustainability

THEIR STORY In May 2008, Cheryl Carnoske and Phil Valko met in Santa Fe, NM, at the International Making Cities Livable conference. During a coffee break, the two noticed from each other’s nametags that they were both from St. Louis. They spent the rest of the conference getting to know one another, and when they returned to St. Louis, Phil sent Cheryl an email inviting her to tour his neighborhood in Old North St. Louis. Despite their mutual attraction, busy schedules kept the two from finding time to meet, and Cheryl soon left for a five-week internship in Brazil. The day after she returned, she literally ran into Phil at a local restaurant, and she knew it was more than a coincidence.

In December 2011, Phil surprised Cheryl with a long weekend in Charleston, SC, where she had completed her dietetic internship. Cheryl had a feeling Phil was planning something special, but when he led her to a quiet park after dinner, his romantic setting was interrupted by laughter and shouting from a nearby bar. Phil suggested they keep walking, and Cheryl worried that he was getting cold feet. Instead, he led her to a beautiful fountain with a view of the ocean. He told her to close her eyes and got down on one knee, attempting to light tea candles all around them. The ocean breeze kept blowing them out, though, and Phil couldn’t take the anticipation any longer. He asked Cheryl to open her eyes, and on one knee surrounded by unlit candles, he asked her to marry him.

TWO WITH NATURE Cheryl and Phil both love being outdoors, so they wanted to choose a venue that would bring them closer to nature. A destination wedding to the mountains of Colorado was out of the question with so many out-of-town guests, so the couple chose instead to look near St. Louis. Chaumette Winery in Ste. Genevieve, MO, gave them the feeling that they were far from the city without making guests travel too far. When they visited the venue originally, a beautiful barn was under construction—and, while it wasn’t complete yet, Wedding Director Rhonda Barnes’ description of her vision for the space was enough for Phil and Cheryl to make their decision.

ROAD TO HAPPINESS Ever the adventurous couple, many of the important wedding decisions were made on road trips. After finding a wedding dress designer that she liked online, Cheryl and her sisters traveled to Chicago for an Allure Bridals trunk show. Cheryl fell in love with the simple elegance of the dress, and knew it was the one. The couple also chose their readings for the ceremony while on a road trip together, choosing to combine the readings with their own vows. Against the romantic backdrop of the rustic barn and a light mist of rain during the ceremony, their personalized vows ensured there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

SUSTAINABLE LOVE Although neither of them are strictly vegetarian, the couple’s love of nature inspired them to opt for a mostly vegetarian reception. As a registered dietitian, Cheryl wanted to focus on fresh, local food—which was also in line with Phil’s focus on sustainability. The chef at Chaumette sourced all of the food from local farms, choosing the menu at the last possible moment to ensure that the dishes used seasonable vegetables. The result was a huge success with carnivores and herbivores alike. Cheryl also wanted a simple bouquet made from local flowers, and asked a friend to help. The stunning arrangements were such a hit at the reception that her friend started her own flower and photography company, J C Shoots & Blooms.

SPICING IT UP For their first dance, Cheryl and Phil wanted to kick it up a notch from the traditional slow dance. As a drummer in the band First to Show Last to Go, Phil has natural rhythm to work with and Cheryl has been salsa dancing for years—so they decided on a salsa for their first dance. After the dancing, guests at the reception enjoyed the warmth of the beautiful stone fireplace as the light rain continued to fall, punctuating the coziness of the country setting.



A Natural Connection


A Natural Connection






Photo credit: Tobi

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