Laura Hamilton and Mike Kelly
By Meda Kessler
With a population of less than 400 people, sleepy Marathon in West Texas proved to be the perfect spot for Laura and Mike’s destination wedding.
“We planned on getting married at the Gage before we were even engaged; it was the perfect destination for us. We both love places rich in history and character, but I’d always wanted an outdoor ceremony. The Gage Hotel, which is both rustic and charming, and its gardens really offered the best of both. With COVID, our outdoor location came in handy, allowing our families, including our grandparents, and guests to gather safely,” says Laura, a Fort Worth real estate agent at Burt Ladner.
While accommodations are few in this gateway to scenic Big Bend, the Gage Hotel is an oasis that includes a 27-acre landscaped garden. “Mom used to stay at the Gage, and Mike, who’s in oil and gas, has worked in West Texas,” says Laura. “His family is from Georgia and mine from Nevada. We knew a lot of our family would be traveling anyway, so we picked Marathon.”
While a remote desert town might seem an odd choice, Laura knew it would be perfect for their 80 guests. “Once you’re there, you’re there. There’s no need to worry about how to get people from the wedding to the reception; everything we needed was on site.”
Laura worked with the hotel’s wedding coordinator on details such as food and florals, and she researched and hired the bands. While the Gage uses tableware and decorative items from artisan Jan Barboglio, Laura added a few pieces from her own collection, such as the hand-blown champagne flutes. The personal touch was also a nod to her mother, a sales rep at Fort Worth’s Maverick Western Wear, which sells the Barboglio line.
While cocktail attire was the dress code, cowboy boots were popular footwear for women and men. Laura opted for glittering sandals, which complemented her Made with Love gown out of Australia. A vintage purse and embroidered handkerchief came from her great-grandmother. Mike’s vintage tie pin belonged to his grandfather. Laura’s father provided a “getaway” vehicle, a classic Lincoln Mark V. “The car was all my dad’s idea. It had been in storage, and this was the perfect reason for him to get it out. He put longhorns on the front and had it trailered to Marathon,” says Laura.
Surrounded by family and friends for three days, she remembers savoring some quiet time as she got dressed for the wedding. “I decided to get ready in my room with my dog Sunny rather than in the expected bridal suite. My bridesmaids and family were in and out for hair, makeup or a glass of champagne, but there never was an overload of people, which kept me from getting overwhelmed.”
The first dance with Mike also was memorable. “It was finally time to celebrate. We chose Jason Isbell’s Cover Me Up and had briefly practiced our two-step in the kitchen. After a whirlwind of a day, it was just us two on the dance floor, and it felt so special.” And instead of setting up first-look photos, the couple and photographer Kristen Kilpatrick opted for a sunset session immediately after the ceremony.
Laura embraced the remote location and such inconveniences as the swirling desert winds, which occasionally made wedding portraits a challenge. “I love the images with our hair blowing in our faces. They take me back to what was a perfect weekend.”