Skip to main content

From Mexico to downtown Des Moines: Emily and Robert Bell's wedding

On a spring break day in sunny Puerto Vallarta, there was a girl with her group of friends from Iowa and boy with his crew from Colorado. The meeting of Emily, 26, and Robert Bell, 27, turned out to be more than a seasonal fling, like most dreamy vacation getaways. The connection was strong enough to tie University of Iowa student Emily to Colorado State scholar Robert.

The couple tied the knot Sept. 13, 2014, after nine years of getting acquainted with each other's souls. The years included Emily's move to Colorado, then moving as a couple to Waukee.

Will you?

Take it back a year to July 19, 2013. In love's crazy, unexpected way, Robert's proposal plans changed with the wind.

"I had planned to propose in a hot air balloon, in Indianola, but the balloons are really dependent on weather," Robert said.

And, Mother Nature had a different idea that day. Instead of bailing on the idea, Robert killed the alarm (the couple usually wakes up early to work out at the Waukee Family YMCA) made mimosas and pancakes and told Emily he wanted to have a fun day together.

"We went to the pedestrian bridge and I asked her in the middle," he said. Following the resounding "Yes!" the couple of home brewers hit up different breweries around Des Moines.

"It was 11 a.m. on a Friday and we were like, let's drink!" Emily added.

The couple agreed that it was good the hot air balloons weren't up and running that day. Emily's fear of heights and the tight quarters of the basket would have made for a potentially awkward situation, anyway.

You're invited

Emily looked to her friend Emily Sumpf for the save the dates. The couple followed it with trifold invitations by Allegra featuring their flower and color motif sealed with a handmade wax stamp. Their wedding website also featured the info guests wanted to know.

Allegra Marketing, Print, Mail,

Downtown style

Emily knew they wanted their wedding in downtown Des Moines and at first she had her heart set on an outdoor wedding, particularly one at Simon Estes Amphitheater. However, due to logistical reasons the couple shifted their 200-person wedding to the Iowa Capitol grounds near the Shattering Silence monument sidling the Iowa Judicial Building.

"From the ceremony point you can see the Capitol, judicial grounds, downtown… it was the perfect view," Emily said of her big day basked in a pale palette.

A big advantage was the Capitol grounds are free to book. Robert added you do need to bring everything in so rental costs can get high.

Guests streamed out of cars right after the Iowa vs. Iowa State game and prior to the ceremony at 6 p.m. They filed up the balloon-lined walkway to seating rented from Event Decorators of Iowa. The seats, near the monument, were arranged in a horseshoe shape.

Event Decorators of Iowa, eventdecorators, 515-237-8282

Day-of coordinator Becky Thomas kept the ceremony running smoothly even with the six groomsmen and bridesmaids, two flower girls and six ushers. She also executed the the rehearsal run-through.

Day Of Coordinator: Becky Thomas, Mostly Becky,

The couple held the rehearsal dinner party at The Riverwalk Hub on the river. Des Moines Catering did the laid-back summer menu featuring burgers, brats, flatbreads all washed down with a keg of Peace Tree Blonde Fatale.

The Riverwalk Hub, 515-559-3650

"Keeping it as personal as possible" was important the couple reiterated. Emily walked down the aisle to "All You Need is Love."

One friend read a poem and Emily's brother played in the ceremony band. The couple's friend, Jeremy Mason, officiated the ceremony complete with a rap to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song.

Vow of fashion

Walking down the aisle in blush champagne Jimmy Choos, Emily graced the ceremony with an ivory Tara Keely lace gown with a keyhole back from Schaffer's Bridal. The mermaid style featured tulle at the base, scalloped lace and a little bit of shoulders. Kate Spade accessories completed the look.

Emily carried a bouquet flush with blush hydrangeas and David Austin roses.

She was accompanied by bridesmaids in champagne spaghetti strap Jim Hjelm bridesmaid dresses with lace tops and long chiffon on the bottom.

Wedding Gown and Bridesmaids' Dresses: Schaffer's Bridal,, 515-288-0356

Robert and the groomsmen wore Skeffington's slim-fit tan suits with brown shoes. Both fathers and ushers wore navy suits to add color dynamic to the extended party.

Menswear: Skeffington's Formalwear, by Schaffer's,

Prep work

Emily and her girls made the East Village their wedding day stomping grounds. Salon Spa W twisted, curled and fashioned the party's hair. They then skipped over to Vanity & Glamour Cosmetics for makeup, air brushing and false eyelashes.

Salon Spa W,, 515-280-5358

Vanity & Glamour Cosmetics,, 515-778-9705

Amy Allen, the wedding photographer, opened the studio for the bride and maids to relax with beers before making their way over to the ceremony spot.

Amy Allen Photography,

Robert and his men readied their handsome at the downtown Marriott.

To thank their wedding party Emily gave her maids Kate Spade earrings, and Robert granted his groomsmen cigar clips and humidors.

The couple gave Allen an exceptional review and said she was strong in corralling a "wild" wedding party. Videographer Lance Harding was also on hand to capture the entire day to be edited down into a shiny two-hour highlight reel.

"I tell my friends I almost did not hire one, but find money in the budget and make it work," Emily said. "You cannot go back and relive that … and there is so much you see, it is like we were not even there for part of the wedding."

Videographer: Lance Harding,, 515-231-1151

Party time

The celebratory guests moved to Zart after the ceremony for a cocktail hour, dinner, dancing and general revelry.

Zart 1312,, 515-468-0498

Emily made sure to mention that Zart coordinator Mary Beth was of huge assistance to the couple throughout the entire wedding planning process.

Del SaxMan Jones rang in the cocktail hour as guests mingled among the Something Chic ivory, orange and light blue flowers arranged within eclectic, simple centerpieces featuring frames and candles

Something Chic,, 515-556-0835

Taste! To Go served and maintained a salad station where custom salads, shaken in cocktail shakers, were served in martini glasses. There was also a nacho bar (including a Puerto Vallarta option) and pasta bar.

Taste! To Go and Catering,, 515-277-8646

Hy-Vee provided the red and white wine and beer kegs for the reception. They had one custom cocktail, and if guests wanted a liquor not provided they could purchase from the menu at Americana next door.

"If you can find a venue that allows you bring in your own booze, do it," Emily said.

"The caterers keep things as seasonal and local as possible," Robert said, including that they met with the couple to get the feel for their personal style and then offered a delicious proposal.

Gloria Olson of Glorious Desserts prepared a glorious three-tiered round ruffled ivory almond cake covered in fondant. Guests devoured two tiers along with lemon, strawberry and carrot cakes (the couple took the third tier home and it is currently residing in their freezer for consumption on their anniversary).

Glorious Desserts, Gloria Olson,, 515-279-4944

The night also gave way to a cigar bar provided by an uncle of the couple. The 40 cigars were lit up outside without one to spare.

Guests danced to the band Final Mix hosted by the charismatic emcee Harry Flipping until it was time for late night bacon-themed snacks and a closing time of midnight. Guests left with wedding favors inspired by the couple's dog, Dolly. Dog and cat treats created by Three Dog Bakery were tied up with ribbon and tagged with an invite from Dolly thanking the pets for letting their people come to celebrate the wedding.

Final Mix Show Band,

Three Dog Bakery,, 515-457-3130

Blissful advice

"Just make sure you get a good night's sleep," Emily said of the time before the big day.

"I planned everything really far in advance," Emily said. "Your mind changes so much in 14 months… Maybe do not make big decisions prior to that."

Robert added that you should remember to take time to eat.

The couple agreed they would have had an earlier ceremony to allow for more time between the ceremony and the reception to avoid rushing. They also said they were down with social media (at some point their friends created a hashtag for the night).

"It was really nice to cruise through the hashtags the next day." Emily said.

Robert, with a closing critical piece of insight, said, "She's always right."