Story by LEIA LARSEN • Standard-Examiner staff
Leontra, 28, met Tiara, 27, online four years ago. At the time, they weren’t looking for anything serious.
Leontra, who grew up in Ogden, was getting over a bad relationship. Tiara, originally from Chicago, was working on a sociology degree at the University of Utah. She had plans to continue her education out of state.
But over time, things changed as they often do.
“I couldn’t help but fall for her, she’s a great person,” Leontra said. “I have a son from previous relationship, she’s been super amazing with him ... ever since we started dating, she took him as her own.”
After about a year, Tiara bought a home in Ogden and the two moved in together.
“He started doing repairs and never moved out,” she joked.
On June 5, 2016, three years to the day after their first date, Leontra proposed at the top of a sandstone cliff in Moab. Tiara, afraid of heights, had no idea it was coming.
“I was trying not to get my hopes up. Our first Christmas living together, he’s so mean, he got me a gift and it was in a ring box. It was a remote start for my car,” she said. “This time I thought to myself, ‘I’m on this cliff, scared out of my mind, if this is not a ring, I’m going to push him off this thing.’”
The couple set their wedding date for the same day — June 5, 2017 — giving them 12 months to plan. Right at the start, they knew they didn’t want it to be expensive.
The Hills’ Wedding Day
Venue: Orbital ATK Conference Center in Ogden Canyon
Most creative cost-saving strategy: Instead of paying to cater a full meal, the couple served hors d'oeuvres
Worth the splurge: Tiara spent around $1,000 for her dress and $200 on her veil, “But I loved it, I wore it the whole day.”
Who paid: Tiara’s parents contributed $3,000, the couple covered the rest.
Final wedding cost: $4,500
“We were trying to save money and be creative. You can spend so much freaking money,” Leontra said. “I didn’t want to be paying for a wedding five years after we got married.”
They also wanted it to have a casual, homey feel — where both they and their guests would feel at ease.
“We kind of wanted a semi-casual backyard barbecue feel, a celebration of two families coming together – almost like a family reunion,” Tiara said.
Initially, they thought they’d host it in their backyard until they realized how many friends and family would likely show up. They still wanted a cozy outdoor space. Once they started looking at venues, however, they were hit with sticker shock.
By chance, Tiara was driving down Ogden Canyon and noticed a large log-and-stone cabin nestled near the river. She saw its sign, “Orbital ATK Conference Center,” and decided to pull over and search it online. She was thrilled with what she found.
“The property was gorgeous. You had the mountains, the river and the trees,” she said.
The price was also reasonable. The couple saved extra dollars by having the center cater finger foods and small plates instead of a full-on dinner.
“We did pulled pork sliders, chicken tenders, three salads, two fruit platters, a veggie platter, mango and strawberry lemonades,” Leontra said.
The venue allowed them to bring their own beer for the event, which also helped cut costs. All said, the Hills paid around $700 for the venue and food and $120 for drinks.
Tiara let her creativity shine by making her own decorations and centerpieces. The couple got rough logs from a friend’s father in Idaho, which they cut into candleholders. Tiara also turned some into earthy plaques, where she burned in their last name — Hill — and quotes that were meaningful to the couple.
She also used glass bottles from a friend’s past wedding and bought some extras from the dollar store, then painted them their colors — yellow and navy.
All her creative cost saving allowed her to splurge on her gown and veil. She was so excited about her dress that Leontra decided to wait to see her wearing it until she walked down the aisle.
“I don’t think it would’ve been as special if I’d seen her beforehand,” he said. “I think that surprise is pretty cool.”
Leontra wore slacks, a button-up shirt and bow tie. They let members of their wedding party wear their own clothes with a few caveats — the men had to wear nice slacks and the women had to wear a yellow dress.
The Hills married under the sunshine next to the Ogden River — a perfect setting, considering the couple had bonded by spending a lot of time outdoors together.
“Utah is beautiful, if you have an outdoor wedding pretty much you don’t have to worry about decorating,” she said. “The scenery’s going to be set for your photos.”
For other couples planning their big day, the Hills’ advice is to not sweat the details.
“Let if flow naturally,” Tiara said. “You know what’s going to happen on the day? You’ll notice the things that didn’t happen the way you wanted, but everyone else will say ‘it was such a beautiful ceremony.’”
To the Hills, the role of weddings in 2017 is about showing someone you love you’re willing to make a bigger commitment. The couple already had a home and domestic partnership, but getting married still felt important, Leontra said.
“The biggest thing for me was I wanted to marry my best friend,” he said. “You’re no longer just in a relationship, you’re officially saying ‘I want to spend the rest of my life with you.’”