Within an hour of their initial meeting, Shirley Chen and Nick Haslett had heatedly debated Frank Herbert’s 1965 classic Dune, scouted Eames chairs, quoted the Bushido code (the unwritten samurai code of conduct), and laid the groundwork for their first date at Sushi Yasuda. All of this went down while they were waiting in line for a midnight showing at the Lincoln Center AMC on New York’s Upper West Side. “Our first conversation was wonderfully weird,” says Shirley, a Moda Operandi alum turned tech entrepreneur. “And while I rejected the feeling for months, the truth is I immediately fell in love with Nick’s thoughtful character.”
The courtship moved quickly as Nick—a senior managing director and chief strategy officer at an energy investment firm—fearlessly (according to their friends) pursued Shirley. “In fact our engagement wasn’t the first, or most famous, turning point in our relationship that involved a ring,” Shirley admits. “On our third date at Eleven Madison Park, Nick ‘proposed’ that we define things with a Montblanc band. There was no diamond then, but he certainly knew what he wanted right away and put a ring on it.”
Six years later on a balcony overlooking Lac Léman in Switzerland, Nick proposed for real (with an Alexandra Mor ring personalized with custom numerology details and a knife’s edge setting), under the glow of an almost surreal supermoon. The wedding that followed was just as magical; framed by awe-inducing nature. An invitation beckoned 25 guests to Amangiri, a resort in Utah that’s surrounded by some of the greatest national parks like Horseshoe Bend, Bryce Canyon, and Monument Valley. Sent out electronically, it read: “Dearest family and friends—As those closest to us, it will come as no surprise that we’ve decided to have a small wedding in a remote location. Lodging and local transportation will be arranged and covered for all guests at the Amnagiri in Canyon Point, Utah. This, along with the Google Calendar invite, is our formal invitation.”
“For those who knew us, it was exactly right,” Shirley says. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past year as the CEO of a venture-backed start-up, it is pick a few things you really care about and do them incredibly well. There are traditions that should be respected and others that can be rewritten. We wanted to take everyone somewhere new. And Amangiri was both vast and intimate—it felt immediately true to Nick and me with its minimal, modern architecture set in a timeless, nostalgic landscape. Being there is a bit like feeling at home on Mars.”
The week of the wedding, Nick suggested that they do private vows in addition to the ceremony, so they planned to take a helicopter ride at dawn on Friday morning to the 5,200-foot peak of Tower Butte. “We had no idea what to expect—it was surreal and otherworldly,” says Shirley. “It felt like we were floating in the clouds with the sky as our witness.”
For her Saturday ceremony look, Shirley worked with wedding stylist Cynthia Cook Smith and the legendary tailor Bill Bull to create a custom gown. “My inspirations were cinematic—Ridley Scott, Gus Van Sant, and Terrence Malick,” Shirley says. “I wanted something modern with a touch of stardust. We sat on Bill’s couch and changed our minds dozens of times on specifics but after Jakob Schlaepfer in Switzerland made us the most exquisite, light-filled clear paillettes of silk tulle, we knew that a cape was in the books.”
The final dress wasn’t finished until a day before the wedding, and Nick’s brother Phil had to hand-carry the cape onto the plane, but the moment Shirley put it on, she felt everything click into place. “The cape was an ethereal armor, both simple, and bold,” she says. “I felt ready for the next step in life with Nick.” She accented the dress with a pair of De Beers diamond studs appropriately named “drops of light”—“the perfect description for the otherworldly light the entire weekend,” Shirley says.
The bride knew she wanted her makeup to be lovely but formidable enough to match her dress. “Leave it to Morgane Martini, the global ambassador for Marc Jacobs, and Joey George (team #mojo) to dream up the perfect look,” she says. “It was equal parts Joan Chen, Diaghilev, and Gattaca—framing Morgane’s signature glowing skin and multidimensional raspberry lip.”
Rather than assign the same dress to all of her bridesmaids, metallics were suggested as a starting point. “From a gold Dundas showstopper to languid elegance in Galvan, they looked like they were ready for anything,” Shirley says.
Nick’s brother Phil Haslett officiated the small ceremony while holding the book Dune, harking back to one of the subjects that initially brought the couple together. “As we stood before an altar of golden glass, surrounded by eight bridesmaids and groomsmen, I thought back to a conversation Nick and I had years ago—what is most interesting and beautiful about life is to surround yourself with people you really admire,” Shirley says. “The same goes for honoring important traditions. Nick and I served my parents a 30-year-old pu’ehr tea (which ages like wine) during the ceremony as per Chinese tradition.”
After the ceremony, guests—some of whom had flown in from Hong Kong and Mexico City—gathered for the reception, which took place between two wind-carved mesas called Chinle, in a protected valley in Utah’s Navajo country. Chinese lanterns and tablescapes were mixed with Georgia O’Keeffe’s favorite southwestern flowers (calla lilies, peonies, and poppies). “My dad left everyone in tears with his speech about my stubborn personality and tendency to break from the rules,” Shirley laughs. “And somewhere between the 2:00 a.m. DJ sets by Arman Nafeei, barefoot dancing on shag rugs, cheeseburgers á la In-N-Out, and the perfect Utah sky—our reception encapsulated everything we wanted from an intimate, warm wedding with our best friends.”