By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
John and Kirsten Pexa were 10 days from their March 30, 2019, wedding when their plans unraveled. They lost their Airpark-area venue.
The couple was frantic, but a group of Valley vendors came together to provide the perfect spot for Kirsten and her pilot fiancé—a hangar in the Scottsdale Airpark.
“All the cards fell into place the right way,” says Sabrina Meyers of Phoenix’s Vermilion Events, the wedding planner.
“We had an amazing team. The industry in this Valley is very tight and close connected. We help each other out. That was a really nice thing to have happen.”
Hangar weddings were en vogue before the pandemic, but with social distancing, they’re a perfect spot to get hitched. Meyers looked to Karen May of Scottsdale Hangar Parties for help with the room in 2019. In light of the pandemic, May is ready with social distancing signs, fire marshal requests, thermometers, extra washing stations, and signs outlining mask requirements. May says it’s possible to stream a wedding, too, and make it look like it’s a big event.
“I love her venues because of the uniqueness of them,” says Nicki Crause of Chandler’s Events to Remember of May’s talents. “She has some cool, really different, out-of-the-box weddings, like having a bride land from a helicopter. It’s been cool working with her.”
Through her company, May enjoys working with older or second-time brides because they know exactly what they want and they’re more open to suggestions.
“I love the ones who just want to come have fun or are fun to work with,” she says. “For a wedding I’m doing in July, we’re dividing this massive hangar into three. They’re leaving in a helicopter. They just want to have fun—and they’re having logoed masks.”
“We had another wedding where the wedding party went on a tour of Arizona in a helicopter and came back to attend their rehearsal dinner. They filmed the whole thing and put it to AC/DC and showed it at the rehearsal dinner. We can make nearly anything work.”
Her goal is to throw a “ride or die” biker wedding in a hangar, where the wedding party arrives and leaves on Harleys.
“We could run them up the tarmac,” she says with a laugh. “We want couples to parachute in some time. We’ve got our parachute guys, who are awesome. We could tandem in the bride and groom, too. I’m hoping we get to do that, too. I like to do things that are fun, unique and interesting. I don’t like boring.”
When it came to Kirsten, May needed to help.
“Kirsten, she’s a beautiful blond,” she explains. “She wore this long, black dress. She had this beautiful farm table, a DJ and got married in front of the jet. It was a cool backdrop.
“We had airport décor and little planes. I was glad I was able to help. It’s hard when someone’s just so sad. It worked out great, and she was thrilled.”
Kirsten found the “perfect” dress as well, a playful black and nude number that exuded the couple’s personality. The Anthem pair didn’t want a traditional wedding for their second time at the altar. They wanted a party.
“We were both in our 40s at the time,” she says. “I just said, for the dress, I would find whatever I could find. I wanted more of a party, not a wedding. I just knew when I tried it on that it was perfect. I went with it and went into party mode.”
She was escorted down the makeshift aisle—or runway—by her daughter and John’s son. The engaged pair met at a jet outside of the hangar doors.
“Everybody ate that up and thought it was fantastic,” she says. “There was nothing traditional about it. We had an open bar, a happy hour, prior to the ceremony. The ceremony was standing room only.
“We had vintage couches and chairs in the front that were reserved for close, immediate family. Everybody gathered around the jet, and it was perfect for us.”
Meyers, who has a degree in fine arts, says it was “magical.” The thrill with throwing a wedding in a hangar is it’s a blank slate—an all-white room with plenty of room for creativity.
“It takes a little bit of outside-of-the-box thinking,” Meyers says. “With creativity and teamwork, we really put this together. I love the flexibility of the blank canvas because there’s so much you can do—drape the walls, bring rigging in, etc.”
Meyers says the hangar they used had a kitchen and access to side rooms for the bride to hang out and a space for the groom to relax.
Crause adds, “It’s not your standard hotel/resort ballroom look.”
When May and Meyers came together to help the Pexas, it was “magical.”
“Within a week, we had a new venue, a new caterer and a whole new setup,” Meyers says.
“It was absolutely fabulous. We created this amazing masterpiece with the McDowell Mountains in background and a sweetheart table right in front of it. We hired Tom and Lin Catering. They did an amazing spread. We created this amazing space that had amazing energy. Kiki (Kirsten) and John were amazing. She was set on what she wanted, and her vision aligned with mine.”
Kirsten describes it as “quite the situation.”
“It was absolutely perfect,” Kirsten says. “I couldn’t have imagined it being better. It turned out better than we thought.”
Events to Remember
Scottsdale Private Event Venues
David Twigger or Sabrina Meyers