Judy & Steve
Text by Melanie Saxton | Photos by Donna Salter, The Portrait Company
It’s not every phone call from a Lexus dealership that leads to marriage. But that’s precisely what set the “wheels in motion” for Judy Larson and Steve Olson, whose love story, appropriately, involves a love of travel. They tied the knot on April 18, 2015 amidst the beauty of their 10-acre spread in Red Oak Ranch, a subdivision in Montgomery County.
Judy attended Conroe High, earned a BA in communications from Stephen F. Austin State University and an MBA from Texas A&M University. She is senior vice president of private banking at Cadence Bank in The Woodlands. She also serves as vice president of The Rotary Club of The Woodlands and is a boardmember of CASA and the YMCA. Steve attended Cherry Creek High in Denver, Colorado and Appalachian State University in North Carolina. He is a partner at Systems Buildings, Inc.
Judy’s longtime Northside Lexus salesperson, Steve Brandon, had called to ask if she was “available.” In banker mode, she thought he might have a customer who needed a car loan. He explained about meeting Steve, a guy he had just sold a car to who he thought would be perfect for her. Judy had been single for several years and wasn’t necessarily eager. Steve, however, persisted in texting that first week and asked her to dinner before he left for Palm Springs and Vail to golf and ski. Since these are her two favorite activities, she quipped, “Marry me” in her text. His response was, “Could we just have dinner or a glass of wine first?” She told him to contact her after he got back if he didn’t fall off the mountain or fall in love.
Steve arranged a first date at Genghis Grill in The Woodlands when he returned. Judy was skeptical but accepted the invitation. The following week, the bank provided Judy with court-side front row seats to a Houston Rockets game. She invited Steve, who said he needed to go home first and get his foam #1 finger, rainbow wig and John 3:16 sign. “I knew there was something wrong with him. Mystery solved,” joked Judy. In the end, she appreciated the persistence of the handsome, smart and funny man with the infectious smile. Both knew it was meant to be.
Over the next 18 months, the couple traveled to Norway to see friends and to Los Angeles and Colorado to visit Steve’s family. They skied in Colorado’s Summit County and Crested Butte and bought a condo in Frisco near Breckenridge.
Steve also went to France to ride ahead of the Tour de France during the mountain stages on a group trip. And he completed the Triple By-Pass cycling event in Colorado, riding 120 miles from Evergreen to Avon through three mountain passes. “He is a very accomplished cyclist and snow skier,” says Judy. “Skiing with him is like skiing with Bode Miller. I do my best to keep up and like that he challenges me and makes me better.”
Steve proposed in Vail on Nov. 17, 2014, a special date honoring his parent’s 41st wedding anniversary. He originally planned to pop the question under a Douglas Fir lit with Christmas lights near the wooden bridge in Vail Village, but the cold temperature altered his plan. As they sat in the restaurant, Judy’s phone buzzed. She had been trying to reach Nikki, her daughter, whom she assumed was calling back. Instead, it was a text from Steve saying “Marry me” — the same text she sent in jest the first week they met.
Judy looked up to behold a box showcasing an incredible ring. She said yes and began to cry, overwhelmed at the clever proposal. Unfortunately, the waiter was too flustered to take a proper photo, but the next day a perfect image was captured at the Forever Run in Vail next to a sign that said, “Forever: No Beginner Access.”
During the next five months, the couple further bonded over farmwork on their Montgomery County acreage. Steve showered Judy with “romantic” gifts including a weed eater, a leaf blower, a chain saw and a wood chipper. Steve transformed the barn into his workshop and the yard into a paradise, which would eventually double as an exquisite venue for their wedding and reception. He built an arch in the pasture and turned the barn into a bar.
The couple exchanged vows in a square pen with the picturesque barn as a backdrop.
Floral and décor: “I let God do most of the decorating,” said the bride, noting that it rained for 40 days and 40 nights prior to the wedding and stopped for the ceremony — a miracle, considering the forecast of ongoing torrential downpours, deadly lightning and hail. Florist Jerald Rhodes, who had done the flowers for Sandra Bullock’s wedding, expertly arranged the floral décor despite the time constraints due to the storm.
The barn was decorated with large Boston ferns, candlelight chandeliers draped in white sheers, and halved wine barrels full of petunias, begonias and geraniums. Arches were draped with green smilax and accented with white hydrangeas and cream and white roses. Tent tables were decorated with vintage accent pieces with mercury glass vases filled with green hydrangeas, purple stock, white, cream and pale pink roses. Gold crepe myrtle buds with tiny birds nests, white lanterns, birdcages and floating candles completed the theme.
The bride’s bouquet consisted of white hydrangeas, cream and white roses, white stargazers lilies, ranunculus, mini green hydrangeas and white lilac accented with pearls.
Attendants and Guests: The couple exchanged vows on her parents’ 56th wedding anniversary. Lionel and Virginia Carr of Conroe were joined by the groom’s parents, Jan and Jeanne Olson. Dr. Ed Robb of Woodlands United Methodist Church officiated. Nikki Larson, daughter of the bride, served as maid of honor. Neville Darleston, friend of the groom, served as best man. Guests at the intimate ceremony included Cathy and Kevin Brady, Coulson Tough, Bruce Tough, Rob Eissler, Anne and Roger Galatas, Vicki and Michael Richmond, Ann and Jerry Snyder, Julie Martineau, Julie Ambler, Marcia and Jack Stibbs, J.R. Moore, Debra and Gil Staley, Alison and Hilton Yee, Marsha and Tommy Williams, and Cathy and Virgil Yoakum.
Attire: The bride wore an ivory taffeta Maggie Sottero gown with a voluminous skirt, sweetheart neckline, asymmetrical draping, and Swarovski Crystal embellishment at the hip. Ivory cowgirl boots completed the ensemble. The maid of honor wore a floor length rose pink chiffon gown with iridescent beading. The groom and best man wore “Western chic” jeans, tux jackets, white tux shirts, bolo ties and black Ropers.
Top Wedding Moments: The bride’s father walked her down aisle after they initially missed the cue — the opening of the “Feather Theme” from Forrest Gump. “Some people thought I was a runaway bride until I realized what was happening and picked up the pace,” quips Judy.
The bride snatched the only mosquito they saw all evening as it buzzed around the officiant’s face while her groom said his vows, and then lost focus when it was her turn. But the kiss was incredible and guests commented that it was the best wedding ever, especially since everyone was served wine prior to the nuptials. Musician Justin LeBlanc performed prior to and during the ceremony.
A large celebration ensued in the pasture as the couple danced to “Coming Home” by Leon Bridges, followed by a “parent dance” to “Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison — a tribute to their parents’ long marriages. The entire collective family danced to “Brighter than the Sun” by Colby Callait. Guests danced to music by The Fantastics and Billy Pope.
Floral and décor: White lit trees added a romantic ambiance. The groom’s father’s replica of a 1929 Mercedes Gazelle was displayed with charming chalkboard signs and family portraits in the barn.
The Cakes: A three-tiered wedding cake filled with Italian cream was topped with a “groom dipping the bride.” The groom’s cake, a snow-covered mountain, featured seven hand-painted cyclists wearing Cerbeus Cycling team jerseys with their names and the wedding date. The eighth figurine represented the groom in a tux crossing the “Happily Ever After” finish line.
Top Reception Moments: The bride’s daughter, Nikki, gave her new stepfather a clock for the barn, explaining in a toast, “This clock represents time, as in, it’s about damn time you got here!” Guests enjoyed a specialty drink dubbed the “Nikkolini Breeze,” a Malibu Bay Breeze served in 225 mason jars with a strawberry garnish, as well as iced beer in an antique tub, and koozies that said “To Have and to Hold and to Keep Your Beer Cold” with the couples’ names, wedding date, and attached bottle openers. Steve, the Lexus matchmaker, read the bride’s “thank you” email and toasted with a bottle of Silver Oak she previously had given him as a gift.
The couple took a mini-moon in San Diego. They plan to scuba dive in Cuba next year and visit Italy the following year.