It all started with a U-Haul truck and a bout of carsickness.
It was, although Hunter Pope and Ryan Aussem didn’t realize it in the beginning. When they first crossed paths in 2012, their path to love was rocky, to say the least. On that fateful day, Aussem was on the way to his new apartment in the Upper West Side when he offered to give Pope, who he met through mutual friends, a ride across town. While the gesture was sweet, the actual journey was far from it.
“The only place for Hunter to sit in the van was on the floor between the driver and passenger seats and, on the way home, she became very carsick,” Aussem explains. Nauseating as the introduction was (situationally, of course), Aussem and Pope were happy to bump into one another over the next few years. Yet it wasn’t until they met up at a friend’s concert one night that Aussem remembers feeling the spark.
In summer 2015, fate took the reins.
“We both had plans to meet friends for dinner – neither of us knew the other would be there,” Pope says. From that moment on, the two were inseparable. At first, it was just as friends; so much so that Aussem feared he was on the road to the oft-feared friend zone. Not ready to let their relationship venture into permanent BFF territory, Aussem made his move and asked Pope on a date in fall 2015. Neither one has looked back since.
Two years after that first date, Aussem proposed. He popped the question in Washington Square Park, the place where he and Pope walked their beloved labradoodle, Ziggy, daily. After attempting to throw his soon-to-be fiancée off his track by telling her he was saving up for a wedding ring, he rounded up their parents and convinced Pope to take a walk to their favorite coffee shop. To make the occasion extra special, Aussem bought a dog tag with the words, “Will you marry me, Hunter?” in an ode to their four-legged family member.
After presenting Pope with the dog tag, Aussem got down on one knee and surprised her with her dream ring, the one with a sapphire center stone that she had spotted in Telluride months before. Pope said yes, and the newly engaged couple and their families retreated to Jean-Georges to celebrate.
When it came time to plan their wedding, the duo knew they wanted a ceremony at Blue Hill at Stone Barns from the outset. They had fallen in love with it during a trip to the property before they even started dating, and even returned for dinner during the earlier days of their relationship.
“We wanted a space that felt elegant, but not over-the-top,” they explain.
Aussem and Pope tied the knot on May 18, 2019. On the day of their wedding, Pope was nervous. Not a fan of being the center of attention, she felt distracted and jittery at the start. When it came time to meet Aussem for their first look, however, all her worries melted away.
“When I walked up to Ryan and he turned around with this toothy grin and pulled me toward him, this sense of warmth and calm rushed over me,” Pope says. “That was the moment everything came into focus for me and I knew everything was going to be OK. I was with my person [and] I felt safe and happy and protected and in love and so excited to walk down the aisle.”
Aussem also experienced butterflies, although the true rush of the day came when he trekked down the aisle to await his almost-bride.
“Walking down the aisle was a very intense, and almost surreal moment,” he admits. “I have always considered marriage to be the most important decision of my life, so to finally arrive at the moment when I escort my soon-to-be mother-in-law and wait for my bride to exchange vows was overwhelming.”
To make that fateful walk, Aussem donned a navy and black tuxedo from Isaia with lace-up oxfords from John Lobb, both of which Hunter had given him for his 30th birthday. The bride, meanwhile, blew guests – and Aussem – away in a veil and dress from Oscar de la Renta, a dress with sheer, floral embroidered sleeves and an oversized bow in in the back. On her feet, hot pink heels from Manolo Blahnik added a welcome pop of color, while antique earrings from her mother brought the “something old” element to the occasion.
Afterward, the party began in earnest. Aussem might work in residential real estate nowadays, but his original plan when he moved to New York City was to pursue a career in music. To honor that calling, he broke out his guitar, teamed up with a few of his oldest friends (including the couple’s officiant), and rocked the house with larger-than-life covers of Something by The Beatles and Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen.
“I think every woman in the room fell in love with Ryan just a little bit by the end of his performance, and a lot of them came up to me after and told me so!” Pope declares. “I beamed at him the entire time he sang Something and, when he moved onto Crazy Little Thing Called Love, all of my girlfriends and I stormed the dance floor. It was so much fun; I felt like such a fan girl!”
The evening was unforgettable, and Aussem and Pope are the first to admit that it never would have come together without the thoughtful guidance of Tzo Ai Ang, the couple’s wedding planner.
“If you can make it work within your budget, hire a wedding planner!” Pope enthuses. “On the actual wedding day, she made sure everything ran smoothly. I didn’t have to think about the timeline and I never had to lift a finger. I got to be a princess for the day and, despite warnings from many, many friends that something would go wrong, nothing did!”