A millionaire Silicon Valley tech investor and his former Miss Ireland bride are alleged to have trashed a Utah landmark with their extravagant wedding ceremony. The incident was broken by the Moab-Times Independent. SFGate later revealed the couple’s identities in an expansive report.
Andrew Chen and Emma Waldron were permitted by the village of Castle Valley to hold a “simple wedding ceremony with one small white tent” at the base of Utah’s Castleton Tower, which lies just outside the self-described ghost town. However, they are alleged to have grievously misrepresented the size of their party, causing devastating environmental damage and leaving behind mountains of “abandoned property and refuse.”
Chen and Waldron erected a 24-foot cabana, employed a service which set up makeshift restrooms on the property, and brought their own generator for power. Castle Valley town council member Pamela Gibson came across the distressing sight on September 3, the morning after the party.
She discovered moving trucks packing up tables and catering tents, which weren’t part of the couple’s plan submitted to the city. Broken glass, from votive candles dotting the road, was spread across the area tourists normally hike. Worse, the trucks had bore tire treads into the ground and flattened vegetation as they carelessly drove to the scene.
When Gibson returned to the site later in the day, she was astonished to find that bound cardboard boxes and dozens of ripped, bulging bags spilling trash and rotten food were still scattered about. The glass and candles remained, as well. All that had been removed was the expensive furniture used for the wedding.
“It was a commercial event—small by [Los Angeles] standards, I’m sure, but still, it should not have happened,” Gibson told SFGATE. “And they’re not being responsible for it, that’s what really galls me. It was effectively four days where the public could not enjoy what it should be able to enjoy because of these people that have no qualms about misrepresenting something just so they can have their pretty little wedding.”
Andrew Chen (Partner, Andreessen Horowitz + Twitter influencer) and Emma Waldron (former Miss Ireland) lied to illegally obtain a permit to get married on protected land, trashed the place, destroyed vegetation, and suffered 0 consequences.
Deleted video + evidence below: pic.twitter.com/SufkAZWWqr
— Christina Qi (@christinaqi) November 2, 2023
Chen and Waldron, who live between Los Angeles and San Francisco, both hold high-earning jobs in the tech world. Chen picks video game and multiverse investments for venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz; Waldron is the head of an AI startup called Spuddie, which according to the site lets users create a “best bud,” which is a virtual potato, to “tend to your emotional and intellectual nourishment.” She previously won the title of Miss Ireland in 2010.
After word of their destruction spread, the newlyweds began deleting evidence of their wedding from social media. However, some eagle-eyed users copied their photos and videos before deletion and quickly began circulating those, as well.
Neither Chen nor Waldron responded to Men’s Journal’s request for an interview.
Gibson reported to SFGate that, nearly three months after the nuptials, she is still retrieving glass and pieces of detritus from the scene. She, along with the town’s mayor, Jazmine Duncan, and other council members submitted a letter to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) begging them not to authorize any future weddings on the site.
BLM responded to the request on September 7. In part, the email read, the bureau would be contacting Chen and Waldron “in partnership with BLM Law Enforcement.”
On Wednesday, Gibson told Men’s Journal that he’s unsure what the status of the bureau’s investigation is, or what authority BLM has to impose penalties on Chen and Waldron.
“Personally, I would like the BLM to not allow receptions at that location,” Gibson told us. “That is also what the town would like, as stated in its letter. It is such a special place for the public to enjoy the beauty of nature that no individual or group should be allowed to occupy it for private receptions.”
To a degree, Gibson understands the madcap pace of planning a wedding. Though she classifies their behavior as “just thoughtlessness,” she admits that, “I don’t think Chen and Waldron intended to disrespect” the land.
“One can get very wrapped up in making wedding plans. And coming from a place that is so different from this vast, arid environment means that they probably did not think about the consequences of their event,” Gibson explained. “Someone fell down on their responsibility to clean up the mess, which should have been done immediately after, not the next day and certainly not three days later. It is just thoughtlessness.”
Gibson continued: “I think it would help if the couple would write a letter to apologize for the mess that remained for days. I don’t think they meant that to happen. And we hope that the BLM is reconsidering how to structure the giving of similar letters of agreement as suggested by the Town of Castle Valley.”
The Chen/Waldron fiasco comes on the heels of several significant stories involving thoughtless tourists. Notably, this is the most significant incident to take place in America. Over the summer, a variety of people decided to carve their names into the Roman Coliseum. Also in Italy, several German tourists were busted for spraypainting Florence's Vasari Corridor.