Many people might be surprised to see a bride – veil flowing, bouquet in hand, bridegroom in his tuxedo at her side – skiing down a mountain in the middle of winter.
But in Colorado, it’s commonplace. Perhaps it’s the memories of vacationing here with the family or having met the ideal mate on a lift on the perfect, only-in-Colorado azure blue-sky snow day – the lure of the mountain calls. Alas, the winter wedding. And what could be more romantic than an impromptu light snowfall in the midst of the celebration?
“It’s the magic of winter that lures couples to have a winter wedding,” says wedding planner, JoAnn Moore, of Mountains and Meadows. “It’s bringing your guests to the mountains, not just for a wedding, but to a winter wonderland and an amazing experience. It’s bringing people to the mountains for the adventure.”
Meg Stepanek, of Gemini Event Planners agrees. “The mountains offer such a wide variety of activities for guests,” she says. “It’s usually an adventuresome couple that wants to get married here.”
Certainly, budgets play a big part in planning any wedding. And the costs of getting married in a world-class resort area during primetime ski season run the gamut. So, it’s important to learn about the area and plan ahead, not only for the wedding itself, but, as well, for the many outdoor activities in which the guests might participate.
“There are winter ‘pockets,’ when lodging prices tend to be more cost effective, including the first two weeks of December and the first two weeks in April,” explains Stepanek. “And there are a couple of pockets after the holidays in January and even in February, when the lodging rates decrease a bit.”
And once the wedding festivities begin, with all the activities available in the mountains, it’s somewhat like going to camp. The quintessential Colorado experience all wrapped up in, perhaps, a long weekend! Guests are offered all sorts of activities from ski and snowboard instruction and snowshoeing to horseback riding and even winter fly-fishing. The hosts enjoy seeing their guests get out of their comfort zones and experience an exciting new challenge, so each day is a great outdoor adventure for all.
“We like to catch ‘em off guard,“ says Moore, with a laugh. “It just never ends. They never know what to expect in the mountains of Colorado.”
Certainly, the guests at Beano’s cabin didn’t expect the porcupine that walked through the restaurant in the middle of the reception. And folks at the outdoor wedding might not have noticed a hole in the ice in the middle of a lake into which a moose had fallen but was, fortunately, hauled out the night before by some rope-swinging wranglers.
Holding an outdoor winter wedding requires some consideration. It’s not uncommon to see the bride and her attendants wearing heavy coats. In one case, each bridesmaid wore her grandmother’s old fur coat. Many times, mittens and hand-warmers are given to guests as they arrive. And if guests are sleigh-driven to a venue, they are always snuggled up under comforters. It is dead of winter, after all.
Although a wedding deck, with its magnificent views might be perfect for a summer wedding, when it comes to winter, it’s another story. Yet, Stepanek and Moore have created decks deep in the winter – and have done so successfully. But, it doesn’t always work, for if weather comes in it’s all over. There has to be a backup plan in place.
Fortunately, the valley has many iconic venues to say, “I do”. In addition to first-class hotels, such places like the Game Creek Club, The 10th, Alli’s and Zach’s Cabins, to name a few, have a warmth all there own. So it’s not unusual to see flowers heading up the mountain on a gondola or in a snow cat or groups of people – in their finery – on their way to a party in a horse-drawn sleigh.
And, of course, once wedding designers put their creative touch on the décor, the venue becomes what these artists consider a “story.”
“With the larger scale winter weddings that I’ve done, we really bring the outdoors in,” says Stepanek. “We use a lot of aspen trees and lighting to make one feel like they’re in an aspen grove, which gives the guests a feeling of being with the outdoors.”
“We have amazing vendors here,” adds Moore. “For one wedding, I had to have a stage and walls built and create lighting from scratch. A local vendor was able to do all of it. The florists are terrific and these days can get flowers from all over the world. And, of course, lots of candles create a warm atmosphere. Best of all, we have a rich culinary scene with first-class chefs.”
It’s common for most brides to search the web looking for tips on having a creative wedding. For example, the website Buzz Feed, has a list of ideas for winter weddings that includes, a cake decorated with pinecones and succulents, hot chocolate with heart-shaped marshmallows, pinecones as place card holders, decorating the cake with icicles and giving the bridesmaids a gift of a cozy blanket.
According to Moore, Pinterest, too, has some good ideas, and many quirky ones, as well. “When the couple wants to show up on the back of a horse or in a U-Haul trailer, we’ve got a problem,” she remarks. “I once had a dad who saw the movie, Father of the Bride, and wanted swans. You know, you can’t rent swans in this state. I’ve tried. We have a zoo and all the farms, but there are no swans to be rented anywhere.”
The best advice from both Moore and Stepanek is for couples to spend some time here in the winter and explore the area for a few days. Witness it and be a part of it. See what the roads are like. Ride the gondolas. Think about the altitude. It’s not always easy for some lowlanders to handle. Really “get” how cold it can be. Guests don’t want to be cold, bundled up and uncomfortable the whole time they’re here. The mountains are magical – but one needs to understand them.
As Moore puts it, “A horse-drawn carriage going up the hill looks good in photos but, when it begins to slide backwards because it’s icy, it’s not much fun. I once did a wedding at Donovan Pavilion and it was so cold that the groom walked outside and said to the officiate, “I do. Can we go back in?”