Destination: Dream Wedding
Couples from across the country are hard-pressed to find a more stunning backdrop to celebrate their love than Colorado. Enchanting fields of wildflowers in the summer and glistening peaks of the Rocky Mountains in the winter draw couples to the Centennial State year round. Outdoorsy yet glamorous, Colorado has something to offer every couple, no matter how you envision tying the knot. Dozens of stunning venues across the state are ready to soar above your expectations for your dream destination wedding.
ONCE YOU’VE FOLLOWED YOUR HEART TO COLORADO, it may be tempting to dive right into finding the perfect venue. But working through some logistics first will make planning your destination wedding much easier. Consider your budget, the size of your guest list, and overall vision for your big day. Colorado’s seasons are each uniquely gorgeous and often drastically different. Some couples choose a specific wedding date for sentimental reasons, while others settle first on the time of year. Summer is the most popular wedding season in Colorado and nationwide, according to the Denver Post. June through September are the hottest and brightest months, but Colorado weather can change on a dime. Ileen Hoekman, a Colorado native and wedding planner in Colorado Springs, admits she’s seen her fair share of crazy weather, but always discusses contingency options with her clients. “We try our best to be one step ahead and monitor the weather on the big day. Occasionally, we will have to delay a ceremony by a few minutes or move to plan B.” She’s also had brides that insist on being outside, regardless of the weather. “If a client feels this strongly about their ceremony being outside, I recommend forward thinking and providing comfort items such as umbrellas or cozy throw blankets.” In the fall, a gold rush of aspen leaves make a mountain backdrop even more breathtaking. Crisp temperatures and dry air are the norm, but snowfall isn’t unheard of. If you plan to capture the fall colors in your wedding photos, don’t forget the leaves change more quickly at higher elevations. Peak color is usually September through October. If a winter wonderland wedding is what you dream of, Colorado’s peaks are coated in powder from November until as late as April. Even if your celebration is inside, be sure to grin and bear the cold for a few fabulous photo ops in the glistening snow. Hoekman reminds her clients that some venues can only be accessed by one highway in the winter. She recommends advising guests to fly in early. “You never know when a snowstorm will close the pass or very seriously delay travelers,” she says. “If you’re leery of this and still want a Colorado winter wedding, consider opting out of the snowy mountain locations for a spot in the foothills or in a city with a mountain view.” Having a vision of how you want your big day to look and feel says a lot about you as a couple. “Your venue becomes the third character in the narrative of your wedding story. The best advice we can give you is to choose a place that feels like coming home,” say the pros at The Venue Report.
If a cozy yet casual day of visiting with friends and family is your style, pavilion rentals at city and county parks in Colorado make for extremely affordable yet stunning wedding venues. El Paso County and the city of Colorado Springs offer 15 beautiful parks from which to choose. Let Buffalo Gals Grilling & Catering Company, based in Colorado Springs take your outdoorsy affair to the next level with dozens of fresh and delicious menus. Aiming for intimate mountain nuptials? Leanne and Mike Yobs of Albuquerque, New Mexico, found Pagosa Springs, Colorado, an obvious choice for their April 2018 wedding. The location also conveniently split the distance between them and their families. “I am originally from Colorado Springs and Mike is from Raton, so we have both been spoiled with the mountains that we grew up around,” Leann said. “When Mike and I were talking about where to host the wedding, we knew it had to be somewhere scenic in the mountains and that Colorado was going to be the ideal spot.”
The couple hosted 40 of their closest friends and family at the Cabins at Hartland Ranch. “The cabins, although ten years old, look brand new and have an authentic mountain charm that we fell in love with. The ranch has five cabins that are perfect for lodging our family,” said Leann. Mike and Leann had envisioned a simple celebration that they could plan themselves. “We really wanted it to be an intimate event so we kept everything as simple as we wanted,” Leann said. “If you end up with too many people, the planning gets out of control. Mike and I wanted to keep the day about our new life together, and a destination wedding is allowing us to do so.”
A “do-it-yourself” wedding in a place you’ve only visited may have its challenges when it comes to finding vendors. “Since we are not from the area, we have relied heavily on word of mouth and the internet to get anything booked,” Leann added. While it’s not absolutely necessary to visit venues before deciding on the perfect location for your wedding, it can be a highlight of the planning experience, as it was for Leann and Mike. “So far, the best part of the destination wedding has been getting to tour the area of Pagosa Springs and Durango,” Leann said. It’s the mountain charm that really draws you in and makes you say, ‘Yeah, this is the spot’.” If like Leann and Mike, you’re looking for a venue with rustic flare, but have always dreamt of hosting a larger group of friends and family, check out Flying Horse Ranch. Located just north of Colorado Springs, Flying Horse Ranch offers two venue spaces including a beautiful rustic barn and multiple wedding package options. Melissa and Adam fell in love with Colorado while they fell in love with each other. They made multiple trips to visit friends in Colorado from 850 miles away while dating. “My now husband proposed on a gondola ride,” Melissa said. “When we began looking at locations, we knew we wanted to get married in the mountains of Colorado.” The couple finally visited their venue just four months before their big day. “The biggest challenge was not seeing the venue before we booked it,” Melissa said. “I remember turning into Mountain Village and it took my breath away. I realized then that, yes, it was all going to work out.” While a destination wedding in Colorado might be your idea of a dream day, keep in mind that some guests might not be willing or able to travel. If you’ve always dreamt of a large wedding with hundreds of your closest friends and family by your side, aim for a convenient guest experience. According to wedding planner, Ileen Hoekman, your venue should be near appealing lodging and dining options. “Cozy mountain towns area great place to start your search. There are many stunning locations within driving range of towns like Keystone, Vail, or Breckenridge,” she says. “A location like this would not only provide conveniences that your guests appreciate but amenities and entertainment to bring a couple’s friends and families together.” The more traditional bride dreaming of a fairy tale Colorado wedding will be blown away by the conveniences of the fabulous hotel options in downtown Colorado Springs, just minutes from the Colorado Springs Airport. The Antlers Hotel can accommodate your lavish celebration for up to 650 guests.
Also in downtown Colorado Springs, The Mining Exchange, A Wyndham Grand Hotel and Spa, is a gorgeous blend of historical intrigue and modern charm. With eight separate ceremony and reception spaces, and stunning historic features original to 1902, The Mining Exchange provides a striking backdrop for wedding ceremonies, celebrations, and photographs. They also offer award-winning packages and day of amenities meant to put the destination bride’s mind at ease. “We believe that the special couple should spend the day exhilarated from the anticipation of marrying their person rather than nail-biting from the stress of planning,” said Hanne Murray, the Wedding and Event Manager at The Mining Exchange. Prepare to tie the knot by relaxing in the spa, having lunch with your bridal party, and get the party started with complimentary mimosas. When your special day comes to an end, the newlyweds will enjoy a complimentary night in a Junior Suite at The Mining Exchange. When you’ve decided on a date and venue, Hoekman recommends sending out your save the dates about 12 months in advance of your wedding to give your guests time to save and plan for the trip. “Additionally, I highly advise building a wedding website where guests can view travel information and things to do in the area,” Hoekman says. “These two little things can really simplify things for your loved ones.”
Destination weddings can be planned without a professional wedding planner, though using one can put your mind at ease from thousands of miles away. Consider how hands on you’d like to be during the planning process. If you’d prefer to hand over your vision and show up to see it come to life, a wedding planner may be the way to go. “When you are planning a destination wedding, hiring a reputable planner that can be your advocate can be a lifesaver,” said Hoekman. “Since you don’t have knowledge of the area or local professionals, a planner can alleviate a lot of stress and uncertainty.” If you decide not to hire a wedding planner, many venues offer coordinators, trusted vendor lists, and day of planners to ensure your day is everything you’d imagined.
During Melissa and Adam’s visit to The Peaks Resort and Spa, a few months before their wedding, they met with their selected vendors to go over the details. “It probably was not necessary to do all of that, as the vendors were amazing and seemed to know exactly what I wanted,” Melissa said. “It did help that The Peaks had a coordinator, Gigi. We also worked with Amy of Polished Fun. They were both amazing and I don’t think we could have done it without them.” Looking back, Melissa says there wasn’t much she’d change about her Telluride wedding. “I feel like I was much less stressed having a destination wedding than I would have been had we had one locally,” said Melissa. “You realize there are things that you can control and some that you can’t.
With a destination wedding, you really stop worrying about those things that you can’t control.” Brides and grooms have a lot to look forward to when planning a destination wedding in Colorado.