She said, “Yes!”  Now what?

Montrose Botanic Gardens. Courtesy photo.

[Western Colo. | January 2020 | San Juan Silver Stage ]

JANUARY IS THE TRADITIONAL MONTH to start planning a wedding—invitations, venue, flowers, food, photographer, parties, and reception. The colors and theme, the cake…and the dress, of course. You start with the “when and where”; what follows is the “how,” and that can get complicated. We’ve gathered some tips and advice from local wedding service providers and planners to help you navigate that bridal path. The sooner you contact them, the better, because those pros book up fast.


Before you make that first call, take a deep breath and sit down to discuss what each of you—prospective bride and groom—wants and expects from the “big day.” A bride-to-be may have girlhood dreams of a gown with a trail and 12 bridesmaids, while the groom may dread getting into a tux or having to dance in front of a crowd of people. She may envision a fairytale wedding with bowers of flowers; he may want to say “I do” at the golf course, with his groomsmen in polo shirts and carrying golf clubs. They both might want to skip it all and elope to an Elvis chapel in Vegas, and their collective parents are horrified, insisting on a formal church wedding with all the relatives coming for an entire week!

Coming to a basic agreement on what, where, and how big equates to “size” and that is the first big decision you’ll make together. And it’s likely to change as families and friends get involved.

The next big hurdle is budget: Size determines cost. If you’re planning on a “do-it-yourself” wedding to save money, you’ll likely wind up deeply disappointed and still spend too much money. Whatever the size, and therefore the budget, ask for professional help.

Wedding tent with dance floor for evening reception. Courtesy photo.

Most of our local service providers (catering, floral, photography, cakes, and formal wear rentals) can provide plenty of options, from opulent to affordable. They also know the other players in the bridal game, who’s good and who isn’t, so they can connect you with reliable resources. If you’re using a venue, such as The Bridges, Chipeta Solar Springs Resort, or Montrose Pavilion, their staff can help you do it all, within budget, from rehearsal dinner to ceremony and reception. If you’re holding your event at home or at a special location, one of our best local resources is Park Avenue Parties in Montrose, which specializes in wedding planning. They can provide everything from tents (with a dance floor) to tables and chairs and table settings. Working with others in the area, they can set you up with all the other services you’ll need, including catering, flowers, and photography. Best of all, they deliver, set up, and come take it away when the party’s over.

If you’re young and getting married for the first time, parents and family will probably be there to help financially. If this is a second marriage, you’re marrying later in life, or maybe you’re just renewing your vows, you’ll most likely be footing the bill yourselves. Either way, setting a budget and sticking to it is huge. It can also become a cause of stress between couples and even family members. And, as your photographer will tell you, stress shows in the pictures!

Don’t let it. You and your soon-to-be spouse are the ones who should ultimately be making that decision, unless you have a fairy godmother hiding in a closet somewhere. Think about what’s most important to you: the ceremony, the reception, before and after parties, the honeymoon…or is where you’ll live afterward a major financial factor? If you want a honeymoon in Fiji or are planning on buying a house, you might want to cut back on having a dozen bridesmaids, 200 guests (like friends of your parents you don’t even know), or a lavish sit-down dinner and five-piece band at the reception.

Rehearsal dinner at Chipeta. Courtesy photo.

Post wedding festivities at The Stone House. Courtesy photos.

If you can afford it, hire a wedding planner; they’re worth every penny and are there to make sure your special day goes off without a hitch, leaving you to do nothing but enjoy the moment. Like any contracted vendor, though, check references, get recommendations, and get specifics in writing: What’s covered and what’s not, the best service providers, reimbursable expenditures, and when and how payments are expected to be made for services rendered. If you go with a wedding package from someplace like The Bridges or Chipeta Solar Springs Resort, their staff take care of it all, although you can (and should be) still be involved in the planning.

Even if you’re doing most of it yourself, select several willing and reliable people outside of the wedding party to oversee certain specific areas, from set-up and decorating to returning rentals and cleaning up afterwards. (This is probably a budget item.) For pre-planning and preparations, it’s OK to ask family and friends to step in and help with behind-the-scenes chores. Check on the cake, pick up the tux, make sure flowers are ordered and delivered. Maybe help with hair and makeup. All this before the ceremony, however. You want those closest to you to be part of the whole event, not missing important parts because they’re on clean-up detail.

Winter wedding at lake overlooking mountains. Ridgway Reservoir. Courtesy photo.


Then there’s the destination wedding. Pre-party here, then have the nuptials elsewhere, with family and a small group of friends. Consider an all-inclusive resort in Mexico or Hawaii. Or maybe something more exotic, like Ireland or Scotland, or maybe a village in Tuscany, Italy. This limits the guest list and opens up some fun activity opportunities during your stay there. Wedding-honeymoon-vacation, all wrapped up in one package.

This also applies in the reverse. People come from all over the world to be married in Ouray. Some elect to travel to the high country by tour Jeep for the ceremony. Others choose an outdoor wedding with a scenic mountain backdrop. Lodging, hot springs, and spa services (several facilities provide both) add to the amenities, and the Victorian setting adds ambience. Colorado weather is notoriously capricious, though, so you definitely need to include shelter as part of your planning. (This is where those party rental tents come in handy!)

Wedding party at the Bridges. Groomsmen with putters. Courtesy photo.

Another lovely wedding venue is the Chipeta Solar Springs Resort in Ridgway, which comes with a heated outdoor pool, two restaurants, fitness center, and spa. Consider a relaxing “spa day” for the bridal party while the groomsmen enjoy a high country outing in the San Juan Mountains. And after the post-wedding brunch, how about a couple’s massage in the spa!

You can stay in Ouray and get married in neighboring Montrose. The Botanic Gardens and Montrose Pavilion do double duty as a venue. Marry in the Gardens, celebrate afterwards at the Pavilion. “This is truly a magical place for a wedding,” said Lorraine Shide, who manages the Gardens.

Nearby, The Bridges and Remington’s Restaurant can do it all, including lodging and catering. Picture a round of golf followed by a rehearsal dinner on the patio. Next day, the ceremony outside under a flower-covered gazebo with a mountain-view backdrop, a sumptuous reception upstairs in the large dining room, champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries waiting in the bridal suite. Next morning, breakfast brunch before guests leave. “We can accommodate the entire wedding party,” said Eric Sweeney, club manager. “We literally give them the keys, and the building is theirs for their entire event!”


What everyone remembers most, after the nuptials are over, is the food and drink. Adult beverages get the party rolling and keep it going, sometimes going too well! Do a cash bar, no bar, or host bar, the latter being a big-budget item. Food service and catering are key to a successful wedding, especially when it’s a multi-day event. We have several excellent choices in the area. Full-service establishments, like Chipeta Solar Springs Resort and The Bridges, provide the food. The majority of events are catered. Probably the best known are The Stone House in Montrose and True Grit in Ridgway. Both do an outstanding job and can work with your budget, providing everything from light or heavy hors d’oeuvres to buffets or elegant sit-down dinners. The menu and number of waitstaff determine the cost. If you’re using a party rental service like Park Avenue Parties, they will coordinate with the venue and catering service for table settings, serving pieces, bar, and general set-up.

You’ll also want cake: a bride’s cake, groom’s cake, or maybe just a big fancy wedding cake. Whichever you choose and how many, the cake is a work of art and best prepared by a professional wedding cake maker. Your caterer or planner can help you find the right one.

The remembering part, of course, depends on the photographer to capture the moments. You definitely need a pro for this. Cell phone snaps with people’s heads and feet cut off or wiggly cell phone videos may make lasting memories, but probably not the ones you want to last! Hire a photographer—have shots taken at rehearsal dinner, of the bride and groom and their attendants getting ready, during the ceremony, and lots of pictures at the reception. Depending on your budget, you may want your photographer to also document the bridal shower or bachelor party. Then consider having it all put into a wedding album so you can page through those memories long after the party’s over.

Finally, it’s the flowers that make for a picture perfect. There are several excellent florists who also double as wedding planners in our area. One of our favorites is Cowgirl Creations (formerly Willowcreek) in Ridgway. They do it all, from proposal to post-wedding parties.


Weddings are what you want them to be—anything from a formal church wedding to trekking to the high country by Jeep or sailing at the lake and getting married on a boat. Western Colorado is also ranch country, so it’s not unusual for the bride to wear cowboy boots. We’ve seen weddings on skis, nuptials on the green when attendants carried golf clubs, and one where everyone wore cammies and carried hunting rifles! The place and the theme determine the attire, which can be as unique and unusual as the ceremony itself. Even so, the majority of brides still opt for sparkly white lace and a headpiece with a veil. It’s a big day and, hopefully, you only get to be the bride in white one time.

The closest bridal shops are in Grand Junction, but custom wedding wear is available —for the entire wedding party—right here in Montrose at Hannah Hamilton’s Designs. Hannah also does other creative design, as well as alterations.


That’s for the next issue. Read about Romantic Getaways in February.