Outdoor ceremonies appealing to many

Many couples are going to a chapel to get married this summer, but many other brides and grooms will exchange vows in the great outdoors.

Outside ceremonies are hugely popular in the Yampa Valley, where wooded backdrops, pristine meadows and blue skies replace the traditional altar and church pews.

"It can be very elegant," Elk River Guest Ranch owner Kathy Hinder said.

The North Routt ranch primarily hosts weddings between June and September, although some couples get married in the winter.

Style doesn't go out the door when couples celebrate their big day outside, Hinder said. Many guest ranches and outdoor wedding sites offer comprehensive packages that eliminate some of the stress of planning a wedding.

High Meadows Ranch in South Routt houses overnight wedding guests, hosts the rehearsal dinner, ceremony and reception and outfits the bride and groom with a horse and carriage.

Parking, electricity and equipment are included, owner Denny Stamp said.

Couples are drawn to the romantic appeal of a wedding in the country, he said.

But a rustic setting is not without its pitfalls. Although Stamp can only recall two weddings in the last 10 years that were hampered by rain, he always insists that couples rent a tent to accommodate guests and the wedding party in case of changing weather.

"We always have a plan B," Stamp said.

Other popular outdoor wedding sites include Glen Eden Resort near Clark, the Priest Creek Chapel and the gazebo at Soda Springs.

Couples may choose to get married within the traditional confines of churches and then hold their receptions at outdoor locations.

Wedding parties and guests often come to the Elk River Guest Ranch after the ceremony for a dinner and dance, Hinder said.

Couples considering holding any part of their wedding outside shouldn't delay their decisions.

Stamp said five weekends at his ranch have already been blocked off for summer weddings.

Hinder agreed that couples should make their reservations now.

"There are only a few weekends every summer," she said. "They fill up quick."

Mount Werner allows brides and grooms to take their vows to new heights. The Gondola takes couples and their guests to a spot on the mountain that affords a breathtaking view of the Yampa Valley.

Couples must pay a$1,000 gondola fee and at least a$5,000 catering fee for the experience.

The price tag for outdoor weddings varies according to amenities brides and grooms want from the site.

Couples could expect to pay several thousand dollars if their wedding plans require the use of a site from Friday to Sunday.

The Yampa Valley Botanic Park provides a grassy knoll for a minister to perform the ceremony and room to place chairs for guests.

The park, which costs $200, continues to gain in popularity. The wedding party and guests can head to Olympian Hall for a reception after the ceremony.

Outdoor weddings in the Yampa Valley are attended by many or held to a small band of close friends and family.

Those who host weddings on their grounds are ready to make the day special but they are careful to leave the decision-making to the bride and groom.

"We always say, 'This is your wedding. We want it to be the way you want it to be,'" Stamp said.

The end result is a picture-perfect day.

"Our job is to make sure it all goes right," Hinder said.

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