Inside Aspen – an Aspen Wedding0
Go west, young couple, for a perfectly cosmopolitan wedding in a stunning mountain setting
“There’s no sales pitch required for Aspen Wedding,” a friend says when I mention I’m writing a story on the picturesque mountain town. “It sells itself.”
They’re right, of course. What with the postcard-perfect 360 views, too-cute-to-be-true downtown, world-class year-round activities and—my personal favorite—some of the best food in the state, Aspen isn’t exactly an undiscovered destination.
But somehow, when it comes to weddings, it’s still overlooked.
Maybe it’s the distance; if you’re not one of the town’s 6,600 permanent residents, it’s likely going to be a destination wedding. Or the perceived cost; it’s true that Aspen isn’t going to crack any top 10 lists for budget vacations. In reality, planning a wedding in Aspen is a whole lot easier than you might expect. And with myriad options across a variety of price points, it doesn’t have to break the bank. Or it can—this is Aspen after all.
“Whether you want a wedding in a private club, at an elegant estate or with a mountain vista, Aspen has it all,” explains Jane Floyd, event planner and owner of Always Aspen. “There’s something here for everyone.”
JoLynelle Farina, a Texas-based bride, knew she wanted a destination wedding but wasn’t sure where to go. As soon as a friend mentioned Aspen, “I instantly knew that’s where we needed to have it.”
Location, location, location
Although the town itself is a mere 3.5 square miles, Aspen has wedding-day options ranging from rustic to extravagant. Farina chose the St. Regis, equally famous for its location at the base of Aspen Mountain as it is for its luxurious amenities.
“I love the entire hotel and the feeling of glamour and elegance,” Farina says. “I wanted a wedding outside, and being out in the tented courtyard with candlelight was so romantic and cozy. It was truly magical—the snow even began to fall as I walked down the aisle!”
From flowers to décor to guest amenities, the St. Regis leaves nothing to chance. Menu consultations are held with Executive Chef David Viviano to ensure the couple is completely satisfied with their dining decisions. Both the Mountain Plaza and the Fountain Courtyard (where Farina said ‘I Do’) are stunning outdoor venues, while the Grand Astor Ballroom is a stately indoor option capable of accommodating up to 500 guests.
Farina wanted a refined, elegant ambiance for her wedding, and the St. Regis gave her exactly what she was looking for.
“None of our guests had been to a wedding quite like ours,” she says. “There’s so much for your guests to do even when it’s not time for ‘wedding things.’ The town is so cozy, and you’re always just around the corner from someone else in the wedding party.”
Another posh option is the Little Nell, Aspen’s singular five-star, five-diamond hotel. As the only hotel with ski-in, ski-out access to Aspen Mountain’s 64 miles of trails, it’s the perfect choice for those looking to hit the slopes in between festivities.
The Little Nell also boasts exclusive access to the mountain’s summit—and its unparalleled views. An idyllic setting for an outdoor wedding, guests arrive by gondola and enjoy the ceremony on a terraced lawn at 11,212 feet. You can keep the party going on the summit or, for the altitude-averse, host your reception back in one of the Little Nell’s many indoor venues, with spaces designed to accommodate anywhere from fifty to five hundred guests.
Hotel Jerome is another upscale locale and one of the few Aspen venues on the National Register of Historic Places. Wanting to rival the luxury and hospitality of European hotels, Jerome Wheeler built his namesake hotel in 1889. Fully restored to its original splendor, this Victorian Eastlake-gothic design lays claim to the Grand Ballroom, which holds up to 500 guests, features16-foot ceilings and provides sweeping views of the Elk Mountain Range. The Jerome’s Wheeler Room and Antler Bar offer a taste of historic Aspen and also provide more views of the surrounding Rockies.
For the couple who’s a little more modern, the Aspen Meadows Resort has great style. Perched on 40 acres in Aspen’s West End, the Resort offers 22,000 square feet of event space and fourteen unique venues, including the al fresco Aspen Park and striking McNulty Room. Designed in the modernist Bauhaus style, the Resort features on-site art installations bathed in sunlight, fresh air and unassuming elegance. All 98 guest suites come equipped with floor-to-ceiling windows, meaning unfettered views of the mountains for everyone.
If environmental responsibility is a top priority, Aspen’s Limelight Hotel makes going green super chic. The Limelight prides itself on reducing its impact on the planet via eco-conscious projects like their restaurant composting program, photocell-controlled exterior lights and the use of local, organic ingredients whenever possible. Aspen’s “newest” hotel isn’t really so new – past incarnations include a rowdy dinner theater and nightclub in the 1950s. Razed and rebuilt in 2005, the Limelight now offers a contemporary but intimate setting for smaller weddings, with locales ranging from the lively lounge to a pool-side courtyard. Its central location makes it easy for everyone at the wedding to get around town.
Just three miles outside of Aspen’s city center is the T-Lazy-7 Ranch, the area’s oldest working ranch. Operated by the Deane family since 1938 and tucked away near the base of the Maroon Bells (North America’s most photographed peaks), the Ranch provides raw beauty in an intimate surrounding. The Wedding Meadow, the Ranch’s sprawling outdoor wedding venue, rests in a rolling, tree-lined pasture with an impressive view of Pyramid Peak – a 14,018-foot marvel.
The Deane family works with couples to create their dream weddings, from cozy, indoor spaces warmed by stone fireplaces to twinkle-lit outdoor galas. Guests love staying here for the plethora of year-round outdoor activities, including horseback riding and snowmobiling. A bonus: T-Lazy-7 is the only snowmobile operation permitted to offer rides in the White River National Forest right up to the Maroon Bells.
It’s the Little Things that Thrill
Of course, the ceremony and reception venues are just part of the equation. What about all the other details to which every diligent bride must attend?
“Don’t worry,” says Floyd. “Aspen really has it all. Every need will be met.”
For flowers, Harrington Smith offers designs and inspiration ranging from mountain chic to modern beauty, with everything else in between. Another option is the Aspen Branch, which not only provides beautiful blooms but also lighting, furniture and other props.
While most Denver-area photographers are willing to travel, Aspen-based Robin Proctor knows her home territory better than most, having photographed at all of the major (and not-so-major) venues.
Perhaps the best thing about Aspen—in addition to being one of the most scenic spots in America—is the food. Aspen has a big city restaurant scene in a cozy mountain town; their restaurants will impress even the most discerning foodies.
While the Caribou Club is known as Aspen’s exclusive, members-only dinner and evening club, it also offers full-service catering for non-members. And for those looking for a non-traditional, yet intimate, reception or rehearsal dinner, Matsuhisa—known for its fusion of South American and Japanese cuisine—has three private dining options for up to seventy guests.
Piñons, owned by Culinary Institute of America graduate Rob Mobilian, serves up locally-driven classic American fare with sophistication (think buffalo tenderloin with boursin potatoes and herb-crusted rack of Colorado lamb).
Also check out Mawa’s Kitchen. Whether you’re planning a casual bridesmaid luncheon or a formal wedding reception, their full range of catering services has got you covered. M&M also offers private jet catering for hungry jet-setters.
It’s as easy as, well, cake, to select an exquisite dessert.In addition to designing beautiful cakes, D’Elissious Cake Studio of Aspen uses wholesome, natural ingredients to remind its customers what a baked-from-scratch cake tastes like. Owner Elissa Buckley has impressive baking chops, having honed her skills at the Little Nell and Boulder’s Spruce Confections.
But back to my friend’s point: you don’t need a sales pitch. No matter that Aspen is chock-full of gorgeous hotels, mouthwatering food and everything you’ll need for unforgettable nuptials. It’s Aspen. It sells itself. – Jessica Lara
Aspen Meadows Resort
T Lazy 7 Ranch
The Aspen Branch
d’Elissious Cake Studio