Now, if you’re imagining outhouses and dawn rooster cries, think again: There’s a host of spots that offer all the charm and natural splendor of a ranch, along with the amenities, activities and service you’d expect from an upscale hotel. Even better, many are all-inclusive, making wedding planning (and pricing) a snap.
Dunton Hot Springs
Photo courtesy of Dunton Hot Springs
Between Telluride and Durango, amidst the Colorado Rockies, an abandoned historic mining town has been brought back to life as a luxury, all-inclusive resort. Log cabins are now guest rooms with WiFi, central heating and touches like wood stoves or fireplaces, while the saloon is a restaurant (with the original bar patronized by Butch Cassidy). Dunton is full of hiking and biking trails, wildflower walks, fly-fishing spots and mineral-spring baths. Popular wedding events include a clambake or barbecue by the river for the rehearsal dinner; ceremonies in the chapel (there’s a webcam set-up); a multi-course dinner of seasonal signatures like butternut chipotle bisque, bison prime rib or pan- seared boulder trout; dancing in the hall; and after-parties around the fire pits or in the hot springs (wedding packages start at $19,000 per night for 44 people and include accommodations, meals, beverages, most activities, location fees and set-up; duntonhotsprings.com).
The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch
Photo Credit: Dan Hamm
Wyoming’s Sierra Madre mountain range, Medicine Bow National Forest and Platte River Valley come together to create a stunning backdrop for this 15,000 acre upscale all-inclusive resort and working ranch. In season, the 150-room property (whose roots go back to 1877) is home to about 4,000 cattle, so there’s an authentic feeling. A wedding weekend might include a pig-roast welcome dinner with bluegrass music; meals by the river with cooking stations and roping demos; and activities like archery, hiking, fly-fishing and cattle roundups. Ride in a horse-drawn carriage to the ceremony, which can be held on the tiered wedding garden with mountain views; in the hand-hewn loft chapel; or in the cut-hay meadow (wedding packages start at $15,000 for 25 people and include accommodations, meals, beverages, most activities, location fees and set-up; brushcreekranch.com).
Photo Credit: Dan Hamm
Photo Credit: Andrew Slanton
Less than two hours from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Wildcatter Ranch is tucked into Young County, home of the famous 19th-century Goodnight-Loving cattle trail that inspired many classic Western movies. Wildcatter can host up to 350 attendees for ceremonies, cocktail hours and receptions. Following the bride’s arrival in an antique surrey, vows can be exchanged on the property’s main lawn or outdoor pavilion, with views of the North Texas Hill Country and Brazos River. Receptions are held in the grand hall or in the steakhouse restaurant, featuring exposed beams and a large patio; choose from interactive dining options like chuckwagon (frontier-style food truck), barbecue or Tex-Mex buffets, and plated dinners of choice rib-eye, beef filet and chicken-fried steak. Popular on-site activities include skeet shooting, canoeing, hayrides, hot-tubbing and feeding cattle (wedding packages start at $1,500 for location fees, set-up and some equipment. Meals start at $20 per person; wildcatterranch.com).
Legally Wedded: It’s easy to get hitched in these three states. In Colorado, couples must apply in person at the County Clerk office and furnish a proof of age (you must be at least 18), Social Security number and $30 in cash. The license requirements are similar in Texas, with fees ranging from $31 to $71, also in cash. And there’s a three-day waiting period. In Wyoming, in addition to proof of age, couples must give the place of birth of each parent, along with the maiden names of the mothers. The fee is $25 cash and the license is valid for a year after issuance.