Real Wedding: Romance In The Rockies

Joanna and Michael's wedding, on a Colorado mountaintop, makes the most of scenic views and seasonal color.






Photography by Andrew Clark

Once Joanna Newman and Michael McFarland decided to marry in the bride’s home state of Colorado, they aimed for the sky. “We figured if we were going to bring our guests to Colorado, we should show them its beauty,” says Joanna.

That meant heading up to the mountains for some gorgeous views, where at 10,200 feet they found Spruce Saddle Lodge in Beaver Creek, one of the few local ski lodges big enough to accommodate their 160 guests.

Joanna, an M.B.A. student at the time, and Michael, a writer, then enlisted Jenifer Hammond of I Do Wedding Services in Avon, Colorado. Hammond recommended vendors to the busy California-based couple and organized the logistics of the wedding weekend. The couple did a lot of planning themselves, though.

Michael chose the cover band to play at the reception, and Joanna worked with the florist and other vendors to carry out her vision. “I wanted all the flower arrangements to look like just-picked mountain wildflowers,” the bride says. “All the other decorations were very simple, so as not to compete with the scenic surroundings.”

For favors, she created seed packets of bluebonnet, columbine and poppy seeds, so guests could plant the state flowers of Texas, Colorado and California—the places where Michael and Joanna had grown up and where they now live. The guest books (calendars depicting the natural beauty of the three states) followed the same theme. Guests could sign near their birthdays, anniversaries and other meaningful dates.

On the July wedding day, friends and family rode a ski lift up to Spruce Saddle Lodge. They found their seats on the lawn and gazed at the mountains while waiting for the ceremony to begin.

Then, a sudden rain shower sent everyone running inside, where they sipped cocktails; 20 minutes later, the clouds parted and the sun peeked through the overcast sky.

After the staff wiped off the damp chairs, guests sat once again and the ceremony began. A guitarist and violinist played classical wedding music as the bride’s father escorted Joanna to an arch covered with wildflowers, where Michael waited. A judge who is a family friend conducted the ceremony, and the couple exchanged vows they’d written themselves.

“We talked about why we wanted to spend our lives together and what we love about each other,” says Joanna. After a song by the groom’s cousin, the couple lit a unity candle. And, as a tribute to Joanna’s heritage, Michael broke a glass, a Jewish ritual symbolizing a wish for a long marriage.

For the reception, guests returned to the lodge, where a buffet dinner was served. Large picture windows provided views of the sunset over the mountains, and tables were decorated with centerpieces consisting of maroon candles floating in large glass pillars.

Joanna and Michael shared a first dance to “You Are So Beautiful.” Then their guests took to the floor. Highlights of the evening included Michael’s cousin and his daughter in a duet to “Unforgettable” and the groom himself taking to the stage to sing “Big Brown Eyes,” a tune from a favorite Texas band.

Once the last song was played, the bride and groom took a shuttle bus down the mountain with their wedding party. The festivities continued at one of the hotel bars, until the couple slipped away to their honeymoon suite.

“The whole day was so much fun,” says the bride. “It was such a beautiful event, but the best part, for us, was that it brought together people from all different parts of our lives.”

Our Favorite Memories

  • “The morning of the wedding we had a brunch for our guests so they could meet and mingle. Since we decided not to see each other before the ceremony, Mike and I took turns going to the brunch; I had the early shift and he came later. It was just so great to introduce people to one another and have time to talk with them.”
  • “I felt such relief when the sun came out after the sudden downpour at the ceremony site. Everything was gorgeous again, and I couldn’t have been happier to get things going!”
  • “Seeing Mike as I was coming down the aisle was wonderful. I realized that all the planning and waiting were over, and it was all actually happening.”
  • “I loved hearing my friends’ stories about riding the chairlift up the mountain. Some people had never ridden a ski lift before, especially not in the middle of summer dressed in semiformal attire!”
  • “When the band started playing a song he loved, Mike just got on stage, grabbed the microphone and started singing. The bandleader gave me a tambourine to join in. It was kind of crazy, but Mike has a fantastic voice.”

The Feast

Salad Course
Mixed Green Salad

Buffet Dinner
Texas Peanut Cabbage Slaw
Pecan-Smoked Ruby Red Trout with Lemon, Mango, Garlic Butter
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Steamed Asparagus & Assorted Grilled Vegetables

Carving Station
with Grilled New York Strip


Wedding Cake
White Cake with Blackberry Filling
Two-Mile-High Cheesecake