These venues set a distinctively NoCo tone for your wedding.

When my fiancé  and I planned our wedding in 1987, we agreed it should represent the lives we led and the community we both loved. I’m a NOCO native, and at the time we were married Bobby had been in this area for 10 years and adopted it as his own. But he grew up in New York City, in a large Italian family that didn’t often venture far from home. We wanted to introduce them, and our other out-of-town guests, to the beauty and advantages of Northern Colorado.

For us, the perfect NOCO wedding included natural surroundings, a broad musical palette and a sense of spirituality. We built our plan around places and experiences that captured both the essence of the region and our identity as a couple. The ceremony took place at the Poudre Canyon Chapel, with reception at the Mountain Greenery Resort. A good friend (both a Unitarian Church Deacon and an actor) officiated. Music filled the chapel, beginning with a sax and a trumpet duo (processional “When the Saints Go Marching In,” recessional “When I’m 64”), a friend singing an a cappella version of “Let’s Stay Together,” and another friend performing a vocal and guitar original written specifically for the event.

We all spent the night at Mountain Greenery, filling up the cabins, trailers and other rooms. We partied hard until the wee hours. As people slowly emerged the next morning, they were greeted with brilliant sunlight weaving through the trees and sounds of the running river. Bleary-eyed and sleep deprived, one of the groomsmen was heard to proclaim,

“This nature stuff will kill you. Show me some asphalt so I can feel safe again.”

Whether you want nature or asphalt to set the tone for your wedding, NOCO delivers. It’s got possibilities that run the gamut from high-end dazzle to laid-back simplicity. “It’s becoming a trendier place to get married,” says Celynn Bowman, owner and lead planner for Tied With a Bow Weddings.  “We have nice urban venues but also many ways to get that mountain feel.” “There’s something for everyone,” adds recently married Kat Fox Reynolds, “whether you live an active lifestyle, enjoy art, are a foodie or like craft beer.”

That wide range of options makes it perfect for a generation that has a taste for unique, personalized weddings. “They’re more about representing the couple and less about the traditional elements,” Bowman says. “We’re seeing more elopements and more couples getting married in parks, B&Bs and alternative spaces.”

There are so many different dimensions to NOCO that you can honor the region no matter where you hold your wedding. “Look for a venue where you can use your strengths to make it your own,” advises Rachel Weigle, a 2018 bride who tied the knot in NOCO. “Find the place that fits your vision,” adds Alyson Einspahr. “Our wedding was truly the happiest day and was fantastic. Not everything was perfect, but that makes the story.”

Her key to a successful wedding is simple: “Wear a dress you can dance in.”

Weddings on Fall River at Estes Park Condos. Photograph by Courtney Dueppengiesser

Mountain Air 

 

“We wanted the scenery at our wedding to do all the talking,” says Fox Reynolds, who met her husband Will in Estes Park in 2011. “It was our dream to return [to Estes] for our wedding.”

That’s why the couple decided to take their vows at Weddings on Fall River at Estes Park Condos (www.estesparkcondos.com/weddings). With backdrops that range from snowy peaks to intimate forest nooks, including a secluded gazebo nestled amid ponderosa pines near the running waters of Fall River, it was the perfect setting for Kat and Will. “We kept decorations very simple and complementary to the gorgeous Rocky Mountain National Park backdrop,” Kat says. “The most memorable part was bringing family and friends to beautiful Estes Park and having Long’s Peak in clear view. That was important, because [Will and I] summited it when we first met.”

If NOCO’s alpine majesty is an important part of your relationship, there are many places to celebrate it. Another example, Rist Canyon Inn (www.ristcanyoninn.com) just outside of Laporte, features an historic 1896 farmhouse on 20 acres with old growth trees, lush golden pastures, and a glistening

creek. Allan Leibow worked all over the world on high-end lighting projects before he and his wife decided they wanted a more rural lifestyle. They started with little more than a rusted-out trailer, a dilapidated barn, some barbed wire and a lot of bugs. Leibow salvaged old wood and corrugated roofing, and he scoured auctions and antique stores all over Colorado to create a historic feel.

Mission accomplished. The rustic and refined Inn accommodates up to 100 guests in the event hall and plenty of space for caterers, musicians, photographers and other needs. With its expansive pasture and mountain views, Rist Canyon Inn offers a romantic ambience for a wedding ceremony that’s pure NOCO.

For classic mountain elegance, you can’t beat Estes Park’s
Della Terra Mountain Chateau (www.dellaterramountainchateau.com), a luxury destination that’s won just about every award there is to win.

Della Terra Mountain Chateau, Estes Park. Photograph by Mallory Munson Photography

A more affordable but no less gorgeous option is Black Canyon Inn (www.blackcanyoninn.com), tucked behind MacGregor Ranch at the foot of the Mummy Range. A couple of fairly new venues have opened in the foothills in the last few years, including the pet-friendly Aspen Grove at Sundance Trail (www.coloradorusticweddings.com) near Red Feather Lakes and Stove Prairie Ranch (www.stoveprairieranch.com) west of Bellvue. Both showcase NOCO’s rugged contours and colors. Finally, Ohana Mountain Ranch (www.ohanamountainranch.com) bills itself as an oasis of sustainability and community-oriented cultivation, replete with wildflowers, organic gardens, free-range chickens and even fresh fruit from a century-old apple tree.

Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch

Hay and Horses

If you’re looking to celebrate NOCO’s agricultural roots in your wedding, there’s no better place than Greeley’s Platte River Fort (www.platteriverfort.com), where the prairie past meets modern comfort and luxury. “Our property is unique,” says venue manager Erin Johnson. “No one else offers 235 acres where couples and guests get to explore and be with farm animals.” Thirty Texas Longhorns roam the property, and they often appear in wedding pictures.

“I didn’t want a cookie cutter wedding,” says Rachel Weigle, who married Bret Weigle at the Fort last summer. “What really sold me was having the ceremony down by the river.” That meant transporting everyone via hay rack rides to the site, an option kept as a surprise until guests arrived on the big day. After the unannounced wagon trip down to the river, guests found the wedding site amid trees decorated with fabric and a chandelier.

Photograph by Seraphim Fire Photography

 

Another agricultural-themed venue, Rockin’ S Ranch (www.rockinsranchevents.com) just outside Johnstown, opened for weddings just last year. Originally a dairy farm, this 35-acre property features views of the Rocky Mountains. The original barn and landscaped courtyard creates a setting that combines a rustic past with modern elegance.

That was the perfect mix for Alyson and Ben Einspahr, who were married at the Ranch last June. “We were looking for someplace rustic and country with a nice outdoor space,” Alyson says. “This was the first place we looked and turned out to be the only place. Everything was memorable. The most incredible sunset, the view of the pond and the field gave it a very cool vibe. It was like a big backyard party.”

“As you look to the west you have the reservoir, a waterfall, trees and the mountains,” says Rockin’ S owner Chris Friede. “I’m in a rural area, but I’m only three miles from I-25 and minutes away from the Promenade Shops at Centerra, so there are lots of hotels for guests.”

 

If you’re more about ranching than farming, head for the venerable Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch (www.sylvandale.com) in the foothills just west of Loveland. A popular wedding destination since 1946, Sylvan Dale has two outdoor wedding areas, plus a hilltop location near the main lodge. “You hear the water and enjoy the wild flowers growing along the bank,” says Sylvan Dale wedding coordinator Samantha Sinsel. “Horses graze in the pasture. You feel the history everywhere and that’s what makes us unique.” Bonus feature: No cellphone signal.

Anyone thinking of getting married in cowboy boots should look into Ellis Ranch (www.lovelandweddingsite.com), a former horse training facility outside Loveland that still looks the part. Another venue that oozes agrarian authenticity, Farmhouse at Jessup Farm (www.farmhousefc.com), is set in a 19th-century farmhouse, with an onsite kitchen that serves locally sourced farm-to-table fare.

The Big Red Barn at Highland Meadows (www.highlandmeadowsgolfcourse.com/corp_events) offers a full complement of services and amenities under its gabled roof, while the budget-friendly McC Ranch (www.facebook.com/McC-Ranch-122449521107894) has quietly gained a following for its simple, intimate affairs.

Celebrate the Arts

Creative expression is flourishing in NOCO these days, and you could make the case that it all began 25 miles west of Fort Collins at The Mishawaka  (www.themishawaka.com). Decades older than Colorado’s other, more famous open-air amphitheatre (Red Rocks), The Mishawaka hosted its first concert way back in 1919. It’s been a performing arts destination for national and local musicians ever since, as well as a popular venue for corporate events and weddings.
“There’s a magic about Mishawaka,” co-owner Dani Grant says.

Photograph courtesy of The Mishawaka
“In 30 short minutes, you’re in a no-cellphone, no-technology zone that forces people to pick their heads up, look at Mishawaka and see her rustic charms and natural beauty.” The Mishawaka’s amenities include a 102-year-old dance hall, full-service catering, on-site fishing, and rafting on the Poudre through Rocky Mountain Adventures. But the main lure remains the outdoor amphitheatre, where generations of NOCO’s greatest performers took the stage and filled the air with song. “We’re working to make Mishawaka a destination wedding spot,” says Gary Duvall, restaurant manager and special events coordinator.
Photograph by Woody Myers
Back in Fort Collins, the Bas Bleu Theatre (www.basbleu.org) is another performing arts space where you can walk down the aisle. “Theaters are an ideal place for weddings,” says founding artistic director Wendy Ishii. “Weddings are, in and of themselves, a theatrical production. You have lines, and you have an audience. And I hate it when it’s not rehearsed.”

Bas Bleu will even host weddings in the middle of a production run, with couples “performing” on the sets of whatever show happens to be on the schedule. “If we are between shows, they can do their own decorating,” says Ishii.

Couples can also avail themselves of theatrical lighting and sound systems, but Ishii discourages amplification. “They should learn how to project the most important words of their life,” she laughs.

Choose Greeley’s Atlas Theatre (www.atlastheatercolorado.com) if you want a bohemian space that feels like an art colony—equal parts gallery, performance stage, and architectural salvage project. The Midtown Arts Center (www.midtownartscenter.com) in Fort Collins has the same cultural breadth as the Atlas, but with a more traditional feel.

Taps and Tours

Casey Muller, wedding planner and owner of Pink Diamond Events, says NOCO’s microbreweries are an increasingly popular feature in any wedding weekend. “I see more people including that in their plans,” she says. “Some brides arrange brewery tours for guests or for the groom’s bachelor party. They’ve also hosted a welcome party or rehearsal dinner at breweries.”

Photograph by Kayla Kitts Photography
New Belgium Brewing Company offers several options for wedding-related events. “We do rehearsal dinners and receptions in four very different spaces,” says special events coordinator Laura Parr Goreski. “Brewhouse 2 is available from mid October to the beginning of April. It’s romantic and holds 150.” A new addition, the West Wing, is more intimate and holds 50 people, with a private patio and bartender. There’s also the All Staff Room, a private space that’s adjacent to the main tasting room so people can enjoy the best of both worlds.

If you don’t want to limit yourself to a single brewery’s beers, you can rent out The Mayor of Old Town (www.themayorofoldtown.com), nationally acclaimed for its seemingly infinite selection of handcrafted beers on tap from around the country. If you’re more about wine than beer, celebrate your nuptials in the barrel room of Loveland’s Sweet Heart Winery (www.sweetheartwinery.com), right there amongst the aging malbecs and syrahs.

NOCO Modern

Photograph by (au)workshop
Photo courtesy of New Belgium Brewing Company
“We’re a little different than other venues,” says Windsong Estate owner Jackie Davison. “We wanted a kind of industrial look. Not everyone wants to be married in a cabin, and we wanted to stand out by being more modern.” It’s still very NOCO, Davison says, because it’s located on the highest point in Weld County and offers panoramic views of the Front Range. “Our views are a selling point,” says Davison, “and once they see how big the building is and its very modern look, they’re sold.”

You can get a similar feel at Block One Events (www.rentblockone.com/events) in Old Town. But instead of majestic mountain views, you can overlook downtown Fort Collins and the Poudre River. To heighten the urban vibe, Block One is food-truck friendly, so you can have your hors d’ouevres (or even your whole meal) provided by a “caterer” on wheels if you want.