By Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer

While a wedding is a splendid sight, picking the right site in which to wed is never easy, but now there’s a pandemic adding to the stress.

Because of COVID-19, weddings have been postponed, and this summer venues are filling up fast.

“This year is shaping up to be a different wedding year than the past two,” says Christine Forster, owner of My Big Day Marketing & Events in Loveland. “Many of our clients booked their wedding venue and vendors for more than a year out, which isn’t typical.”

If all else fails, one can always be married at the courthouse, but most couples want to wow their friends and family, at least a little bit. Thankfully, Colorado offers up some unique options. 

Here are a few distinct spots in Northern Colorado that may be the perfect fit for the big day. 

Platte River Fort Resort & Events Center. Photo by Beyond Blue Media.

For Nature Lovers

It may not come to mind immediately when considering wedding venues, after all, Chapungu Sculpture Park is dominated by a shopping center. However, landscaped gardens, ponds, bridges and 82 monumental stone sculptures from Zimbabwe make it easy to forget that the Promenade Shops at Centerra are just a stone’s throw away. 

The 26-acres of trees and paved pathways can be rented in part or in its entirety for all kinds of events, but weddings are a favorite. Couples often choose to be married on the great lawn, but that is not the only place they can exchange vows. There’s no set wedding layout. 

McWhinney, the entity operating the space, only rents the property, so couples must provide all tables, chairs and other wedding amenities, including catering. Weather is always a concern in Colorado, but rental tents provide shade or protection from the rain. 

Chapungu also makes it easy to celebrate your anniversary. A warm evening stroll through the trees followed by dinner at one of the mall’s many restaurants is a wonderful way to celebrate for years to come. 

The Mishawaka in Bellevue is best known as an outdoor music amphitheater, and so some couples choose to be wed on the stage. However, most prefer the wedding site with the wild Poudre River as a backdrop. 

“Honestly, people that want to have their wedding at The Mish are looking for a non-traditional wedding,” says Gary Duvall, special events coordinator. “So, the couples are usually super laid back and fun.”

Rockin’ S Ranch. Photo by Miss Millers Photography.

Cowgirls Wanted

Northern Colorado is packed with venues that serve those who want a little two-step in their wedding giddy-up. Platte River Fort Resort & Events Center in Greeley offers burnt amber walls and old-world charm for a classy wedding in cowboy boots. 

Built in 2001, Platte River Fort is a replica of Bent’s Old Fort circa 1834, located in southwest Colorado. Platte River Fort has well-appointed suites suited for the two wedding parties. In total, 37 people can stay in bedrooms at the Fort, and in the summer, the property offers glamping in Lotus Belle tents and a covered wagon along banks of the Platte River.

Couples who wed at Platte River Fort have the unusual opportunity to pose for photographs with the long-horned cattle that roam the property. The herd can often be seen grazing from the Fort’s dining room, the place for small receptions, family reunions, meetings and other events. The Fort hosts large wedding receptions in its attractive barn.

Another setting that will appeal to cowgirls and cowboys is Rockin’ S Ranch in Johnstown. The open barn and accompanying lawn have an intimate feeling, and yet the ranch can accommodate up to 200 guests.

Terry Bison Ranch, five miles across the border in Wyoming, offers real bison onsite and a shady grove under which vows can be exchanged in cowboy boots.

Weddings on a Budget

One of the loveliest places to wed in Northern Colorado is at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park. With views that belong on postcards, it is the first choice of many couples, not just Coloradans. And the good news is that it is relatively inexpensive to celebrate nuptials here.

The property has a total of five chapels, three of which are outside. There are six locations for receptions, both indoors and outdoors. Typically, the wedding season at YMCA of the Rockies runs from June through October, though a winter wedding is possible. 

While the YMCA of the Rockies does provide a preferred list of vendors in Estes Park, it requires that couples use their catering services for the reception.

This is a destination wedding, even for Coloradans, and many guests choose to stay at the YMCA of the Rockies for the festivities. The property boasts various cabins including one with a staggering 17 bedrooms. There are also lodge rooms, campgrounds and yurts open for the season. Cabins are in high demand in the summer so book early. 

“I like that the YMCA is a one-stop-shop for everything weddings: lodging, venue, activities,” says Katherine Fowler, wedding coordinator at the YMCA of the Rockies. “Honestly, your guests won’t get bored here.”

Lastly, with dog-friendly lodging and a dog park, Fido can come along and play a role on the special day.

Other affordable locales include the Foote Lagoon in Loveland, where couples can tie the knot for just $240. Centennial Village is an eight-acre living history museum in Greeley ideal for history lovers.

The Gressiwick. Photo by Adam Dooley.

Traditional Elegance 

The Gressiwick in downtown Loveland is full of natural light and an inviting ambiance. Co-owners Christina Gressianu and Vi Wickham are no strangers to weddings: Not only are they married, but they also have years of experience in the wedding world. 

Gressianu, a professional photographer, knows good lighting for amazing event photography. As a champion fiddler, Wickham makes sure the acoustics are top-notch at The Gressiwick.

The room holds up to 100 guests, which is unique in the wedding world. Many spaces hold less than 50 or can accommodate 200 or more. So, at The Gressiwick, the room does not feel too crowded or too roomy.

The venue is within walking distance of bars, breweries and restaurants in downtown Loveland and is only a four-minute walk to a nearby hotel.

The Edwards House is a 108-year-old home in Fort Collins. This elegant, eight-room bed and breakfast built in the neoclassical style serves as the site of small, intimate weddings. 

A golf course is a picturesque setting for the exchanging of vows. TPC Colorado in Berthoud also provides a picture-perfect backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.

Ultimately, whether a couple chooses to wed in a blowout party at Red Rocks (which can be rented for a stately sum) or a quick ceremony at the courthouse, the important thing is their enjoyment of the day. And whether it’s lace and cowboy boots or bare feet and babbling brooks, thankfully, happiness is easy to find in Colorado.