Montana Weddings

Getting hitched under the Big Sky.

Face it: no outdoors enthusiast worth his salt readily and without profanity cancels a sunny, spring-weekend excursion to pack into a church and watch a twitterpated twosome tie the knot. Most cringe at the words "save the date", envisioning themselves strangling in either the perfume-soaked air or a tight dress-shirt collar, all the while cursing the lost biking/fishing/backpacking/rock-climbing excursion. Unless, of course, said nuptials are of the new Montana breed.

More and more Montucky couples are bucking the boring wedding trend and opting to splice al fresco. Invitees are grateful: now instead of snoozing through declarations of eternal love, they can TAN. And that's just the beginning. How much does a couple really need to spend on decorations with wildflowers sprouting freely from the earth and Montana backdrops providing dramatic scenery? No one will miss stained glass (or their fishing trip… as much) if the pair weds under a Big Sky sunset. And outdoors means a little more breathing room, fresh air, and comfier clothes. Top footwear choices for brides include bare feet, cowgirl boots, or custom-ordered white Chacos.

Plus, a wedding in Montana can easily be a vacation for everyone. After the couple in question lands the big one, guests can too—on any of Montana's trout streams and lakes (we suggest catch and release, however.) Singletons can (politely!) grab the least intoxicated bridesmaid and have a ready-made romance on any nearby hiking trail… did we mention they are replete with flowers this time of year? Out-of-state guests might struggle to pack for a spring wedding: can a mountain bike go on the plane? (Remove the wheels, place in box, pay extra fee.) If so, should I still bring my skis? (Yes.) Climbing gear? (Yes.) Camping gear and dog? (Yes.) In fact, if it's not potentially hazardous, flammable, or explosive, bring it.

Extra lucky are the invitees with truly badass friends who combine their love for each other with their love of outdoor enthusiasm. For instance, rock-climber bums might throw their marriage on the rocks, opting to tie the knot with a clove hitch. Some newlyweds bike into the sunset, others unwrap their wedding cakes from Saran Wrap safety in river rafts. Horses are in this year, as is that "wind tousled" look for brides.

No matter how twosomes here kick off the tax breaks, they tend to do it with Montana hospitality: just letting the wine, dogs, and guests run loose under the Big Sky.

Wedding Crashers: The Importance of a Planner
by Becky Edwards

We’ve all seen them. There, at the flower display at Michael’s, glue guns in hand, bloodshot eyes, and a look of despair etched across their faces. Or sitting at the local coffee shop with a cascading heap of bridal magazines, hair disheveled, desperately plugging in quotes from the caterer and photographer into a riveting Excel spreadsheet. Yes indeed, it’s that time of year. Wedding season. And unless you’re Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn looking for Miss Right Now amongst the neatly wrapped waffle makers and ironing boards, weddings aren’t all kicks and giggles. Months (even years) of planning culminate in one day, and if you’re a busy bride juggling work AND planning the event of the century for 150 of your closest friends, family, and Aunt Selma, you may need some help.

Whether you decide to hire a professional wedding planner or go it alone, here are a few tips to keep in mind to make your day as blissful as it can be.

1.Montana’s weather is unpredictable. Even in the middle of June, downtown Bozeman can be blanketed with snow. If you’re planning an outdoor event, have a backup plan.
2.Make travel arrangements/reservations for yourself and your guests early. Montana is a booming tourist destination, especially in the summer months. And the last thing you want on the eve of your wedding is to turn your home into a hostel.
3.Read vendor contracts completely to avoid any surprises. You don’t want to be forced to ask your new in-laws to stay up until 4 am cleaning and returning rental tables and chairs for a Bar Mitzvah the next day.
4.Create a timeline for the big day. Well-planned events flow seamlessly, and assigning a “tyrant of the timeline” to help ensure your day goes just as you had imagined is key.
5.Schedule some time for yourself and each other. Don’t make the only time you spend with your new sweetie the 15 minutes you spend reciting your vows.

Weddings days are about two people and two people only. Enjoy!

It's a Nice Day to Start Again: O/B's Picks for Scenic Wedding Venues
by Becky Edwards

Whether you imagine reciting vows on your big day from a chairlift, floating down the aisle on an inner tube, or with the traditional gaggle of bridesmaids and fanfare at a church wedding, Montana has a venue for you. Here are a few of the most popular destinations with the “I Do” crowd this season.

Deer Park Chalet, Bridger Bowl
The lush meadows dotted with red Indian paintbrush and butter-colored glacier lilies can’t be beat. And for those of you who shredded the sweet pow pow during college, this locale may hold a bit of nostalgic importance.

The Woodlands, Cottonwood Canyon
This event location is extremely popular, and for good reason. Tucked into scenic Cottonwood Canyon and equipped with a gorgeous building and space for an indoor or outdoor wedding, the Woodlands has it all.

Springhill Pavilion
The oldest is still the best. The Pavilion has been the location for many weddings over the years, and even Robert Redford couldn’t resist a twirl around the rustic dance floor.

Rockin’ TJ Ranch
This new venue is quickly becoming a favorite. The sweeping views of the Bridger Mountains as well as an onsite pond make it a favorite for mountain-loving couples.

Lazy B Farm
Strap on your spurs and let Tom and Jerry (resident Clydesdale draft horses) drop you at the end of the aisle. This working farm is an authentic Montana venue.

320 Ranch
It’s easy to sneak away from the wedding fray with your new bride or groom and get in a few casts with a fly rod on the nearby Gallatin River. The 320 marries rustic elegance and fine dining to make your day memorable.

Big EZ Lodge
For a more intimate affair, the Big EZ Lodge is the perfect choice. Nestled in the Madison Range just south of Big Sky, the views from the deck of the Big EZ are nothing short of spectacular.

Moonlight Lodge
Mountain luxury and planning ease go hand in hand at the lodge at Moonlight Basin. Astounding views of Lone Mountain aren’t bad either.

Gallatin Gateway Inn
Give your special day a historical twist with this renovated hotel from the railway-boom era. Just as the inn served as a gateway to Yellowstone National Park, it too can become your gateway to a lifetime of adventures shared together.

Roy’s Barn
When the weather’s nice, there’s no better place to tie the knot than this rustic setting north of Bozeman. A meandering, willow-laden stream bisects expansive green lawns; a two-story barn offers shelter and a sizeable dance floor; and the nearby Bridger Range provides beautiful Montana mountain views. 388-2018.

Popping the Question: the O/B Guide to the Area's Best Places to Get Engaged
by Tina Orem

With the wedding season upon us, many couples will soon hop on the rollercoaster ride known as marriage. That ride usually starts with a breathtaking proposal, and the area around Bozeman offers many options. Here's our list of great spots to pop the question and some real-life stories that we hope will inspire some creative effort in the wife-getting arena.

Idea: Near-Death Experience
Hot Spots: Huckleberry Patch in Glacier, Rock Climbing in Hyalite, at the Lewis & Clark Marathon Finish Line

My husband proposed on the top of Livingston Peak on a day in May when the weather rolls through the sky at a rapid pace. It was our first hike of the season, a gorgeous morning, and just the right weather for t-shirts and a slight sunburn, albeit still a hefty amount of snow left on the mountain. As we got closer, the clouds were rolling in from the Bozeman direction—and it was obvious a spring storm was imminent. Because we had summitted this peak may times, I was pretty adamant we turn around. The snow was giving in and we were falling through the snow up to our hips—and getting trapped. After much coaxing, Nate convinced me to scramble to the top—and then instead of pulling out the traditional PB&J, he pulled out a ring. The storm never hit us, and here we are happily ever after.
—Anne H.

Idea: Yellowstone
Hot Spots: Your Tent, An Erupting Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs

We drove to the Mammoth entrance and planned on riding our mountain bikes up the main road before it opened. It was cold and windy, it rained and snowed, but we were determined to have a fun day together. We got to the top of the road, and I told him I needed a break at a scenic pullout. At that point, we looked around a little, tried to warm up our frozen hands through our riding gloves. The clouds started evaporating and the sun came out within a matter of 20 minutes. At some point, I was sitting down looking at the view of a beautiful waterfall, and he came from behind me, knelt down and kissed my hand, and proceeded to tell me that it was a perfect time for him to ask me to share the rest of my life with him. I cried, and of course said yes. The weather quickly turned sour again, so we opted to ride our bikes back down to the truck, where he had a bottle of wine, some cheese, and fruit waiting for us.
—Shyree V.

Idea: Rocky Mountain High
Hot Spots: Livingston Peak, Mount Blackmore, Peets Hill

We often walked up Peets Hill and so when he suggested it after work one day, I thought nothing of it. We were walking along and it was getting cooler and the sun was getting ready to set. Tim casually asked me if I wanted to go sit on a bench and watch the sunset. He led me to the best bench on Peets Hill—the one that overlooks town and is perched in the perfect spot. Anyhow, we sat that for about a minute when he got down on one knee, took my hand, and popped the question: “You are my best friend. I love you more than anything. Will you marry me?” I said yes. Then he cruised over the side of the hill where he had stashed a bottle of wine. We drank a few drinks and then headed home because it was actually quite cool (probably in the low 40s). It was a beautiful fall day though, and it was the perfect proposal.
—Amber P.

Idea: Kill Two Birds with One Stone
Hot Spots: Your Favorite Fishing Hole, Halftime at the MSU Game, In the Bivy Sack

I went along on an archery hunt for white-tail this October with my now fiancée, BJ. We were standing because we thought we heard a deer in the distance when BJ got down on one knee. I had absolutely no idea what he was doing until he popped the question. I actually thought maybe he saw some deer droppings! I was still in disbelief until I saw the ring in his other hand. I don't think he could've picked a better time or place to ask the most romantic question I will ever hear: "Will you spend the rest of your life with me?"
—Lyndsey L.

Idea: Snowfall
Hot Spots: Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride, Atop Lone Peak, the Christmas Stroll, Forest Service Cabin

It was New Year's Eve and we had just had a great powder run at Moonlight. We needed a break and my boyfriend and several of our good friends all stopped in one of the rustic huts in the trees to "warm up" our New Year's Spirit. When we were bundling up to go back on the slopes, he got on one knee (tele-style), and sincerely popped the question in front of our friends and all of the surrounding powder. It was an exciting surprise, and there were tears. I don't think I actually said yes until we were on the lift heading up for another run.
—Courtney W.

All Downhill from There: The Story of One Ultimate Montana Wedding
by Erin Strickland

Big Sky has made a name for itself as a beautiful spot in the world, and as destination weddings become ever so popular, more outdoorsy/ adventure-seeking/ beauty-appreciating couples are choosing to get hitched under the big, beautiful backdrop of Montana.

To one couple, the slopes of Big Sky Resort weren’t an exotic destination, but a place of employment and no doubt a place of enjoyment. What better way to say "I do" then by doing what you love? Thus, Matt and Ashley Dodd, a ski and snowboarding instructor respectively, exchanged vows while skiing/riding down Lone Mountain.

Matt Dodd said the idea came while talking with friends. The wedding preparations were stressful and they joked about how it would be funny if they could just get married while skiing. Two weeks later they did.

“It was fun,” says Dodd. The bride’s side rode snowboards; the groom’s was on skis. The bride wore a white ski suit, veil, and skirt; the groom wore black ski gear. And the newly ordained reverend skied backward as he officiated the ceremony from behind a podium sliding down the hill. The Dodds also held a traditional ceremony in California that summer.

“I’m glad we did the traditional one,” Matt notes. “All the moms were happy and everyone got the pictures they wanted, but it was fun to do it the low-key Montana way.”

A year may be too early to tell, but can skiers and snowboarders really get along?

“Apparently so,” laughs Dodd. “So far, so good.”

Request Denied

Let's face it: proposals don't always end with a "yes." Here's our favorite response to our request for Montana marriage-proposal stories (this is an actual response):

He asked me to go for a drive out to the golf course where we worked when we first started dating. I, in a very grumpy mood, said, "Why are we driving past there? It's dark." He won. We drove out there and he told me to pull over. He popped the question. My first thought was "Hmm. I really wish I would have gone camping tonight with the other guy who asked me a few days ago."

But true romance won out. He asked again, and catching me at my weakest moment, I said, "Yeah." (It was a pretty ring after all, and I was 23.) If it were to ever happen again, I would hope it would be a place like Castle Rock, so when he pops the question as we are perched on that rock ledge, I can leap over the edge, falling, tumbling, and smashing myself into hundreds of bloody pieces instead of taking the even more terrifying leap into marriage.

Other ways to say no:
—My accountant says it’s better for me to file single.
—I don't think the ring will fit.
—I don't think you fit.
—Don't really have the time, I was supposed to be camping with someone right now.
—Why don't we just throw a big party for all of our friends and then go on a nice trip together. When we get back we won't have to spend any more money, especially on attorneys.
—Baby, you don't need to be paying for the milk when you can get it for free.
—No thanks. I prefer to live the remainder of my existence in happiness.

Here are the finding of studies of people and their levels of happiness (from least happy to most):

4. Married Women
3. Single Men
2. Married Men
1. Single Women

Randy Shores (Believer in long-term committed relationships not involving a piece of paper and a list of I-do's. Was #4, now #1!)