Image from Laura Murray via Mountainside Bride
You love idea of a picturesque outdoor wedding in the mountains and want to share these amazing of experiences with your wedding guests. While mountain weddings are truly amazing, there are also pitfalls that could potentially ruin your day for you and your guests. Check out these seven planning tips that could make or break you destination mountain wedding.
1. Choose Carefully
Different mountain regions offer different things. New England is steeped in charm, history and tradition. The Southern Mountains offer down-home rustic flair and a bounty of local foods. And the Rocky Mountains can offer unparalleled adventure. Each mountain region has its own set of challenges, whether it be the cost or difficulty of actually getting to a rugged destination, or the paucity of high-quality vendors in far-flung regions. Many of you will choose a mountain destination based on familiarity as a tourist. Maybe you've skied Keystone ever since you were little, or maybe you family has a summer cabin in Balsam, NC. Still, if your options are open, and you just want to surround yourself with the natural beauty of the mountains, be sure to shop around and consider your personality as well as the pitfalls and rewards of each mountain region.
2. Plan well in advance
I'm guessing most of your guests don't live in your mountain destination. You need to give them advance notice of your super awesome destination mountain wedding. This will entail a Save The Date, which will in turn entail knowing your wedding date and general location. (Check out 3 Wedding Dates to Avoid)Once you have a date set, you need to find your venue. Or if you have your heart set on a specific venue, you'll need to line up a date. Either way, starting early can make the process easier and give you plenty of time to pursue other options. Also, many destination mountain wedding professionals start booking their weddings up to a year in advance. You don't want to find yourself scrambling to find vendors at the last-minute because your preferred vendors booked their calendars a year ago.
3. Combine your wedding and honeymoon to save money
If your destination mountain wedding is in a place you adore, consider turning it into your honeymoon too. Take a road trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway after your Asheville wedding. Stay at a quaint New England B&B following your Vermont wedding. Turn your Breckenridge Ski wedding into a Breckenridge ski honeymoon. Or take a National Park tour to Yosemite, Death Valley, and Kings Canyon National Parks after your Tahoe or Mammoth Lakes Wedding, or Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks after your Jackson Hole or Montana wedding.
4. Do your weather research, but don't obsess over it
I cannot stress enough that it is important to have a plan B when it comes to planning your mountain wedding. Also ask your planner about typical weather patterns. For example, February and March in the Sierra can be blustery and snowy.While April and May tend to be sunny, with plenty of spring skiing, and tons of year-round activities for guests who don't ski. The Berkshires in Massachusetts has a horrible mud season, as do the Rockies.
While no one can guarantee you fine weather, it helps to know the typical times for bad weather. But DO NOT obsess over it. The reality is the weather can change in the mountains in an hour. Sudden, un-forecasted afternoon storms are not uncommon in the mountains, especially in the summer. There's nothing you can do about it. Just “Let Go, Let God,” as they say in the South. Think of it as part of the experience. Mountains are rugged places, best suited for hardy folks. While not all of your guests could be considered “hardy,” they will follow your lead when it comes to responding to bad weather. If you laugh it off and enjoy yourself, your guests will laugh it off and enjoy themselves. So party on sister! No matter what!
5. Find Reputable Vendors
I'm going to tell it to you like it is. There are some flaky vendors in the mountains. There are also some interesting characters, and more than a few that haven't followed wedding trends since Princess Diana married Prince Charles (read: old-school roses and baby's breath everything, and satin gowns with big, BIG, puffy sleeves.) I found that the best way to find reputable vendors is through recommendation. That can be from a friend or relative, from this blog.
I have a new directory, called the Mountainside Guide that can help. Each vendor is researched for quality of work, bride reviews and peer reviews. The peer reviews are especially important. If you don;t see your region listed, Email me. I also work with lots of mountain vendors, and can help connect you to the right mountain wedding vendors for your style and budget.
Another tip is to start asking all of your potential vendors for both past bride and peer recommendations. If you ask everyone you can, you start to see the same names popping up–for good or for bad–start with the good vendors. Also cross check brides reviews on Yelp, The Wedding Wire, The Knot, and The Wedding Bee. Be careful with online reviews though. They tend to attract vendor's biggest fans as well as biggest detractors. You want to get a feel for a vendor's typical work, not the rare occasion when they screwed up.
6. Be sensitive to your guests' abilities and needs
Remember my comment about mountains being places for hardy folks? Well, suffice to say you'll find your guests spread though out the hardy spectrum. Rough terrain, harsh weather, and long travel times and distances can be hard on older guests, guests with small children, guests with disabilities, and the über urban guests whose idea of roughing it is in a 4-star hotel (and not a 5-star.) Try to find a ceremony site and venue all of your guests can access. It there will be assess ability issues (such as hiking to a vista) arrange for alternative transportation for guests with mobility issues. This could be a jeep, a golf cart, or a hunting cart. Make sure the rest of the guests know what's in store for them on you website, through emails, and through word-of-mouth through family and your wedding party. Offer suggestions for clothing and footwear in rugged environments.
7. Hire a planner or consultant
I am continuously astounded by brides who contact me when things are falling apart only to learn they didn't hire a planner. A planner can do so much for you. She can recommend reputable vendors, manage problems on-the-ground when you can't be there, and fix anything that comes up on your wedding day without coming to you and stressing you out.Even if you don;t have a lot of money to hire a full service planner, you may be able to get day-of coordination for under $1,000. Don't have that? Some planners offer consultation at an hourly rate. For a couple of hundred bucks, you can pick Sandra's brain for the best vendors, the best venues, common pitfalls for weddings in Mammoth Lakes.
As you can see, planning a successful mountain wedding does;t start with burlap or letterpress. It starts with knowing yourself and your guests, planning well in advance, and assembling a rock star team of wedding vendors to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Final Words About Nuts and Bolts Planning
While sorting out the logistics may not seem as fun as pinning wedding dress inspiration, without it, all that work selecting pretty details could be for nothing. Your place settings might be beautiful, but they won't help if your guests don't have what they need, it costs twice as much as it should, or you can't get the right vendors!