Weddings in the Wood River Valley range from simple ceremonies at which the bride and groom exchange vows and serve a barbecued lunch in a meadow on the Sawtooth National Forest to extravagant affairs that require months of planning.
Local wedding planner Heather Minor said she has planned weddings whose total costs ranged from $25,000 to $1 million.
“Weddings have become three- to four-day events,” she said. “There are bridesmaids’ luncheons, welcome parties, rehearsal dinners and then the wedding. There are also planned activities. Brides hire me to make the wedding planning process less stressful so they can enjoy the day with their family and friends.
“I try to listen to the vision that they want to create, and it’s my job to make it happen—to overcome any obstacles to create the wedding they’ve always dreamed of.”
Planner Amanda Seaward, owner of Absolute Weddings, said the extent of her role is determined by each client.
“I can take over the entire event or give them some options and guide them through the process,” she said. “I am everything from the assistant, to the main go-to-person/right-hand man, to the seamstress and ultimately the coordinator.”
Minor said couples in the Wood River Valley typically say the ambiance they want is “rustic elegance” or “modern with a rustic flair.”
“They might choose luxury but want to throw in an elk chandelier,” she said.
Minor said she can provide the expertise to find the products and services needed.
“People sometimes think that because of where we are in a small town that there are limitations. I try to use as many local vendors as possible, as there are some amazing and talented people in our small valley, but if there are items I cannot get locally, there are many vendors I use out of the valley.”
She said her services include finding the right lighting, furniture, linens and, if needed, tents.
Minor said she plans about 10 weddings each year. She’s created weddings at several Sun Valley venues, including one atop Dollar Mountain, following which the bride and groom skied off into their future. However, she said, she most enjoys planning weddings at private homes, where the potential for creativity is unlimited. She said one couple ordered a complete makeover of their landscaping to get the look they wanted.
“It was something you looked at and didn’t think you’d be able to do what they wanted, but we did it,” she said.
Seaward said one of her most challenging jobs was moving a wedding from Galena Lodge to a private home last August during the Beaver Creek Fire with little more than four hours notice.
“The bride and family were amazing and cared more about the guests than themselves,” she said. “Galena was phenomenal, as they had to bring all of the items, down to the last fork, to the client’s home so we could create the wedding.”
Both planners said their interactions with many of their clients have developed far beyond a business relationship.
“Working this closely on the most important day of one’s life, you really develop a friendship,” Seaward said.
Most couples will probably want to record their special unique day in pictures. Local wedding photographer Dev Khalsa cautions couples against simply having a friend shoot their wedding photos, even if that friend is a good photographer.
“Friends want to hang out, and at some point they stop taking photographs of the wedding,” she said.
Khalsa, who said she shoots 14 to 18 weddings per year, added that even good photographers may not have the experience required to get good wedding shots.
“Wedding photography is so specific that you really need the skills to be a good detail photographer and to capture moments,” she said. “I know what questions to ask them to know what’s important to their wedding.”
Khalsa advises couples to meet several photographers personally and to choose someone whom they feel relates to them as people and to their wedding plans. She said an experienced wedding photographer can also provide guidance on how a wedding is supposed to proceed to those who haven’t hired a planner.
The Wood River Valley and its surroundings offer numerous picturesque venues for a wedding. At Sun Valley, there are the rustic locales of Trail Creek Cabin, built in 1937 beside its gurgling namesake creek, as well as the Duck Pond grounds and the more modern log day lodges at River Run and Dollar Mountain.
“Trail Creek is a great venue and extremely versatile—we host a variety of events and weddings within the Trail Creek Pavilion tent, intimate gatherings within the cabin and large welcome parties and receptions on the lower Trail Creek grounds,” said Megan Gergen, Sun Valley Resort’s wedding and special events coordinator.
The cabin can accommodate 70 guests and is available on Sundays year-round. The pavilion has room for 340 people, but is available only in summer and early fall.
Rental costs range from $1,500 for the Duck Pond grounds to $10,000 for the Trail Creek pavilion and grounds.
The resort has an extensive menu of food choices.
Another charming location, 23 miles north of Ketchum, is the perhaps even more rustic Galena Lodge, which is open for event rental from mid-June to mid-September. The lodge can accommodate about 70 people inside, but has outside tent capacity for another 130. An eight-minute walk from the lodge is wildflower-studded Senate Meadows.
“Picture beautiful wide-open meadows, complete with wildflowers if you’re lucky, with a backdrop of Galena Peak and the Boulder Mountains,” said lodge co-owner Erin Zell. “Senate Creek serenades your guests with her beautiful melody-perfect!”
The lodge’s catering services range from barbecue to full-course dinners.
Farther north, in the Sawtooth Valley, Redfish Lake Lodge offers another rustic and dramatic setting on the shore of the lake at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains, the most spectacular range in the area. Outdoor events there are for parties of 40 or more.