Couples willing to say “I do” need not look any further — from secluded inns to high altitude havens, Northern New Mexico offers them a variety of venues to tie the knot and enjoy their marital bliss in idyllic settings.
A resort wedding in the heart of Taos
Among the many features that make Taos the perfect place for a wedding is the intense light of the desert, which has been attracting painters and photographers for over a century.
“Taos’ light is great for romantic portraits,” said Dan Wardlow, who married Joe, his partner of 10 years, in May 2015 at El Monte Sagrado. “Our photographer, Megan Bowers Avina, did a great job capturing it as well as the joy of the day.”
Their wedding was somewhat traditional and somewhat unconventional.
“Which is appropriate for the kind of people we are,” said Wardlow.
Traditions were represented by the exchange of weddings vows and rings and the presence of two bridesmaids, a best man and a maid of honor.
“We danced after dinner and had a beautiful cake that we cut together,” said Wardlow. “Among the nontraditional aspects was the fact that we were married by a minister who is also a well-known drag queen, the Rev. Latrice Royale. Our dogs also participated in the ceremony: Arlo, the Labradoodle, was the ring bearer and Alice, the Goldendoodle, was the flower girl.”
Wardlow praises El Monte Sagrado for providing a wonderful setting for the ceremony and taking care of the cocktail hour and the dinner after the wedding. Many of their guests stayed there, too.
“We highly recommend Taos as a destination wedding place,” he said. “Forty-five of our friends came from out of town, and they were so enchanted with it that they promised to come back.”
Sajit Greene is a wedding officiant and interfaith minister whose wedding ceremonies are not based in any particular religious tradition. She works with the couple to find out what they want and customizes the ceremony according to their preferences and values.
She was once called to officiate in an impromptu wedding ceremony that would take place in a few hours at the Gorge Bridge.
“This couple called me from Albuquerque at 10 o’clock in the morning and wanted to get married here in the afternoon,” she said. “But then it became very windy, so I took them to the Farmhouse Café instead. Micah Roseberry, the owner, allowed us to do the ceremony there and gave the couple gift certificates. Two customers at the restaurant happily signed the marriage license as witnesses.”
Greene can prepare an “elopement ceremony” for only the couple or a bigger and more elaborate one for family and friends.
“What I love about weddings is that I get to be with people — the couple, their relatives and friends — on a day when everyone’s hearts are open and there is so much joy,” she said. “Even though I usually don’t know the couple well, there is an amazing bond that is formed in that moment when I am celebrating their love and commitment with them. It is a very special time, truly a life passage and I always feel honored to be part of it. Sometimes I am so moved that I cry.”
Greene has also officiated a wedding at Palacio de Marquesa, an ideal venue for a small intimate gathering or a honeymoon destination.
The luxury retreat pays homage to famous women artists who have lived in Taos. They also have complimentary gourmet breakfasts, in-room spa services and many packages.
A sheltered paradise
The secluded grounds at Touchstone Inn provide a great option for those who want a unique Taos wedding.
“People can choose among many special sites in our gardens that border Taos Pueblo lands,” said Touchstone Inn owner, artist and writer Bren Price. “We have grassy lawns, secret patios and playing fountains.”
As part of the service, Price provides an interfaith minister, two witnesses, flowers, and a cake and champagne reception for two.
One of her ministers is the Rev. Shaman Sandra Chestnutt, who can also create a personalized ceremony for the couple.
Marriage as sacrament
Fran Martinez has been the secretary of the Holy Trinity Parish in Arroyo Seco for more than 20 years. She is the first person couples talk to when they want a Catholic wedding, then she refers them to the priest.
“The most important issue about a marriage celebrated in the Catholic Church is the fact that this is a sacrament,” Martinez said. “It isn’t just about a beautiful ceremony, a lasso, flowers or candles. Marriage is for life, and the couple is required to take a preparation class before in order to understand their duties and responsibilities.”
They have to receive three more sacraments before the wedding — baptism, first communion and confirmation and choose wedding sponsors.
“The padrino and the madrina are spiritual guides for the newlyweds,” said Martinez. “They are often a married couple that the groom and the bride respect. A madrina is much more than a bridesmaid.”
Worship and wedding groove
In the Taos-based Christian Church Lluvias de Gracia (Rains of Grace), a wedding is a lively ceremony where music plays a big role. The choir has four keyboards, guitars, drums and several vocalists.
“We conduct our ceremonies with respect, but also with joy,” says Pastor Roberto Rugelio. “And it’s totally free. If someone wants to make a donation, we gratefully accept it, but we don’t charge a cent.”
Angel Fire Resort: love at high altitude
Angel Fire Resort caters to weddings “from 10 people to 500,” says Krysty Ronchetti, public relations epresentative, SJ Communications.
“We make sure that the bride and groom tie a beautiful time and space to their wedding memories,” she said. “The Sangre de Cristo Mountains provide the best background to that special moment.”
Their venues range from rather casual at The Lodge to the more formal Country Club rooms.
“We have something for everyone,” Ronchetti said. “Indoors and outdoors, day or night, the possibilities are endless.”
Call of the wild and free
A spirit of love calls to the couples who venture to picturesque, romantic Taos seeking a simple, inexpensive union, whether planned in advance or inspired from spontaneity. That spirit also nibbled at the heart of Taos Magistrate Judge Jeff Shannon who has been offering free Valentine's Day nuptials at the Río Grande Gorge Bridge since 2013.
When Shannon first became a judge in 2012, a couple ask him to marry them on the famed span, which he did in 2013. The ceremony gave him an idea: Why not park out there on the Day of Love, Feb. 14, whether blowing snow or beaming sunshine, and unite couples free of charge? With a sign that read, "Weddings Aquí" (Weddings Here), Shannon married three couples that first year. That number has since grown.
And on Valentine's Day this year, Judge Shannon will again perform first come, first served marriages free of charge at the Río Grande Gorge Bridge from 1:30-3:30 p.m. The couples' genders and religious affiliations are of no matter. He cannot accept tips and doesn't want them. He only asks that couples bring two witnesses who are at least 18 years old, and a marriage license from any New Mexico county clerk's office.
Along the rim of the famous gorge is also a unique place to exchange vows anytime of the year.
From Harry Potter to Downton Abbey settings, from Victorian to vintage, themed weddings are on the rise.
The best thing about them is that there are no rules except for those the couple makes. Those who reject the cookie-cutter approach to tying the knot can give free rein to their creativity. Other advantages: guests tend to get more involved in the function than during traditional weddings, and the usually colorful ceremonies make great pictures either for a wedding album or Instagram.
Susan Carpenter Sims, a Taos-based ordained celebrant, has performed a number of themed weddings and unique ceremonies specifically created for the couple.
“Ceremonies are profound in direct proportion to how personalized they are,” she said. “This is why I love doing weddings that are uniquely designed in collaboration with my couples to reflect their values and taste, and who they truly are as individuals and as a couple.”
As an officiant, Sims always tries to find a guiding thread for all the ceremonies. The “theme” she devises can be pretty subtle or multi-faceted. Sims has also done weddings with quite obvious and even quirky themes when it suits the couple.
“I did one in Red River where the entire wedding party and most of the guests were dressed in Victorian costumes with little top hats that the groom and his father had made for everyone,” she said. “The ceremony itself had a Dr. Seuss theme. I even structured the vows to have a Seuss-like rhyme scheme.”
One of Sims’s favorite themes for a wedding is a labyrinth. She has performed several ceremonies at Adobe & Pines Inn, a 178-year-old Spanish hacienda with a 75-foot diameter labyrinth on the property.
“Labyrinths provide a wonderful framework and metaphor for a wedding ceremony, in that walking them is calming and meditative and symbolically reflects the twisting, turning journey that a marriage really is,” she said.
— Special Sections Editor Scott Gerdes contributed to this story