Stephanie & Matt: A Woodland Celebration in Salida, CO

by Amy Elliott

The groom-to-be's relaxed but heartfelt proposal was the perfect preamble to Stephanie and Matt's wedding seven months later, a day that echoed their friendship, casual style, and love of the wilderness.

THE BRIDE Stephanie Tapp, 29, affiliate relations representative for an Internet company
THE GROOM Matthew Nichols, 32, electrician
THE DATE July 15
THE SCENE Raspberry Gulch, at the base Mount Antero in Salida, CO

HOW THEY MET In 1998, romance snuck up on Stephanie (new to Denver from New Orleans) and Matthew, close friends living as roommates in an apartment near Denver University. By the time the millennium rolled around, they'd lived separately for a spell, shared many an outdoor adventure, and were in a new apartment, sharing a carpet picnic and watching the New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square, when Matt popped the question.

A ROMANTIC SETTING A secluded, sun-filled copse -- Raspberry Gulch, at the base of Mount Antero -- provided an enchanted-forest setting for both the ceremony and reception. In her ethereal fawn-colored gown, Stephanie walked down an aisle lined with metal buckets brimming with daisies. She met Matt at a half-moon of aspens—their white bark gleamed, and wreaths of flowers hung from the branches. The short but spiritual ceremony touched upon themes of lifelong companionship and nature, highlighting the couple’s love of mountain climbing, rafting, and camping. Afterward, guests settled at tables set among aspens flaunting summery green leaves. “It was if Gatsby had set up a tea party in the forest,” remembers Stephanie. “And when there was a breeze, you’d hear the leaves rustling overhead, almost singing.”

BIG EASY STYLEPockets of brilliant sunlight poked through the tree shadows as guests enjoyed a New Orleans–style shrimp boil as a tribute to Stephanie's New Orleans background—gulf shrimp, corn on the cob, onions, whole red potatoes, and lemons, boiled together with Cajun spices. Appropriately, a pitcher of ice water sat atop each table (a must in the mountains), while the bar was stocked with Dixie (a New Orleans brew) and Fat Tire (from Fort Collins). Later, lighthearted grooving to live '50s and '60s music ensued while the mossy grass served as dance floor. Matt (who used to sing in a band) even took the microphone and charmed the crowd with a rockin’ rendition of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” followed by Keith Whitley’s country slow jam “When You Say Nothing at All.” Meanwhile, other invited guests -- eight dogs with organza ribbons around their necks --frolicked around the trees.

THE WEDDING NIGHT Even at dusk, nature was still at the forefront of the festivities. Joined by 30 friends, Stephanie and Matt spent their wedding night camped out in the same sylvan surroundings. Rain fell as they set up camp, but the gang was happy to cap off the night huddling in fleece, playing guitar, and snacking on leftovers.

-- Amy Elliott
Photographs © Terri Wiley Roper

For the ingredients that make up this wedding, see right-hand column of this page.

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