The Guide to Wedding Destinations in the American West

From family-run working ranches to five-star Western resorts.
Jen Murphy
by Jen Murphy
Updated Jan 04, 2023
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The current obsession with hit shows like Yellowstone and 1883 has made the grand landscapes of the American West more alluring than ever. Rugged, snow-capped peaks, rustic barns and pastures of horses, and endless big nature provide a dreamy backdrop for a destination wedding or elopement. Embrace the Wild West spirit and swap heels for boots and ride on horseback to the alter or have a low-key ceremony beneath golden aspens followed by a rodeo reception and barbecue. Activities for friends and families range from day trips to national parks to fly-fishing and wrangling adventures.

Here are our favorite venues across the West, from family-run working ranches to five-star Western resorts, plus expert tips on planning a true American Western wedding weekend. (By the way, some of these properties can double as great honeymoon options too.)

What to Consider When Booking a Western Wedding Destination

There is a fine line between western chic and cowboy calamity. Here, two wedding experts share important tips for searching destination wedding venues in the West.

Keep Accessibility Top of Mind

Many ranch-style venues require a quite tedious drive in with long winding roads with drive times over an hour, says Emily Mournian a wedding planner with Denver-based Milk Glass Productions. Be sure to warn guests if they might need to rent a specific type of vehicle or arrange guest transportation in advance. The property can also be vast and at altitude. "If the ceremony location is quite a distance from the reception or if the cocktail hour requires a bit of a hike, you will need to plan accordingly," she says. "Our team typically recommends golf carts to transport guests, hydration stations at designated markers throughout the property and directional signage."

Be Prepared for All Terrain

"The Rockies did not earn their name by being easy terrain to navigate," says Megan Grose, owner of wedding production company Brindle + Oak in Denver. "Your photographer will have couples climb hills for the perfect shot so wear chunky heels or have flats on hand." Be sure to communicate the chosen terrain to your guests through your wedding website to ensure they pack appropriately and remember, temps drop at night in the mountains, she says.

Offer a Variety of Activities On and Off Property

"Resorts are fabulous for a central meeting spot, but this is a destination wedding weekend, and you will want to show your guests around town—perhaps cocktails at a cowboy bar or a horseback ride to brunch," says Grose. Activities such as horseback riding, dog sledding, Nordic skiing, hiking, fishing, and scenic gondola rides are all emblematic of the Western lifestyle, says Mournian. "You can incorporate these adventures into the wedding weekend as a hosted group activity in the days leading up to the big day or through your wedding website as recommendations for guest solo daily excursions," she says.

The Top American West Wedding Venues

3 Spear Ranch, Dubois, Wyoming

The sprinkling of log cabins, old-school pool hall and sundries shop at this 1,2000-acre ranch in the cowboy town of Dubois could double as the set of an Old Western film. And fittingly, the owner, Creed Garnick, is a Julliard grad with a Broadway resume. He also hails from one of Wyoming's oldest ranching families and at 3 Spear his team deliver experiences worthy of a standing ovation. Small weddings with less than 25 guests can be simple ceremonies perched on top of a majestic bluff followed by a romantic lodge dinner. Larger weddings of up to 125 are held on the lawn with expansive backdrops looking up the canyon or across the Wine River Valley and conclude with street taco trucks or wine-paired, multi-course meals.

On property, guests can soak in natural warm springs, fly fish, and ride miles of trails. Guides can also lead excursions off property, like horseback rides to the town rodeo (for experienced riders) or hikes to secret swimming holes. And the location, conveniently less than a two-hour drive from Jackson Hole and Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, is ideal for day trips.

The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch, Saratoga, Wyoming

With an on-site distillery, creamery, bakery, and greenhouses, the Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch is food lovers' paradise set against a quintessential American West backdrop. All-inclusive weddings at this 30,000-acre ranch cover farm-to-table meals, two activities per day, and accommodations which range log cabins to newly renovated, modern lodge rooms.

Venue options include the 1930s Cowboy Chapel, Creekside Dinner Camp, or the secluded Falcon Peak Overlook Deck, which takes in views of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Brush Creek can accommodate 180 guests at full buyout capacity. The property also welcomes smaller weddings and neighboring, adults-only sister venue, Magee Homestead, is equally amazing and can host weddings for up to 29 people. Meals featuring ranch-sourced ingredients including cheeses from the goat herd, marbled cuts of Wagyu beef, and cocktails mixed with spirits from the Brush Creek Distillery, are a highlight. But the staff can also organize memorable group activities for all ages ranging from group hikes in nearby Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest to float trips down the North Platte River and paintball tournaments.

Dunton Hot Springs, Dolores, Colorado

You can't ask for a more photogenic setting than Dunton Hot Springs. This 1800s ghost town-turned-rustic-luxe retreat is nestled in a stunning alpine valley surrounded by 14,000-foot peaks, aspens, and meadows just across the mountain from Telluride. Couples can rent the town, including an open-air chapel, restored 19th-century Bathhouse, and the original Dancehall & Saloon which still has the wooden bar carved with the initials of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Thirteen hand-hewn log cabins, each uniquely designed, are scattered across the property and the team can accommodate meals and activities such as rock climbing and fly fishing in summer and snowshoeing and dog sledding in winter, for up to 44 guests. Camping-obsessed couples can book a summer wedding for groups up to 16 people four miles downriver at sister property Dunton River Camp. This resort within a resort has eight roomy canvas tents with gas stoves and en-suite bathrooms, and guests have an exclusive farmhouse dining room and can partake in all of the activities offered at Dunton. You can combine the two properties in summer months for weddings of up to 60 guests.

Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky, Montana

First homesteaded in 1915, Lone Mountain Ranch still maintains the rugged charm of the Old West. Surrounded by the towering Rockies, the 148-acre property has 23 historic cabins, many with fireplaces and clawfoot tubs, and three log cabin homes with amenities like hot tubs and saunas. Weddings here feel magical year-round. In summer and fall, a destination wedding itinerary might include horseback riding along the ranch's 17 miles of trails, guided fly fishing along the Gallatin River, a ranch bbq with live music, a guided naturalist hike to Ouzel Falls and a full-day guided tour in Yellowstone National Park, located just 18 miles away. In winter, tackle the property's 50 miles of Nordic trails, downhill ski at neighboring Big Sky Resort, take a Nordic Ski geyser tour in Yellowstone, and be pulled in a sleigh through Gallatin Forest to remote North Fork Cabin where you'll dine by oil lantern light on prime rib, crème fraiche mashed potatoes, and apple huckleberry cobbler cooked over a 19th century wood-fired stove, all accompanied by live cowboy music. The Saloon, known for its Wild West décor and Ranch Reserve Manhattan, is an ideal spot for late-night revelry.

Ranch at Rock Creek, Philipsburg, Montana

If you've got a Western spirit, but big-city taste, this five-star, all-inclusive dude ranch is your dream venue. Set on 6,600 acres in western Montana, the Ranch at Rock Creek hosts weddings year-round. Every season provides a spectacular backdrop from the snow-capped peaks of winter to the golden aspen groves of fall. The ranch executes custom, fully inclusive weddings for up to 125 guests with a property buyout. Accommodations at the 19th-century homestead include lodge rooms, luxury homes, glamping cabins, and a converted historic barn that can sleep up to 13.

Venue options range from the 2,700 square-foot Buckle Barn to the glamping-inspired, part tent, part wooden cabin Blue Canteen. If you're planning a more intimate affair, micro-wedding and elopement packages include a marriage license, officiant, bridal bouquet, boutonniere and flowers, as well as a custom cake baked by the pastry chef. By day, guests can go on horseback rides, fly fish, mountain bike, and shoot sporting clays. At night, the Silver Dollar Saloon is the ultimate after party with a bowling alley, billiards, and karaoke.

Vermejo, New Mexico

A wedding at Vermejo feels like getting married in your own private national park. Set on more than a half million acres in northern New Mexico, this conservation reserve owned by media mogul Ted Turner boasts a herd of 1,200 bison, 19 fishable lakes, and 30 miles of streams. The property prefers to host small weddings of ten people or less, but it can accommodate a 90-guest ceremony if all F&B is handled in-house. The bride, groom and their respective parties should reserve Casa Grande, a lavish 25,000 square-foot mansion with a billiards room and two-story Great Room. And the elegant 10-room Ted Turner House, which houses the Vermejo Spa, is fresh off a renovation. If your taste skews more cowboy Western than Gatsby, you might prefer rooms at timber-and-stone Costilla Fishing Lodge or the three- to five-bedroom cottages spread across the reserve. Activities options are endless, with opportunities to fly fish, hike, horseback ride, and mountain bike, and wildlife tours feel like safaris, hosted by expert guides who know just where to spot pronghorn antelope, elk, and black bear.

Alisal, Santa Ynez Valley, California

If you're debating a wine country and Western-themed wedding, Alisal is the perfect draw. Set on a working cattle ranch in Santa Barbara Wine Country this 10,500-acre estate offers nearly a dozen dreamy venues like a river terrace with Santa Ynez Mountain views to an authentic Rodeo Arena. The events team works with your wedding planner to finalize details like photography, flowers, and the menu. They can even arrange special winemaker dinners or tasting experiences at nearby wineries such as Fess Parker and Beckmen. Alisal caters to both small groups and parties of up to 350 and they have activities to keep everyone busy including two 18-hole golf courses, tennis courts, a rope course, and a fabulous spa. If you'd rather play cowboy, you can sign up for wrangler skills workshops or two-hour trail rides past grazing cattle and babbling brooks on the ranch's 50 miles of trails. Gussied-up ranch food is served at the Chuckwagon Grill and Ranch Room but the team can also arrange barbecues at the Rodeo and lakeside picnics.

RoadRunner Ranch, Ferris, Texas

Framed by rolling hills, this 100-plus acre, family-run working cattle and horse ranch is just a 35-minute drive from downtown Dallas. The scenic farm estate has a venue to suit your every Western fantasy from a red-paneled Amish barn to a 4,000-square-foot pavilion and beer garden overlooking the bucolic pastures, and a floating veranda on an island in the middle of a large pond. Bring your own catering company and alcohol or allow the ranch to use their own trusted catering company and provide a commercial cooler that can hold up to 600 longnecks, plus a margarita machine (always a hit). The ranch has a private bridal suite that can accommodate five people and the groom's suite is kitted out with retro 80s arcade games.

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