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Tips for Hosting a Wedding/Reception at the Cabin

Eat, drink and be married at your favorite retreat with this insider advice
By Fran Sigurdsson
Published: June 10, 2014
mountain river cabin lodge host wedding reception
Photo by Christine Farah Photography
Every day’s a celebration at Brad and Mary Heinrich’s Rocky Mountain retreat in Silverthorne, Colo., and they like nothing better than sharing good times with family and friends. So, when daughter Camille proposed a wedding reception at the cabin, naturally they agreed.

The intervening months made it clear that hosting a cabin full of guests was a cakewalk compared to a wedding reception. Brad and Mary found themselves auditioning bands and making decorations – when they weren’t busy remodeling the cabin. (Read about their cabin’s extreme makeover on p. 36) Mary stamped menus and painted signs, while Brad chopped logs for place-card holders. Still, there was so much more to do.

In the end, all the planning and hard work paid off. “We loved our wedding. It was the perfect day and the perfect setting for us,” says Camille.
mountain river cabin lodge host wedding reception
DECK ROOM – The deck off the back of the Heinrichs’ cabin was used as a gathering point for guests.
Photo by Christine Farah Photography
Tips for the big day
Planning a wedding or other bash at the cabin? Whether you invite 15 or 150, make it as fun and unique as possible. Here’s what to consider, with tips from the Heinrichs:

Accommodation
– If you have a range of lodging options close by, huzzah! But if the nearest HoJo is miles away down bumpy dirt roads, get creative with sleeping arrangements. (See “Sleeping a Crowd," June 2013).

Safety – Make the ground that folks will walk on as level as possible. Clear brush, manicure the lawn, and rid paths of debris and divots. Cluster gathering points to minimize walking. For example, cocktails and s’mores were right on the Heinrichs’ deck; the reception tent was just beyond, with parking adjacent. Add signage and lighting to lead the way.
mountain river cabin lodge host wedding reception photo tent
THE TENT – A small entry room to the outdoor reception tent showcased photos and wedding gifts. The main room held dining tables, dance floor, and an elevated platform for the band. The wedding party sat at a long table, while guests dined at tables for eight.
Photo by Christine Farah Photography
Liability – If something happens, are you covered? In addition to homeowner’s insurance coverage, Brad has a general umbrella liability policy. He also added insurance just for the weekend.

Weather – Regardless of the season, an outdoor wedding needs a backup plan. Use canopies or a screenhouse, or rent a tent. It gets cold at night in cabin country, especially at high elevation. Brad kept two outdoor heaters at the ready. (They weren’t needed during the reception, but were used at the rehearsal dinner.) Have a basket of shawls on hand for guests who get chilly.
mountain river cabin lodge host wedding reception
DRESSES – Camille’s gown is by Priscilla of Boston, and the bridesmaids’ dresses are from J.Crew.
Photo by Christine Farah Photography
Comfort – You don’t want a crowd compromising the septic system – or traipsing through the cabin. Rent a couple of portable loos.

Food – If you hire caterers, make sure your range has enough burners to heat food, and there is enough room in the fridge. For serving, instead of a buffet, try having guests pass platters of steak and salmon, family style. Barbeques and pig roasts are other options for rustic gatherings. Go potluck, and ask guests to bring sides and desserts.

Equipment & supplies – Remember, everything from soup to s’mores has to be brought in. What you lack – tables, chairs, linens, dishware – rent from a special events company or local church.
mountain river cabin lodge host wedding reception signs
DRINKS – The Heinrichs used 2x4 boards and made directional signs to help direct guests. Some were stuck in the ground while others were hung.
Photo by Christine Farah Photography
Directions/signage – When sending out invitations, make sure to include a map explaining how to get to the party from different directions, especially if your cabin is off the beaten path. Putting up signage the morning of the event at the end of your driveway or at key intersections can help prevent guests from getting lost.

Parking – Designate a flat area close to the driveway for cars. Brad was concerned about sparks igniting a grass fire, so he mowed as low as possible. A parking attendant (he doubled as a handyman) facilitated parking for their party. The attendant had a fire extinguisher and hose long enough to reach the entire lot. A generator kept the area well lit.
mountain river cabin lodge host wedding reception
FAMILY – The bride is pictured here with her father and a bouquet of delphinium, lavender, millet, purple lisianthus, goldenrod, safflower, sunflowers, and meadow grasses.
Photo by Christine Farah Photography
Power – Does your cabin have enough juice to run a band, lighting, heaters – and hot plates for caterers? Check with an electrician beforehand. It’s also helpful to have a backup generator on hand – just in case.

Local conditions – Depending on your neck of the woods, be prepared for any contingency. Brad had oxygen canisters on hand should anyone suffer altitude sickness. Mosquitoes can be unwelcome guests at outdoor events, so have repellent at the ready.

To read more about the Heinrich family’s wedding experience at their cabin, click here.

mountain river cabin lodge host wedding reception s'mores
SWEET TREATS – A s’mores station is fun for young and old.
Photo by Christine Farah Photography
S'MORE THE MERRIER
Mmmm … s’mores. Who doesn’t love that gooey, graham cracker confection? A campfire favorite for generations, the only thing better than eating a s’more is making one.

Young and old alike relish toasting marshmallows over an open fire. Golden brown or charred – as long as the ’mallow doesn’t slide off the stick into the flames, it’s all good. Tots get to stay up late and gorge on sticky chocolate snacks. And the grown-ups get to relive carefree childhood days at the cabin.

“We really wanted to create a sophisticated but fun environment that was a classic mountain experience for our guests,” says Camille. She and Adam, her husband, included an outdoor s’mores station at their reception.

“Since the existing fire pit on the deck was not far from the tent, it lent itself well.”

Both families pitched in. “The caterers helped set out the baskets of food,” Camille says. “But we got it all, including the chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers, along with roasting sticks and vintage handkerchiefs to use as napkins.”

To create a s’mores station at your party, all you need is a fire and the fixings. No fire pit? Use a portable one. Garden stores carry a range of cast iron options. (Even a mini hibachi will do, slowly heating the marshmallow without burning the outside.) Supply long bamboo skewers, or order cool s’more sticks online. Get your favorite chocolate bars, a box of graham crackers, and bags of Jet-Puffs. Or offer guests gourmet chocolate and flavored marshmallows. Happy s’moring!
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