Love in the Wild

Planning an Open-Air Wedding
Words by Britney Magleby + PHOTOGRAPHY BY Jamye Chrisman

Jackson is a place as beautiful as it is untamed, as open as it is wild. 

It boasts a bold landscape that is fierce and unrelenting, where “wild” still flows in the veins of its inhabitants and pulses in the heart of the valley. It is a place where open spaces remain sacred and revered. Where Mother Nature reminds us daily that she is now, and plans to remain, uncultivated.

If you’ve chosen the Tetons as your wedding venue, your love affair with this landscape and ecosystem has likely already begun. She will make you believe in love at first sight, be impossible to forget, and pull you back every chance she gets. But the same free spirit that makes her beautiful, also makes her unpredictable, as the region’s openness draws you in and fights to remain unclaimed.

“By nature, a majority of our weddings take place outside,” says Cara Rank, owner of XOWYO Paper + Events. “Couples want to be out on a ranch or in the mountains. … We’re fortunate that our event industry didn’t suffer as much as others during COVID because most of our celebrations were already taking place outdoors.” 

If you’re planning a wedding in Jackson, or in the surrounding area, chances are you’re thinking open-air. After all, it’s the scenery that makes this place special. Still, while the Teton Range is one of the most beautiful wedding backdrops in the world, planning an event outside is not without challenges. 

Photo by Ashley Merritt
Behold Her Beauty

Think about what makes this place special to you and capture it on your wedding day. If it’s the mountains, pick an outdoor venue like Grand Targhee Resort for a high-elevation ceremony that captures up-close and personal Teton views. If it’s the free-spirited, Western culture that lures you, choose a setting like the Linn Canyon Ranch where your “I do’s” will be highlighted with ranching history and tradition. 

For décor, choose simple, earthy elements that help accent the natural beauty that surrounds you in the great outdoors. Think elegant without unnecessary frills and let the landscape take center stage.

Photo by Ashley Merritt
Remember Her Moodiness

The very reasons why you chose an outdoor wedding in Wyoming can also be your toughest obstacle. A remote, secluded venue will limit both accessibility and amenities. In planning, walk through the entire event three times: as a guest, as a vendor, and as yourself. As a guest, ask yourself questions like: Can I walk on this terrain in heels or access it with a wheelchair? Where will I freshen up?, and How will I get home? Through the eyes of a vendor, think about where to set up, how to move equipment, and how to access electricity, heat, and water. As newlyweds, remind yourself that anything can happen and just be okay with that.

At 6,237 feet high, you may experience sun, rain, snow, sleet, and sun again—all in one day. It’s an act of beauty, not a bother, so don’t try to fight what you can’t control. Make sure your photographer and videographer are prepared (if they’re local, they will be) and get ready for something spectacular. If it’s smoky, take advantage of dramatic pictures at the golden hour; if it rains, grab your wedding party and dance in the puddles; if it snows, lace up your Sorels and catch flakes on your tongue. The weather– whatever it may be—is Mother Nature’s wedding gift to you. 

Photo by Hannah Hardaway
Be Open

If you’re going to host an open-air wedding, don’t shy away from a natural setting. Schwabacher’s Landing in Grand Teton National Park rewards guests with a stunning ceremony location after a quick walk. But, take note—nothing is allowed on the land, so it will be you and nature, and that’s it. 

At other outdoor venues, consider using picnic blankets or long benches for unique ceremony seating options that don’t distract from the surroundings. Think about turning an existing tree or landmark into your arch. Carry in decorations that can easily be carried out.

For the reception, Nordic Skies rents incredible event tipis with open sides, offering both beauty and protection. Or, Teton Rental Center will bring in bistro lights, allowing you to axe the tent altogether and celebrate under a canopy of glowing bulbs, weather permitting.

Photo by Jamye Chrisman
Leave Her Wild

Wyoming is known for its uncultivated places. So much so that the Teton County Travel and Tourism Board launched a marketing campaign in 2017 called “Stay Wild.” The idea behind the campaign—which received national recognition—was not to limit Jackson’s wild places, but rather to implore visitors to leave them undisturbed for future generations of sightseers. 

Wyoming would ask the same of any newlyweds who use her hallowed land as legal and spiritual grounds to celebrate love. Love her, but leave only footprints. 

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