The day began with us printing off directions to our two contenders (Sunshine Mountain Inn and Shadow Mountain Guest Ranch). We hastily created our wedding binder, gathering up brief descriptions of the lodges along with questions that we wanted to ask the respective owners.
After arriving at Shadow Mountain Guest Ranch and taking in the scenery of this lush Rocky Mountain home with cabins drizzled about, we were greeted by a grizzled man Sara compared to Santa Claus in a Harley jacket. Actually, greeted may be too strong a word. He stared at us as I asked, "Are you the owner?" "I'm the one you're looking for," he responded. "Well, this is Sara and I'm Matt," I said. "I know, I talked to you on the phone. First question: Why in the hell would you want to get married?" Sara piped in, "For the tax breaks." Without waiting for a response, he began to lead us on a tour of the cabins.
Inside, the cabins were finished with beautifully polished wood furniture. Some cabins even had small lofts where one could make a fort. As for the more practical features, the cabins contained full kitchens and bathrooms, large living spaces, with unspoiled beauty of the woods in the backyard.
As we traipsed on down to the rec room (where the reception would be held), we were greeted to the sight of last night's party. Apparently, the son of the owner frequently has parties there, and the rec room still had mummies, lights, cobwebs and candy left from their Halloween bash three months ago. Nonetheless, the owner, after describing his exploits in beer-pong last night, told us about possible setups for the wedding, the most appealing being in front of the pristine mountains and lakes just outside the rec room's deck.
When we asked about options for catering, the ideas left as soon as they arrived when he said that there aren't any good options in the nearest town, suggesting that we bring a caterer in from Denver. As you all are aware, our budget will not allow us to bring in expensive food, nor a cook, from two hours away.
The owner after a long coffee table discussion inside of his home ended up being an incredibly genuine grandfather, burnt out from the 14 years that he has spent catering to his guests' whims. It turns out, as we announced in previous postings, that he intends to sell the resort just as soon as someone makes a reasonable offer, making booking his site a gamble at best.
...8...9...10. One contender down for the count, another waiting for its fight. We put our car into drive and headed down the icy highways toward Sunshine Mountain Inn.
Just over five hours, one package of cheese (with a plastic knife), one package of Wheat Thins crackers, and one dead cow carcass (in the middle of the road) later, we arrived at our destination. Run by people just as genuine as we remembered them with cabins just as warm and cozy as they felt on our previous stay at the Inn, we were greeted with an enormous dilemma on our hands: where are we going to hold a beautiful ceremony and what will our guests think of sharing rooms with up to six people? On top of that, when we asked the owners about the cost to feed our guests dinner, they responded that it would be $15 a head. Now, a normal couple booking their wedding would laugh at this price, as they typically run $50 a head, but ours is no ordinary wedding. $15 for 100 guests would take up three-quarters of our budget, making it utterly impractical.
Closing the cover to our binder, the wind blowing our car doors closed, we began the night time drive home no closer to a solution than we were at 8:50am. We had only rustic spaces for our guests to stay, our wedding photos would feature State Highway 7, and our guests would have no dinner.