We love the outdoors and we love each other, so it seemed logical to have a camping wedding. Over the past year we have been planning a three-day wedding celebration near Maroon Bells and Aspen, Colorado. Two days before our guests were due to arrive, we loaded up a big rental cargo van with all sorts of camping equipment and wedding items we had carefully collected from thrift stores, consignment stores, and Craigslist. Our drive to Aspen took us through some stunning mountains. We were tired when we arrived so we set up camp, ate a quick dinner, and fell fast asleep.

The next morning, still groggy, we heard a deep voice outside our tent say “Anna and Chris.” Anna started to unzip the tent, dreading that a ranger would bring us some sort of bad news about the group of campsites we’d reserved months ago. “Anna and Chris” came the call again just as she tossed the rain fly to the side. It was Mags and Stu! They had also come up a few days early to do some backpacking in the area and had decided to see if we had arrived yet. So wonderful to wake to old friends smiling down on you.

Mags and Stu greeting us in our tent
Mags and Stu greeting us in our tent

Soon we were up and running errands: securing additional campsites, buying groceries, ordering flowers, etc. At the grocery store, we (Cheep Cheep too!) were thrilled to meet Smokey Bear. We think he was excited to learn about our camping wedding too, though he is a pretty chill sort of bear, so it’s hard to tell.

Sharing a moment with Smokey the Bear
Sharing a moment with Smokey the Bear

On Thursday afternoon our friends and family started arriving and setting up camp at the Silver Queen Campground in White River National Forest. It’s a spectacular car camping site with Maroon Creek rushing past a few steps from the campsites, towering red-hued cliffs, aspens quaking in the breeze, and the Maroon Bell peaks visible in the distance if you stand in the right spot.

Tents near the creek under the aspen trees
Tents under aspen trees in Silver Queen Campground (photo by Noah Beil)

We really enjoyed each other’s company. Even rain couldn’t stop us from having a good time.

Sharing a meal in the campground
Sharing a meal in the campground (photo by Lili Fuller)

The rain let up after dinner, and we decided to try our hand at a campfire. The wood was soaked so we had quite a time getting it going, but we did eventually succeed. Good conversation, s’mores, and laughter followed.

Cindy and Jack enjoying the cool night air
Cindy and Jack enjoying the cool night air (photo by Jim Sofranko)

It rained off and on throughout the night. Clouds still lingered as we woke the next morning. The creek was flowing strong with all the recent showers.

Maroon Creek in the early morning
Maroon Creek in the early morning

Each day we paid close attention to the weather at 11 AM, since our wedding ceremony would occur on Saturday at that time. And every day, no matter how much rain fell overnight and in the afternoon, the weather was perfect at 11 AM. Today day was no different: the sun came out around 10 AM. We crossed our fingers and hoped this pattern would continue.

A view of our gathering place through the aspens
A view of our gathering place through the aspens (photo by Rich Sofranko)

Once everyone had breakfast, we headed into Aspen to ride the Silver Queen Gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain. On the short drive, we spotted 2 marmots and a moose! It was some people’s first time seeing these creatures!

Moose browsing in the water
Moose browsing in the water (photo by Rich Sofranko)

We gathered at the base of Aspen Mountain, ready to ride the gondola to the top. Everyone was in good spirits.

Ready for our gondola ride up Aspen Mountain
Ready for our gondola ride up Aspen Mountain

As the gondola pulled us upwards, the town of Aspen receded to Lego size, dwarfed by the mountains surrounding it. At the top, dramatic clouds framed the powerful peaks.

Jim surveying the view from the top of the mountain
Jim surveying the view from the top of Aspen Mountain (photo by Joe Sofranko)

It felt great to share this beautiful place with friends and family — and of course, with each other.

Happy to be up near the clouds
Happy to be up near the clouds (photo by Rich Sofranko)

We couldn’t wait to play some disc golf on the highest (and no doubt one of the prettiest) disc golf courses in the world.

Finishing the first hole of the highest disc golf course in the world
Finishing the first hole at Aspen Mountain’s disc golf course. Stoked!

Unfortunately thunder rumbled ominously right after we started the 2nd hole so we headed into the lodge to grab lunch and watch the storm through the big windows. Undeterred by the rain, Mags spotted a pile of hula hoops outside and treated us to a short hula hoop dancing performance.

Eventually we took the gondola back down. We hadn’t showered since Tuesday and several other campers were keen on looking fresh for the ceremony the next morning, so we all took turns rotating through the showers at a nearby hotel. Afterwards everyone headed back up Maroon Canyon to the campground.

While most of the group started prepping dinner, five of us continued farther uphill to the Maroon Bells Amphitheater where the ceremony would be held. We had a great rehearsal with Noah, our good friend and officiant. This was our chance to work out all the little questions we hadn’t yet resolved.

Rehearsing in Maroon Bells Amphitheater with Noah
Rehearsing in Maroon Bells Amphitheater with Noah (photo by Chris Willig)

Dinner was ready when we arrived back at the campsite. It sure was tasty. Many thanks to everyone for prepping meals and cleaning dishes throughout the festivities.

Each night after dinner we had a campfire. Those were some of our favorite parts of the whole gathering, just sitting and chatting around the fire roasting marshmallows and passing around Grandma Patsy’s nut rolls and apricot rolls.

Roasting marshmallows the night before the wedding
Roasting marshmallows the night before the wedding

We went to sleep nervous and excited: tomorrow we would be wed! Watch for our next post, coming soon, where we’ll share our wedding day, with plenty of photos!

28 comments

  1. Oh yay! All the best and may your trail be filled with magic everyday! On that note, your blog from your PCT trip inspired my friend and me and we finally got to do some PCT trail magic in mid July at Echo Summit. What fun it was to see the folks enjoying their cold drinks, fresh fruit and home-made cookies. And when a mom came to deposit her son back on the trail we definitely heard how the presence of a couple of moms made another mom feel better about her son’s adventure. North Star and Shutterbug, your trip and your blog are still having good ripple effects!

  2. Great lead up to the big day! The aspens around the campsite table – a pristine shelter. And of course there would be bloodsport disc golf at high elevation with the Sofranko crew. See you Saturday in Cincy :-)

  3. Excellent to hear more and see some photos too – had just heard first hand from Richard about the event – neato wedding in Aspen’s hidden treasure – added to my list ;D

  4. Also thought about you recently having gotten a Sigma quatro dp2 for testing – this thing has huge resolution in a tiny package – with a hefty price tag too $999 (so not for me .. yet).

    Cheerios, always good to hear from you and glad to see Anna’s well recovered from her allergy

    Andre

    1. I (Chris) did have a Sigma long ago, their first SLR in fact. The results were really good under some conditions but there were serious flaws outside those boundaries. I’m sure they’ve improved since then. Definitely a clever technology.

      Anna’s health is much improved, which we are really happy about. Thanks for stopping by and dropping us a note!

  5. Congratulations and Best Wishes to both of you. Can’t wait to see the wedding pictures. Glad that you got married in the mountains. It’s the perfect place for you two.

  6. What a wonderful description of the extraordinay days you planned for all. Heard the blow by blow from Lili and Joe, but love reading more. Gorgeous photos, and nice you give photo credits. May you be so happy together.

  7. Hello, I do not know you personally and found this post by searching for “how to book Maroon Bells for a wedding”… :)
    My fiancee and I are planning on getting married next summer so I was just curious how you were able to book the wedding spot.
    I checked out the online reservation form and the calendar only shows Wednesdays available. So I am curious how soon in advance you had to book the spot and if you have any pointers on reserving the location.
    We are looking at sometime in July or August 2015. We have not picked a date because we want to make sure we can reserve this spot so pretty much any day we can get — will be our date! Thank you in advance for any information you might be able to provide.

    1. We booked the amphitheater and campsites online. The amphitheater became available 1 year in advance and the campsites 6 months in advance. I just looked at the reservation page for the summer of 2015 and I see what you mean about only Wednesdays showing availability. Most dates are marked as “not available” rather than “reserved.” Odd. I would recommend calling the ranger station in Aspen at 970-925-3445. Good luck and congrats!

      1. This is amazing! Thanks so much for sharing. We are now planning to have our wedding at the Maroon Bells amphitheater after reading your story and viewing your beautiful pictures. :) Your blog has given us so many ideas already! A quick question I was hoping you might be able to answer – If we are looking to book things for next September, do the reservations open up exactly one year from that date (for example, if we want to get married on Sept 29, 2019, would we need to reserve on Sept 29th of this year)? Or do reservations for the entire month of September 2019 become available to reserve starting on Sept 1st of this year? Thanks again for sharing! :)

        1. Hi Jenn, Reservations are available 1 year from the date. For your example, you would book the amphitheater first thing in the morning of Sept 29. Recreation.gov shows some Fridays and Saturdays as Not Available (reservations not accepted) though, so I would call the rangers and ask them about your date to make sure there isn’t a public event or ranger talk already planned for that location. Congrats on your engagement and good luck with the planning!

        2. Thanks so much for the response! We will plan to be online and ready to reserve a year in advance from whatever date we decide on. :) Thanks again!

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