Aspen Times Weekly: The Dollars and Sense of … ‘I Do’ |

Aspen Times Weekly: The Dollars and Sense of … ‘I Do’

by Erica Robbie
Wedding of Nirali and John in Aspen. Wedding at the Hotel Jerome in Aspen. The ceremony was at Little Nell, photographed by Denver wedding photographer Hardy Klahold of Hardy Klahold Photograhy in Colorado.
Hardy Klahold |


We asked several local wedding planners, photographers, caterers and florists to share their experience with the dreaded “bride-zillas” (and, evidently, other types of ‘zillas’). Here are their top tales:

“Our bride-zillas aren’t always (or even usually) the brides; we’ve had a best man-zilla, several father of the bride-zillas and even a groom-zilla (or two).”

-An Aspen wedding planner

“I’ve really only had one and it was just the most awkward situation. The bride, who was model-gorgeous, didn’t like having her picture taken and so uncomfortable about it. But she didn’t mention that until the wedding day, when I was like, ‘Why is she acting so strange?’ I had to ask (the bride), ‘Are you OK?’ and she was like, ‘Yeah, I just hate having my picture taken.’ I was like, ‘Well how am I suppose to do my job?’ It definitely made things difficult; I had to be really choosy about where I put my camera, that sort of thing.”

–An Aspen wedding photographer

“One the first weddings I planned in Aspen was for a bride who was four months pregnant. Her dress arrived in Aspen and she tried it on for her mother and I at a local hotel the day prior to her wedding. Her mother asked if the sash on the dress was removable, and the bride took such offense to this question, she grabbed a pair of scissors and started cutting pieces of her dress off, as I sat there trying to figure out exactly what to say to get her to stop, I watched piece after piece fall to the floor. I walked over slowly and asked for the scissors in which the bride did hand them over and laid down on the bed bawling. I was able to get in touch with a local seamstress we often use, who was able to repair much of the dress in time, and we also made a call to the florist to add some larger blooms and greenery to create a very beautiful, oversized bouquet which not only helped cover the rest of the damage but also the small baby bump she was still trying to hide. All in all, everything worked out, but in moments like these you do sometimes question whether you’re a wedding planner or psychiatrist.”

-An Aspen wedding planner

“I would say 99.9 percent of my brides have been wonderful. Let’s not focus on the .1percent that had a meltdown day of wedding for one reason or another.”

-An Aspen wedding florist

“How much time do you have?”

-An Aspen wedding planner

“There are those moments that some clients may not be very proud of, but truly it can be a very stressful time. Nothing comes to mind. Maybe I have blocked them out?”

-An Aspen wedding caterer

“I’ve yet to have a bride-zilla and the reason for that is simple: I always have a face-to-face or over the phone consultation before we decide on anything. I think it is hugely important to get to know the people you’re going to be working with and get a feel for who they are and what they are looking for. The pictures are what it’s all about, except it’s also all about the experience. If we don’t get along over a beer and a chat, we probably aren’t a good fit for one another. In that case I will always recommend other professionals in the valley that I think they might vibe better with.”

-An Aspen wedding photographer

“‘Bride-zilla’ moments can happen, which we adjust to all situations crossing our path. Being able to remain flexible and cool at hand makes a huge difference in hiring professionals like ourselves who have the experience like we do. One outrageous experience to relate was when a bride lost her balance poolside and fell into the pool where she got caught up in her dress and needed to be rescued. When the situation was underhand and the bride was brought to the edge safely, a number of the guests all decided to jump into the pool together where a huge big ‘pool’ party kicked off.”

-An Aspen wedding photographer

Planning a wedding is no piece of cake.

The stakes are high for everyone involved in putting on the show — even more so, perhaps, when the stage is Aspen.

But Aspen Wedding Guide co-founder Robin Proctor, whose experience includes 16 years photographing and assisting with weddings at resorts including Steamboat, Breckenridge and Vail, said “the professionalism at the resorts in Aspen is bar-none better than anywhere else I’ve worked.”

Still, the multi-billion-dollar wedding industry — with its costs, complexities and countless cottage businesses beneath one umbrella — isn’t all Champagne and roses.

“This is a crazy biz we are in,” said Aspen wedding photographer Ross Daniels. “And no matter what, you have to be on your toes and ready to handle anything that comes your way.”


In the U.S., the average cost of a wedding — excluding the honeymoon — is $26,645, according to The Wedding Report, Inc.

The Wedding Report is a national research company that collects wedding market research and tracks spending and consumer trends within the wedding industry.

The “average cost” of a wedding is deceiving, however. In fact, that $26K is nearly triple the amount that the majority of couples shell out; most American brides and grooms spend less than $10,000 on their big day, according to The Wedding Report.

What gives? Or takes, in this case.

The additional thousands, hundreds of thousands and even millions that some well-to-do couples will pour into their weddings tip the scale. It’s the money being spent to create the one-of-a-kind wedding that the bride-to-be has dreamed of since she was a little girl. You know, like the fairytale weddings that take place in fairytale town like Aspen …


… Of planners, photographers, caterers, cake-bakers, florists, entertainers, musicians, jewelers, dress designers, stylists, make-up artists to make it all happen.

Oh, and then there’s booking the

wedding venue, which is typically the most expensive component to a wedding.

For instance, in a wedding that costs $26,645 (the national average), The Wedding Report estimates that a whopping $11,944 of that is spent between the venue, catering and rentals.

Much like the key to a successful relationship once the vows are said and done, the key to executing a successful wedding is communication, Proctor said.

Crucial to any wedding is a smooth line of communication between the multiple vendors, and this often starts with a wedding planner.


Sometimes confused with the bride-to-be’s personal assistant or family therapist, Gold Leaf Events co-founder Kate Ryan said jokingly, wedding planners often assist couples from the moment they get engaged to the minute their plane arrives at whatever is the exotic destination for the honeymoon.

Gold Leaf Events is an Aspen-based event-planning company that offers exactly this.

Founded by Ryan and Chelsea Dillon, the full-service firm, which focuses on event design and production, is based locally but travels worldwide in an effort to “keep the seasons of our work original,” Ryan said.

Ryan and Dillon have worked together on weddings in Aspen for about five years.

The duo has also coordinated weddings in other locations, which Ryan said has taught them how planning an Aspen wedding is “very different than others in many ways.”


Lacking access to places like arts and crafts stores, wholesale shops and linen companies are just a few ways that planning a wedding locally presents additional challenges.

This forces planners to be “very accurate and extremely detailed” in placing and keeping track of online orders in advance, Ryan said.

“We often compare Aspen to living on an island,” she said. “And while the vendors who are located here are top-notch, we absolutely put our Amazon Prime membership to good use.”

The plethora of vendors and services to select from in less remote destinations also leaves room for a more price-negotiable — and consequently, less expensive — experience, Ryan said.

“There are so many things to consider when planning a wedding, starting with an original design,” which Gold Leaf helps create, she said.

The next step is to negotiate with and contract vendors who will best contribute in “the wedding’s overall aesthetic, coordinating logistics and executing a seamless event” from start to finish.

“Details and personalized touches are extremely important to us,” Ryan said.


According to The Wedding Report’s financial breakdown, the planning piece of the puzzle is traditionally one of the lesser expensive costs

of a wedding.

For a $26,645 wedding, the research group estimated that approximately $827 goes to wedding planners and consultants.

Ryan declined to comment on figures associated with Gold Leaf Events’ wedding planning services but said that its rates are “competitive with other local coordinators” in the luxury market.

“We create custom proposals for each of our clients once we work with them to establish what their expectations are,” Ryan said, “in addition to accessing the level of production.”


A wedding is, to some, the single-most important or memorable day of their life. It also is one of, if not the most, significant milestones in any couples’ relationship.

In another words, the pressure is on, which might help to explain why that wedding portrait costs a pretty penny.

The Wedding Report estimates the national cost of wedding photographers and videographers to be upward of $3,000.

In Aspen, these services tend to be more than double or triple the national average — often costing between $6,000 and $10,000, Proctor said.

Perhaps the high cost is associated with the consummate level of professionalism that Proctor mentioned earlier?

Cath Adams, of Gregg & Cath Photographers — a local husband and wife photography team of more than 20 years, said she and Gregg, “have always gone the extra mile discussing the fine details and what matters most to each couple.”

“We take the time to know each of our wedding couples and what they are all about,” she said. “We offer a variety of services that are catered and designed around each wedding couple’s preferences.

This can either be wildly extravagant with multiple photographers or something as simple as an elopement with one photographer.”


Aside from revealing the Adams’ passion for what they do, the duo’s vow to tailor their services to their clienteles’ vastly different styles also speaks to the diversity of couples seeking an Aspen wedding.(Much like the diversity in people who live and vacation here, too).

“Whether it’s the multi-million dollar wedding on the backside of Aspen or the elopement at the Maroon Bells, this valley has so much to offer,” photographer Daniels said. “If you’re looking for world-class food, service, planning, venues, entertainment and ease of access, Aspen has it all. If you’re looking for serenity and beauty in a low-key environment, we’ve got that too.”


When all is said and done, it is ironic that an occasion that is prompted by love can lead to so many headaches (and thousands of dollars).

While the purpose is to celebrate the love of two people coming together, Daniels said, “it’s also about giving your guests, who probably traveled, a great experience.

“They love you but they also want to have fun and participate in a great party,” he said. “For the mountain-style wedding, there is nothing better than Aspen.”

For Proctor, nearly two decades worth of whimsical, love-is-in-the-air vibrations and emotional sentiments expressed throughout an uncountable number of ceremonies and celebratory toasts has left the local wedding expert with the same impression year after year.

“I think weddings make me a better person,” Proctor said. “They are a wonderful reminder to really take care of your loved ones.”

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.