The Inn of the Mountain Gods is a Mescalero Apache-owned resort perfect for the outdoorsy couple with a hefty guest list. Near Ruidoso, it boasts mountain and lake views, with nearby skiing, golfing, and hiking. 400+ capacity; (800) 545-6040 ext. 5; innofthemountaingods.com
The Gutierrez-Hubbell House is an event locale that features a historic museum, a charming working farm, and rows of gorgeous cottonwood trees in south Albuquerque, near Isleta Pueblo. 400+ capacity; (505) 884-0434; gutierrezhubbellhouse.org/weddings
DreamCatcher Inn de Las Cruces offers an outdoor wedding space with up-close-and-personal, uninterrupted views of the Organ Mountains. Up to 40 guests (outdoor); (866) 298-1935; dreamcatcherinn.com
Hacienda Vargas is a quaint B&B in Algodones. Their adobe chapel and courtyard are picture-perfect for an intimate destination wedding. Up to 150 guests (outdoor); (505) 867-9115; haciendavargas.com
The Couse-Sharp Historic Site comprises the properties of Taos Society of Artists founder E. I. Couse and his contemporary and fellow artist Joseph Henry Sharp. Get married in the lush gardens of this compound, flanked by low adobe buildings and mountain views. Up to 50 guests; (575) 751-0369; couse-sharp.org
--Arianne Palmer, NewMexicoWeddingMagazine.com
When Lauren Leonard and Christopher DiVito married last March, a hundred out-of-town guests convened in Santa Fe, many visiting the state for the first time. Some came for the week, some came for the weekend, so bride and groom turned a typical one-day celebration into an ongoing gala. Two days before the ceremony, the entire wedding party gathered at Ski Santa Fe for a snowboarding jaunt. “I wore a veil attached to my snowboard helmet. I wore a garter around my snowboard pants,” Lauren says. The party “eased tension and it eased stress,” bringing two families and their friends together in the state she loves.
The story of Lauren and Chris began 2,000 miles from the New Mexico sky, on the East Coast, where they both live. They met one night at a beer garden in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. She eyed him. He eyed her. “This staring contest went on for about two hours,” she says. “No one made a move.” Her friends got bored and wanted to go. As she aimed for the exit, he stood watching her, drink in hand, “just smiling at me.” She eyed him again, shrugged her shoulders, and walked out the door.
But as soon as she got outside, “I felt something,” she says, “and it wasn’t something that I’d ever felt before. I turned to my friend and said, ‘I think I’m about to make the biggest mistake of my life. Give me one second.’ And I walked back into the bar and I went up to him.”
“You look like you surf or snowboard,” she told him.
“Well, actually, I just got back from Costa Rica,” he replied.
“Well, that’s weird, because I used to live there in college,” she said.
The two exchanged numbers, and Lauren put him in her phone as “Chris—Yes Please.” As in, Yes, please, I’ll take him now. He was already hooked, too. “I thought she was absolutely adorable—gorgeous and cute all in one, on a level beyond the typical New York image of beauty,” Chris says. Her “endearing eyes” captured him.
“We texted through the night,” Lauren says. She learned that he’s a model for Ralph Lauren. He found out that she’s a personal trainer, nutritionist, and swim coach who also works with children with special needs. They discovered kindred passions. “We both surf, and we both snowboard, and we both love to be very active—mountain biking, hiking, camping.”
Five years later, he’s still in her phone as “Chris—Yes Please.” He proposed at an old military bunker on a rainy Hawaiian hiking trail. “The fun part about it was we were covered in mud and sweat, and it was just a typical picture of us,” Chris says.
On March 22, 2014, Lauren and Chris stood beneath clear, blue high-desert skies in the presence of their wedding party and guests. “She was dead set on Santa Fe,” Anne Leonard says of her daughter’s decision to marry in the state she adores. Coming from the East Coast, Chris wasn’t so sure, Anne says, until he fell in love with La Posada, a luxury hotel in the heart of Santa Fe’s historic downtown.
Lauren is originally from Texas. Her parents live in San Antonio, and her mother grew up in Albuquerque. Her father, Dan, a dentist, spent his early working years on the Acoma and Jemez Pueblos. They met at a bar in Albuquerque and got engaged after a day of skiing in Taos. “We’re a big ski family,” Lauren says, recalling “my father pulling me out of school and driving me 11 hours to Ruidoso because he needed a ski buddy.” Anne and Dan now own a house in Las Campanas, with views of the mountains surrounding Santa Fe. “I love visiting Lauren’s family house, and we never want to leave,” Chris says.
Lauren dreamed of a mountaintop wedding with ski liftsshuttling guests to the summit—but that wasn’t allowed. Instead, festivities took a slightly more refined route, with an outdoor ceremony at La Posada. The women wore coral dresses—the color of adobe at sunset—and turquoise earrings purchased from a Plaza vendor. The Native American spirit bear—a symbol of strength and life—was a recurring motif. And each guest received a burlap welcome bag packed with biscochitos and Dan’s handmade red-chile-chocolate piñon bark.
Dinner took place beneath a clear tent and featured an array of New Mexican flavors—red-chile-marinated quail with fire-roasted onions and black bean polenta, pan-seared Chilean sea bass with grilled corn-and-scallion cakes, chipotle-rubbed pork with cornbread stuffing. Then came dancing to popular wedding band Soulstice Santa Fe, with a special treat at 10 p.m.
“Oh my God! We had a tequila donkey!” Anne recalls. “It was a surprise to everybody.” Bride and groom donned sombreros, and the crowd marched along to the “Tequila” song. There on the dance floor was “this beautiful, beautiful donkey,” dressed in saddlebags stuffed with bottles of Patrón Silver. Her name was Conchita. “She smelled so good—they’d given her a bath. She was just so sweet, you wanted to hug her.”
The next morning, a whole gaggle of people went back up to Ski Santa Fe. Lauren changed back into her wedding gown and snowboarded down the mountain. Perfect.
Life continues back on the East Coast. Still, New Mexico beckons. “The color of the sky, the mountains—especially the mountains rising out of the desert—are phenomenal to me,” Lauren says.
There is talk of a reunion—a repeat gathering for the wedding party and guests. “We had such a blast in Santa Fe at this wedding, we all agreed that we should have an annual Santa Fe trip,” says bridesmaid Amanda Bridgeman. “We’re actually planning it right now for March.”
“I want to get married again,” Lauren says, “just to do it all over again.”
Karen Coates lives in Bosque Farms and writes mostly about food, the environment, and health in the developing world.