Wilderness Wedding – Idaho Springs, Colorado

Wilderness Wedding
Idaho Springs, Colorado, USA

A wedding is never a wedding without at least a little bit of drama. Or, in this case, a lot of it.

James and Gillian

James and Gillian

Two days after his graduation from the Air Force Academy, one of my closest friends from high school, James, planned to marry his fiancée, Gillian, in a beautiful outdoor ceremony at St. Mary’s Glacier B&B, self-purported the highest B&B in North America, with an elevation of 10,500 feet.

After a red-eye from hell (two and a half hours late), a missed connection, another delayed flight (one and a half hours), and a plane taken out of service due to ‘loose screws’ (after we had already boarded), I arrived at the Denver Airport looking a little worse for wear. Because I had arrived more than five hours late, James the shuttle service was no longer operating; he had a wedding rehearsal to attend to. Bedraggled, I boarded a coach bus, forked over ten dollars for an hour ride, and arrived at a Park and Ride parking lot outside of Denver a full 16 hours after I left my house in Portland, OR. I warily eyed the car that sat idling nearby; Gillian’s younger brother had been sent to fetch me and take me to the B&B in Idaho Springs. Peter leaned over and unlocked the car door.

“Are you my ride?” I asked, having never met him but already throwing my bags in the back. At this point, I would have gone with anyone who told me they knew where my bed was.

Peter smiled. “If you’re Courtney, than I am. By the way, do you want to stop for some food on the way?” In a matter of seconds, Peter became my best friend, and I treated him to lunch.

Like his sister, Peter had a soft, lilting South African accent that would have put me to sleep had he not been so engaging. On the way up to the B&B, I pumped him for information. James and I never were ones to discuss details and I had realized on the plane that I didn’t even know what time the wedding was, or where I would be sleeping. Unfortunately, Peter wasn’t of much help. He did offer me this warning, however. “Everyone is crazy. Expect to work.”

I thought of Peter’s warning the next morning, as I rushed downstairs to boil a tea kettle, ten minutes before the ceremony was due to start. Since my arrival the night before, I had been in constant motion. As James’ only female friend in attendance, I had stayed with the women the previous evening after the guys wandered off, packs heavy with imported beer, to celebrate James’ last night of bachelorhood with an overnight camping trip and a hike up the glacier. Gillian celebrated her end of singledom by blowing up balloons, sticking “thank you” notes on pieces of candy and wrapping up their custom-made CDs in ribbon. As her loyal servants, we did the same. Gillian’s mother hovered around us, giving orders, pacing and doing unbelievable things with ribbon. Despite what was stated in the contract, the B&B was not acceptably clean for any wedding and the mother-of-the-bride had spent some time straightening it.

After many hours of work, one of the bridesmaids headed upstairs to take a shower. When she returned, she was shivering with a confused look on face.

“I tried to take a shower, and it was warm for a few minutes, but then it turned ice-cold.”

“The hot water must be out,” one of the girls said with a dismissing wave of her hand. It wasn’t until the next morning that it dawned on everyone that no one had been using hot water.

Over a hastily thrown-together breakfast of pancakes and nothing else, we discovered that the hot water heater was broken. Although a still-broken hot tub infested with spiders had been a disappointment when we arrived (the owners had promised it would be fixed by the time the wedding party showed up), no hot water was unacceptable. Lukewarm water may have been manageable, but water coming down from the glacier was too cold to stand in. I washed my hair by sticking my head under the freezing water for seconds at a time, standing up, and throwing my head back while I shampooed it, trying not to let the water drip down my neck. I shaved my legs so quickly I wished I hadn’t, as they resembled my first attempts back in seventh grade.

Gillian’s bath on the day of her wedding consisted of water heated on the stove in kettles and pans and then poured into the bathtub. Although she never complained, I imaged she couldn’t have been too happy. I got ready with James and the groomsmen, laughing as I heard them shriek through bathroom door when they stepped into the shower. After covering the dark circles under my eyes and swallowing Advil in hopes to banishing my altitude-induced headache, I grabbed my camera and went to see how Gillian was doing. As she unzipped her garment bag and pulled out her wedding dress, her eyes grew wide.

Creases be Gone!

Creases be Gone!

“The creases!” she exclaimed. In the confusion, and with the lack of hot water, her dress had not been steamed.

“Courtney, go boil a kettle!” her mother barked.

After rushing downstairs, I stood, shaking my head and wondering how a tea kettle was going to steam out all those creases in less than ten minutes. When another family friend came downstairs with the dress, I remembered that I had seen an iron earlier. I went from room to room, finally finding it among some of the bridesmaids strewn-about clothes. We managed to steam out the creases, and our five minute delay allowed for the rain to pass and the ceremony remained outside.

Summer Mountain Face

Summer Mountain Face

The wedding was beautiful, as weddings should be. Although the view from St. Mary’s Glacier B&B can be stunning, the pictures I saw on all the promotional material were taken in the winter, when the snow sits softly on the mountain. In the summer, the bald face is revealed, and looks like an ugly, jagged scar between the trees.

The combination of these deceptive pictures, the not-quite-clean B&B, the broken water heater, the still-unfixed hot tub, the simplistic breakfast and the overall unhelpful nature of the owners in solving any of these predicaments leads me to caution anyone who is thinking about having a wedding there or considering a relaxing weekend away in the mountains.