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A Wedding in the West The Bride's Wearin' Boots!

A Wedding in the West The Bride's Wearin' Boots!

You don't need to own the ranch to get wed western style. An appreciation for the country life and the western look is all you need. The ranch, charming chapel, horses and wagon can be rented. Four grass-roots locations in the North Okanagan and Nicola Valley will give your wedding a genuine country feel.

Surrounded by mountains, fields, and fences, the O'Keefe Ranch in Vernon, Merritt's Douglas Lake Ranch and Quilchena Ranch, and Haney Heritage Park in Salmon Arm will put the country-western into your wedding. Getting married at one of these ideal wedding sites shows your love for heritage and the western lifestyle.

Whether your western wedding is country-picnic fun, or stately turn-of-century Victorian, a western-theme blends the elegant with the informal, creating a relaxed atmosphere for guests. The groom might wear Wrangler jeans with a tuxedo jacket, for example. Wedding guests simply have to starch their Wranglers, polish their ropers and prepare to have fun.

A wedding can have western style without Stetsons -- some brides choose not to wear a cowboy hat, opting for flowers, a veil, or a classic-looking bowler-style riding hat that has an 'equestrian' flare. Usually, the groom sports the cowboy hat, though a bride might choose a stylish white felt.

Fashion is important -- western accents help promote the theme, however, the couple doesn't have to dress like their headed for a night of line-dancing. Many brides at country-western theme weddings wear sensible lace-up ropers beneath their wedding gowns -- a good idea if the new couple is riding away together on horseback. A cowgirl doesn't wear high-heels everyday, so why wear 'em on your wedding day?!

Flowers arrangements can be simple collections of common garden flowers and grasses, less expensive than bouquets of exotic lilies and roses. If the ceremony and celebrations take place at a private country setting, the wedding area can be accented by easy-to-grow flowers like sunflowers and daisies -- which can be picked to fill old milk-cans or tin pails. Straw bale seats, old farm machinery, and rustic fence might complete the setting. A horse-drawn wagon can provide rides for the couple and the wedding guests, and be used as photo prop.

Simple, engraved wedding bands -- in silver or gold -- fit easily under riding and work gloves. Matching bridles, belt-buckles, or saddle blankets could be the bride and groom's gift to one another. Sepia-tone, or black and white photos have that romantic vintage-look, especially framed in rustic, western-style barnwood or wrought iron frames. In some photos, horses graze in the background -- a touch of authentic country life.

Going away outfits for the couple can be western casual clothes -- a dressed-up version of what the couple, if their horse-people, might wear everyday.

Western weddings reflect an admiration for country living and country-life values like partnership, hard work, and family. Western weddings have attitude and style -- like a bride who wears boots!


At Vernon's O'Keefe Ranch, elegant lamps and rose bushes line the winding boardwalk leading to the 1889 St. Anne's Church. With rustic wood siding and a picket fence, the quaint country chapel seats about sixty. "A wedding happens at St. Anne's every weekend," says Tara Makar, O'Keefe administrative assistant, "The setting is intimate, unique, and an excellent photo spot." The church still has the original wooden pews and pump organ. Stagecoach rides are available. At O'Keefe Ranch, use of the chapel includes admission for guests to historical displays. (St. Anne's chapel rental $214.)

The famous half-million acre Douglas Lake Ranch offers three scenic wedding sites. A pristine red and white chapel at the Home Ranch has a historic look, though the building was constructed last spring. The chapel boasts a small kitchen and gathering area downstairs. Upstairs, the sanctuary has an open beam ceiling, hardwood floors, open balcony, and stained glass windows. The cozy country-style interior seats about eighty people. At Stoney Lake Lodge, couples can say vows before a stone hearth or on the sprawling patio, complete with rustic log railings and a view of the lake through graceful tree branches. At Salmon Lake Resort, the lakeside camp is perfect for a casual wedding, held under an arched white tent, or on the sloping lawn. (Rental -- $500 for Home Ranch Chapel, other rental rates vary according to menu and location).

At the turn-of-the-century Quilchena Hotel, located on the Quilchena Ranch, "Over 200 couples have been married here," says Gillian Rose, Quilchena co-manager. "We've done a horse-back wedding on the hillside, to ceremonies on the steps of the hotel, to weddings that move around the whole hotel from the patio to a formal dinner in the banquet room." Quilchena will host about nine weddings this summer. A wedding party can rent one or all of the elegant hotel's 16 rooms. "Our staff really care," says Rose, daughter-in-law of ranch owner Guy Rose. Quilchena offers a unique private dining area in the re-furbished Wine Cellar Room, "or we can seat 90 in our banquet room," Rose explains. (Ceremony only -- $300).

At Salmon Arm's Haney Heritage Park, forty acres of grounds -- with trees, flower gardens, lawns and historical buildings -- surround the little white Mt. Ida Church, built in 1911. About 70 guests can be seated in the heritage church, complete with a pointed bell tower and arched windows. The interior is simple, charming and perfect for filling with jugs of flowers and greenery. "The chapel hosts weddings every second weekend," says Cheryl Smith, Haney Visitor Services Supervisor. Wedding guests can brows through other heritage buildings, but access to the Haney Farmhouse is $2. "The church is very popular," says Smith, " Mt. Ida church is tiny and surrounded by nature -- the perfect place for a wedding." (Church rental: $150).

Other articles by Tammy Thielman

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