Photographer Pepper Nix reveals Utah’s most opulent and jaw-dropping ceremony and reception centers.
After the big yes, it’s time to decide on the big where. Fortunately, Utah has many different venues—from sleek contemporary structures to rustic ranches and everything in between. But how to choose? Industry insider and photographer Pepper Nix offers a behind-the-scenes look at her favorite venues, along with expert tips and tricks for each site.
Take a look at SLC’s downtown skyline and one hotel stands out: Grand America. “The Grand” houses regal courtyards, elegant ballrooms, Italian crystal chandeliers and rich tapestries. There’s nowhere else like it in Utah,” Nix explains. “It’s so easy to marry here. You and your bridesmaids can get ready in a spacious two-room suite with floor-to-ceiling window light. One room houses your squad and the makeup artists, while the other room performs as the bridal closet. I have enough room to shoot the ‘getting ready’ shots, while the bridesmaids drink mimosas, feast on The Grand’s gourmet cuisine and bond during hair-and-makeup time.”
The Grand suits couples who love formality. In terms of photo opportunities, Nix says, “It has a very indoor studio feel with multiple backdrops, traditional furnishings and tons of gorgeous directional light.” Wintertime holiday lights and summertime formal gardens enhance stylish weddings.
and EMPIRE CANYON LODGE
Deer Valley’s legend runs as deep as its roots in mining. With over 2,000 acres to choose from in Ski Magazine’s 2018 #1 ski resort, what is Nix’s preferred ceremony spot? “By far, my favorite ceremony location in Deer Valley is Cushing’s Cabin,” she says. “The view to the west overlooking Guardsman’s Pass is breathtaking, plus the west-facing ceremony site means that the chairlift ride to Flagstaff Mountain at 9,100 feet will win over your guests. After the ceremony, you ride back down and have a fabulous reception at Empire Canyon Lodge.” Winter brides at Deer Valley also can enjoy sleigh rides and Deer Valley’s famous Fireside Dining menu.
This mountain contemporary resort is synonymous with comfortable luxury. With large ballrooms, spacious patios and mountain views in every direction, couples have many options. Nix’s favorite spot? “A west-facing ceremony on the Mountain Lawn provides the perfect background for your pictures. The St. Regis also has an excellent flow for your guests: the ceremony on the Mountain Lawn, cocktail hour on the Mountain Terrace (with a traditional Champagne sabering performance by the wait staff), followed by an outdoor reception on the Astor Terrace. The Astor Terrace is large enough that you can tent it and still provide your guests views of the mountains well after the sun has gone down.” The funicular ride and celebrity sightings—Elvis Costello, Tori Spelling and Kim Kardashian—add to the sensational experience from dawn to dusk and beyond.
STEIN ERIKSEN LODGE
Overlooking Bald Mountain at Deer Valley Resort, Stein Eriksen Lodge [named after the famed Olympic medalist and Utah’s favorite adopted Norwegian, Stein Eriksen] is known throughout the world for its attention to detail and world-class service. Nix’s favorite ceremony location? “You guessed it,” she says. “The west-facing Flagstaff Deck at Stein Eriksen photographs perfectly. From there, your guests walk along a flower-lined pathway to the new Stein Eriksen ballroom with an entire wall of windows that faces west, so, during dinner, your guests can enjoy the sunset.” Celebrity sightings include Conan O’Brien, Earth Wind and Fire and Summit County resident Katherine Heigl.
As one of Deer Valley’s newest mountain resort venues, Montage flaunts ski-in, ski-out access, the largest spa in Utah and five—yes, five—dining options, including a pub with its own bowling alley (ideal for a late night after party). Nix’s favorite ceremony hub at Montage is the Grand Lawn overlooking Park City that centers around a fire pit. If a ballroom isn’t your thing, a reception inside the Vista Lounge restaurant offers cozy furnishings, high ceilings and roaring fireplaces. “The custom chandeliers were designed to make it feel homey and cozy, which is incredible considering the 20-foot ceilings,” Nix says. Celebrity sightings include Justin Bieber and Mitt Romney.
Generations of Utah fine diners call Log Haven their go-to spot for celebrations. Surrounded by Millcreek Canyon’s wildflowers and waterfalls, this rustic-yet-refined log mansion has been honored by national news sources, including Forbes and USA Today. But what hits home for the local crowd is Log Haven’s induction into Salt Lake magazine’s 2017 Hall of Fame. “It’s only 15 minutes from downtown,” Nix explains. “I adore the images I capture of the west-facing meadow overlooking the pond. It has incredible light, ducks in the pond and picturesque pathways leading to the ceremony.”
The French restaurant nestled at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon is the perfect marriage of savory food and botanical delight. The in-the-know photographer’s fave spot for a ceremony at La Caille is on the lush green lawn next to the vineyard. “La Caille has the best view of Little Cottonwood, and the east-facing ceremony overlooking the canyon is a pretty spectacular backdrop for your photos.” From the vineyard ceremony, guests walk to an upper patio for cocktail hour to enjoy passed hors d’oeuvres in the shade of magnificent trees, all the while enveloped in the canyon’s magnificent views. La Caille’s Grand Pavilion is the stage for a grand reception celebration. “The grounds are so extensive and varied that I could shoot here for 12 hours straight and not shoot the same thing twice. Plan on extra time for portraits in all the locales.”
BLUE SKY RANCH
As I-80 West winds beyond the Park City turnoff, one may think they’re driving into unknown wilderness. The hamlet of Wanship—15 minutes east of Kimball Junction—hides a 3,500-acre wooded paradise with lodging, barns, a whiskey distillery and dramatic landscapes. Blue Sky Ranch is a western-inspired getaway for the cowboy, yogi, fly fisherman, equestrian or sports shooter. Nix says, “Yet again, I gravitate to the west-facing ceremony site on their outside patio. What I love about Blue Sky is how the inside of the barn is authentic and Western. I love the rustic hardwood floor and the rope chandeliers. It’s on private land so the band can, and does, play until midnight. They only do one event per weekend, so it is very exclusive. You can do anything here from black tie to mountain chic to cowboy casual.”