This Sustainable Outdoor Wedding in the Colorado Mountains Was Planned in Just Two Months
Phil Ragsdale and Jill Shackelford met "quite by accident," when Phil picked up Jill's roommate's puppy from the kennel as a favor—and though they hit it off immediately as friends, neither party was interested in dating (at first). "It was clear we were each on separate journeys at the time: He was phasing out a way of life that no longer served and I was hungry for travel and worldly exploration," says Jill. But when they reconnected a few months later, meeting up by chance in a coffee shop, "things had shifted in both of us," Jill explains. "There was a recognition, like an embodied 'yes,' that carried far more weight than before."
Less than four months later they moved in together, and a month after that, Phil proposed on a trip through Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. "On my birthday, I felt a special impetus to find a place," he says. "What better gift to myself than to ask the woman of my dreams to marry me?" At an unplanned scenic stop overlooking the Teton basin, he says, "I was down on one knee, asking this beautiful woman to marry me and assured that the rest of my life would be better than all that had passed."
As the couple began planning their wedding, their shared interest in sustainability became a main priority. As founding members of the environmental group Climate Mitigation Associates, Jill and Phil work to "bring our planet back into harmony with nature," and many of their wedding planning decisions fell in line with that mission: They sent electronic invitations from Greenvelope instead of paper; requested that guests buy carbon offsets for their travel to Colorado in lieu of gifts; and chose a private ranch that also prioritizes sustainability for their ceremony and reception.
They also planned the entire wedding in just two months. "It is not for the faint of heart!" says Jill. "But planning a wedding in a short amount of time is also sort of a gift. Because you don't have time, resources, and sometimes an ample choice of vendors, there is no time to dilly-dally. I consider it a gift that this wedding didn't consume us for a year of our lives." And when they officially tied the knot in front of 115 guests on September 15, 2019, less than seven months after reconnecting at the coffee shop, they were closer than they thought to embarking on their next big adventure: "Six days after we walked down the aisle, we found out I was pregnant!" says Jill. "Needless to say, it's been a whirlwind year full of transformation and love."
After trying on wedding dresses at a wide range of price points, Jill chose a champagne-colored lace trumpet gown from Mori Lee, with dropped cap sleeves and a sweetheart neckline. "I was lucky enough to try on a few of the pricier gowns around the Denver area and I really didn't feel comfortable in them," she says. "At the end of the day, you have to feel like yourself in the dress, you have to feel like you can move, and you're presumably only going to wear it once. I rocked and danced in my dress and broke the bustle three times—by the end of the night our planner was safety pinning my train to my dress. It was a mess and I loved it!"
Her only jewels were diamond stud earrings that were a wedding gift from her parents. "I wanted something that was simple, elegant, and that I would continue to wear long after this special day."
Phil chose a Ted Baker suit in a medium blue shade, which he wore with a Nordstrom shirt and a vest from Suit Supply. The couple left several blocks of downtime in their wedding-day schedule, a choice they appreciated. "Be sure to build in plenty of time to just breathe and hang out," says Jill. "The day goes much faster than you think!"
On Top of the World
Jill and Phil planned their first look on a hill at the top of the ranch's private property. "I wasn't really nervous beforehand," she says. "I knew he would be calm, steady, and loving. It felt good to be able to see each other before the ceremony so we could really 'drop in' and be connected by the time I walked down the aisle."
The private ranch the couple chose for their ceremony honored the couple's love of nature and commitment to sustainability. "The ranch is the epitome of Colorado splendor and it called to Phil as soon as he stepped foot on the property," says Jill, who moved to Colorado from California and "is drawn to the mountains, finding them more nourishing and grounding than the Pacific Ocean."
Flower to the People created Jill's asymmetrical fall bouquet using locally sourced flowers like autumn ferns, dahlias, peonies, and ranunculus. "I don't really believe in having 'colors,' especially when you have so much outdoor beauty around you," says Jill. "But I do believe in having a cohesive aesthetic, so I described the colors I was drawn to and the feeling we wanted to evoke to our florist." She also added a personal touch: She tied the high school ring that had belonged to her late father around the bouquet.
In Harmony with Nature
At the ceremony site, floral arrangements on stumps in staggered heights marked the entrance to the wooden aisle. At the end of the aisle, a garland in similar shades covered a wooden frame, creating a backdrop for the ceremony; the structure enhanced the natural beauty of the area without distracting from it.
A Spiritual Ceremony
Jill and Phil opted for a maid of honor and best man only and asked a musician friend to perform "Here Comes the Sun" and "All You Need Is Love" during the processional and recessional, respectively. They exchanged vows they wrote themselves—which they finished just hours before the wedding.
Heart to Heart
Phil's close friend officiated the ceremony, which the couple designed to incorporate their guests as much as possible. "It was a goal of ours to use this wedding to set an example of the highest fidelity of love—essentially what true love looks and feels like," says Jill. "We wanted to include our guests in this journey to openness and vulnerability, so they could open their hearts and connect not only with the people around them, but with their own hearts, as well."
Walk This Way
After the ceremony, the couple and their bridal party led guests on a five-minute walk to the reception tent. The Aspen-lined trail also included several pieces of contemporary art. "We attempted a receiving line at the end of the art walk, but the line was too long, so we opened it up and welcomed people more casually," says Jill.
The tented reception took place in a low valley, surrounded by evergreens and wild grasses. As part of their efforts to plan an environmentally friendly event, Jill and Phil coordinated with the couple who were married the day before to use the same tent. Though it presented some planning obstacles, "it was a perfect fit for Jill and Phil, because sustainability and conservation was at the top of their priorities," says event designer and planner Heather Dwight of Calluna Events.
At the Table
Inside the tent, guests sat at long rectangular tables surrounded by wooden cross-back chairs. Floor-length linens, draped fabric on the sides of the tent, and white chair cushions softened the look of the dark wooden floors.
Flower to the People created asymmetrical centerpieces that overflowed from compote metallic vessels, adding an elegant gleam and plenty of color to the neutral linens.
Up in the Air
Overhead, a floral chandelier, made with draping vines, ferns, and delicate pink-and-peach flowers, made the tent's high ceilings feel more intimate.
At each setting, glimmering chargers and flatware contrasted with white plates and textured cloths, while custom-printed place cards with a pale mountain silhouette guided guests to their seats.
Wooden table numbers in the same dark wood tone as the chairs were inspired by the wedding's mountain location; they were surrounded by small glass bud vases holding delicate blooms and branches.
In the Bag
With such a short planning schedule, "we didn't have a ton of time to dig into DIY projects, but I had my heart set on putting together mini linen gifts bags with products made by local artisans," says Jill. The couple chose body lotion, lip balm, and facial cream from Colorado Aromatics, and called in reinforcements for help putting them together: "My mom and dad filled, stuffed, and tagged 125 bags the night before we walked down the aisle!" says Jill.
Jill and Phil displayed their three-tiered peach-raspberry cake from Shamane's Bake Shoppe on a wooden stand personalized with their name and wedding date. Instead of traditional fondant, the couple opted for a line drawing of the local scenery, accented by purple, orange, and yellow flowers.
To open the dance floor, Jill and Phil performed a choreographed dance to "I Choose You" by Sara Bareilles; Jill then shared a dance with her stepfather and one with her brother. Later, Jill's brother performed on the drums with the band, and the maid of honor, best man, and Jill's stepfather all gave speeches. "They all captured us as individuals and as a couple so beautifully," says Jill. "It felt so good to be seen."
Photography, Rachel Havel
Event Planning and Design, Heather Dwight (event designer and planner) and Spice Jones (lead planner) of Calluna Events
Catering, Red Maple Catering
Flowers, Flower to the People
Videography, Eric Allen Films
Cake, Shamane's Bake Shoppe
Music, Elevation Band
Rentals, Colorado Party Rentals
Tent, Sperry Tents Colorado
Bride's gown, Mori Lee
Bride's accessories, Amanda's Bridal & Tux (veil); Nina (shoes)
Hair, Andres Mendoza
Makeup, Jessica Shinyeda
Bridesmaids' dresses, Lulus
Groom's suit, Ted Baker suit; Suit Supply (vest)
Menswear, Banana Republic (suit); Suit Supply (vest); Nordstrom (tie)
Groom's tie, Banana Republic
Lighting, Little Mad Events
Transportation, B-Line Xpress
Favors, Colorado Aromatics
Guest Book, Red Berry
Rings, Todd Reed