A Montana ranch sets the scene for one couple's western wedding

Mallory Samson is one of my favorite wedding photographers—I love how she captures the soul of an event that is wrapped in ritual, and then turns it into art. So when she became engaged to Bob Pressman, I knew she’d plan one amazing celebration. Sure enough, her vision for a western wedding was so rich and ambitious that she and Bob pushed back the date an entire year (!) to September 2006 in order to get it absolutely right. The result was so worth it: a ranchy weekend replete with a passel of Type As who traveled from both coasts to trail-ride and toast the union of two terrific people.

When the invitation arrived in a sturdy wooden box tied with a pink grosgrain ribbon, our names in calligraphy, my husband, John, and I knew this wouldn’t be your average Saturday black-tie. Among the enclosures was an itinerary in brown and pink, which previewed both the wedding colors and the weekend at Averills’ Flathead Lake Lodge in Big Fork, Montana: cocktail parties, cookouts, rodeo games, picnics. We booked our flights that day.

Like most of the guests, we were first-timers to Montana who didn’t know many people besides the bride and groom. By scheduling lots of activities, Mallory and Bob created a weekend that was inclusive and fun. Every event brought our group closer together and got us deeper into the western spirit. At first, we wore our new cowboy hats a little self-consciously; by Day Two, you couldn’t pry them off our heads.

The main event, complete with nervous groom and personal vows, couldn’t have been lovelier. But what came after was breathtaking: We entered the lodge, which had been off-limits all day, into a candlelit fantasy where three long tables were dressed with flower-filled teapots, tall candelabras and pink silk that puddled on the floors. Sheer magic. After dinner, we walked down a path lit with luminarias to the barn, where there was not one but seven wedding cakes, and a Motown group (flown in from New York!) for dancing.

Pass the Salt

Each event had a special drink (with the perfect stemware!), such as lemonade at lunch and margaritas at the welcome party.

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