Whether you’re talking to an Arizona native or a first-time visitor, it seems as though everyone who’s visited Sedona has a story about the spell the region has cast upon them.
“The natural beauty of Sedona opens the heart to love,” says Laura Marolakos, co-owner of and wedding planner for Heart of Sedona Weddings, who’s heard many such stories. “Sedona is a respite, a getaway where heart and soul can connect. Being here with someone you love is very romantic.”
Sedona offers couples amazing natural vistas, access to popular nearby tourist attractions and a mild four-season climate. Wedding industry professionals who work in Sedona, and brides who have held their ceremonies there, affirm that it’s possible to plan a dream wedding in Sedona easily and economically, if couples learn to make the most of the treasures of Red Rock Country.
Out and About
Sedona’s famed red rocks often get top billing at weddings. Bride Cristin Samoil, who married husband Ian in March 2012 at L’Auberge de Sedona, complemented her wedding festivities with a pre-ceremony outdoor reception on the SpiritSong Terrace and a post-ceremony cocktail hour on the Garden Lawn. Blending the high desert landscape, green foliage and the bubbling sounds of nearby Oak Creek created the calm and romantic feeling she was seeking.
To take full advantage of their nestled-in-the-red-rocks location, Amara Resort & Spa completed a $2 million renovation last fall, moving its outdoor event space during the makeover to capitalize on the stunning views. Brides looking to plan intimate weddings are already flocking to the new space, which can accommodate up to 80 guests.
Even with a primarily indoor wedding, brides can make use of iconic Sedona venue exteriors. Elizabeth Dobyns married husband Jon in April 2012 in the chapel at Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village. She fell in love with the venue’s exterior, modeled after the old-world architecture of the Mexican town of the same name, and used it as a setting for her wedding photos. “What I really loved about Tlaquepaque were the doors,” she says. “They take you back to a different time and a different place.”
A Great Place to Play
Sedona is in a geographic sweet spot, right in the heart of Arizona—far enough north to have cooler summers than Phoenix, yet close enough to the Valley to make transportation a snap. Couples planning a wedding here also benefit from the town’s proximity to Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon, Prescott and other tourist destinations.
Samoil and her husband spent a week in Sedona when they got married, using the days before and after the ceremony to take a Pink Jeep tour, explore the highly touted energy vortexes in and around Sedona and shop for souvenirs. The groom and groomsmen took the opportunity to shoot a round of golf at the Club at Seven Canyons.
Gierak, whose husband had family arriving from Poland for the ceremony, arranged to have their wedding on a Friday night so that guests could check off some of the many activities she had listed on her wedding invitations. Many went on hikes she had recommended, others journeyed to the nearby mining town of Jerome for a ghost tour, shopped at Tlaquepaque or spent time at one of the many spas in town.
Sedona is a prime location to clear your mind, especially necessary in the days leading up to the wedding. A popular spot? Many couples choose Amara Spa as the place to relax and purify body and mind. It’s the only top-rated spa in Sedona open to the general public. The 4,000-square-foot facility boasts seven treatment rooms, each one named after a coordinating chakra (energy center in the body). Services include couples’ massage, papaya or aloe vera facials, a detoxifying seaweed wrap, and “mother of pearl” nourishing body treatment.
Negotiating Long-Distance Relationships
Many brides make their first contact with Sedona wedding vendors online or by phone, according to Marolakos. “Being able to stream photos on social media has been big for us,” she says. “The Internet has brought a new level of comfort for brides from out of the area who are choosing Sedona.”
According to Marolakos, many area vendors belong to the Sedona Wedding Studio, a consortium of top local resources, and work together exceptionally well. “There’s an amazing level of professionalism in this tiny little town,” she says. “That makes it easy for me, once I know a couple, to offer them good choices.”
Samoil was wowed by the floral arrangements that Events by Show Stoppers created for her. They combined lights and flowers to create a unique ambience during cocktail hour and paid close attention to her preferences.
The musical talents of Sedona Sounds get high marks from Gierak, who hired owner Bobby Russell to play guitar during the wedding. She particularly appreciated Russell’s ability to switch gears and play African drums at the couple’s reception, a nod to their upcoming honeymoon in Tanzania.
Size, Time and Temperature
While Sedona is a versatile stage upon which couples can play out the weddings of their dreams, the town does have a few limitations. For instance, Sedona weddings tend to top out at about 150 guests, due to limited parking at many venues. Another factor to consider is how quickly the town goes from bustling to tranquil once the sun goes down.
“Our town basically shuts down at 9:30 p.m.,” says Marolakos. “However, we can introduce a big party kind of feel at venues for couples who want it at their reception.”
Also be sure to plan for the high desert climate. While central Arizona has more than 300 days of sunny weather per year, Sedona experiences a wide range of weather and temperatures: daytime highs can be more than 100 degrees in the summer, and snow frequently dusts the streets in the winter.
Not Just a Pretty Place
While many couples initially may be drawn to Sedona because of the striking natural environment, brides seem to remember something deeper than eye-catching backdrops after their wedding day. It may also be why many couples return year after year to celebrate anniversaries or vacations.
“The panoramic views of Sedona encircle you,” says Dobyns. “It’s a very peaceful feeling and it reminds you that a wedding is a lifetime commitment and not just about that day.
”Snapshot: Three Popular Red Rock Venues
Amara Resort and Spa
The takeaway: Amara woos couples with its spectacular red rock views, pampering services at its sumptuous spa facilities and delectable food from Hundred Rox, the resort’s American-fusion restaurant.
Popular ceremony/reception locations: Amara’s outdoor ceremony/event lawn was relocated during the property’s 2012 makeover to capitalize on the stunning view. This outdoor space accommodates up to 80 guests; an indoor event space welcomes parties of up to 100.
L’Auberge de Sedona
The takeaway: With a location on the cool, tree-lined banks of Oak Creek, L’Auberge provides couples with tranquil, intimate settings for smaller ceremonies and receptions.
Popular ceremony/reception locations: The Cottageside Lawn and the Garden Lawn accommodate up to 250 and 140 guests, respectively; the Monet Ballroom, a popular choice for indoor receptions, can seat up to 200 guests.
Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village
The takeaway: Patterned after an artisan village in Mexico, Tlaquepaque enchants couples with its vine-covered stucco walls, cobblestoned walkways and magnificent arched entryways.
Popular ceremony/reception locations: The venue’s chapel, which seats up to 45, is available for ceremonies after 5 p.m. Outdoor options include the Calle Independencia, the Patio de las Campanas and the Terrace at Patio del Norte, which accommodate between 60 and 100 guests for receptions.