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Category: Weddings

Top 10 Ranch Wedding Moments with Creative Director Christina Wernikowski

A Trip Down Memory Aisle

Our Big Sky Love celebration allows us to celebrate everything we love about Montana, but we also love to celebrate love under the Big Sky. What better day than Valentine’s Day to think of all the loving moments we’ve been involved in over our 12 years as a destination wedding venue. It’s the unexpected tears from fathers, the speeches from Best Men and Maids of Honor that give you chills, the precious flower girls, and adorable doggy escorts. Over the past few years it was the intimate moments shared on mountain peaks and in Zoom weddings. Weddings are just one small facet of all the forms of love we can highlight today, but we are deeply honored when adventurous couples choose our 6,600 acres to take their first steps as a married couple. 

Guided by Our Wedding & Event Expert

The Ranch’s Creative Director Christina Wernikowski has worked here for ten of our 12 years as a luxury ranch and venue. In that time, she’s had the opportunity to be part of some of the first weddings, to learn with the experts at Laurie Arons’ Wedding Planner Masterclass, and to rethink event design during a pandemic. We asked Christina to choose her top 10 favorite wedding moments captured on camera during her tenure, and the results are true to her pun-loving personality and timeless style.

#1 Fall in Love

Fall wedding couple
Photo by Elizabeth Lanier Photography, Floral by Habitat Floral Studio

“Something hits a little different with our Fall weddings. especially when the leaves aspens are putting on their annual show. Megan and Connor timed their wedding perfectly for the Montana gold rush.”

#2 Weddings Can Be “In-Tents”

Blue Canteen Wedding Venue
Photo by Jose Villa, Floral by Sarah Winward for Laurie Arons Wedding Planner Masterclass

“I adore the Blue Canteen as an event space for smaller weddings. This image was captured while we were hosting Laruie Arons’ wedding planning master class. I was lucky enough to take class and learned so much. The florist, Sarah Winward had such a great use of locally foraged elements into her arrangement that kept her arrangements as a perfect balance of natural beauty and elegance.”

#3 Mile-High Moments

Photo by Nirav Patel Photography, Event and Floral by Habitat Events

“I think the best part of getting married in Montana is it never fails in providing a breathtaking backdrop.”

#4 Dreaming of a White Wedding

Photo by Rebecca Hollis Photography, Event by Greenwood Events

“Winter is such an amazing time to be married at The Ranch at Rock Creek. It lends itself to a monochromatic palette that creates an etherial mood.”

#5 Chef à La Mode

Photo by Belathée Photography

“Executive Chef Drage shown in his element on his signature mode of transportation. Chef puts a lot of time, energy and thought into curating a menu that has meaning to our happy couples, but is true to Montana. For example, one couple had their first date shucking oysters and these were incorporated into their wedding social hour.”

#6 On Cloud Nine

Photo by Belathée Photography, Event by Habitat Events

“One of the beautiful things about working at The Ranch is that you become part of the extended Manley family (the owners of The Ranch). It has been so lovely to see Jim and Marybeth’s children meet their significant other, fall in love, get married, and grow their family. I love this image of Mary Claire and Sam. Mary Claire’s feet aren’t even touching the ground. These two are on cloud nine.”

#7 Burning Love

Photo by Nirav Patel Photography, Event by Habitat Events

“Grace and Adam were such an amazing couple. I loved how each event and detail brought so much meaning. Bonfires were a family tradition in Adam’s family and it was important to have this as a social gathering. Also, how can you not make a burning love pun?”

#8 Spring Lambs and Loves

Photo by Jose Villa, Floral by Sarah Winward for Laurie Arons Wedding Planner Masterclass

“How can you resist an adorable flower girl and a sweet spring lamb. I love the details that come out of Ranch weddings. Each season brings fun details to the event. Our event designers, Ranch staff and adventurous couples make the perfect combination to produce unique weddings.”

#9 Head Over Heels

Photo by Elizabeth Lanier Photography

“I’m a sucker for the first dance at a wedding. I remember gasping when I saw Conor flip Megan in her beautiful dress. I am so happy this moment was captured by Elizabeth Lanier Photography.”

#10 Shed an Antler and a Tear

Photo by Elizabeth Lanier Photography, Event and Floral by Habitat Events and Floral Studio

“Weddings at The Ranch are so much more than a ceremony and reception. They are a time to bond with your friends and family. The spaces are so versatile that they can be elegant, rustic and full of personality that showcases the personalities of the bride and groom. I see that when I look at this beautiful reception in the Buckle Barn.”

About Creative Director Christina Wernikowski

Christina Wernikowsky, the Food and Beverage Director at The Ranch at Rock Creek, holding a bouquet of flowers

Christina has always loved to create memorable, authentic experiences through human connection. She loves finding and showcasing local and regional artists, musicians and craftspeople to help enhance the guest experience at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

Christina began working at The Ranch at Rock Creek in 2012, where she focused on locally sourcing artisan crafts and sundries in our Mercantile. She soon moved into the role of Events Manager, where she and Executive Chef Josh Drage collaborated on creative culinary programming during weekly Ranch happenings and special events.

There are so many talented and passionate people in Montana, and I find that the interactions that our guests have with these individuals create a memorable experience that truly resonates with them while supporting our community.

Category: Weddings

Big Sky Love

We love having a hand in life-changing moments – whether it’s riding a horse for the first time or saying, “I do” surrounded by falling aspen leaves. This past holiday season, we had a chance to welcome two incredible people to our banks and get to know them during an important time in their relationship. Katie and Erik were kind enough to share their story with us and our community. We are honored to be a part of their very special “cowboy Christmas.” Join us for our Big Sky Love Celebration this Valentine’s/President’s Weekend.

A Match Made in Miami

We met about a year ago. It was Christmas 2017 and we attended a mutual friend’s wedding in Miami. Erik is a Miami born and raised man and I’m an NYC girl. We met and danced the night away. While we both were there to celebrate the love of a friend, we had no idea what an impact that night would have on our lives…

Though we sent a few messages after the wedding and discussed a possible meeting in the spring, as often happens, our lives got busy over the holidays. It wasn’t until two months later that Erik reached out to me. It was a simple text about an amazing grilled cheese sandwich he’d just had.  He remembered I love grilled cheese sandwiches and he thought of me and wanted to say, “Hi.”

A grilled cheese in the Granite Lodge. We always knew that cheese had the power to bring people closer together!

That simple message sparked everything to proceed. We couldn’t talk enough, and I never wanted our conversations to end. Over the phone, we solidified our love for each other. Though we’d only shared a few dances in a room full of people, we took the time to get to know, understand and love each other. It was like being “pen pals,” an old school term, but very powerful in today’s modern world. It’s amazing to have the chance to get to know someone from afar.

A Long Distance Love Story

After a few conversation about seeing each other, I just knew I couldn’t wait to see him and booked a trip to Miami in March. From that trip on, we had to be together. Though long distance is hard, we didn’t care. We were going to make it work.

We promised to be very present in each other’s lives even from a far. We also agreed to see each other about every two weeks and we did. There wasn’t anything that could stop us. I’m not sure either of us believed in the adage, “once you know, you know,” but we were both so sure this was IT.

Fast forward – In September, I moved to Miami. The first challenge was blending our fur baby family. I had one dog and he had three dogs and a cat. We ended up getting a new puppy together, as well. All of a sudden we became a family of 8! There were definitely times of adjustment, but nothing we couldn’t conquer with love. 

We decided pretty early on in the relationship that we wanted to have a Cowboy Christmas, and that’s where The Ranch comes into play. We researched A LOT of places and this one seemed the best and something we had to do. Needless to say, we were beyond impressed and in love with The Ranch at Rock Creek. Little did I know how much The Ranch would become a part of our love story.

A Mile-High Milestone

It was our fourth day there and we went on our second horseback ride of the week. Chelsea took us out again and all seemed ‘typical’ until we walked up to a very romantic setting on the creek. It was a fire pit, wooden benches, blankets, flowers and champagne. Chelsea sold it to us as a new romance package they were testing out. (Those who know me know I’m so gullible.)

I started to take video/photos of the beautiful set up and as I turned around, my life forever changed. He was telling me how much I meant to him and how much he loved me as he was bending down on one knee. I kind of froze in excitement and said, “YES!” The easiest ‘yes’ I’ve ever said in my life.

We enjoyed the champagne and went back to the Granite Lodge to celebrate. The staff had turned the Great Room into a beautiful setting for two where we could enjoy our engagement and each other.  The rest of the night was a wonderful blur. Wine/bourbon tasting, chef’s tasting menu, bowling, and we were able to share our joy with some of our favorite staff. 

We will forever and always love The Ranch at Rock Creek. It’s was the perfect place to begin our engagement and we couldn’t be happier with where life has taken us. Onto the next adventure! We just closed on our first house and I started a new job. So many things are ahead of us and we are beyond excited. One thing we know is that we will be back and can’t wait to visit our spot on the creek.

Much love-
Katie and Erik 

See how we plan weddings, elopements and other milestones in our unique setting and with Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star service. Get inspired for Valentine’s Day with a sample romantic itinerary.

Category: Weddings

Wedding in a Winter Wonderland at Laurie Arons’ Masterclass

As the forecast hints of snow, we’re starting to think about our exciting winter season. This year we’re offering three new special offers for leisure travelers. However, we don’t want to ignore a very special kind of travel to The Ranch—destination weddings.

We’ve had the privilege to work with Laurie Arons, one of the world’s premier wedding planners, for the past two years. Laurie has been featured on Vogue’s “The Ultimate Wedding Planner Master List,” and we have the pictures to prove that she deserves her title as a “master.” In 2015, we did a Q&A with Laurie after her spring Wedding Planner Masterclass. This week, we welcome her as a guest blogger as she showcases her experiences at the 2016 winter Wedding Planner Masterclass. 

Planning the Ultimate Winter Wedding by Laurie Arons

As a wedding planner, I’ve long been inspired by the beauty of winter weddings—so cozy, intimate and romantic.

Masterclass attendees enjoy a farm-to-table feast during their winter wedding welcome dinner
Masterclass attendees enjoy a farm-to-table welcome dinner in the Blue Canteen. Photo by Jose Villa.

The past two winters I’ve spent at The Ranch at Rock Creek opened my eyes to the potential of a winter affair where guests get to snuggle by the fire and warm their hearts when it’s cold outside.

Guests to The Ranch at Rock Creek can enjoy a roaring fire in the Sweet Grass glamping cabinSweet Grass Canvas Cabin – A three-room glamping tent open year-round. Photo by Jose Villa. 

Read more…

Category: Weddings

Masterful Destination Weddings

How well the words destination and wedding fit together—one describes the culmination of a journey and the other the exciting start of a new one. We were thrilled to host some of the top destination wedding experts during Laurie Arons’ Wedding Planner Masterclass in April. Laurie Arons Special Events is a San Francisco-based business that has managed over 600 events, including tailored destination weddings. Laurie and her Masterclass team (see below), challenged the idea that “nothing’s perfect” by sharing their orchestrated refinement and insider knowledge with talented colleagues and attendees. They turned the rustic beauty of The Ranch at Rock Creek into a Western story book romance. We’re pleased to share some of the Instagram highlights here, although we highly recommend you delve deeper by searching #weddingplannermasterclass for yourself.

Q & A with Laurie Arons

While she was here, we couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to pick Laurie’s brain for our 2015 brides and grooms. Laurie answered some of the pressing questions that arise when planning a Montana destination wedding.

We hope you enjoy these masters in their element: Laurie Arons, Mindy Rice Design, Casa de Perrin, Amber Moon Design, Curlicue Designs, Montana Party Rentals, Elan Event Rentals, Jose Villa Photography, Paula LeDuc, Barn Relic, Blush Roses, Joel Serrato, Style Me Pretty Weddings, Geraldine Magazine, Czar Press, Creative Candles and Fellini Salon.

Laurie Arons Masterclass included expertise from renowned wedding photographer Jose Villa and instructions on staging shotsLeft: @pitbullsposies captures master photographer Jose Villa at work. Right: @smpweddings with the results.

What wedding trends do you expect to see in 2015?

Gold has been the metallic accent color of choice for the last couple years, but for the Wedding Planner Masterclass, I wanted to focus on a metal I think will start to inspire a new trend in weddings—pewter. This metal works beautifully with more rustic weddings because of its muted tone, and is more unexpected than gold or silver.

Both the welcome dinner and the formal dinner incorporated pewter through Mindy Rice’s design and Casa de Perrin’s pewter chargers and flatware.  I also loved the pewter letterpress ink on the printed materials.

Wedding details by Mindy Rice design augmented the natural beauty of the bride, groom and Montana landscape during the Wedding MasterclassLeft:@lauriearons bridal shoot. Right: @mindyricedesign’s inventive boutonnieres with found objects.  Read more…

Category: Weddings

Event Barn Raising: Grand Opening

An Event Barn in Big Sky Country

Although the sky in Montana takes center stage, barns are an essential part of the western horizon. Barns dot the countryside in shades of weathered gray and red. Some have fallen into disrepair, but it isn’t uncommon to see an old barn preserved or turned into an event barn by new generations with a steadfast loyalty to preserving the past.

Often billed as “rustic,” a barn was actually the original rural luxury. It cost more than a home and stored a ranch’s wealth, in the form of livestock, equipment and feed. Barns were painted to seal them from the elements, but the use of red paint was primarily for effect, to showcase a family’s prosperity. It kept horses and cattle safe and warm, stored hay, often in an upper loft, and provided a large space for people to gather.

The New York Times recently published a story about an event barn and the rise of barn weddings, describing some celebrations as disruptive. In Montana, it is a resurgence, since the barn was always a place of safety and community celebration. In our remote setting, a barn is nestled far away from other homesteads. A Montana barn wedding can be as private or inclusive as the family desires.


According to Chere Jiusto and Christine W. Brown, in Hand Raise: The Barns of Montana, “Barns are an emblem of the importance of rural communities and family enterprise. They remind us that with spirit and ingenuity we can live in balance with the land, that we can support our neighbors who work hard and long to bring food to our tables, and that we can celebrate the bounty of their efforts. Those much-loved barns are an essential part of our cultural landscape.” Read more…