How To Throw a Ranch Style Wedding Like Jenna Bush's


Having a wedding like First Daughter Jenna Bush's is surprisingly easy. That's because the First Daughter, who is only the 22nd first child in history to tie the knot while their father serves as President, has opted for rustic instead of ritzy.

So instead of taking over the White House, when Jenna marries Henry Hager, a former aide to Karl Rove, on May 10, she will do so at her family’s 1,600-acre ranch in Crawford, Texas. President Bush has said that his daughter will wed near a lake beside a limestone cross from a local quarry. The 200 guests – including 14 bridal attendants (known in the Lone Star State as members of the "house party") and her sister, Barbara, as maid of honor – will dine and dance alfresco.

''It means a lot to Henry and me to be outdoors,'' Jenna told Vogue magazine. ''We wanted something organic and low-key. There's a glamour to [the White House], I know. But Henry and I are far less glamorous than the White House.''

Of course many brides imagining wedding photos in the Rose Garden are probably wondering, "What was she thinking?" But ranch weddings befit a certain demographic of brides, most from more humble means than the President's daughter. “Brides choose to have ranch weddings because they’re enthusiasts for horses and open air," says Penny Persson, who owns Colorado Cattle Company, which hosts 100 to 120 ranch weddings a year. Interested in lassoing the knot yourself? Here's how.

If a family owns a ranch, like the Bushes, wedding at home can save the cost of the renting a reception hall. You may just have to clean out the barn or muck stalls on your own. But renting a ranch – either for a day or several days – is the next best option. Prices vary by state and location, but generally start around $2,000 for a day.

Beaver Meadows, a ranch in Red Feather Lakes, Colo., offers a mountaintop ceremony site and nearby reception hall seating for up to 125 guests indoors, or 250 guests under outdoor tents. This package offers seven hours’ use of the facility and full catering wedding (minus the wedding cake) for $1,700.

Some couples rent the ranch only for their special day, says Persson. But since 9/11, Persson has noticed more couples are having their families vacation at the ranch – riding horses and wrangling cattle – for a few days before the nuptials. At Red Corral Ranch in Wimberley, Texas, for example, couples and their family’s enjoy a “family reunion weekend” by renting out the facility for both Friday and Saturday nights, says Ruth Ann Gilbert, the ranch’s operations manager.

However, Red Corral comes at a price: $6,900 the wedding package. But couples enjoy use of the 1,100-acre property, accommodations for 15, a big red barn for dancing, and a hayride, as well as a weekend full of activities like skeet-shooting. Additionally, some couples stay for a week or more after the ceremony to honeymoon on the ranch together – like Red Corral, which offers a “honeymoon suite” in the log cabin.

Ranch wedding decorations might include straw bales and local flora such as bluebells (a Texas wildflower). (Also, hiring a snake wrangler or two, to keep unwanted rattlers away from the reception, may also be a good idea.)

Some couples ride horses to the ceremony, with the bride riding sidesaddle so as not to ruin her wedding dress, says Persson. (Other brides wear dresses with detachable skirts so that they can ride off into the sunset after the ceremony!) More common, however, is for guests to be transported to the ceremony in horse-drawn wagons.

At the Beaver Meadows ranch, a team of Percheron draft horses will pull a covered wagon or carriage full of guests. A covered wagon is $250 and a carriage is $395 for an hour and a half. At the Red Corral ranch in Texas, the venue will connect brides-and-grooms-to-be with a local who will provide his antique horse-drawn carriage for a ceremony.

“They’re probably getting ready to barbecue some kind of critter,” says Persson of the Bush wedding party. To feed your guests in a similar manner, you’ll need a spit for the barbecue, like this 415 lb. grill for $2,995.00. Pair your grilled grub with some Big Red soda, of Waco, and Lone Star beer, of San Antonio, in a cattle trough filled with ice.

Jenna’s wearing an Oscar de la Renta gown, which retails in the thousands and the house party will each have an individually designed Lela Rose cocktail dress. Guests may want to show up in ten-gallon hats and bolo ties for the men. Instead of worrying about matching shoes, have everyone wear their authentic Texan cowboy boots (especially if you are unable to secure that snake wrangler).

They may be rich, but the Bushes shouldn’t be above giving their daughter a “just married” sendoff with cans on strings tied to the back of a car. Since the wedding’s on a ranch, maybe a pickup truck, like the Ford F150 (F), which retails for $17,700, and some empty cans of Lone Star. Yee-haw! And congratulations!


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