Unique Wedding Traditions and Trends in All 50 States
Celebrate your big day like a local in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.
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Wedding Trends and Traditions Across the Country
Incorporating aspects of your wedding location or home states can be a unique way to personalize your big day. We asked local wedding planners what’s trending and what traditions they’re seeing the most in their state.
“Southern weddings are all about celebrating traditions,” said Meghan Cease, owner and principle planner of M. Elizabeth Events. “Legend has it that if you bury a bottle of bourbon before your wedding day, you’ll ward off bad weather and enjoy sunny skies during the ceremony. Southern couples take weather — and their bourbon — very seriously, so one of our favorite traditions is watching the couple head to their venue one month prior of their ceremony to bury a bottle of bourbon. On the wedding day, we allow time in the timeline to dig up the bourbon and take a celebratory drink!”
It doesn’t get much more unique than getting married on a glacier, and Rebecca Kopperud, owner and chief designer of La Boum Events, says glacier weddings are about 50 percent of her business.
“It can be couples coming with their closest friends and family, but sometimes they don’t want anybody there and it’s really just about the two of them sharing their vows and having a very intimate moment,” she said. “It’s so whimsical and romantic, and you’re just surrounded by the majesty and beauty of Alaska.”
Tasha Miller, lead planner and designer of Meant2Be Events, says that some unique traditions in Arizona include couples planting a cactus during their ceremony, giving guests cacti or succulents as wedding favors and creating signature cocktails featuring prickly pear — a type of cactus plant that produces edible fruits.
“It is such a beautiful state,” Miller said. “The weather is so beautiful pretty much for eight months out of the year.”
“The people in Arkansas truly exhibit southern hospitality and courtesy,” said Meredith Corning of Meredith Events. One newer tradition she’s seen is a leather unity ceremony. “Leather is known in Ozark Mountain history as being a symbol of strength and unity. This puts a local spin on the traditional unity candle ceremony. You can choose to brand a surname, monogram or another meaningful symbol into your ceremony leather, have it framed and put on display in your new home!”
“California has many transplants, making it a destination for family and friends flying in to attend the wedding,” said Amanda Verrips, a certified wedding planner and designer at Say Yes Event Co. “Many couples in California plan an activity with their family and wedding party the day before the wedding, such as wine tasting or floating down the Russian River.”
And whether or not the couple are California natives, she loves when they want to integrate uniquely California items into their event.
“Nothing ends an event better than dancing for hours and taking a break to enjoy an In-N-Out burger and shake!”
“We are a high-and-dry alpine desert,” said Lilli Black, owner and lead planner of Sweetly Paired Weddings. “Many of our weddings are more than 10,000 feet in altitude, up in the mountains, so even gifts for guests like mini oxygen canisters are common!”
Couples have also included on-site flavored oxygen bars for guests to help fight off any altitude sickness.
According to Sarah Parlos, wedding planner and floral designer at One Fine Day, one of the best perks to planning weddings in Connecticut is its beautiful landscapes and working with the changing of seasons.
“Connecticut is known for rolling meadows, farms, mansions, a beautiful coastline, waterfalls, small lakes, rivers and forests,” Parlos said. “You can easily find a beautiful field, waterside location, or an estate to host your dream ceremony at. More than 75 percent of our events booked for 2019 have chosen a non-church ceremony site.”
“While Delaware is the second smallest state in the country, we are rich in history with many historic estates,” said Samantha Diedrick Harris, president and owner of Secretariat Wedding & Event Planning. “Another popular thing to do is having the Woodside Farm Creamery ice cream truck at your wedding for guests to enjoy local homemade ice cream, and you cannot have a wedding in Delaware without Dogfish Head Brewery beer on the bar!”
In Florida, beach weddings and sand ceremonies are especially popular according to Kristina Breffitt, owner of Princess Wedding Coin Panama City Beach.
“Here in the panhandle area of Florida, we have the most beautiful white sand beaches, which are perfect for blending – which represents the coming together of two people,” she said. “Typically, the bride and groom have different colors of sand and take turns pouring the sand into a vase, creating a layered look. Sometimes, if couples have kids, they will participate as well.”
Georgia is known for their peaches, southern charm and sweet tea, and whether it’s drinking from mason jars or pairing cowboy boots with wedding dresses, most couples tap into that southern tradition in some aspects of their wedding.
“For some, the more rustic the better,” said Sharon Arrington-Sills, owner and event director at GGT Events. “There’s even a new design term that brides are choosing called ‘rustic-glam.”
Brides are often opting for farm-style wooden tables with burlap, greenery, cotton branches and candles serving as the table decor, centerpieces and/or table runners.
According to Diana Brown, wedding planner and on-site coordinator at Happily Maui'd LLC, which specializes in spiritual Hawaiian wedding ceremonies, a flower petal toss is a great way to include a Hawaiian tradition in the wedding that also allows friends and family to participate. “According to Hawaiian culture, each petal is a wish that the wind god ‘Lono’ will hear as the couple and their loved ones toss them into the air. It also makes for great pictures!”
Another tradition is the conch shell blow during the ceremony. “The long, deep call of the conch is believed to summon all elements — air, fire, water and earth — as witnesses to the sacred ceremony," Brown said.
“Idaho is so diverse! If you want to run away to get married in the mountains, the desert or the city, you do not have to go very far,” said Sara Ledo, owner and lead wedding planner of Sara Michelle Weddings and Events. “Many of our couples opt for outdoor weddings or ceremonies, or bring the outdoors in. Idaho is a very active state, so it is very important to our couples that they experience what they love during their wedding.”
Sandra Nava, owner and lead planner at Iris Weddings and Events, is based out of Chicago, where there’s a plethora of great food options.
“While everyone loves the classics like deep dish or a Chicago dog, I love when couples have Chicago snacks and desserts like a doughnut wall from Stan’s Donuts or favor bags filled with Chicago mixed popcorn,” she said. “One wedding I assisted recently gave out 50mL bottles of Malort as favors to their guests. Malort is a wormwood spirit created in Chicago in the 1930s. It’s become a rite of passage for Chicagoans despite its bitter, unappealing flavor — which makes us want to share it with others, if only to see them grimace after trying it!”
“I love how proud people are to be from here,” said Sarah Agee, owner of Plum & Poppy Weddings. “They want to show their guests the best of this state. It makes weddings personal and fun for their guests who may never have been here before.”
Many couples like to focus on products or services that are from Indiana, so they'll incorporate corn into their meals. “They often times use local products for their favors since many of our client's guests come from out of state,” Agee said. “So, they'll use a local popcorn company or chocolatier. Often times their hotel welcome bags are full of all local products as well — local popcorn, chocolate and beer.”
“Iowans are simple people. They like a good game of corn hole — also known as bags — and an ice-cold beer. No need for too many fancy things,” said Amanda Burrell, owner and creative director of White Ivy Events. “You will almost always hear the Hawkeye fans playing the Iowa Fight Song and 'In Heaven There Is No Beer,' while watching guests sing along with the lyrics, ‘In heaven there is no beer, that’s why we drink it here!’”
When it comes to sports, she says that Iowa is a state divided — Hawkeye fans and Cyclone fans, but only when they're playing each other. “You will see black and gold accents added into many eastern Iowa weddings, while red and gold is used in a lot of western Iowa celebrations,” she said.
“One thing that sticks out here in Kansas is a post-wedding event,” said Brennan Swiderski, owner and designer of As You Wish Event Planning and Design. “A lot of couples do bridal party photos and couple photos ‘around town,’ meaning they hop on a party bus or limo and they travel around our awesome city and take pictures at popular landmarks. We are also known for our BBQ here in Kansas — it’s the most popular style of catering found here.”
A more surprising trend that she’s noticed? “A lot of brides also have their pets or animals involved in their weddings,” she added. “Think flower crowns on dogs, horses, llamas, and even mini donkeys!”
“There are so many things I love about planning weddings in Kentucky. Couples love tradition, but also love putting a spin on tradition and making the day about them,” said Sarah Burton, wedding planner at Simply Love Studio. “Many weddings will have a Kentucky nod to them. It can be Kentucky Derby-themed or feature specialty cocktails with Kentucky bourbon, favors like bourbon balls or non-alcoholic drinks like Ale-8-One, which is manufactured outside of Lexington. Couples will also use a bourbon barrel as their cake stand or use a bourbon barrel head or stave as their guest book.”
In many southern states, including Louisiana, the grooms get their own special wedding cake in addition to the main wedding cake. “This is typically something themed that is a hobby or a favorite of the groom,” said Hannah Trahan, owner and planner at Southern Couture. “What I enjoy most about wedding planning in Louisiana is the details. I love that no two couples or wedding is the same.”
Marrying by the sea, eating lobster and incorporating blueberries — the state is known for its wild blueberries — are just a few wedding traditions that are unique to Maine, according to fifth-generation Maine native Katherine Jameson of Katherine's Event Planning. However, one of the most popular trends is getting married at a lighthouse.
“Lighthouses have mystique and allure,” Jameson said. “Couples want to touch them and marry as close to them as they can possibly get. Some of Maine's lighthouses can be reached by car, while others are only accessible by boat. These majestic beacons are a big draw for couples.”
“Maryland is known for its seafood and waterfront properties,” said Courtney Kappus Shaw, partner and lead stylist at Moore & Co. Event Stylists. “A lot of weddings take on a nautical theme, especially in Annapolis and on the Eastern Shore.”
Other ideas include welcome bags with crab chips, Old Bay seasoning, crab mallets, Goetze's caramel creams and Berger Cookies, all of which are local to Maryland. The state is also known for its Orange Crush, which is a popular signature drink at weddings.
“Weddings in Massachusetts typically have a whole different look and feel than celebrations that take place in other parts of the country,” said Amy McLaughlin, owner of Amy McLaughlin Lifestyles. “A ‘New England vibe’ is how many of our couples describe it when we ask them about their desired wedding day vision. When people come to Massachusetts to attend a wedding, they are hoping to experience traditional New England. This means clam-bakes, lobster, seersucker suits with Vineyard Vines ties, Boston baked beans and the Red Sox. If the bride and groom are aiming for a more formal affair for their wedding, they will often work these elements into their welcome party the night before their wedding.”
“We have beautiful summers in Michigan and our couples love hosting their weddings outdoors or at unique non-wedding venues, from tents on private farmland to closed Detroit auto factories,” said Meagan McPhail, owner and creative director of Mitten Weddings and Events.
One of Meagan’s favorite destinations is Mackinac Island, where it’s a slower pace with no cars that seems to transport guests back in time. “Although there are many logistical challenges using drays to transport everything, it is a truly magical place!” she added.
“Many Minnesotans have Norwegian, Danish and Swedish roots, which means you will often see a Kransekage cake at the center of the dessert display.” said Jennae Saltzman, owner of Blush and Whim. “In tradition, it’s good luck for the couple if every guest at the wedding gets a piece. Other couples opt for traditional Scandinavian design details throughout their event.”
Other trends include lakeside or camp weddings. “As Minnesotans, we are known for our frigid temps and long winters, which means we relish the short summer months by spending them on one — or several — of our 10,000 lakes via cabin, camp or boat,” Saltzman said.
Some say that no one buys koozies in the south — they just go to weddings, and Terrica McKee, wedding planner, florist and educator at Southern Productions Weddings and Events, has seen this trend firsthand.
“A lot of couples use an edible wedding favor or koozies with the couple’s wedding monogram or crest for Mississippi weddings,” she said. Many couples will also have Southern-themed food at the reception, such as a biscuit bar or fried green tomato station.
“What I enjoy most about planning weddings in Missouri is the incredible love for Kansas City that our couples have!” said Megan Julian, founder and lead planner at Julian Events. Food, sports and collegiate pride are common themes incorporated into local weddings, and, because Kansas City sits right on the border of Kansas and Missouri, there’s often a mix of alumni from colleges in both states.
“But the one thing we all have in common in this city is a love for sports,” Julian said. “Many couples will incorporate some element of the Chiefs or the Royals from color schemes, to hiring the mascots to make an appearance at their reception. We've even had clients come into the reception to a drum line or pep band.”
Montana has a lot of destination couples, and most are looking for that unique Montana experience with a rustic feel, according to Erika Sherek, principal planner and owner of PlumTree Events.
“Now a true Montana wedding is going to be in the middle of a field with no electricity or plumbing, on someone's land usually with a stream or river nearby and a gorgeous backdrop of mountains.” Sherek said. “Bales of hay or hand-made benches will be used, the guests will be transported by a tractor pulling a wagon, everyone will be wearing cowboy boots and there will be horses in the picture.” She adds that sometimes the bride will even come in on a horse or the couple will ride down the aisle on horseback.
Nebraska is more than the stereotypical region that people may have ingrained in their minds, said Theresa Farrage, event specialist at the Scoular Ballroom, a historic venue in Omaha that dates back to the 1920s.
“Nebraska is comprised of several pockets of various ethnic groups,” she said. “For example, there’s a large population of Czech immigrants in central Nebraska, and when I’ve attended these weddings, there’s usually a plentiful display of kolaches and rosettes made by the local church ladies. Also, you better learn to polka because these tunes are often intermixed with other wedding songs at the reception!”
Of course, Las Vegas is well known for having “special guests” like Elvis or Dean Martin make an appearance at weddings, which can be especially entertaining, but the state has much more to offer.
“Nevada is the wedding capital of the world — when most think of Vegas weddings, they think of the typical Las Vegas Strip and the wedding chapels,” said Emily Reno, owner and lead planner at Emily Reno Events. “However, there are so many more amazing parts of Las Vegas that people are choosing to get married at, some of these places being Red Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire, the dry lake bed and Nelson's Landing, just to name a few.”
According to Elise Parham, senior planner at Love Affair, welcome parties are a popular tradition in New Hampshire, including lobster bakes on sightseeing boats on the ocean or cruising on Lake Winnipesaukee.
“Because New Hampshire is such a destination wedding location, many couples invite all of the wedding guests to attend a welcome party when they first get into town,” Parham said. “It’s a great way to kick off the wedding weekend!”
“We don’t have specific ceremony traditions, nor do we do anything different with regard to the wedding reception,” said Jenny Orsini, owner and creative director at Jenny Orsini Events. “I can tell you, however, that New Jersey, particularly Northern New Jersey, is very big on food! Cocktail hours are infamously gluttonous — you name the food, and you will likely see it at cocktail hour in New Jersey.”
Many couples opt for lots of food stations: seafood, sushi, sliders and French fries, Asian wok, meat carving, and of course, lots of pasta stations.
“What I enjoy most about planning weddings in New Mexico is the culture!” said Camilla Dominguez, owner and lead designer at Corazon Events. “Being a New Mexican myself, I love seeing our traditions being passed along to other generations and destination groups.”
La Marcha (which translates to "the march") is one of those traditions. “It’s a very popular, traditional group wedding dance in New Mexico and northern Mexico,” Dominquez said. “It begins with two leaders who welcome in the bride and groom, their wedding party, and eventually all of the guests. It's like a glorified conga line, except with couples, and it's considered good luck to perform this at your wedding.”
What Cathy Ballone of Cathy's Elegant Events enjoys most about planning New York weddings is the beautiful and diverse landscape combined with a wide variety of venue styles to work with.
“More and more, I am hearing couples saying, ‘We want our wedding to be unique, memorable, and personal to us,’” Ballone said. “And no matter what couple we speak to, whatever their style or passions, there is a perfect venue for them in New York to embody their vision.”
One of Ballone’s brides especially loved hot air balloons, so the events team organized tethered hot air balloon rides during cocktail hour. “It is all about personability and bringing their loves and passions into the wedding in an interactive way for guests to enjoy,” Ballone said.
Similar to other southern states, spring and summer brides in North Carolina have traditionally buried bourbon the month before their weddings to keep the rain away on their wedding day, said Amelia Henderson, owner of DNA Affairs. “It also doubles up as something fun the groomsmen can dig up after the ceremony and enjoy.”
Other traditions in North Carolina include pre-wedding activities such as pounding parties, also known as pantry parties. “We gather friends and family to shower the soon-to-be-wed couple with staples for their new pantry. Flour, sugar, butter and eggs are a big hit,” Henderson said. “North Carolina brides are also big fans of the bridal portrait. It's a great dress rehearsal for the big day. The pictures you get are priceless since you can poise at scenic spots like North Carolina's beautiful mountains, beaches, wineries and vintage estates.”
“Something that has been included in most of the weddings that I have been a part of is a memorial table,” said Dianne Graff, owner of Lush Wedding Design and Rental. “Photos and keepsakes are displayed of special people who are no longer with us. One wedding displayed the wedding gowns of their mothers along with the wedding portraits of their parents and grandparents.”
“In terms of wedding favors or welcome gifts, many of our couples like to include buckeyes, which is a chocolate and peanut butter candy made to mimic the nut of the buckeye tree, which is Ohio’s state tree,” said Gina Jokilehto-Schigel, owner and creative director of Shi-Shi Events. “Other couples like to include maple syrup, as Ohio maple syrup is some of the best in the world.”
Oklahomans have a lot of admiration for their sports teams, and local mascots are popular at local weddings, said Gail Rocquemore of Weddings by Gail.
“One big move at a lot of Oklahoma weddings is the ‘Boomer Sooner’ dance, which is the fight song for the University of Oklahoma. There’s big fans in this state!” Rocquemore said. “Country western line dance and music is also big with a lot of weddings here.”
Eloping is an extremely popular trend in Oregon thanks to its scenic locations. “Couples from all across the United States come to Oregon as an elopement destination,” said Dorotheea Dragomir, owner of Kamea Events. “The ‘wild elopements’ that are currently trending are often depicted in our forests, on top of our mountains, and all over our coast line and gorge. There’s no shortage of hiking and ‘adventuring’ for the couple looking for more than just a wedding ceremony.”
“In Pennsylvania, there is an endless supply of candy and chips that are truly local to Pennsylvania,” said Susan H. Moran, owner and principal wedding designer at That's It! Wedding Concepts. She added that many couples use these local treats in their guest welcome bags. “Food and beverages are an incredibly popular way in which to incorporate Pennsylvania in wedding plans.” This includes mini Philly cheesesteaks as appetizers, signature cocktails from The Hotel Hershey, and whoopie pies passed on the dance floor with the signage, “Whoopie — We did it!”
“Music is an important part of the culture of Puerto Rico,” said Carmen Anabitarte-Colon, wedding coordinator at WedAffair. “Bomba y Plena is a traditional dance and musical style in Puerto Rico. We have a lot of couples that, at a certain point during the reception, have a group of dancers that come for about 30 minutes to do a show. They interact with the guests to show them how to dance and the people love it.”
Carmen also said that many couples want to incorporate local food and beverage in the menu, such as including a whole roasted pig at their reception, which is an icon of Puerto Rican cuisine.
Many Rhode Island couples choose to go with a nautical theme for their wedding, according to Christine Ellingwood, owner of Planned to Perfection. “Nautical knots, lobster traps, star fish and navy blue are very popular items you will find at a Rhode Island wedding,” she said. The theme also extends to the food, where you’ll often see clam bakes for rehearsal dinners and a raw bar included at the reception.
“We have great local seafood,” Ellingwood said. “We also have unique items that couples like to include at the reception, such as Del’s Lemonade or having Allie’s Donuts instead of a traditional wedding cake.”
“Welcome bags are a must-have to set the tone for a southern wedding,” said Samantha Anderson, owner and wedding designer of Samantha Anderson Events. “Here in Charleston, we always want to welcome guests who are traveling from out of town with a few treats that are unique to the low country, like Benne Wafers. It is believed that the sesame seed, also known as the benne seed, was introduced to Colonial America in the 17th century, and according to the traditional folklore, Benne Wafers should be eaten for good luck for the bride and groom!”
Gael Johnsen is a photographer and wedding planner at Black Hills Rally Weddings, which specializes in small boutique weddings with the natural beauty of the Black Hills in the backdrop. They specialize in both traditional and biker weddings, which are especially popular during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the largest motorcycle rally in the world, held annually in Sturgis, South Dakota.
“During this time many couples choose to come to the rally to exchange their nuptials from all over the world,” Dakota said, adding that they may see 100 weddings in a 10-day period, one right after the other, in a small and quick, yet beautiful, ceremony.
There is no shortage of beautiful barns that serve as wedding venues in Tennessee. “There a ton of barns in the area and sometimes people utilize open fields and just tent them or tent in addition to using a barn,” said Wedding Planner Jessica Sloane. She adds that weather is a big factor for Tennessee weddings because it rains often, so it helps if the barn can serve as a combined ceremony and reception space in rainy weather.
“A common theme that I have noticed in many Texas weddings is the ‘rustic wedding,’” said Natasha Celestin of JUST4U Wedding Coordinating. “The [number] of acres that are normally surrounding the area depict the perfect example of everything being bigger in Texas.” She adds that it’s also common for many Texan brides to style cowboy boots with their attire to tie in their love for the Lone Star State.
Ranch and mountain weddings are trending in Utah, which has no shortage of beautiful landscapes for couples to choose as the backdrop on their big day. In a local news station interview, Utah Valley Bride Editor Briana Stewart said, “We’re so lucky here in Utah. I think of it with venues and with bridals. There are so many places. We have like 20 locations in one: we have the sand dunes, the Salt Flats, the red rocks, open fields, the mountains. You can get any backdrop that you like here in Utah.”
When asked to envision a traditional Vermont wedding, Leah Stewart, a wedding and event planner at Black Dog Affairs, pictures farm-fresh foods, local craft beverages, locally-sourced flowers and ceremonies in open fields with majestic views of the Green Mountains.
“More and more we’re seeing couples that are looking to share Vermont with their guests, most of whom traveled for the wedding.” Stewart said. “Many of our couples are opting out of more traditional aspects of a wedding to make room to offer their guests experiences that are unique to Vermont.”
A more recent trend is when a couple leads a parade of guests to or from their ceremony location. “While this isn't a true Vermont tradition,” Leah said, “we're seeing this become one — that's picking the spot on your venue's property with the best view to host your wedding ceremony, even if it means your guests are taking a hike! It's a way for the couple to give their guests the opportunity to experience Vermont through their eyes with a view that allows you to truly appreciate Vermont’s natural beauty.”
The father/daughter first look has been very popular with the Emily Weddings and Events Team’s clients in Virginia, with some brides including both of their parents in the special photo op. They also see many beachside or waterfront ceremonies where couples take full advantage of coastal Virginia. Salt water taffy and Virginia peanuts are often incorporated into the couple's day as a taste of Virginia for their guests, and one of the team’s favorite local trends is the last dance being held between the newlyweds, just the two of them.
“Many of the people that live in Washington or that come here to get married are big into the outdoors,” said Erika Hernandez, owner and lead planner of The Greatest Adventure Weddings & Elopements. “Couples, more often than not, want to incorporate nature into their day and show off the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.”
Erika specializes in elopements and adventure weddings, so many of her couples actually like to hike to their ceremony location to get up close and personal with mother nature and show off the Pacific Northwest in all its glory.
“What I enjoy most about planning weddings in Washington is the landscape, by far!” she said. “The Pacific Northwest serves as one of the most beautiful wedding backdrops anywhere — we have mountains, ocean, desert, rainforest and everything in between.”
A plethora of beautiful historic venues and amazing backdrops for photos make choosing an iconic location for wedding ceremonies very popular in D.C.
“Many D.C. clients choose to do photos on the National Mall, near the monuments. This requires a permit, but is very popular,” said Aimee Dominick, president of A. Dominick Events. “Venues like 101 Constitution and the Hay Adams have direct views of the White House or Capitol Dome.”
“John Denver's 'Take Me Home, Country Roads' is often played near the end of receptions for people with ties to West Virginia, as it has kind of become synonymous with the state,” according to local photographers Bobby and Emily Oberport. “People will gather in a circle and sing along with the couple usually dancing in the center of the circle.”
Other popular trends include serving pepperoni rolls — the official food of West Virginia — either as an hors d'oeuvres or as a late-night snack during receptions, and moonshine gets passed around or given out as favors because the area has a long history of moonshine distillers.
Incorporating candy from the local Baraboo candy company, such as the famous Wisconsin cow pie or cow tails, is a popular trend in Wisconsin according to Betsy Pearson, owner of Piece of Cake Consulting, LLC.
“I enjoy getting to know each couple, as well as their families, and helping incorporate traditions and specific design features that are unique and personalized,” Pearson said.
“One of my favorite Wyoming wedding traditions is the running of the horses,” said Ashley Rogers, owner and wedding planner at Weddings & Events by Ashley Marie. “This tradition can be seen during wedding season at Eaton's Ranch in Wolf, Wyoming. After the couple has said “I do,” the ranch wranglers release the herd of ranch horses, which run behind the couple as they have their first kiss as a married pair. It makes for fantastic photos and is a wonderful treat for guests who are not native to Wyoming!”