Enchanted Weddings

The Taos Wedding Expo Shows Why the Enchanted Circle Is
New Mexico’s Hottest New Wedding Destination

Liz Walsh Gilroy, owner of Celebrations Event Rentals in Taos, had been in business for only a few years when she went to her first local wedding expo. It was at Buffalo Thunder (where it still is), and it billed itself as serving all of Northern New Mexico. The funny thing was, as Gilroy walked the halls she realized there were no fellow Taoseños at the expo. Either as vendors or attendees.

Which she found, to put it politely, lacking. “As small as Taos is,” she says, “there’s some real talent here. People who’ve done some pretty amazing work elsewhere, and are still doing great work here. Not just artists but chefs, florists, photographers, DJs. And lots of local talent, too.”

And when she realized that “folks from out of town and in town were finding it hard to find everything they’d need for a wedding,” she decided to do something about it. She went to the Taos Chamber of Commerce and spoke to Susan Cady and Lindsey Rowlison-Elliott, and learned that they’d been thinking pretty much the same thing. Taos, and the entire loop that makes up the Enchanted Circle of Northern New Mexico surrounding Taos—Angel Fire, Eagle Nest, Red River, and Questa—needed if not deserved its own wedding expo.

In February of 2016, Gilroy helped put on the second annual Taos Wedding Expo, Held at the Sagebrush Inn & Suites Conference Center, the Expo showcased everything anyone could possibly desire at their wedding. part of the Keep Taos Local campaign, the Expo was also a public event, open to anyone, and LGBT-friendly.

And not only did it offer brides and grooms (and future in-laws and other planners, co-planners, side planners, and kibitzers) the chance to see what’s available, “it also served,” said participating vendor DJ Oliver, “as a platform to bring the community together to support local business and for those businesses to showcase their creative and sophisticated approach to providing a very necessary service in northern New Mexico.”

Gilroy, who grew up outside Albuquerque and whose husband grew up in Taos, has even higher aspirations. “My hope is that Taos becomes a wedding destination. The Expo is a way of getting more people to come here.”

In some ways, Taos and the Enchanted Circle already are a wedding destination. Last year, Taos County alone had more than 250 weddings; and Gilroy says that from May to October, she averaged five weddings a weekend. And those are just the ones she’s hired out for. There are weddings all around—in the mountains, at the Taos Ski Valley, the Blackstone Ranch, the KTAOS Solar Center (behind the KTAO radio station), at the Gorge Bridge, the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church in Rancho de Taos, among the aspens (pretty much anywhere), in backyards everywhere—even way way up high at the Red River Ski and Summer Area.

All those weddings add up, so economically, the impact is significant. The Taos Chamber of Commerce says that an average of $18,947 is spent on Taos weddings, with an average of 100-115 guests attending. It’s no wonder the Expo sold out last year, and oughta fill up again this year.

And this is not your daddy’s trade show. Something Gilroy was keen on avoiding. “We’ve tried to make it a Taos event, with a Taos feel—not a trade show,” says Gilroy. To that end, she brought in Oliver Knight (aka DJ Oliver), “who has a great sense of what works and how to make it more of an event.” A Los Angeles transplant, DJ Oliver once worked the swanky 13th floor of the Standard Hotel, and will be DJ’ing the Expo Fashion Show, courtesy of Taos Pueblo native Patricia Michaels, owner of PM Waterlily. (Patricia Michaels was runner up on 2013’s Season 11 of Project Runway on the Lifetime Channel.)  There were also door prizes, including a diamond ring donated by Leshem Diamonds & Gold, and honeymoon packages and honeymoon adventures for two.

Sponsorship was provided by the Sagebrush Inn, The Taos News, Leshem, Celebrations, Taos Mountain Casino, Choice Wireless, and the Taos County Chamber of Commerce, and participants ranged from El Monte Sagrado, Sean Kelly Portraits, Old Martina’s Hall, Nick + Suelo, Angel Fire Resort, and Soundworks. Another participant (who were there the first year as well) is Taos’ Los Rios River Runners.

As counterintuitive as it might seem, the river-rafting company fits right in to this type of event. Owner Cisco Guevara said that a good percentage of his business comes from bachelor and bachelorette parties, and family outings in town for weddings. “From a river-running perspective, we’re unusual in that we’re not selling dresses or cakes, so it’s really bizarre,” concedes Guevara. “But in terms of who we serve, it makes complete sense.” In fact, Los Rios took the bachelor from ABC’s The Bachelor, along with eleven of his prospective partners, down the Rio Grande last October (the idea of the show’s producers—not Guevara’s).  “We’re the perfect activity for a visiting family or big groups.” (They also offer the option of getting married on the river—though no one’s taken them up on that yet.)

The Expo has also become a great networking confab. “The neat part of the Expo is that it also brings together the business community,” says Gilroy. “Most of us are all usually so busy doing weddings we never get to actually meet each other. But this way, we do. And we get a lot of great feedback that way.”

In the end, of course, it’s really all about the weddings. “Although Taos is a far cry from Los Angeles,” says DJ Oliver, “the weddings, and brides and grooms, that I’ve had the pleasure working with in Taos have been nothing short of magical.” As magical as the Enchanted Circle itself.

Helpful links for planning your EC honeymoon, all members of the EC Marketing Coop:
Auslander Condos in Red River
Resort Properties of Angel Fire
H2 Uptown restaurant in Angel Fire
BeyondTaos Community Calendar

Photos: A wedding in Angel Fire, overlooking the Moreno Valley (courtesy of Angel Fire Resort); several images of Taos Wedding Expo 2015 by Jim Cox; a summer wedding in Taos Ski Valley (courtesy of Taos Ski Valley Chamber of Commerce)