The big surprise: Bride says ‘I will’ and ‘I do’ on same day atop Vail Mountain
September 29, 2016
VAIL — Proposing marriage to your beloved can be stressful, but imagine planning a surprise wedding for your significant other immediately following your proposal.
That's what Zach Baldwin did with his then-girlfriend, now-wife Catie Baldwin on Sept. 16, a sunny fall day atop Vail Mountain.
With friends and family secretly flown in for the occasion, Catie said "yes" and then "I do" in the span of about four hours.
"It went from nervousness to excitement when I got down on one knee and saw her face and knew that everyone was there," Zach said. "As soon as she said 'yes' to that and I asked the second question and everyone came out, it was just pure enjoyment and excitement."
With good-intentioned lies and planning behind Catie's back, Zach planned for 20 of their closest friends and family to show up at the top of the Eagle Bahn Gondola as he proposed and then prepared a wedding that Catie also agreed to on the fly.
"Let's just do it. Why not?" Catie said. "If you've got it planned, then let's do it!"
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Zach said he knew he wanted to propose, but a co-worker joked about doing both the proposal and wedding in the same day.
"I took it seriously," he said. "I wasn't able to sleep that night because I just started envisioning that day going down the way it ended up going down."
Two months before, Zach had first contacted both of their mothers for approval and then got to planning, recruiting help and assigning tasks for those involved — all without Catie finding out.
Catie's sister Casey helped organize the pop-up wedding. She said that she brought a wedding dress for her sister from Austin, Texas, and her mother brought one from Dallas.
"Basically, she didn't have a choice," Casey said. "Well, she had two choices."
Zach's family was tasked with corralling friends and relatives into Vail without Catie knowing, and the majestic views of Vail provided the scenery.
"It was cool that we didn't need that extra stuff," Catie said of the wedding planning. "The scenery is more than enough."
The only flowers were the bride's bouquet, which were actually succulents — not flowers.
Zach took that Friday off from work to take Catie to Vail for a long weekend. The couple lives in Denver, and Zach was busy that morning staying in touch with family and friends coming, as well as trying to get Catie out of the house in a timely manner.
"As the morning progressed, I had a timeline," Zach said. "And the funny thing was, Catie wakes up and she all of a sudden wants to start cleaning."
"I'm just taking my time, packing and cleaning the house," Catie said. "It's like the best day ever. I have nowhere to be at a certain time."
Zach eventually got Catie into the car to head to Vail, without being too pushy.
"The drive up was honestly the longest drive I've ever done," Zach said. "I knew what was coming, and I was hoping it would all work out well."
While Zach's mind was racing on the drive, Catie was enjoying the fall foliage.
"It was a very peaceful ride up," she said, "playing music and getting ready for an awesome weekend."
After arriving in Vail, Zach told Catie that the hotel had upgraded them to a suite.
"I'm completely oblivious that everything's turning out to be a perfect day," Catie said.
Walking to the Eagle Bahn gondola, Catie thought she was heading up the mountain for a beautiful lunch, since she was hungry from the drive up. Zach had to again tread lightly to pull his hungry bride-to-be to the scenic overlook where their family and friends were waiting.
"I said, 'Let's eat,'" she said. "He said, 'Let's do this first.'"
Catie and Zach ended up riding the Eagle Bahn twice that day.
"We were laughing a lot and joking about the gondola ride because I went up it single, went down it engaged, about four hours later I went back up it engaged, and then back down married."
Zach and Catie are looking forward to returning to Vail this winter, but she will be on high alert for the first few visits.
"She'll be looking around the corner for her family and friends," Zach said.
Although they might not be there next time, Catie will always remember Sept. 16, 2016, as the day she got engaged, then married.
"I think they're both free-spirited and spontaneous, so it was perfect for them," Casey said.
Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.