Love is in Taos air


Originally published in Taos Wedding Issue

Taos reputation as a romantic destination is growing.  In 2011 the city was named by Shape Magazine as one of the Top 12 “Best Honeymoon Destinations for Active Couples” in the world.

“Taos also has what people call ‘good vibes,’” says Stella Mares McGinnis, who adds, “This is a profoundly spiritual place with a wealth of traditions that should be kept alive.”

Shall we dance?

Mares McGinnis is quite knowledgeable about traditions, particularly those related to nuptial ceremonies. She and her dancing partner, Tim Romero, have led La Gran Marcha Tradicional in countless weddings and anniversary ceremonies in Taos, Denver, Santa Fe and many other cities.

“La Gran Marcha is played at the beginning of the reception and is a dance full of symbolism,” she explains. “Tim and I lead the bride and groom, then all the guests join in. The initial movement means that the groom is presenting the bride to the community. Later we all do the jacalita, a kind of human arch, and everyone goes under it. We all come out holding hands and start dancing in circles as a way of showing support for the newlyweds.”

Other popular wedding dances are La Varsoviana and the Dollar Dance. In the Dollar Dance, the women pin dollar bills onto the groom’s lapel and the men pin bills onto the bride’s dress or veil. “The money is frequently saved for the honeymoon,” Mares McGinnis says.

Taos musicians Johnny Archuleta and Audrey Davis are often asked to play La Varsoviana in local weddings. This dance was originally a mazurka, popular in Polish and French ballrooms. It travelled with Emperor Maximilian to Mexico and from there to northern New Mexico, where it became a favorite. It is also known as “Put Your Little Foot.”

The place to stay

Hacienda del Sol, a local bed and breakfast, was chosen as one of the ten most romantic inns in the country by USA Today and is regularly mentioned as “the place to stay in Taos” by Sunset Magazine.

The hacienda’s history is connected to that of the town. It was once owned by Mabel Dodge Luhan and her fourth husband, Tony Luhan, and used as a guest house for D.H. Lawrence, Frank Waters, Georgia O’Keeffe and Willa Cather.

It offers eleven rooms with southwest decor, a private outdoor Jacuzzi hot tub under the stars, a cooked-to-order hearty breakfast, and afternoon tea and treats, among other amenities. The wedding packages include a cake and champagne reception for the bride and groom.

The Los Amantes Room, built as a writing room for Mabel Dodge Luhan, has a king size bed, an old roll top desk, steam shower, and a wood-burning kiva fireplace. Its romantic appeal makes it one of the most popular rooms for newlyweds, said owner Luellen Hertel.

“Our exclusive special ‘wedding for 2’ includes an interfaith minister, two witnesses, a one hour session with a professional wedding photographer, a CD of all the photos taken, flower bouquets, and two Hacienda del Sol mugs for a wedding memento,” explains Hertel.

Ceremonies of Love

Reverend Susan Varon’s Ceremony of Love wedding ministry has found its niche in the “destination weddings” market, catering to couples who come to Taos to get married.

Reverend Susan is an ordained interfaith minister, artist and writer.

“People may come for the high-desert beauty, the amazing light, or the indefinable ambiance surrounding ancient cultures,” said Reverend Susan. “They plan their weddings to take place by the banks of the Rio Grande, outdoors or indoors at one of the myriad charming bed and breakfast inns—even, once, at the very center of the GorgeBridge.”

She has two sample ceremonies (one mentions God and the other does not) which are the starting point for most of the weddings she performs. Recently, a couple wanted her to include in their ceremony a reading from a beloved children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit, recounting the transforming power of love, and how “it lasts for always.”

“It was perfect,” says Reverend Susan. “People were wiping away tears!”

She likes to bring a sense of blessing and of a new door opening to every one of her wedding ceremonies.

“A wedding is a collaboration among the bride, the groom, the officiant, and the power of Love in the universe,” she says. “Together, we all can create a ceremony of great heart and tenderness.”


Side bar

Wedding menus can be interactive, regional or exotic, says Karen Todd, owner and Executive Chef of the European-style Dragonfly Café. “A taco bar is wonderful as an interactive menu because guests can create their own plates, talk to others while they do it and have fun in the process,” she said. For the regional dishes, she resorts to the farmers market when it is open and uses local, fresh and organic ingredients. As for the exotic kind, this is an easy task for her. “My specialty is cooking food with an international flair,” says Todd. “I take ingredients from different cuisines and incorporate them into my menus.”

A beautiful cake is the sweetest foundation for a wedding banquet. “They range from the very basic to the really elaborate ones,” says Todd, who attended the Cooking and Hospitality Institute in Chicago to become a Pastry Chef. “But personally, when I think of weddings and love, I think of chocolate. One favorite food d’amour we prepare here is a red chile infused chocolate truffle.”

Indeed, good food is a key element at any wedding reception. The owners of Hacienda del Sol, Luellen and Gerd Hertel, are aware of that and strive to offer a culinary experience to those who choose to exchange nuptial vows at their charming adobe inn.

Gerd Hertel, who was the Executive Chef for Hyatt Regency Hotels and Ritz Carlton Hotels, and the Corporate Executive Chef for Norwegian and Celebrity Cruise lines, is in charge of the menus. His dishes range from Southwest-inspired creations like crisp fried tortilla flautas with shrimp mousse and crab meat to fried camembert with apricot-currant sauce and Waldorf salad.

“My cooking philosophy is to provide my friends and guests with food based on popular, classic recipes re-created to include regional, healthy foods, fresh and organic ingredients and ever-changing culinary trends,” said Chef Hertel.

HaciendaDel Sol is located at 109 Mabel Dodge Lane, Taos, NM  87571
1 866 333 4459
1 575 758 0287
The Dragonfly Cafe and Bakery is located at 402 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte, Taos, NM 87571
 1 575 737-5859
To contact Reverend Susan Varon, call 575-751-1452, visit her website or email,