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More Couples Say 'I Do' At The Church Of Dirt


The pandemic forced engaged couples to hold off on big wedding ceremonies. But one wedding venue in the Wasatch Back became a hotspot for eager couples. 

The Church of Dirt, off Guardsman Pass, offered a popular alternative to indoor weddings during a time when gatherings were limited and people were advised to keep six feet distance. 

Couples leave rocks and planks of wood with dates and times to claim a day for their wedding
Credit KPCW News
Couples leave rocks and planks of wood with dates and times to claim a day for their wedding

  The outdoor venue near Bonanza Flats is low-key. There’s no official way to book the location - everything’s run on the honor system. Couples write their name down in a planner and leave a rock or piece of wood claiming a date and time for their special day. 

There are about 10 wood benches and a crude wooden altar for couples and clergy to stand under. It’s a treeless, exposed site with 360-degree views of the Unita and Wasatch Mountain ranges. 

Cassie Crook got married at the Church of Dirt last July. She said she had a last minute venue change. 

"I think we changed our plans, like maybe 15 days before we got married because of COVID," Crook said. "So we just wanted to make it an outdoor wedding just safer for all of our guests. Because this was, back in July of last year, you know, it was whenever the second wave was happening and things like that."

She said she was drawn to the location because of the views. 

"It's really cool to like save money," she said. "That's the thing that was for us. We're like, 'man, if we could only get ski resort views for no ski resort price' ... because anywhere else, Deer Valley is probably around $12,000 just for the venue. So it's one of those things where it's like you to get the same views, but just without maybe some of the resorts amenities."

(Editor's note: Deer Valley wedding venues range in cost; the most affordable option there is a $6,000 "ceremony only" package at Cushings Cabin.)


Many other couples shared Crook's perspective. Weddings at the Church of Dirt are booked through the warmer months this year. Guardsman closes for the winter season, but people have already claimed dates into September of 2022. 

Because couples are managing the book on their own terms, there are lots of overlapping dates and times. One couple scheduled for the upcoming weekend wrote that their ceremony will end at 5 p.m. while another couple wrote that theirs will begin at 4:30 p.m. on the same day. Crook said this didn’t use to happen. 

"It's just kind of blown up recently," she said. "So I've even seen things like how some people either aren't looking at the planner and leaving the rock or they're not leaving the rock. And they're just looking at the planner and like different things like that."

Callie Gilbert is getting married at the Church of Dirt on the 10th. She said she planned far in advance to make sure she could reserve a spot. 

"So I found out about this. And I was like, 'Oh, this is perfect,'" she said. "And I found out about the little planner where you could put your name down. But it was in December. So literally, the road was closed. It turned into a ski slope. So what I ended up doing was driving up there. And then I just hiked a mile up, like in the snow. Because I was like 'I have to find out ... I can't wait until the snow melts.'"

She said there’s another couple who’s reserved a spot at the venue 30 minutes after hers ends. But she said she’s been in contact with the other couple and has been able to coordinate with them.

As more people plan ahead to tie the knot in the dirt, Crook said the spot still has a spur of the moment feeling.

"It’s one of those places that you go to if you want, almost an elope type of vibe, but you've planned it out," she said.

If you’re thinking about taking the next step with your significant other, look up the Church of Dirt on Google Maps, and plan a site visit ... but make sure to wear comfortable shoes. 


Jessica joins KPCW as a general assignment reporter and Sunday Weekend Edition host. A Florida native, she graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in English — concentrating in film studies — and journalism. Before moving to Utah, she spent time in Atlanta, GA.