How To Plan Your Colorado Elopement
So you’re interested in eloping in Colorado! You’ve got good taste, Colorado is by far one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been, and we are thrilled that you’re here. When you elope in Colorado, you are spoiled with countless beautiful locations. Do you want to stand on a mountaintop and profess your love? Do you want to run through a meadow? Do you want to hike to a bright blue alpine lake? Or would you like to explore a pine forest? Colorado’s got you covered.
We are Lisa + Alex, and we are Colorado elopement photographers and videographers. Beyond capturing wedding days for our couples, we also help plan them! All of our elopement photography and videography packages include our personalized planning guidance. One of the most common questions we get from our couples is “Where do I start with planning my own elopement in Colorado?” And that’s what we’re here for! We’ve lived in Colorado all our lives and we’ve helped many couples plan their dream elopements! Here are our tips for planning your own elopement in Colorado!
How to Choose the Perfect Elopement Location
The first thing to consider is what kind of views you dream about. Many of our couples tell us that they want stunning mountaintop views, while others envision saying their vows at the edge of a lake surrounded by mountains. We suggest making a list of the landscapes that catch your eye, as well as a list of locations you’ve already found in your research. We use this information to narrow down our map of locations and only suggest locations that fit your unique wedding vision.
The second thing to consider is how far you are willing to drive from Denver. While there are many incredible elopement locations within 2 hours of Denver (such as Rocky Mountain National Park, Breckenridge, and Georgetown), our favorite spots are a 4-6 hour drive (such as Telluride, Aspen, and Crested Butte). We’ve found that the further you are willing to drive, the more private your elopement can be.
The third thing to consider is how far you are willing to hike. Our goal when helping our couples choose the location for their elopement is to find a location that is not only stunning, but also offers privacy. Colorado has so many hiking trails that it is not impossible to be alone in a location, completely surrounded by nature. Are you not a hiker but still want some adventure in your wedding day? We also know of many amazing locations that are accessible using 4wd vehicles!
Colorado Elopement Location Ideas
The amazing thing about eloping is that you don’t necessarily need a venue! We specialize in weddings that are nontraditional, and we love thinking outside the box in regards to venues. These are our favorite nontraditional venues:
Ceremonies in National Parks and National Forests: Most of our couples get married in either a National Park or National Forest. These locations are perfect for casual ceremonies surrounded by nature. When choosing popular locations, such as Rocky Mountain National Park, we highly recommend getting married on a weekday and at sunrise to avoid crowds. If you want to avoid crowds all-together, we have many suggestions for locations in National Forests that are more off the beaten path.
Ceremonies at Designated Sites: Colorado is full of ceremony sites that can be rented at an affordable rate. For example, Sapphire Point in Breckenridge is a popular spot to get married. Or the even more popular Amphitheater at the Maroon Bells outside of Aspen. Sites like these are often not as private, but they are perfect if you have a guest count larger than 10 or you don’t want to hike to your ceremony.
Weddings at an Airbnb/VRBO: You could spend hours and hours looking through gorgeous rental homes in Colorado. No matter what your style (modern, log cabin, Victorian), you’ll be able to find something that you love. It is possible to rent an incredible home on a plot of beautiful land and host your entire wedding day there! The kinds of houses that are a good fit for this vision have large kitchens with dining space for you and your guests (either indoor or outdoor). Most importantly, keep an eye out for a ceremony space, either on a large patio, or in a yard with stunning mountain views. Note that it is important to check with your host prior to booking to make sure they allow events at their home!
Full-Service Cabin Rentals: If you have a little more budget, we recommend checking out some of Colorado’s many intimate wedding venues. Our favorites are cabins tucked deep into the mountains. The great thing about going this route is that you can easily have your entire wedding weekend (or weekdays) in one location. Many of these venues offer accommodation for you and your guests as well as catering. Our favorite (and admittedly most expensive) option is Dunton Hot Springs, but we can recommend others if you are on a tighter budget!
How Much Does it Cost to Elope in Colorado?
By choosing a nontraditional wedding location, like the ones listed above, you will be able to save thousands compared to getting married at a more traditional venue.
Ceremonies in National Parks and National Forests: Every park will have its own set of rules and permit fees, but on average, you can expect to spend between $200 and $400. For example, the wedding permit for Rocky Mountain National park is $200.
Ceremonies at Designated Sites: The fees will depend on what site you choose. But for example, the permit fee for Sapphire Point is $110, and the Amphitheater at the Maroon Bells is $200.
Ceremonies at an Airbnb/VRBO: This will likely be a more expensive option with houses ranging from $400 to $1000 a night. However, if you rent a large enough home, it can act as accommodation for you as well as some of your guests!
Full-Service Cabin Rentals: As we mentioned above, this option could likely end up being more similar to a traditional venue in price, but you will receive an incredible experience. At Dunton Hot Springs, you have the option to rent the entire town and experience four days of all-inclusive mountain goodness. If you love the vibe of Dunton Hot Springs, but don’t like the price tag, we can suggest other similar locations.
Colorado is one of the few places in the United States that allows you to self-solemnize your marriage. What exactly does that mean? It means that you are not required to have an officiant or any witnesses at your wedding ceremony to be legally married. The cool thing about this is that couples who elope in Colorado without any guests can hike up into the mountains and legally marry themselves! The other cool thing for couples inviting guests to their elopement is that you can have a close friend or relative lead your ceremony without them having to become ordained. This gives you the ultimate freedom when planning your elopement ceremony!
Best Time of Year to Elope in Colorado
Colorado is beautiful year-round. The winter and spring offer magical snow, the summers are warm and sunny, and in the fall, the leaves change to the most beautiful colors. One thing we always suggest that our couples consider before choosing a wedding date, is their ideal weather. Are you okay with snowy or even blizzard conditions? Or are you more interested in warm weather? Would you like the trees to be green or orange and yellow? What kinds of activities do you want incoporated into your wedding day (hiking, off-roading, kayaking, etc)? We will use these to help you choose the perfect month for your Colorado elopement.
In our opinion, summer and fall are the best seasons to get married in Colorado because the weather is a bit more predictable than in the winter and spring. We suggest aiming for June, July, August, or September if you want the option to hike without snow and the best chance for good weather. When you’re choosing the perfect month to get married it’s worth noting that many of Colorado’s high elevation roads are closed outside of the summer and fall seasons (such as Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park).
June is the first month that Colorado begins to warm up. At the beginning of the month, there will likely still be snow on the mountains and maybe some leftover snow on hiking trails. Everything is green and waterfalls will be flowing at full force. The temperatures can be chilly toward the beginning of the month but will continue to climb.
July is the start of wildflower season in Colorado. At this point, hiking trails and high mountain passes should all be open, and most of the snow will be gone (except for on the mountain peaks). Apart from afternoon thunderstorms, the weather is usually sunny and warm.
August, like July, has the best chance of warm weather and all roads and hiking trails should be accessible. By this time, most of the snow will have melted from the mountain peaks.
September is Colorado’s transition month. The beginning of the month has warm temperatures, but these will slowly drop as the month goes on. From mid-September until the end of September, the aspen leaves will begin to change and the mountains glow with warm yellows and oranges. Toward the end of the month, at higher elevations, snow is possible.
Weather in Colorado
Colorado is known for having unpredictable weather. We often joke that we don’t know why we even look at the forecast because it changes so rapidly! There are a few things that people often don’t realize about the weather in Colorado.
Winter weather sticks around much longer than people expect. Spring may officially start at the end of March, but it often doesn’t feel like spring until the end of May. Alex’s birthday is on May 17th, and it is not that uncommon for it to snow on his birthday in the mountains. Because of this, the snow can stick around until mid-June, and some high country roads don’t open until the end of June or early July.
Winter weather arrives earlier than in some other states. This is especially true in the high country. Snow can start falling in the mountains starting at the end of September, but most commonly in mid-October. Down in Denver, we usually get our first snow around Halloween.
Mountain afternoon thunderstorms are a daily occurrence in the summer. Fortunately, they typically move through quickly. We purposely build wiggle room into all timelines in case we need to wait out a storm. A great way to avoid thunderstorms if you’re planning on being out in the wilderness, is to get married in the morning (sunrise ceremonies are our favorite). That way, you can be safe and off the mountain by the time the weather rolls in. Another option is to get married later in the day.
Temperatures are colder at higher elevations. Sometimes it can be difficult to look at the forecast once you’re out of a major town. We recommend checking the weather in the nearest town, but being aware that the higher in elevation you go, the chillier it will be. For example, if you’re getting married at Independence Pass, you can check the weather in Aspen to get a general idea of what you can expect as far as weather, and then know that it will be colder on the Pass than in Aspen. Even if you are getting married in the middle of summer, we suggest bringing a jacket or blanket to keep you warm, especially around sunrise and sunset.
General Colorado Tips
There are a couple things that are unique to Colorado that you should consider when planning your elopement.
Elevation Sickness is something that can affect anyone traveling to Colorado, no matter how athletic you are. If you’re coming to Colorado from lower elevations, we highly suggest spending a couple days in Denver before heading up into the mountains. That way your body has time to slowly acclimate to the change in elevation. We also suggest spending at least one day in the mountains before your wedding day. The more time your body has to acclimate, the better you will feel on your wedding day. Another way to combat elevation sickness is to eat a diet high in carbs and to drink a lot of water.
The High Elevation of Colorado’s mountains requires you to do a little more planning than at lower elevations. Apart from avoiding altitude sickness, it is extremely important to drink a lot of water. Colorado has a dry climate and it is easy to become dehydrated. Hiking at elevation is also much more difficult than hiking at sea level. So keep that in mind when you are selecting hikes for your wedding day. We always suggest being modest with the hikes you choose so that you don’t end up feeling sick or exhausted.
All of these tips, plus even more information, are available in the elopement planning portal all of our couples receive when they book with us. We would love to hear from you if you’ve got more questions, and good luck on planning your dream elopement!
We're Lisa + Alex, the goofballs behind Vow of the Wild. We live in the beautiful state of Colorado, but we are passionate about traveling to new places and meeting new people along the way. We are lucky enough to have what we consider to be the best job in the world (other than a professional dog petter). We get to create films and photos for adventurous Colorado Elopements and adventurous Destination Elopements across the globe! Feel free to reach out to us, we'd love to meet you!