Planning a Colorado Elopement
Planning an Elopement or Mini Wedding in Colorado?
If you are embarking on this adventure you will likely have some questions particularly if you are coming from outside of Colorado. There can be a lot of variables that you might not know about with regards to how you can get married, locations, weather, permits, restrictions, and how that will work with your group.
How To Get Married
The legal, licensing, and who needs to officiate this thing is one of those things that can cause a lot of anxiety. It is rather simple in the State of Colorado to get a license. The thing we find most commonly unknown is that you can self solemnize. This basically means you do not need an officiant but rather can marry yourselves. While this might cause some anxiety 90% of couples will write things down in a vow book and they will walk through it that way. What you will likely find is that if you tell anyone in your family that you are going to elope the wedding of 2 will balloon into 6-12 people who would give anything to be there. Sometimes we have seen parents co-officiate or a sibling lead the ceremony. The key idea you need to take away is that you can make the day your own and that you do not need things like an officiant, one that can trek out into this gorgeous spot, or witnesses to sign the license. Even your dog can sign the marriage license if needed.
How To Pick an Elopement Location?
Once you go to a venue and use the word wedding you will exponentially grow your budget. We have noticed that perhaps as a way to sell an all inclusive experience there are people upsetting the experience. Our take has been that most couples are doing the downsized wedding are trying to keep things more simple and keep it more about what is happening between them using the natural Colorado beauty for the decor. In light of that here are some things to consider on the locations:
In the mountains the weather conditions will vary greatly depending on the day and topography. The main takeaway is that in the mountains it will be cooler than you think. It will be 4-7 degrees cooler with every 1000 ft elevation change. If there is sun out it will feel warmer. Snow will impact accessibility. The months with the most options are July and August as that is generally summer. Fall is September and October. Winter will run from November through March in the mountains. April is a wildcard. May and June is generally more like spring.
Permits, Reservations, and Restrictions
Permitting. This is probably the most complicated part of the whole process because requirements vary by location. A general principle is that it can be really complicated, unrealistic, and that enforcement will vary between locations. The permitting end is likely the most difficult to figure out. We have been told that in the wilderness if we stand in X spot its through this county and if you walk 15 feet that way you need to get a permit through another county. Outside of county permits there are permits for those who manage the city, the trail or open space, and sometimes these things do not make sense and will vary within a general location. A good rule of thumb on the permitting end is that if there are multiple groups that have layers of management over a space or it is popular it will likely have a more formal process. Permitting is a deep hole of complication that is more about talking to the right person and having the needed paperwork. We have a 1-2Million General Liability policy if needed for permitting.
Reservations. In public land nothing is ever exclusively reserved so that if someone is there you can remove them from the location. Most people will be nice and vacate any location when people start to show up in dress clothes. Reservations when available are normally spelled out clearly online and have fees associated. It may not be wise in all occasions to reserve a location so read all the fine print.
Restrictions. These are very individualized and changing frequently for a location. They may include the number of people allowed, timing allowed, what you can bring to a location, what can be setup, vehicle restrictions, and even down to where you can physically walk.
Location Examples: How the Variables Impact a Location
With locations and the variables we are primarily talking about public land managed by some type of local governing group. There are plenty of privately owned land places you can get married which are most commonly references as venues. They will have their own set of unique variables and most commonly when you go through a venue you are paying a premium even if the venue is supposedly catering to elopements. We will illustrate these variables with a couple locations shown below. Please note requirements change so this was the understanding at the time of writing.
Maroon Bells Amphitheater
The time of year the Maroon Bells is accessible is limited due to the winter snow. You could look at June through October but that will vary some with the exact dates due to the conditions. If you were wanting to do something in the winter it is possible but not predictable as snow might increase the avalanche danger and you would need to snowmobile out. If you were to get out there at an open time you really would need a reservation for the Amphitheater which may be hard to come by particularly for any weekend dates. The number of weddings possible there in a year are likely in the 130-150 range so as you might imagine with this being the most photographed spot in Colorado there will be higher demand. The reservation gets you the spot for the day and some passes to drive in. Trying to get in otherwise can be very challenging particularly with the 2020 changes of reservations to enter. When you get in while it is more private in that section there are still a lot of people around. Unlike what you see in the photo the trail in the background along the lake area is roped off preventing field and lake access reducing erosion. This is not a place we would recommend trying to wing an elopement as there are a ton of people around and limitations on where you can physically go if you are able to get in.
Sapphire Point Overlook
We have heard people who got married there 20 years ago so needless to say weddings occurring there are nothing new. You can make “Reservations” for the Overlook spot in 2 hour chunks but our take is that it is more of a sanity management thing to generate revenue for the Dillon Ranger district but also add some order to the spot. Without the reservation system people would basically be fighting over the use of the spot. The thing that confuses most people is that the reservation reserves nothing but only prevents another large wedding from taking simultaneous claim to the spot. What happens if that even if people do not have a reservation they may say they do or they might try to kick you out prior to the start of the two hour period. There could be weddings there every two hours all year long. The most we have seen were 3 weddings occurring there simultaneously. Eloping there gets a bit harder cause most people may not notice that they are walking into a small wedding. There are some alternative places that can be used and in the winter it gets a little harder as they take a little proactive prep to pack down the snow.
Mini Wedding / Elopement Locations
There are a lot of really low key places that are private with a good view in Colorado. We like to help couples find the ideal spot for how we shoot photos to capture the moment. We are always looking for new places and keeping up with the variables of locations and trends. Our take is to find a place that will fit your vision for the day and balance a good view, easy access, with privacy.