Sapphire Point Overlook Weddings | Guide
Guide to Having Sapphire Point Overlook WeddingsOur Background:
We have shot over 300 photoshoots at Sapphire Point as of the point of writing this guide. This includes Weddings at the Sapphire Point Overlook, surrounding trails, and other spots in the area. We have seen things from before sunrise till after sunset in all seasons of the year. With that background and experience we share this guide.
Wedding Site Capabilities
If your wedding ceremony is 2-30 people in size then Sapphire Point will work well for a mini / micro wedding or elopement. Historically there has been one spot referred to as the “Overlook”. The trail to the Overlook is a little over 400 feet and was last resurfaced in the fall of 2021. With that work additional barriers were added to keep people on trail. The trail is a a pea sized gravel trail. The Overlook is circa a 20 ft circle.
Starting in the Fall 2024 they will begin some enhancements to formalize a ‘North Overlook’ in the flat area around the backside. This is a bit further of a walk and most easily accessible from the opposite side of the trail. Lighting wise this spot would be better for the morning. Benches will be added at this North Overlook.
Carrying or wheeling down some chairs has been common but this will no longer be allowed. This means that the Overlook which is the most popular will be standing room only. We have been doing more weddings of this style and it certainly can work well. For weddings most do not add in a lot of decor as the location is already beautiful. Occasionally you will see an arbor. There is no power and generators are not allowed. Think of everything you can do there as ‘leave no trace’. This means no flame, bird seed, rose petals, rice, drinks, food, etc. The chipmunks will be sad to see this when they read our blog. Like in all public lands things are not to go into the ground, be attached to trees, or disturb the serenity of nature so no amplified music. The parking lot size is limited. Many couples were already using shuttles for this reason. Shuttles will be required to bring wedding groups to the site. Public groups will also be restricted to no more than 10 people. Parking along the road is not allowed.
Recreation.gov takes “reservations” for the site. The total cost is $128 for a 2 hour time slot on the even hours and we have not heard of it ever being refundable. Think of the “reservation” as a way of creating order and preventing fights from two 30 person weddings planning for the same time period. You do not actually reserve anything as in a public restriction. This is commonly misunderstood. If it is not misunderstood people are always telling you they have it reserved so go away. There are enough weddings there that you will want to “reserve” it to prevent a larger wedding from occurring there. The reservation system releases dates 6 months in advance. In the fall of 2021 they started to block off certain times like 10AM-12PM and 2PM-4PM as not available. We have not seen consistency but it was to limit traffic based on what we saw.
When doing a wedding at the Overlook you need to expect you will see other people as the reservation does not mean exclusive use. If you want exclusive use we have seen weddings where a ranger was called and the ranger did nothing. We have seen 10 people talking on the rocks below during someones wedding ceremony. Expectations are key so just know this is uncommon but possible. The key idea is the bigger the group and the more clear it is what is occurring the more respectful people will be to you. Respect others and most often they will return respect.
Just because you have a ‘reservation’ does not mean that you will be the only person in a white dress over there. We have commonly seen 3 to 4 brides there at a time. The one perk is since the fall of 2021 there are less places to go around the Overlook so you will not see them around your ceremony area.
If you are reading this on reservations and planning some other kind of event like a proposal save your money. No one will understand what is going on and it will be a $128 donation to Forest Services.
Time of Day Variables
Reservations can occur between 6AM and till 10PM in two hour chunks. Rather than speak to the merits and drawbacks of a specific time we will reference the variables in relation to sunrise, midday, and sunset.
Sunrise: The sunrise is gorgeous as the 13ers are lit up. This is however an impossible time for 95% of photographers as the Overlook is dark and the mountains are bright. You need supplemental light to counter balance it lest the mountains all look washed out. About an hour after sunrise light will start to hit the Overlook. It will be to your side or in your face depending on your angle.
Midday: The hardest time to from the perspective of a photographer to take photos is 10AM-12PM. There is some shade from trees but the morning is normally bright. Once you hit noon the light is more to the south / side. Our encouragement is to plan for weddings in the noon to sunset timeframe as it balances the more ideal lighting with what is most natural for couples.
Sunset: The sun will functionally set behind the mountains 30 minutes before sunset. People rave about sunset but really it is less common for weddings in the summer as people would have a really late dinner. Dusk can be interesting on blue sky days there but on cloudy days there would not be much of a dusk.
Weather By Season
Calendar seasons are not Colorado seasons. This is commonly misunderstood because the mountains handle weather differently. We have been snowed on in August 90 minutes from Denver when it was 104 degrees in Denver. Weather holds within it many variables so below are the common generalizations. Any outdoor venue is at risk of the weather variables. You normally do not know what it may be like till a couple days out and often not till you see the clouds and how they are shaping up.
Spring [April through June]: Snow is often fairly melted off on any areas exposed to sunlight in April. The exception is if there is a late season snow which can certainly happen. It melts quick so it is nothing to stress. Ski season wraps up most places in the 20’s of April and some will stay open till June. You can likely find the best housing rentals in April when it switches to the off season for skiing. Expect weather anywhere from 30 to 60 during this time period.
Summer [July and August]: We know summer is longer than this but this is the functional Colorado summer when snow has melted off the most. August is the month when the mountains will have the least amount of snow on them. During these months expect that white puffy clouds will start to build around 11 AM for a 100% chance of rain in the mountains somewhere daily. This normally occurs between 1-3PM but is short lived and isolated. If a thunderstorm front is pushing through 12-5PM is normally the peak time for those to pass. Wait 30 minutes and it will be done.
Fall [September and October]: September is that month when the fall colors peak. There are not many at Sapphire Point so we would not call it a fall colors location. The mountains in the background are dusted with trees but most Aspens that change are north of I-70. We historically find September is a dry month in Colorado. October is that change over season from fall to winter so snow is not uncommon. Most places in the Colorado mountains that close for the winter will shut down in October.
Winter [November through March]: The Colorado mountains have a long winter but it is not all cold. We have shot in -20 degree temps all the way to 60. What we can say is that there will be snow but that it has never impacted accessibility. Swan Mountain road is winter maintained and the parking lot is plowed. Unless there was a ton of snow that night and you are the morning wedding there a path will have been made in any fresh snow. There are 20-50 people that may walk the trail at any given time of day so getting to the Overlook is easy.
Sapphire Point Overlook Examples by Month
The first image is the typical look each month for the mountains and lake on the given month. You should note that these are shot different times of day under different cloud and lighting conditions. To get a deeper look click the image for opening up a blog or online gallery. The danger in showing things like this is that you may fall in love with a certain look thinking that it is particular to a given month.
January at Sapphire Point
February at Sapphire Point
March at Sapphire Point
April at Sapphire Point
May at Sapphire Point
June at Sapphire Point
July at Sapphire Point
August at Sapphire Point
September at Sapphire Point
October at Sapphire Point
November at Sapphire Point
December at Sapphire Point
How Does the typical Wedding Day Flow?
Most couples will stay at a rental home nearby in a place like Breckenridge. Often it is in a place big enough for the whole family or group. The day starts off with the obvious getting ready. Some people capture photos of this part and others start the documented part of the day at Sapphire Point. Most couples will go into a ceremony followed by photos. Historically people plan to start at top of the hour but they are 15-30 minutes late. Setup normally can occur in 10 minutes and it is something we have helped out with almost every time. If there is a wedding occurring before your wedding it will normally have mostly wrapped up by the time your reservation starts. Some people have reserved 2 time slots for 4 hours but that is not needed unless you are doing something unique.
Most couples will keep it fairly simple focused on a ceremony followed by some pictures. As for the ceremony as you can use an officiant or self solemnize in Colorado. Our favorite officiant has been Phil Gallagher. Really good at what he does but he does seem to keep fairly busy so he may not be available. After the ceremony some people will do some toasts and on occasions we will see people do some dances.
The reception is frequently at a local restaurant where a room is rented out. Look in Breckenridge, Frisco, Keystone, Dillon, Silverthorne, and Copper Mountain for food you like that will work for the group size. People also do catering back at the place they are staying as another alternative. This is the most common thing that people will get some additional photographic documentation of outside of the Sapphire Point time.