HOW TO ELOPE IN COLORADO

May 4, 2022

WILDROOT COLLECTIVE PRESENTS:

HOW TO ELOPE IN COLORADO

AN ULTIMATE 2022 GUIDE TO PLANNING YOUR COLORADO ELOPEMENT

A couple elopes in Rocky Mountain National Park at Dream Lake

Look at you!

You’re researching how to elope in Colorado – the most adventurous, gorgeous, and epic state. You’ve said “yes” to your favorite person. We love that, and we love that you’re here. So! Grab a cup, fill it with whatever tastes right, and let’s get to it…

Over the past few years, more and more engaged couples have asked themselves the question that we’ve long believed is one of the most important questions to ask when planning any kind of wedding. While you wonder, we’ll tell you that question definitely isn’t:

  • “Who should we invite to our wedding?”
  • “What vendors should we hire for our wedding?”
  • “When should we get married?”
  • “Where should we get married?”
  • “Why does this cost so much to get married?”
  • “How are we already out of wine?”

The question is simpler, yet bigger than any of the above questions because it should be. Ask yourselves this one thing: “How do we want to feel on our wedding day?

The number one reason couples elope in Colorado nowadays is simple: they want to focus on each other. Weddings are often stressful to plan, tricky to budget for, and challenging to stay present during because you’re constantly checking off events on an itinerary or making small talk with the hundreds of people you might barely know who traveled just to see you. 

By the way, your aunt’s new boyfriend “Gary” is waving hello and he’s already eaten most of that one hors d’oeuvre you’ve been dying to have since your catering tasting. 

No, big weddings aren’t all bad, but sometimes they’re just not your thing

Your thing may be an early morning hike after sipping some coffee and getting dressed between the sun-dappled trees. Your thing may be adventuring down an aisle next to an alpine lake and exchanging vows for only one to hear. Your thing may be a pizza picnic, a champagne toast for two, a muddy dress train, and a stunning Rocky Mountain view. 

Whatever your reason may be for avoiding a big wedding or choosing a Colorado elopement, we can’t wait to hear all about it! Bottom line: we’re here for you. Speaking of…

Who are we?

We are Graham, Ashley, Doyle, and Erin! We’re the two married couples (and four best friends) who met while photographing/filming a Colorado wedding, and who honestly wish their weddings were as cool as yours is going to be. We’re also the team behind Wildroot Collective—your one-stop shop when eloping in, on, or near the Rocky Mountains! 

We’re your photographer, your videographer, and your start-to-finish planner. We’re your location scouter and hiking partner, your extra hand, and your biggest fan. We’re here to share everything you need to know about how to elope in Colorado—from location ideas and travel tips to packing checklists and legal logistics.

We’ve been in the business of documenting celebrations for almost 13 years. Thirteen years! That’s over 500 first kisses, 450 cake cuttings, 125 sparkler exits, and roughly 12 minor burns from said sparklers. While we’ve loved capturing every one of these special moments, we’ve also witnessed some serious behind-the-scenes stress. 

A rogue peony hides in the bridal bouquet, waiting to ruin the mood board you’ve been planning every detail around for over a year. 

Your uncle Bob and his obnoxiously large iPad stand in the middle of the aisle, snapping 100 crooked photos that he just can’t wait to post. 

The wrong uplighting color glows from every light fixture, casting a sickly-green hue on the whole reception room.

Before we wrap up this pressure point, here are a few more numbers for you to consider. The average couple is engaged for 10-18 months and will spend 200-300 hours planning their wedding (Martha Stewart Weddings, 2021). A little closer to home now: the average Colorado wedding costs $24,500 (The Knot, 2022).

These statistics and examples may not stress you out, but some other planning logistics or day-of detail might. Is that a threat? Lol, no. Is it a promise? Also, no. All we’re trying to say is that weddings can be stressful, but no part of how you start your marriage should be.

Let’s say it louder for the people in the back…

You don’t have to plan a big wedding if that isn’t what you want. You don’t have to be the center of attention during one of the most important moments of your life if that isn’t what you want. You don’t have to spend money on material things that will be thrown away or packed up for use by the couple after you if that isn’t what you want. 

Ask yourself and your partner what exactly you do want out of the day you start your lives together and realize that you can do something different than what’s expected of you.

You can slash the guest list to include only the most important people in your life. You can leave your home state (or explore more of Colorado if you call it home) to enjoy a new view while you say “I do.” You can forgo the long, stuffy ceremony and the traditional to-dos if that is what you want.

Pause! Let’s do a mid-article activity…

Close your eyes for a second and imagine your wedding day—the most ideal day of your life from sunup to sundown. What does it look like? What kind of activities are you and your partner doing together? Are you celebrating in private or are you surrounded by your closest friends and family members?

Us: Pssst. Is it sinking in yet? 

You: Is what sinking in yet? Wait, how can I hear you?

Us: Shhh, close your eyes, open your mind, and let the absolute reality that your wedding day is about you and what you want, not about other peoples’ opinions or what the wedding industry expects of you, sink in.

The second you post that “I said yes” photo, the wedding industry bustles in, loudly and with lots of opinions—we know this from personal and professional experience. It can take your original wedding day vision and morph it into what a wedding day “should look like” through polished must-do lists and must-have galleries that are based on what “everyone” does and has at their wedding.

We (Erin + Doyle) wanted a casual picnic with close friends and family who would witness an, “Oh, by the way, just so happens you’re here for our wedding, too!” ceremony. What our wedding became was a day filled with all the traditional to-dos. It was attended by more than 100 guests—a far cry from what we had dreamed about. When we look back, we cherish the love and happiness we felt for each other and all who celebrated with us, but we also learned that the meaning of our wedding day wouldn’t have been any less had we stayed true to how we wanted to get married.

That’s our story, and it doesn’t have to be yours.

You’ve started walking down a unique aisle towards an intimate wedding experience that we (and so many other couples) walked away from, which means: this less-traveled path has fewer footsteps to follow. In other words, the freedom to create your own Colorado elopement experience is incredible, but it can also feel a little overwhelming since you’ve probably never done this before. 

How does the Jeep tire cover go? “Not All Who Wander Are Lost,” i.e. while hiking off the path is exciting, adventurous, and courageous—it never hurts to have a map in your bag, just in case you get turned around. Cut to us four, map in hand, waving at you!

After years of planning and documenting intimate ceremonies in Colorado, we’ve uncovered some of the best locations, learned some of the most common mistakes to avoid, and developed a step-by-step guide that you can follow throughout your journey. 

If you get turned around and need some direction along the way, we’re here for you—because we genuinely love helping couples celebrate their relationship in a way that’s uniquely them. Yes! We actually enjoy brainstorming date options, location ideas, timeline details, and everything in between to help craft a couple’s dream Colorado elopement in as stress-free a way as possible.

When a couple chooses to work with us, they’re not just getting a photographer, a videographer, and a planner; they’re getting an authentically helpful hand to hold through every phase of the elopement planning process, from popping the question to popping champagne. We LOVE what we do, and we hope we get the chance to work with you. So without further adieu—let’s talk about how to plan your Colorado elopement! 

A couple celebrates their sunset elopement in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

  1. What is an elopement?
  2. Why should I elope in Colorado?
  3. When is the best time to elope in Colorado?
  4. What are the best Colorado elopement locations?
  5. How much does it cost to elope in Colorado?
  6. How to Get a Colorado Marriage License
  7. How to Hire Colorado Elopement Vendors
  8. How to Create a Colorado Elopement Timeline
  9. Colorado Elopement Planning To-Dos and Details
  10. Colorado Elopement Galleries
  11. What are our clients saying?

1. What is an elopement?

If you Google the above question, a Wikipedia sidebar answers that an elopement refers to “a marriage conducted in a sudden and secretive fashion, usually involving a hurried flight away from one’s place of residence together with one’s beloved with the intention of getting married without parental approval.”

While this secretive scenario (written as if my grandmother moonlights as a Wiki editor) may still be the totally-okay case for some couples who elope, we know that there are a myriad of other elopement experiences that are less shrouded in mystery and more covered in champagne! Too cheesy? Maybe…but you get the point!

After you finish eye-rolling and you scroll down a bit, Google tells you what “People also ask…” This section ranges from the harmless, “Why do people elope?” to the curious, “Is elopement a sin?” Grandma is at it again…

If you ask us, an elopement is any intimate celebration of love that detours past the pomp and circumstance of a traditional wedding to intentionally focus on something pure and authentic—two people coming together in marriage, their way.

Now you may be asking yourself, “what does an elopement even look like without the frills and thrills of a typical wedding day?” Imagine this…

You hike up one of Colorado’s many 14’er, marry yourselves at the peak, then crack open an IPA from your favorite brewery and laugh as chipmunks try to steal your trail mix.

You walk to a beautiful Denver courthouse with your five best friends, sign your marriage license, then grab some tacos from the food truck down the street.

You fly to Costa Rica with 20 of your closest friends and family and share “I dos” on a small beach while parrots fly overhead and monkeys watch from the trees.

The beauty of bucking nuptial norms means that you’re starting your journey together while vowing to live life on your terms, not someone else’s. You get to write every part of this story, and we want to help you.

A snowy winter elopement ceremony in Keystone Colorado.

2. Why should I elope in Colorado?

Colorado is the perfect place to elope. Okay, maybe we’re biased, but we do have some pretty good reasons (wedding-related and otherwise) for making such a claim! 

For the Outdoor Enthusiasts

There are thousands of miles of hiking, biking, and 4WD trails throughout Colorado. There are 25+ ski resorts, 4,000+ lakes, 15 separate mountain ranges, and 58 peaks over 14,000 ft. You could throw a rock anywhere in Colorado and hit some sort of amazing outdoor activity. But like, don’t actually throw rocks because of LNT, you know?

Moving on! Colorado is home to the world’s largest (Glenwood Springs) and deepest (Mother Spring in Pagosa Springs) hot spring pools, as well as the world’s largest flat-topped mountain (The Grand Mesa). It can also claim the tallest sand dune (Star Dune in Great Sand Dunes National Park), the highest incorporated city (Leadville), and the highest paved road (The Mount Evans Scenic Byway) in America. 

For the Inside Aficionados 

There are over 300 days of sunshine per year for you to enjoy when you elope in Colorado, but you’re more of an indoor person, or it’s raining. Well, you can either wait about 15 minutes for the rain to pass or you could consider visiting one of Colorado’s 400 established breweries, 100 distilleries, 100 wineries, or local dispensaries (hey, whatever wets your whistle).

If you’d prefer a non-wetted whistle, Denver alone has 20+ museums, 15 indoor theaters, and was recently named the seventh-best foodie city in America (WalletHub, 2021). There are several major sports teams you could cheer on, or you could keep your luck to yourself and strike it rich at a nearby casino in Black Hawk or Central City.

If you want the best of both worlds, you could try an outdoor activity—wait for it—inside, i.e. indoor skiing, snowboarding, skydiving, bowling, golfing, ax throwing, and/or rock climbing, because the people of Colorado honestly can’t help themselves from being active and having fun whenever humanly possible. 

Guinness records, beautiful views, and things to do aside, Colorado is also just so incredibly easy to get married in. Here are a few reasons why:

You can legally marry yourselves in Colorado. 

  • Wait, really? Yes! It’s called self-solemnizing and it means that you can legally marry yourselves and sign your marriage license, all without an ordained officiant present. 
  • You can still hire an officiant if you want, especially if you don’t want the pressure of getting married and marrying yourselves all at once, but if you’d rather not pay for an officiant or factor one into a hike to your ceremony spot, then you don’t have to!

You don’t need a witness to get married in Colorado. 

  • Colorado is the only state where you don’t need witnesses witnessing you kiss your person into marriage, which is nice if you imagined a super-private ceremony.
  • Bonus: your dog can sign your marriage license. Yes, really! Again, you don’t need witness signatures, but get a pet-safe ink pad and stamp away if you’d like!

You can marry the same day you get a marriage license.

  • How neat is that? You can decide that you want some cake, make some cake, and eat some cake all on the same day! Check out how to apply for a marriage license in the section below and keep in mind that there may be different rules per county.
  • While there isn’t a waiting period for your marriage license, we still recommend traveling to Colorado 2-3 days before you plan on eloping. Not only will those extra days give you time to stand in line at a county clerk’s office if need be, but they’ll also give you time to adjust to Colorado’s altitude—more on this later!

There are mountains here, there, and everywhere.

  • In other words, you could fly into Denver and drive six hours down to Telluride for spectacular mountain views, or you could drive just 60 miles west of Denver to the literal top of a 14er (Mount Evans). In other other words, accessing beauty when you elope in Colorado is as easy or challenging as you (and your guests) want it to be.
A couple walks hand in hand through the colorado everreen trees for their elopement.

3. When is the best time to elope in Colorado?

The only thing predictable about the weather in Colorado is that it’s unpredictable.

If you live in Colorado or have ever visited the state, then you’ve probably heard some version of this phrase before. If this is your first time reading what should be coming out of a Patagonia-puffed, Goodr-clad Coloradan, then we’re happy to be the first to let you in on the secret that is Colorado’s weather: it’s wonderfully wacky, frustratingly fraught, and absolutely amazing. 

You might find yourself wearing a t-shirt under sunny skies in January or skiing down the slopes in the middle of June. Yeah, it’s about as clear as mud and it definitely keeps us on our toes, but what does that mean for you and how should you weigh the weather into your elopement plans? When you plan to elope in Colorado, make sure you know how the weather might affect your plans.

January-March

January is the coldest month of the year in Colorado, March is the snowiest, and February is a slushy, middle-child mixture.

January: If you enjoy snowless sweater weather, then this month is for you. It’s generally dry, hiking trails throughout the state are pretty quiet around this time of year, and daylight hours fall roughly between 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., which is nice for you night owls who want to elope in RMNP at sunrise but loathe the idea of starting HMU at 3:00 a.m.

February: Chionophiles (people who love cold weather and snow) will find their version of paradise in Colorado’s frigid, flurry-filled Februaries. While this month does fall within Colorado’s busy ski season, hiking trails are still generally quiet and you can steer clear of the heavy tourism traffic by avoiding locations near ski resorts or choosing to have your Winter elopement on a weekday.

March: There’s no sugarcoating this: you may want to avoid planning a Colorado elopement for March. While this month may experience warmer winter weather, it also gets a lot of blizzards, which may make traveling through the mountains difficult if not impossible. If your heart is set on a March Wedding in Colorado, then consider a location in the foothills or in the city.

April + May

April: she’s beauty and she’s grace, she’s spring in most states…not here though. This month is the perfect example of Colorado’s unpredictable weather. You might be blissfully blessed with sunny skies and a warm breeze, or completely caught off guard by several inches of rain and punishingly piercing wind. It could literally hail on your parade. Higher elevations are still snow-covered while lower locations might be muddy from snowmelt. If we had to say one nice thing about April, it would be that she’s warm, well, warmer, right? Next…

May: So April is a bad b*tch, but she 100% owns it. May acts like she’s your spring-time best friend like, “Hey, we should picnic by the water in Confluence Park on Saturday!” but then she cancels at the last minute because she dumped a literal foot of snow on you completely out of nowhere. It’s fine though. You’re fine. In other words, May is *whimsically* warmer. Pro tip: consider planning to elope in Colorado during this seasonal sweet spot while the kids are still in school (and not on the trails) and the weather is warming up.

June-August

June: After the ups and downs spring threw at us, we’re so happy to see June. She’s the welcomingly cool breeze on a hot day; the sweet, butterscotch smell of a ponderosa tree; the insurance payout after a hailstorm. Roadways and hiking trails are thawing out, waterfalls are gushing over, and wildflower season is on. June is honestly the perfect month to elope in if you want snow-capped mountains without winter temperatures, which is why it kicks off Colorado’s busy Summer elopement season.

July: We did it! We thawed out! The grass is green, the sky is blue, and the wildflowers are seemingly every other color of the rainbow. Speaking of which—the snowmelt is drying up, but you may catch a quick afternoon thunderstorm and accompanying rainbow over an impossibly full alpine lake. We love July, buuut so does everyone else! Be prepared for busier mountain passes, trailhead parking lots, and stay-a-while vistas when you elope in Colorado during the month of July.

August: We’re in the thick of summer now, but it may not be as hot as you’d think. Well, Denver is hot. The average daily high in August in Denver is 86, but the low humidity means cool shady spots and comfortable evenings. Plus, a day that tops 95 in Denver might only reach 70 in higher altitude mountain towns. August offers drier roads and trails (and fewer thunderstorms than July) if you want to incorporate a 4WD drive or long hike into your elopement experience. 

September + October

September: You may not have guests at your elopement, but if you get married in a high-altitude aspen grove in September, you’ll have all the audience you need. Their constantly quivering leaves will seem to applaud your every move. This is our pathetically poetic attempt at describing just how freaking amazing Colorado’s aspens look around this time of year. They transform from a Granny Smith green to the most brilliant yellow you’ll ever see, which contrasts in such a beautiful way with the now-muted grass. In summation: wonderfully warm weather and jaw-dropping fall foliage. Fall elopements in Colorado are pure magic.

October: Annnd it’s winter! Not really, but snow is definitely back on the table and the temperatures are much cooler in the shady spots and evening hours. After months of bare and/or browning mountains, it’s pleasantly surprising to see a light dusting of snow in the mountains while still enjoying warmer daily temps in the foothills. Things to consider: winter road closures start this month, so you may not be able to access certain places to elope in Colorado. Don’t worry, we can help you with that. However, school is back in session, so the roads and trails are the quietest they’ve been in months.

November + December

November: Is it winter now? Uhm, kind of! It’s snowing but not sticking at lower elevations, which is good news for you! You can still access mountain towns and higher elevation hiking trails without worrying about heavy snowfall. Something to keep in mind: while the snow-kissed mountains are beautiful (and a good indicator that ski season hasn’t started yet), the vegetation is mostly dead and gone.

December: Okay, it’s finally winter! The snow is sticking at higher elevations and occasionally at lower locations. Ski season is upon us, as is the holiday season so, plan accordingly and be prepared for less vendor availability and/or holiday pricing if a December elopement in Colorado is your goal.

A couple hugs during their Crested butte elopement surrounded by wildflowers.

TL;DR – Colorado Weather for an Elopement

  • If you can’t swing a weekday elopement, then at least try to avoid any holiday weekends in Colorado if at all possible. We know that holiday weekends offer a sort of built-in vacation, but unless you want to deal with tons of tourists and traffic, choose any other weekend.
  • Most mountain peaks will be snow-covered from about mid-October to mid-June, and you’re most likely to avoid snow anywhere in the state from July to September.
  • Waterfalls are wondrously roaring with snowmelt from June to early July. 
  • Wildflowers peak throughout our mountains’ meadows around the end of July. 
  • Hiking trails are finally dry and gloriously green by July and throughout August.  
  • Aspen leaves start changing colors (from green to yellow) at the end of September.
  • Winter elopements in Colorado are magical if cold weather and frozen alpine lakes are your things! While some roads and trails close because of snow, others boast true peace and quiet because of the slower tourism season. A winter weather advisory: be mindful of blizzards and busy holiday weekends.
  • The most challenging time of year to elope in Colorado is spring. It’s too unpredictable for such a big life event, in our opinion. Unless you’re prepared to change your date at the last second because of a surprise snowstorm or hide under umbrellas to avoid golf ball-sized hail, just choose another time of year.
  • The best time of year to elope in Colorado is summer. While it’s a busy time of year, summer will give you the most amount of location options for your ceremony spot and the least amount of weather-related stress for your sanity.

The biggest piece of weather-related advice we have for you: be prepared for anything

  • Bring water to stay hydrated in the warmer months and at any point of altitude.
  • Bring a raincoat and umbrella in case you get caught in an afternoon storm.
  • Pack a bag with extra food, water, and warm clothing in case of a blizzard.
  • Wear sunscreen because Colorado’s UV index is no joke—you might be 5,280 feet closer to the sun than you normally are.

If all fails and you’re standing soaked on the side of a mountain, just imagine that plaid-clad, Yeti-totting Coloradan saying, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.”

4. What are the best Colorado elopement locations?

When you choose to elope in a place as beautiful as Colorado, narrowing down the perfect location can be tricky. Partly because they’re all so damn beautiful, but also because there are some not-so-obvious details (accessibility, restrictions, permit requirement, and pricing) to consider per location. But before we get to those, let’s focus on the oh-so-obvious…

Part of what makes Colorado such an amazing elopement destination is the diversity of landscape options. Whether you’re looking for snow-capped peaks, crystal blue alpine lakes, meadows full of wildflowers, urban murals, red rock canyons, giant sand dunes, or lush evergreen forests…oh my, Colorado certainly has you covered with whatever kind of scenery you are dreaming of for your elopement. 

Some ceremony sites require a specific wedding permit and/or a rental fee, but there are also many other, stunning spots that you can freely walk, hike, bike, and/or drive to (depending on the time of year). 

The list below summarizes several well-known Colorado elopement locations that you and your partner could consider. Reach out to us for some of our super-secret location ideas, especially if you’re looking to veer a little farther from the trail!

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is a beautiful place to elope in Colorado. The largest and most popular of Colorado’s four national parks, it’s also one of the most popular elopement destinations with several reservable ceremony sites—some of which can accommodate up to 30 people. It’s easy to understand why RMNP is so sought after with tons of wildlife and over 300 miles of hiking trails traversing through meadows, mountains, and alpine lakes.

Permit requirement: You must receive a permit to get married in RMNP. The park accepts wedding applications a year in advance so start planning early if you’re set on this location. Their website (which has a great FAQ section) says you can apply as late as 7 days before your wedding date, but there are no guarantees that any sites will be available last minute. The permits are first-come, first-served, and they cost $300. 

Aspen: Maroon Bells

If you’ve ever Googled Colorado and clicked the “Images” tab, then you’ve most likely seen Maroon Bells. They’re supposedly the most photographed mountains in Colorado, which isn’t surprising given how beautiful and accessible certain views of the Bells are. However, with accessibility comes increased tourist activity. While the reservable amphitheater ceremony site is a bit tucked, you may want to consider similar, more private Aspen elopement locations if you’d prefer to avoid crowded trails, shuttle services, and tourists.

Permit requirements: You can reserve the Maroon Bells Amphitheater like you would a campsite through Recreation.gov. For $200, you can have a maximum of 50 attendees at the amphitheater and a paved trail to the ceremony site makes this location very accessibility friendly. Receptions are not allowed at the amphitheater but can be held four miles away at the East Maroon Portal Picnic site.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Imagine a canyon far deeper and much quieter than the grandest canyon of them all. Well, that’s Black Canyon of the Gunnison for ya. Located in western Colorado, this national park provides epic, eye-boggling views of a steep-walled gorge made up of Precambrian rock, which looks way cooler than that sentence sounds. Listen to the Gunnison River quietly roar deep below the rocky rim and marvel at the Painted Wall, AKA the tallest sheer rock in all of Colorado. Folks with a fear of heights might want to avoid this location! Otherwise, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is an amazing location to choose when you elope in Colorado.

Permit requirements: None! 

Dillon: Sapphire Point Overlook

Sapphire Point Overlook is a popular, easily accessible ceremony site for elopements and intimate wedding ceremonies. Located between Keystone and Breckenridge, Sapphire Point Overlook offers spectacular views of Lake Dillon and the surrounding Gore and Tenmile mountain ranges. This location is perfect for couples who want to behold Colorado’s beauty during their ceremony without traveling too far from Denver.

Permit requirements: Similar to Maroon Bells, this location has a campsite-esque reservation process through Recreation.gov. For $120, you can reserve this non-exclusive, day-use ceremony site, which can accommodate up to 35 guests, two hours at a time.

A couple holds hands playing in the water during their maroon bells elopement.

5. How much does it cost to elope in Colorado?

The cost to elope in Colorado is entirely up to you. Well, almost. There’s the $30 marriage application fee that we’ll discuss below but beyond that, your final cost depends on your appetite and budget for airfare, transportation, lodging, food, vendors, and attire.

Travel Costs

If you don’t live in Colorado but you want to elope in Colorado, then you’ll of course have to factor travel costs into your budget. Thankfully, you can book fairly affordable flights in and out of Denver International Airport (DEN) on airlines such as Frontier. On average, the best time to purchase tickets for a domestic trip is 64 days before your departure (CheapAir, 2021).

Another out-of-stater cost might be a rental car. In Colorado, there are many roads that are impossible to access without a 4WD vehicle and some roads that close completely due to snow from October to May. That being said, it’s really important that you know what types of roads you’ll drive on wherever you’re going; know whether you need a 4WD vehicle; and ensure that you actually get the kind of transportation you need. If you want to avoid renting a car, you could consider taking a shuttle or rideshare service from DEN.

We won’t spend much more of your time going through the obvious travel-related expenses. We’re sure you’ve heard of hotels, motels, Airbnb, and Vrbo—Colorado does indeed have all of those options available for your lodging needs. If you’re interested in taking another detour from the traditional, you could consider renting an RV or campervan while you’re visiting. Because who doesn’t want to start their marriage off in 50 sq. ft.?

Vendor Costs 

What a mixed bag, right? A Colorado elopement can cost anywhere between $30 and $20,000. We know—that range is 0% helpful, but that’s because this bottom line truly depends on what you want for your elopement and how you want it. 

You can get your marriage license for $30 and marry yourselves in the county clerk’s parking lot if you want to. Or, you can stay at a luxury resort tucked into the Rocky Mountains, eat meals prepared by a personal chef, tour the area in a hot air balloon, and dress to the nines during your elopement ceremony. 

Chances are, what you want falls somewhere in between the above examples, and thankfully there are vendors available for every budget. You and your partner just have to decide what’s important to you and what’s worth paying for.

Cost-Effective Colorado Elopement Tips

  • Get married on a weekday. This choice could save you time (I-70 traffic to/from the mountains can be disastrous over the weekend) and money (it’s oftentimes cheaper to travel during the week and many vendors have weekday wedding discounts).
  • Don’t invite any guests. Or limit the number of guests you do invite. Having to feed 5, 10, or 20 people costs a bit more than just having to feed yourselves.
  • Choose an elopement location that doesn’t require a booking or permitting fee.
  • You can find cheap, all-inclusive packages that offer combinations of a florist, an officiant, a hair and makeup artist, a photographer, and a videographer. While these packages may seem appealing at first, keep in mind that they limit your ability to choose your vendors. They can also compromise the quality of your vendors. Since your vendors might your only guests, and since photos and videos are the keepsakes that you will get to share with the people you love who weren’t at your elopement, you may want to consider hand-picking vendors to ensure they are people you actually want to be around in such an intimate way on your wedding day.

Pause again! Take a deep breath and remember—this is all about you and what you want. You can elope on a Saturday, surrounded by 20 guests, with every elopement vendor available—if that’s what you want. You can elope on a Tuesday, surrounded by no one, in the middle of an aspen grove—if that’s what you want. You get it! Let’s move on…

An LGBTQ couple gets married in Denver Colorado.

6. How to Get a Colorado Marriage License

Earlier in this guide, we briefly mentioned that you can obtain your marriage license and get married on the same day when you elope in Colorado. While that’s a fun headline to have, it’s not the full story, so let’s spend some time reviewing the details of this process.

Step One: Apply Online

To apply for a marriage license in the state of Colorado, you can start by submitting your information for a marriage application online

You can start and finish your entire application during your in-person appointment, which is required anyway, but if you’d prefer to get the ball rolling now, go for it, you go-getter. 

Step Two: Apply In-Person

Your application cannot be completed until both you and your partner appear at a county clerk and recorder’s office in person with the required documents (listed below) and fee.

Here’s the address of the Office of the Clerk and Recorder in Denver: 201 W. Colfax Ave., Dept 101, Denver, Colorado, 80202. This office accepts marriage applications between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding municipal holidays.

If you apply at a different office than the one listed above, call ahead to ask about hours and appointments. Fun fact: you can apply for a marriage license at any Colorado county clerk and recorder’s office, regardless of what county your ceremony will be in. 

During your in-person appointment, you must provide the following:

  • A proof of identification (each), i.e. a current U.S. state-issued driver’s license or permit, a U.S. state-issued ID, a U.S. military ID, or a passport (with certified English-language translation if non-English). You may also be asked for your social security number.
  • If one of you cannot appear in person with the other, then you must provide an absentee affidavit to the county you’re applying in, along with a copy of your I.D. and a notarized signature.
  • A $30 marriage license fee, payable by cash, check, or credit card.

Here are the age requirements for a Colorado marriage license:

  • You must be at least 18 years old, with the following exceptions: applicants who are 16 or 17 years old must have judicial approval. Applicants younger than 16 years old may not legally wed in the state of Colorado.

Here are the restrictions of a Colorado marriage license:

  • Your marriage license application will be denied if you are already married or if you are in a civil union with another person.
  • Your application will also be denied if you are an ancestor/descendant, brother/sister, uncle/niece, or aunt/nephew. However, blood tests are not required. I don’t know how to make that last sentence not weird in this section—sorry.

Here are some questions you may be asked during your appointment:

  • What is your wedding date?
  • Where is the location of your wedding?
  • What is the city and state where your parents were born?
  • If you were previously married, what is your divorce date and location?

Step Three: Get Approved

You’ve been approved! Yay! Now you must use your marriage license, anywhere in Colorado, within 35 days of its issue.

Step Four: Complete Your Marriage Certificate

On your wedding day, usually, after your ceremony, fill out your marriage certificate using these instructions. A quick note: your marriage license and marriage certificate are on the same document. Do not separate them.

Step Five: Deliver Your Documents

Your marriage certificate must be completed and returned within 63 days of your wedding day. Most couples will mail it to (or drop it off at) the county clerk and recorder’s office they applied for their marriage license in. That office should give you specific instructions on how to return your documents for recording.

If you have absolutely zero time to drop your documents off at the county clerk and recorder’s office before you leave Colorado, and for whatever reason, you don’t want to deal with mailing them in yourself, you could consider entrusting your documents with your witness, officiant, or photographer. They can drop off or mail in your documents for you.

Step Six: Be Marry

Once your documents are recorded, that’s it! You are now legally married in all 50 states!

A couple signs their marriage license during their Colorado elopement with friends and witnesses present.

7. How to Hire Colorado Elopement Vendors

Okay! You’ve decided to elope in Colorado. Great work! You’ve narrowed down when you’re flying out (or when you’ll start your drive) and where you’ll exchange your vows. Now what? Well my friends, now it’s time to hire the perfect Colorado elopement team!

Ideally, you do a bit of research, call some vendors, click with your first or second choices, and then sign some contracts! In reality, finding the best elopement vendors for you can be time-consuming and especially challenging if you’re doing so from outside of Colorado. 

But you’re here, deep into this Colorado elopement guide, because you make good choices. And we’re here, with a list of questions you could ask the commonly hired elopement vendors (florists, officiants, hair and makeup artists) while you’re searching for your vendor dream team. If you’ve been wondering this whole time, yes, we have a lot of thoughts on this, so let’s chat about photo and video teams first…

Photo + Video

There are several benefits to hiring a photo and video team for your colorado elopement coverage. 

A photo and video team will have past experience working together during other couples’ elopements. They’ll be able to seamlessly communicate throughout your wedding day simply because they’ve done it before. We like to think of it as a dance—when you have a consistent dance partner, you’re better able to anticipate their moves and create a more cohesive experience for your audience. Here at Wildroot, we like dancing with each other!

When you elope in Colorado and hire a photo and video team like Wildroot Collective, you’re ensuring that your products and experiences will have a similar look and feel to them—and that doesn’t just apply to color balancing. Some photographers/videographers have highly-produced styles that give them complete control over what images they can deliver to you, which means they may offer a lot of direction throughout the day. Other creatives prefer a hands-off approach so that they can capture authentic moments that unfold in front of them. Having a photographer and videographer on the same page when it comes to the level of direction and client interaction on a wedding day can make or break your experience.

We’re sure you’ve heard this before: your day will go by in the blink of an eye. That’s not an exaggeration and it means something big: your memories, photos, and video will be all that remains once the day is done. Your photographer and videographer should strive to create photos and videos that genuinely *feel* like you and your wedding day—photos and videos that you can watch and relive for the rest of your lives, especially as your memories fade.

This last benefit is a big one: booking a photo and video team will save you money (because of the bundled packaged pricing) and time (fewer contracts to sign and fewer companies to communicate with). I don’t think this one needs further explanation!

Florists

If you choose to include flowers in your elopement, here are some questions you may want to ask your florist:

  • Can you make a one-bouquet, one-boutonnière order? You could consider adding a flower crown, a ceremony flower arch, or some additional boutonnières and corsages if you want to or need to add more flowers to your order.
  • Can you create sturdy floral arrangements that aren’t overly heavy? Yes, that is a bizarre question, but it’s not without reason! You may need to strap your bouquet to a backpack during the hike to your ceremony spot. We might experience some strong winds at higher altitudes. For these reasons alone, ensuring your floral arrangements can stand the test of an elopement and not litter Colorado’s beautiful landscape is important!

Officiants

You certainly don’t have to have an officiant for an elopement in Colorado. If you want to, though, here are some questions you may want to ask your officiant:

  • If they have to travel to your elopement location, ask them what their travel fees are and if they require any accommodations.
  • Do you perform one kind of ceremony, or do you have multiple ceremony templates that we may choose from?
  • How do you personalize your ceremonies per couple? Make them aware of any special traditions, readings, exchanges (vows, rings, etc.) that you’d like incorporated into your ceremony.
  • Are you comfortable with hiking to an epic elopement spot? If so, how far is too far? Can you get back to your car safely if we decide to stay behind at the ceremony site for photo and video coverage?
  • Keep in mind: you do not need an officiant to legally elope in Colorado. You and your partner can marry yourselves by leading your ceremony and signing your marriage license. You could also consider asking a close friend or family member to officiate. Knowing this may save you time spent finding an officiant and money spent hiring one to hike for two hours to conduct a 15-minute ceremony.

Hair and Makeup Artists

Here are some questions you may want to ask your hair and makeup artist:

  • If they have to travel to your elopement location, ask them what their travel fees are and if they require any accommodations.
  • Can you travel to our hotel / Airbnb or would we have to travel to you?
  • Can you start your HMU services hours before the sunrise if we have a sunrise ceremony?
  • Do you have specific outdoor HMU practices that will last through hiking and/or certain weather events?
  • Can you provide touch-up materials?

These questions might be more helpful if you knew who to use them on—reach out to us for our list of amazing Colorado elopement vendors!

Bride and groom run towards a mountain after they elope in Colorado.

8. How to Create an Elopement Timeline

After you’ve decided on an amazing Colorado elopement location, booked your lodging and transportation, and hired your elopement vendor team then it’s time to create a timeline for your wedding day! 

Let’s start small by answering some general questions…

  • Will your elopement start in the morning or the evening? When you elope in Colorado, you really can’t go wrong when choosing between the sunrise and the sunset. This question is more about your personal preferences and how you’d like to spend your day.
  • Are you a morning person who would prefer to get ready super early (we’re talking 4:00 a.m. early) so that you can exchange vows during a gorgeous Colorado sunrise and then spend the rest of the day eating, drinking, and celebrating with friends? Getting those wedding jitters out of the way early in the day might be what you need to fully experience this once-in-a-lifetime moment.
  • Or, are you more of a night owl who would prefer to explore the cute mountain town you’re staying in before you casually get ready at your Airbnb, hike to your ceremony spot, and exchange vows during a stop-and-stare-worthy sunset? Personally, we love that magical moment when we all turn our headlamps off to watch the stars on our way back to the car.

Take some time to chat about what you want on your wedding day and then write down some timing and activity ideas. The most important thing to remember at this point: everything is flexible! It’ll help to keep this in mind even as you move into planning the nitty-gritty details of your Colorado elopement.

Some couples may want as smooth sailing a wedding day as possible. Here’s what a 4-hour evening elopement timeline might look like:

5:00 pm: Photo and video coverage starts at the trailhead. 

  • Tie those boots down tight!
  • Go on a short hike to your ceremony spot.
  • Read letters from family and friends.
  • Exchange personal vows.
  • Exchange rings.
  • Kiss and celebrate!

6:30 pm: Pop that champagne and toast to the start of the rest of your lives!

6:30-7:30 pm: Couples’ photos and video session.

8:30-9:00 pm: Cheers some beers and tacos with friends at a local brewery.

Other couples that elope in Colorado want to make a full day out of their elopement. They crave that crisp Colorado morning air, and they can’t wait to spend the whole day surrounded by their closest friends and family in the state they love. Here’s what an 8-hour full-day elopement timeline might look like:

5:00 am: Photo and video coverage starts at your Airbnb.

  • Sip some coffee on the front porch.
  • Get buttoned up, zipped up, and laced up.

5:30 am: Leave for the trailhead.

6:00 am: Park at the trailhead and hike to your ceremony spot.

7:00 am: Start your sunrise ceremony!

  • Exchange wedding gifts.
  • Exchange personal vows.
  • Poem reading by a friend or family member.
  • Exchange rings.
  • Kiss and celebrate!

7:30 am: Pop that champagne, dunk some donuts (wait, ew…) and toast to the start of the rest of your lives!

8:00 am: Family and friend photo session.

8:30-9:30 am: Couples’ photos and video session. Hike back to the cars.

10-12:00 pm: Eat a delicious brunch back at the Airbnb with your family and friends.

12-1:00 pm: Play some yard games and dance the day away in the backyard!

When it comes to eloping in Colorado, the options are endless, but we hope you can use these rough timelines as inspiration when you start planning your day together!

While building your timeline together, you and your partner should take the time to research what other elopers have done (you might be inspired). Keep an open mind to out-of-the-ordinary ideas, breathe through any hiccups or frustrations, and above all else: have fun. An intimate wedding experience is based entirely upon what you want and there are endless ways to create a truly unique elopement experience.

Snowboarding elopement in Keystone Colorado.

9. Colorado Elopement Checklist

Start Dreaming

Okay, maybe this first step is painfully obvious to you, but a lot of engaged couples get so excited to plan the Colorado elopement of their dreams that they forget to think about what they *truly* want before they dive headfirst into their color-coded wedding binders.

So, close the Pinterest tab, grab a beer (or whatever) and have an open conversation with your partner about each of your wedding day dreams, expectations, and budget ideas.

Choose a Date

When choosing a date for your Colorado elopement, think about your personal preferences, sentimental timings, and a few logistical factors including weather, tourism, and flexibility, i.e. a backup date. 

When you elope in Colorado, you have four true seasons to choose from, so think about whether you’re drawn to a specific season and then research what kind of weather Colorado experiences during that season because it may be different than what you’d expect. Other states might experience spring-time weather in April and May, but the risk of heavy snow is still ever-present during those months in Colorado.

Here are some other questions to ask yourselves when deciding on a wedding date:

  • Is there a date that means something to us and/or our relationship?
  • Is there a time of year we both like?
  • If we’re inviting guests, is there a time of year that works best for them?
  • Is there certain Colorado weather that we’d like to avoid, i.e. blizzards?
  • Is there certain Colorado weather that we’d like to seek out, i.e. non-blizzards?
  • If we’re considering a holiday weekend, can we deal with the tourism and traffic?
  • Is our date set in stone or can we be flexible if a travel or weather event occurs?

Choose a Location

The biggest pieces of advice we can offer here are:

  • Think about what kind of Colorado scenery (mountains, lakes, and canyons, oh my) you’d like to spend one of the greatest days of your lives surrounded by. This state has about any type of backdrop you could want for your elopement.
  • Do some research. Ask your photographer and/or planner if they have an elopement location list, google Colorado elopement locations, search geo hashtags on Instagram, etc.

Something else to consider when choosing a location: altitude. 

Colorado’s elevation ranges from 3,300 to more than 14,400 feet, and that elevation affects everything from weather events to oxygen levels. Temperatures drop down, winds pick up, and the air thins out at higher elevations. If you’re traveling to elope in Colorado from sea level, or simply driving up from a lower elevation somewhere else in Colorado, here are a few ways to prepare for the change in altitude:

  • Hydrate. Drink twice as much water as you’re used to while at a higher, dryer altitude. Water will help your body adjust.
  • Take time to adjust. Your body will start adjusting to a higher altitude pretty immediately, but it typically takes several days to fully adjust. Before your wedding day, if you have the time to do so, consider spending a slower-paced day or two adjusting to your new altitude.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine. I know, double bummer, but these drinks affect how well your body acclimates to higher altitudes. If you can’t cut the Coors or coffee, just know that you may take longer to adjust to the altitude and that these substances may have a quicker/stronger effect on you during your travels.
  • Eat more carbs. You need more calories at higher altitudes so make sure you eat regular meals and pack some healthy, whole grain snacks.
  • Know the signs. Higher altitudes affect everyone differently, but here are some general warning signs to watch out for: fatigue, headache, nausea, shortness of breath, and trouble sleeping.

Hire Vendors

Dream team, assemble! After you’ve thought through the different locations to elope in Colorado and picked one, you can start hiring vendors in or around that area. Here are the most common vendors that couples hire for their elopements:

  • Planner
  • Officiant
  • Florist
  • Photographer 
  • Videographer 
  • Caterer

Pro tip: When hiring elopement vendors, find your photographer first! Your elopement photographer will most likely have great recommendations for any other elopement vendors you may want.

Local tip: Strongly consider hiring elopement vendors based in Colorado. They know the location. They’ve hiked these mountains and biked these trails. They know the industry. They’ve rubbed elbows with other vendors—the good and the bad. They know that if they have to drive out I-70 on a Saturday, they have to leave an extra hour for tourist traffic. These local vendors will be able to give you a more personalized experience because you’re eloping in the place they call home.

Most importantly, take time to find the right elopement vendors for you and your day. If there are little to no guests at your elopement, then you may spend more face time with your vendors, so spend the time now to make sure you like those faces.

A couple walks into the sunset in the snow after their Vail Colorado elopement.

Book Your Travel

Some of the following content is repeated from the above “travel costs” section under “How much does it cost to elope in Colorado?” 

Airfare

You can book fairly affordable flights in and out of Denver International Airport (DEN) on airlines such as Frontier. On average, the best time to purchase tickets for a domestic trip is 64 days before your departure (CheapAir, 2021).

Transportation

Consider splurging on a 4WD rental car. In Colorado, there are many roads that are impossible to access without a 4WD vehicle and some roads that close completely due to snow from October to May. That being said, it’s really important that you know what types of roads you’ll drive on wherever you’re going; know whether you need a 4WD vehicle; and ensure that you actually get the kind of transportation you need. If you want to avoid renting a car, you could consider taking a shuttle or rideshare service from DEN.

Accommodation

If you dream of waking up to a vista view at a private mountain chateau, then book it sooner rather than later because accommodations book up fast in certain towns and/or during certain times. If you want an even more out-of-the-box accommodation option, consider renting an RV or campervan while you’re visiting.

Bottom line: don’t dilly dally when booking your travel expenses and avoid paying extra to travel over a holiday weekend.

Plan Your Activities and Details

You may be forgoing the timeline and traditions of a full wedding day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate the activities and details that are important to you. Here are some questions to ask yourselves at this point of planning:

  • What will we wear? Suits? Gowns? Flannel and hiking boots? There’s no wrong answer except maybe nothing at all…walk a little farther if that’s your style.
  • What will we do? You could go on a hike, tour a brewery, or dance in the backyard with your friends—what sounds like fun to you?
  • What will we eat? You can do anything from packing sammies or ordering from a food truck, to sitting down at a restaurant or hiring a personal chef. Your choice.
  • Will we invite guests? Again, there’s no wrong answer here. 
    • If you choose to leave your guests at home, consider asking them to write you letters or words of advice that you can read aloud on your wedding day. It’ll be a small way to keep those you love, and who love you, involved.
    • With no RSVPs, the only way your would-be guests will experience your wedding day will be by looking through your photos and by watching your video. Having a photo and video team document your day will ensure that your loved ones can experience your wedding as closely as possible without actually being present. 

Pack Your Bags

We’re talking toothbrush, underwear, and an extra pair of shoes! But seriously, think about function AND form when packing to elope in Colorado. If you plan to hike 2+ miles to your ceremony location, make sure you dress accordingly and know that you can change into something less practical and more pretty once you get to your destination. Also: BRING AN OUTER LAYER. It doesn’t matter what time of year you’re here. It rains randomly and it gets chilly in the evenings (even in the summer), so be prepared. 

Here are some other items you could pack:

  • Personal touches, i.e. grandpa’s handkerchief, mom’s ring, a letter from dad, etc.
  • A printout of your wedding day timeline that includes confirmation numbers, important addresses, and your vendors’ contact information. 
  • Vow books and rings.
  • Getting ready outfit, i.e. PJs and slippers.
  • Hiking clothes (hat included), protection (sunscreen and insect repellent) and boots. Please don’t force yourself to hike in your heels.
  • Water. Bottles of it.
  • Snacks. Morning snacks, afternoon snacks, evening snacks…all of them.
  • Medications, prescribed and otherwise (TUMS, ibuprofen, liquid IV, etc.).
A vail mountain elopement ceremony as a couple exchanges their vows.

Get your Marriage License

It’s easy peasy if you’re prepared and you can apply at any Colorado county clerk and recorder’s office, even if it’s in a different county than your ceremony site. Most offices are open Monday-Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Your appointment should take between 20 and 30 minutes.

You can start the application online if you’d like, but you will have to finish it in person to receive your license. Bring your driver’s license (or passports) and the $30 license fee. Be prepared to give your social security numbers and your parent’s places of birth. Once you receive your license, you must use it within 35 days before it expires.

Once you’re married, you must drop off or mail in your license to the county clerk and recorder’s office you received it from. You have 63 days to submit your paperwork. For more detailed information, please refer to the step-by-step list in the “How to Get a Colorado Marriage License” above.

Get Married!

You did it—you planned your elopement! Now go do the dang thing. Elope in Colorado. Oh, and let us be a part of it!! Reach out to have Wildroot Collective help you plan and document your Colorado Elopement! We can’t wait to get to know you!

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