Eloping does NOT have to mean running off to the courthouse to sign a marriage license because your parents don’t approve. What used to be seen as hiding a marriage is now creating a day focused around what is MOST important to you and your partner NOT your aunt Suzy. These tips are meant for those adventurers looking to find a mountain pass or hidden waterfall in the vast wilderness of Colorado.
Below are a few pointers we wish we had BEFORE we started planning our own adventure elopement in Colorado.
**While this is geared towards Colorado many of these pointers can be used for any adventure wedding or elopement.
Location, Time, + Activity
This should be your number one priority once you have decided you want to skip the traditional wedding. Before approaching your dream vendors, you want to have a rough idea of the location, time of year, and activity you want for your adventure wedding or elopement. Colorado has such a vast change in weather, terrain, and scenery within very short distances. You want to have some sort of a plan or idea before heading over to your photog and video team looking for ideas.
Here are few questions to ask yourself!
- Where is a place special for you and your partner?
- Maybe you are coming from out of town and haven’t been to Colorado before…or you have a spot you visit every anniversary. You can include as many special things into your day even if that is just exploring a new place because that in itself is what makes the day special.
- Where do you and your partner want to visit next? (what’s on that never ending bucket list!)
- For our own elopement, we chose to visit somewhere we had never been before. We love adventuring and finding new places so we thought why not do the same for our elopement.
- What type of scenery do you both love?
- Colorado is full of so many surprise views. We have everything from sand dunes to cool rock formations, aspen groves and mountain tops, alpine lakes and hidden waterfalls. There are so many secret spots to be found!
- What do you love to do together?
- The options in Colorado are endless!! Skiing, rafting, zip lining, hiking, snowshoeing, picnicking, rock climbing, jeep tours, breweries…
- What time of year?
- The seasons are SOOO different out here in Colorado. Coming from MN I am used to snow being gone by about mid/late May. In the mountains, we often have snow until mid-July! If you want to be 90% sure there will be no snow, plan for a July/August wedding but don’t be surprised if you still get snowed on. If you are someone who loves the yellow aspen trees in fall, you want to look into peak season for your specific location because that also varies greatly throughout Colorado.
- Time of Day?
- Are you more of an alpine 2AM start type of person or a mimosas at 10AM and sunset type of person? You also have to consider thunderstorms if you choose spring/summer time in Colorado. There will almost always be some sort of afternoon storm in the mountains. While it is possible to do a sunset or afternoon ceremony, you want to keep in mind there may be running to hide for the 20 minute storm or doing it a bit earlier to get ahead of the storm.
- Do you want to avoid crowds?
- A great way to do this is to elope on a weekday! You can go to popular spots and automatically have less people on a weekday. Otherwise, find more obscure or harder to reach spots. If you can find the location on a blog it is probably going to be busy. There are places just as beautiful if not more than Rocky Mountain National Park but don’t get the publicity and will be less crowded. **This is a great one to bring to your photo + video team as they probably have some “secret” spots they would love to share with you.
- Do you want to include your family/friends?
- This can be a tricky question to answer but there are many ways you can include your family/friends. **Read below for some ideas of how to include them!
Here are a few helpful resources especially if you have never been to a spot before.
- Google Earth!! (Thank the lord for technology!!)
- Apps specific to your chosen activity. Hiking – AllTrails: Rock Climbing – Mountain Project: 14ers – 14ers.com
- Instagram hashtags: #adventureelopement #backpacking elopement #hikingelopement #skiingelopement (you get the idea)
- Travel Vlogs/Blogs
Vendors (Photo + Video)
Above pricing, you need to make sure you connect with your vendors on a personal level. No one wants to backpack, hike, or spend multiple hours with someone who annoys you or doesn’t make you feel comfortable. You will be “stuck” with these people for multiple hours (if not overnight) and will be 100% happier with your photos and video if you love your vendors. Before you book them, make sure to talk with them on the phone, ask to get a beer, or just chat over FaceTime. If you get along and can share a few laughs you will be just fine in the backcountry.
Another consideration is finding vendors who are knowledgeable not only about elopements/photography but ADVENTURING. Your vendors are going to help plan A LOT of the details for your adventure elopement. You want to make sure they understand important backcountry safety and can keep up.. **This was something we struggled with our own adventure wedding. It was SUPER hard to find photographers and videographers who were actually hikers/backpackers as we were doing an overnight backpacking wedding.
Important Questions to ask your Photographer and Videographers:
- Are they a Wilderness First Responder?
- Do they know and follow Leave No Trace principals?
- How much backpacking, hiking, canoeing, etc. do they do on their own for fun?
- What has been their favorite adventure?
- What was their most recent adventure trip?
- Do they have any guide certifications? How many people have they safely lead into the backcountry?
You are entrusting your safety in others hands. You would hate to be the one to help evacuate your photog out of the backcountry because they can’t handle the altitude in Colorado or a hike that is too many miles for them.
Family (Involve Or Not?)
There are many misconceptions that elopements canNOT include your family or friends. This is 100% not true. We know that many of you love your families and are not eloping because you don’t want them along. While you might want to include them, it doesn’t have to be all day or even for your adventure part. Holden and I chose to backpack in for our first look and do a small family ceremony at a campground afterwards.
Consider some of the ideas below for including your family:
- Exchange your vows at a location easily accessed by car before/after heading out on your adventure (there are many beautiful view points your family can meet you at before/after your adventure).
- Bring them with!! Hell yes they can hike, camp, ski, snowshoe, or canoe alongside you!! My family did a yearly canoe trip every year for my birthday!
- Spend all week adventuring with your family. Rent an Airbnb, go out to dinner, hike, and explore with your family. Make your wedding into a whole week long celebration instead of just a day.
- Have a celebration days/months afterwards
- Plan a day of adventuring with your family before or after your wedding day.
- Ask your loved ones to write letters for you to read during your ceremony. These can be notes of love and support or just reminders that they are thinking of you on your elopement day.
- Buy a ceremony film to go along with your highlight film so your family can hear all of your vows from start to finish! Many videographers, including us, offer ceremony edits as an add on to your main film. It is a great way to share your entire ceremony with your family while still having the privacy of your private alpine lake ceremony.
This was one of my hardest things to figure out while planning our own adventure elopement. I knew I wanted to wear cute leather boots with my dress but I also wanted them to be functional. It is important to remember you will most likely be crawling around on rocks, hiking up hills, sitting by a campfire, and/or wading in the river. You want to be prepared for everything. Heels and a mermaid dress are probably not a good outfit for an adventure elopement.
Things to consider when purchasing your shoes, suit, dress, etc:
- Can you bend all the way over and down?
- You might laugh at this question but think about it…you will be climbing around on rocks, over fallen trees…if you can’t bend over because your suit jacket is too tight, you are going to have a struggle bus of a day.
- Can you lift your arms up?
- Again with the mobility piece. You want to look amazing but also be a functional person.
- Can you breath and move around?
- Read the above comments…you really do want to be able to MOVE!
- Can you move around without anything falling out?
- Nobody wants to see anything they shouldn’t see!
- Can you wear these shoes walking around in the grass, sand, dirt without poking holes or breaking an ankle?
- This is super important for anyone who loves to wear heels! Yes they make your butt look amazing but they are NOT a good option in the backcountry. Even for a short time, they can be a hassle and ruin the flora/fauna. You will be better off with shoes with a flat sole like boots, Chacos, or no shoes at all!
- Will you be worried about snags the entire time?
- This is super important in Colorado as much of our vegetation is part desert…there are likely plants that will catch on your clothes. Anything made of tule, satin, or similar fabric is generally not a good idea as it will most likely snag on the various twigs and plants.
- Do you care if it gets completely muddy?
- Seriously though…we LOVE the dirt ombre effect!
- Are you going to be in the mountains? Will it be cold?
- Layers are #1 in Colorado. I don’t care if it is 90 and sunny in Denver. It WILL get cold at night in the mountains and probably rain and/or hail. Layers are what will keep you from being miserable and cold for your sunset first dance.
- Does the outfit compliment the scenery?
- This is something many people don’t think about. Consider what colors would compliment a green pine tree or yellow/white fall aspen tree. Often dark colors will blend in when you want to pop out of the view. Holden wore a colorful suit jacket that popped perfectly with my white dress. Think of your scenery and find outfits that will pop out of that!
Pinterest is a great place to go for inspiration. There are so many boards and posts out there that have plenty of adventure elopement couples in their adventure clothes. You might also consider bringing an outfit to wear while hiking 4 miles in and changing at your vow exchange destination.
Nitty Gritty (Permits/Licenses)
This is the important and not so fun part of planning an adventure elopement. It is really important for not only you but all of your vendors, family, and friends follow any local, state, or national laws around getting married in the backcountry. Many National and State parks have specific guidelines as to where you can and cannot exchange vows (even if it’s just you two and a photog). While there is a lot to look into here, if you hire a knowledgeable photo/video team, they will help you figure out and answer all of these questions .
- Do you want an officiant?
- One of the coolest parts about getting married in Colorado is you DON’T have to use an officiant. You are allowed to self-solemnize which means you can marry yourselves without a priest, pastor, or officiant. This also opens up a lot of options for friends or family members to be your officiant as well.
- Is the location accessible during the time of year you will be there?
- Many Colorado mountain passes don’t open until the end of May or later. Also anything above 11,000 ft elevation will have some if not a lot of snow well into the June/July. Make sure to research snow levels and road closures before setting a specific location.
- Are there entrance fees?
- If you are heading to a National or State Park you will 100% need to pay an entrance fee. There are also multiple National Forest and City Parks that require entrance fees as well.
- Do you need a special use permit?
- This is almost always a yes for National and State Parks.
- Do you need a special guide?
- If you choose an activity like rafting or zip lining, you might need to hire a guide to keep you safe.
Go With The Flow
Every seasoned adventurer knows plans often do not go the way you wanted them to. Don’t be afraid to let the timeline flex a bit. You might even find something even more amazing by mistake.
All you have to do on your elopement day is to enjoy the day and be happy you are finally marrying your best friend!!