How to Elope in Colorado- 2024

Before you dive into this guide, if at any point you feel overwhelmed, just pause! Elopements offer a lot of freedom, but that also means quite a few decisions need to be made. You might think- “Isn’t eloping supposed to be easier and simpler than planning a big wedding?!” Just remember, every decision or choice you make for your elopement day is about creating an experience for the two of you, rather than an experience for 100 other people. Things will start to fall into place naturally- I promise! And hiring a person who can help you plan and take a ton of research off your plate will make the biggest difference.

I might be biased but I think Colorado is the best state to elope in. It has incredible views, cute mountain towns, it’s mostly dog friendly, and especially in the summer, the weather can’t be beat. It’s also one of the easiest states to get married in because you can self-solemnize and a marriage license is only $35 with no waiting period. Whether you’re planning an elopement with just the two of you or including guests, there are a myriad of location options- everything from free venues to low cost small wedding venues.

Elopements can be planned in a short or long period of time, don’t feel like you’re too late! There have been times where couples planned an elopement in a few weeks or months and there are some who have planned over a year out. The way you plan your elopement should be totally customized to what the two of you want, however there is a typical order in which planning usually occurs ( this is simply a guide, again you can plan in whatever order you would like-  there’s no right or wrong way to do this!)

  • Choose a specific state or country that you would like to elope in
  •  Research photographers within that state or country. This might seem early to do this, but a good elopement photographer will help you plan the entire rest of your elopement and take a ton of stress off of you! That’s why this is so early in the planning process.
  •  Once you have your photographer chosen, they should be able to help you find a location based around your initial ideas and vision. They should also  be able to send you a detailed and personalized list of locations so that you can choose your perfect spot.
  •  Once you have your location (or locations) picked, you’re able to start planning out details of your day! Things like where you’re going to stay, what you’re going to wear, and you can start thinking about what activities you would like to include. Again, your photographer should be able to make recommendations for all of these if you would like or need them.
  •  Three to four months out from your date you can work with your photographer to create your timeline. A day of timeline ensures you know how your day is going to flow so that you can relax and enjoy every moment!
  • Then, with all the details squared away, you and your partner get to have the best day ever!

When to elope in Colorado

There are quite a few things to consider when you’re trying to choose what time of year you want to elope in Colorado- everything from seasons, to desired scenery such as wildflowers or fall colors, accessibility, activities you’re planning on including, and what elevation you’re going to be at. After spending tons and tons of time in the mountains here’s (my personal opinion and) the TL; DR: summer and fall are incredible, winter is magical if you’re up for the cold, and spring is the worst.

 Ask yourself these questions to start:

  • What kind of scenery are you imagining? High mountain peaks? Lakes? Lots of trees?
  • Are you okay with being cold and possibly dealing with snow?
  • Will you be traveling in from out of state and what are the travel risks during that time of year?
  •  Is there something specific you really want to be able to do like off-roading or skiing? 
  •  Are you imagining a specific seasonal feature like wildflowers or fall colors?

Keep in mind that Colorado is a high elevation state (for those of you familiar with gardening we’re in garden zone 5B) which causes spring and summer to come much later than most people expect and winter to come earlier. It’s not uncommon to have snow in the middle of May or September! We often don’t turn our heat off until late May and air conditioning isn’t needed until the beginning of July. 

General conditions throughout the year

 December through April

These are solid winter months in Colorado. There will definitely be snow and even in lower elevations, like Denver or Colorado Springs, things are not blooming and green just yet. High elevations will still have multiple feet of snow and oftentimes ski resorts are open until the middle of April. Spring months like March, April, and even early May are perfect if you want snow without the bitter cold of midwinter. 

A late December elopement
May through early June

This is a shoulder season in Colorado and can often be referred to as mud season as snow in the high country begins to melt and the earth starts to come back to life. It does start to get warmer ,but it’s not unusual to get lots of snow in May, especially in the mountains. Temperatures can range anywhere from really cold to 75 and sunny. At lower elevations, like Denver and Colorado Springs and Boulder, things start to get green, trees have leaves, and flowers bloom. Towards the end of May is when mountain passes or other high mountain roads that have been closed for the winter begin to be cleared and reopened, although there is still a lot of snow at the top.

An early June elopement
Mid June through August

These are the summer months in Colorado- usually at least. There have been years where we have snow as late as July 4th! These months are when the wildflowers are blooming, everything is green, sunsets are late, lakes are melted, trails snow free, and it’s arguably the best time of the whole year. This is also when outdoor tourism in Colorado hits its peak as people come to see the mountains, the wildflowers, and the national parks. Especially during this time of year, eloping on a weekday is going to increase your chances of privacy. These months can also have late afternoon thunderstorms in the mountains and while they usually don’t last long, it’s really important to not be above tree line as thunder and lightning can be very dangerous.

An early August elopement
September through mid October

Early September is similar to summer, but without the wildflowers. Later in the month is when fall colors begin in the mountains and all the aspen trees turn bright yellow. Even locations above tree line have ground plans that change to fall colors like reds, yellows, and oranges. During this time, grass may be brown, but the colors around it more than make up for it. As we head into October it becomes more likely that high peaks will have snow. Fall colors typically last around the first week of October, maybe a little longer if we’re lucky. Lower elevations can still be warm but high elevations, especially above tree line, are much more likely to start getting snow. Mid to late October is when mountain passes and other high mountain roads begin closing for the winter.

How to choose a location for your Colorado elopement

Choosing a location in Colorado can be a bit overwhelming as there’s so many amazing options, but once you start getting really specific about what you really want out of your day and what you’re envisioning for your location, you can start narrowing down options! There’s several things you want to consider when choosing a location for your elopement.

Before you decide on anything else, think about how far you’re willing to travel within Colorado. Most people live along the Front Range or fly into Denver Airport, and these are not super close to mountain locations. The further you’re willing to drive from major metropolitan areas the better the views, the less permits required, and the more privacy is going to be available. Really it’s worth it to drive farther away and get away from the hustle and bustle of the really popular places!

Things to consider when dreaming up your perfect elopement location:

  • What time of year are you eloping and what is accessible during that time?
  • Will you be including guests? How many? What are their mobility levels and altitude tolerance?
  • What day of the week do you want to elope on? Weekdays tend to be much quieter than weekends.
  • What activities do you want to do on your day?
  • Do you want to visit more than one location?
  • Is being near a town with a lot to do important to you? (and what’s you definition of “a lot to do”)

Once you have these things figured out, you’re able to start narrowing down a specific part of the state that you might want to be in. This is also where working with a local Colorado elopement photographer is super beneficial. They can take all the stress out of this part by helping you find the best locations based on your initial ideas, meaning you don’t have to do as much research!

Guest count consideration: if you’re planning on eloping with more than 15 total people (including you two!) you will need a permit and/or designated ceremony site in most of the state.

Colorado Elopement Locations

Buena Vista

Buena Vista Buena Vista and Leadville are amazing places to elope. They’re home to many epic 14ers, two mountain passes, tons of alpine lakes, seemingly endless aspen forests, and really cute mountain towns with lots of character and charm. They both have tons of activities like white water rafting, hiking, horseback riding, a scenic train ride, even hot springs. Buena Vista is slightly bigger than Leadville with more dining and grocery options, but still has that cute mountain town feel. 

This is a really great location if you want to hike, but there’s also tons of non-hiking options. Lots of locations can be combined together for an epic multi location elopement. It’s good to be aware that if you want really amazing epic views and lots of privacy you’re probably going to have to drive a bit from Denver.

 Buena Vista is one of the rare spots that is amazing all year long as snow tends to not accumulate in large amounts at lower elevations, while the higher elevations will have snow well into late June and then amazing wildflowers in the summer.

See the full Buena Vista Elopement Guide Here!

Hailey & Luis
Early June elopement in Leadville
Cortney & Wes
July elopement in Buena Vista
Ashely & Joe
September elopement in Leadville
Ashlynne & Dave
December elopement in Twin Lakes

Breckenridge and Summit County

This is the mountain town that most people are probably the most familiar with. It has beautiful mountain views, a large lake named Lake Dillon, and two neighboring towns of Frisco and Silverthorne. There are several reservable ceremony sites for people who want to have larger guest counts (up to 30) and quite a few adventure options for those planning a more intimate experience. The main street of Breckenridge looks like it could be something from a Hallmark movie. This is a great spot in the winter and the summer however, it is one of the most popular mountain towns because of its proximity to Denver.

Chrisy & Zac
Summer elopement in Breckenridge
Chandler & Patrick
October elopement in Breckenridge
Jessica & Sam
Mid October Elopement in Breckenridge
Genelle & Keith December elopement in Frisco

Ouray, Telluride, and the San Juan Mountains

 This is the region people envision when they think of Colorado. There’s epic jagged mountain peaks, tons of insanely blue alpine lakes, wildflowers as far as the eye can see in the summer, and fall colors that set the sides of the mountains on fire in the fall. With epic views around every corner, you don’t have to hike, but there’s tons to see if you do want to. This is also an incredible off-road destination with some insane off-roading options taking you to places that make it seem as though you’ve hiked for miles.

One thing to keep in mind with this area- the mountain towns are quite small so places like Silverton or Ouray do not have as many options for lodging or restaurants as bigger mountain towns like Breckenridge or Vail. It’s completely worth it though, because it truly is the most amazing part of the state and completely worth the drive from Denver. The best times of year to elope here are definitely in the summer during the wildflowers or the fall during the color change.

Fall Colors in Telluride in September
Summer Wildflowers near Ouray in July
Alpine Lake near Silverton in September

Crested Butte

This is the wildflower capital of the state- they even have a wildflower festival every summer! This region has really amazing mountain views, fields of endless wildflowers in the summer, and nearby Kebler pass and Gothic Road have fantastic fall colors in September and October. There are less easily accessible lakes in this area, but don’t let that deter you, this is truly an incredible place to elope!

There are a couple small wedding venues that are great for couples with a larger guest count like the Mountain Wedding Garden, Town Ranch Event Area, Crested Butte Land Trust (this is 3 locations!), and Scarp Ridge Lodge that still offer amazing views and an “in nature” feel.

Many roads around Crested Butte close in the winter, making summer and fall the best time of year to elope there.

Fall colors in Crested Butte in September
Summer wildflowers in Crested Butte in July
Mountain Views in Crested Butte in October

Estes Park

Home to Rocky Mountain National Park, this is also one of the more popular mountain towns in Colorado. It’s not terribly far from Denver and Boulder and it has lots of easily accessible locations within the National Park. This is a great spot if you’re going to be including up to 20 guests, don’t want to travel too far from Denver, and want a reservable ceremony site. With permits selling out quickly though and only being able to use designated ceremony sites,  it’s not the best if you want a lot of privacy especially during the summer or weekend days. Because of the high number of visitors, the park also requires a timed entry reservation made in advance.

Parts of Rocky Mountain National Park close in the winter, but with many roads staying plowed, this is a great all year round elopement spot. In fact, I would argue that Rocky Mountain NP is one of the best places to elope in the winter!

Paige & Brad
Late October Elopement in RMNP
Courtney & Maria
Early summer elopement in RMNP
Becca & Tom
September elopement in RMNP

Idaho Springs and Evergreen

This mountain town is located just off I-70 about an hour west of Denver. This is perfect for very small elopements (less than 5 people total) or for couples with a larger guest count who are okay with booking a small wedding venue. This is one of the first locations where you’re really out of the foothills of Colorado and getting towards the bigger mountains.

Carrie & Austin
June small wedding in Evergreen
Megan & Cas
September elopement in Idaho Springs
Laura & Whitley
January elopement in Idaho Springs
Ashley & David December small wedding in Idaho Springs

How much time do you need on your elopement day

This is going to vary from couple to couple. You’ll see lots of things out there talking about all day elopements, but just know that if that’s not you, and you do only want two hours of coverage there’s nothing wrong with you!!!

However, I would encourage you to totally embrace this experience- it is your wedding day; celebrate it in a way that feels really special! Many couples tend to find that they have a more fulfilling and special experience when they have more time to truly enjoy their day. A few hours can often just feel like a photo shoot, not a wedding, and your day deserves to be completely celebrated from start to finish. A big misconception is that more time means you’re going to have more complications and that’s just not true!! You can have a completely wonderful romantic and simple day with a longer timeline.

 When deciding how much time you need on your elopement day, start with everything your dream day includes. You want to think about how many locations you’d like to visit, how much time you’d like to spend at each location, how easy it is to get to each location, and what activities or celebrations you want to experience

It can be really hard to visualize how an elopement day is laid out! Check out these sample timelines for some ideas (remember, these are just ideas, your timeline should be totally custom to you!). For more info check out this full guide on how much time you need on your elopement day!

Click one of the photos below to view sample timelines
two 4 hour elopement timelines
two 6 hour elopement timelines
two 8 hour elopement timelines

How to legally get married in Colorado

The marriage license, officiant, and witnesses

Colorado is one of the easiest states to get married in! A marriage license is only $35 and there’s no waiting period to get one. Some counties require that you make an appointment and some allow walk-ins; it just depends on which county you’re planning on getting your marriage license in. 

Colorado also allows self-solemnization meaning you act as your own officiant- there’s no need to have an officiant, ordained or otherwise, to get legally married (unless you want to!). Some couples prefer to have a non-ordained person marry them, like a friend or family member. And while you also don’t technically need witnesses in Colorado, you can have them if you would like. Some counties even allow your dog or cat to sign as witnesses on your marriage license.

The ceremony

Elopement ceremonies can be structured however you would like- one of the best things about eloping is it’s really about creating an experience that’s about what the two of you want. To be able to keep the traditions you want, and get rid of the ones that you don’t. The typical structure of an elopement ceremony is an exchange of vows, then exchange of rings, then first kiss, but you can really do it anyway you would like. It might feel kind of weird to think of just standing there, the two of you exchanging vows, but it’s actually one of the most personal and romantic parts of the day; even if you’re not super romantic touchy-feely people. Check out this guide on how to have an elopement ceremony that feels super meaningful and not awkward at all. 

Must haves for eloping in the mountains

I don’t super love the term “must have” because I never want anyone to feel like they’re forced to do something or have a specific thing, but there are definitely some great things to always have with you when you’re planning a mountain elopement. 

The first, is what attire you’re going to be wearing. If you’re planning on wearing a dress, make sure you’re able to move around easily in it. If it’s super structured all the way down to your ankles or has a super long heavy train, it can make it hard to walk. Eloping in the mountains often includes being on uneven ground and it’s really important that you have full range of motion of your feet. Being able to sit comfortably is also an important part of being able to fully enjoy your day without being worried about not being able to breathe or a zipper breaking. 

Good shoes are also integral to having an amazing elopement experience. Again, the terrain is uneven, and you don’t want to slip and fall. Dress shoes are notoriously slippery and heels can mean twisting an ankle, so make sure you’re wearing flat shoes with great tread. If you do want to wear heels, make sure to bring a second pair of shoes to change into when it’s time to move around. Hiking boots always look good with wedding attire- it’s just the truth! 

In Colorado, layers are super important. It’s not unusual for there to be huge changes in temperature, especially as the sun rises or sets behind the mountains. It can be 80° during the day and 40° at night so you really want to make sure you have options to ensure that you’re not cold or miserable at any point. I’ve definitely worn a puffy coat in June before, so I’m not exaggerating when I say layers are important. Having a base layer, like a Smart Wool shirt, to wear under a button-up dress shirt is also a great way to keep out wind and regulate temperature. Changes in elevation also cause big changes in temperature. It might be 80° at a lower elevation and 40° at a higher elevation. If you’re planning on hiking above 11,000 ft a jacket is a great idea because it will most likely be cold and possibly windy. At the very least, always make sure to bring some kind of rain repellent coat and one warm layer regardless of the season you’re getting married in.

And lastly- water and electrolytes. Altitude sickness is real and if you’re traveling from out of state, you’re more at risk for it and it can really ruin your experience! Staying hydrated, especially in a dry climate, can really help mitigate this.

Take it slow!

You don’t need to have your entire day planned out the second you two decide you want to elope! Its okay to ask questions and have moments where you feel overwhelmed. Eloping is one of those things where there’s not a lot of guidance- you’re not working with a venue who has a set “wedding experience”, you haven’t attended many elopements and gotten ideas of what you do and don’t want, your friends and family may not have advice to give.

This is why who you hire for your elopement day makes such a big difference,**especially** your photographer.

I’m Sam! An elopement photographer in Colorado all about helping couples who don’t want a one size fits all template for their elopement day. I help throughout the entire planning process, anything from suggesting locations to creating a timeline based on your ideas to helping put in veils and tie shoes the day of. I want to take as much off your plate as possible, because at the end of all of this, I want you two to go “everyone should get married like this!”.


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