How to Elope in Colorado
Colorado Elopement Guide
**Updated for 2023**
You've decided to elope in the mountains! Awesome!
But … HOW do you actually elope in Colorado?!
Most couples who decide to elope in Colorado are SO stoked … until they realize they have NO idea how to actually plan this thing. Sound familiar?
Don‘t worry! I know planning an elopement can be a daunting task … which is why I’ve put together this comprehensive guide to eloping in Colorado!
Grab yourself a drink (I’ll have an IPA) and take a look around! I have a feeling that by the end of this you’ll be breathing a HUGE sigh of relief and knowing that this thing you’re about to do? It’s going to be epic.
Table of Contents
Reasons to Elope in Colorado
Colorado is drop dead gorgeous. The views here y'all? They're kind of insane. We have mountains (duh!), lakes, forets, rivers, deserts (did you know we have deserts!?), sand dunes and so, so much more. Whatever you want (unless what you want is an ocean …), Colorado can deliver!
1. Colorado's incredible scenery makes for a killer backdrop for your elopement
Colorado is one of the VERY few states in the U.S. where you don't need an officiant of ANY kind (or any witnesses!) to get married. 90% of my couples “self-solemnize” which means they say their vows just to each other with no one running the show. It's the sweetest, most personal way to get married and one of the things that makes eloping in Colorado truly unique!
2. You can self-solemnize your elopement
3. Colorado is easy to get to and centrally located
Flights to Denver are plentiful and typically pretty inexpensive and because Colorado is smack dab in the middle of the country, generally pretty short!
4. Killer food, good beer, etc.
Colorado has a thriving food and beer scene, even in most of the tiny mountain towns. If you fancy yourself a foodie, you'll find plenty to keep you happy here! Have an awesome dinner, visit a brewery or two, maybe hit up a dispensary … there are plenty of ways to relax in the Centennial State!
5. It's a great place to honeymoon after your elopement!
Whether your idea of a dream honeymoon involves a stay at a fancy resort or hoofing it through the mountains (or some combination of both!), Colorado is a perfect honeymoon location!
Best Time to Elope in Colorado
Summer Elopements in Colorado (June-August)
Summer in the mountains is BEAUTIFUL! Warm, sunny days give way to cool nights and the options for adventure are endless! If you want to make hiking a BIG part of your day, I'd recommend a late summer or early fall elopement as lingering snow can sometimes make early summer elopements more challenging.
Colorado is stunningly beautiful year round but every season has a very different vibe – and some are easier for planning elopements than others. When you should elope in Colorado largely depends on what kind of weather you hope to have and the kinds of activities you want to do!
Fall Elopements in Colorado (September-November)
Fall is a transitional season around here – it's also one of my favorites. September is typically THE best time of year to elope in Colorado! The weather is usually mild, the aspens are gold, and a lot of the tourists are gone. By mid October we've typically transitioned out of fall and into something more like winter … BUT because the snow isn't deep yet, this is a great time for a hiking elopement that may have some snow on the ground!
Winter Elopements in Colorado (December-April-ish)
In case you haven't heard, winter is kind of a big deal around here. If you want to ski or are dreaming of cozy cabin vibes, this is your season! Winter is long and gorgeous in these parts! It's a perfect time of year for a dogsledding or snowshoeing elopement. Just because it's winter doesn't mean that the opportunities for adventure end!
Spring Elopements in Colorado (April-May)
If I'm going to be honest, spring is my least favorite time around here. It's still typically cold and snowy (March and April are our snowiest months) and the weather is really unpredictable. As the snow starts to melt the trails get muddy and it's the time of year that rain is most likely. Unless you HAVE to have a spring elopement for scheduling reasons, I'd stick with another time of the year! If you REALLY want to elope in the spring and are open to other locations, it is a perfect time of year to get married in the desert – I recommend Moab (which is still super close to Colorado!)
Colorado Elopement Laws
There are two main things to consider when thinking about Colorado elopement laws. The first is what is required to get legally married in Colorado. I'll get into more detail about that below but just know this: Colorado elopement laws make it SUPER easy to get married here because you don't need an officiant OR witnesses!
The second thing to know about Colorado elopement laws is that some locations require a permit. What you need to get married in Colorado varies wildly depending on where you are eloping (in a national park? state park? national forest …?)! I always recommend working with an experienced elopement photographer/planner to make sure you are checking all those boxes!
How do you get legally married in Colorado?
One of the things that give Colorado a leg up over the other mountain states is just how easy it is to get married here. Because we are self-solemnizing state you don't need an officiant or witnesses. Hell, your dog can sign your marriage license (no, seriously!) with it's paw print!
All you need to do get married in Colorado is go to any County clerk and recorder's office (it does NOT need to be the one where you are getting married) with your ID and answer some questions. You my need to make an appointment in advance (thanks, Covid!) so keep that in mind! You'll walk out with a license that you can sign in the most beautiful place you can imagine!
Colorado is unique in that a couple does not need anyone to “marry” them. In Colorado a couple can simply say their vows to each other and call it good! This is called “self-solemnization”.
90% of my couples choose to go this route. Most say that they love the idea of having their ceremony be TRULY private with just the two of them. It also makes it possible to be supremely flexible with timelines and locations on your elopement day!
Self-Solemnizing Elopement Ceremonies in Colorado
What is self-solemnization and how does it work?
Examples of Self-Solemnizing Colorado Elopements
What happens at an elopement?
The beauty of eloping is that you get to make the rules and do literally WHATEVER YOU WANT. The tricky part about that? The options are SO wide open that it's hard to know where to start! While every couple does things a little differently, a typical elopement day, at it's most basic, will usually involve some combination of:
A first look
Celebration (champagne, picnic, etc.)
Lots of photos!
Beyond those things, a lot of couples choose to include other activities that they love into their day. This can include big adventures (like rock climbing or kayaking) or much smaller and cozier ones (like curling up next to a fire or having a chef make a private dinner).
Want some more inspiration? I have a whole post on 20 Unique Ideas for your Colorado Elopement!
Best Places to Elope in Colorado
Colorado is full of magical spots for your elopement or intimate wedding. Here are a few of my favorites! These are just suggestions – trust me when I say there are MANY more!
Closest airport: Denver
Distance from Denver: 2 hours
Breckenridge is one of the best places in Colorado for an elopement or intimate wedding. Why? It is easy to get to, absolutely beautiful, and has a TON to offer in terms of things to do, places to elope, lodging, and restaurants. This area also includes the mountain towns of Blue River, Frisco, Silverthorne, and Dillon and makes a great jumping off point for all your Colorado adventures!
Closest airport: Denver
Distance from Denver: 2.5 hours
Buena Vista, Leadville, and Twin Lakes
Twin Lakes is one of my favorite places for Colorado elopements and intimate weddings that isn't super far from Denver! In my opinion this area is HIGHLY underrated! With stunning scenery, lakes, rivers, forests, and easy access to getting WAY up high, this is one of the best places in Colorado to elope! Included in the Twin Lakes are are the towns of Buena Vista and Leadville.
Closest airports: Telluride, Montrose, grand Junction
Distance from Denver: 6-7 hours
Telluride and the San Juan Mountains
If you ask me where the prettiest place in Colorado is I'm almost certainly going to say THE SAN JUANS!!! This area is remote and rugged – which makes it difficult to get to but well worth the journey! Big mountains, blue lakes, waterfalls, wildflowers … you name it and the San Juans have it! This area includes the mountain towns of Telluride, Ouray, Ridgway, and Silverton.
Closest airport: Denver
Distance from Denver: 4-5 hours
Y'all, Crested Butte is MAGIC. I've always said that if I could magically pick up and move to anywhere in Colorado, CB is where I would go. Because it's a little more challenging to get to than some places it also tends to be a little quieter. CB is the CUTEST mountain town you've ever seen and the mountains surrounding it are full of wildflowers. You'll find lots of lodging and restaurants, beautiful trails, off-road adventures, and more in CB. Trust me, it's perfect.
Closest airport: Denver
Distance from Denver: 45 minutes
Boulder is the perfect option for couples who don't want to drive far from the metro area but still want big mountains. It's also ideal for folks ho want a little bit more of an urban vibe for their elopement! Boulder itself is a small city (named the Foodiest City in America) nestled up against the foothills. Where Boulder gets really fun, though, is when you drive just a half hour west of town and into the Indian Peaks Wilderness! It's also a really good jumping off point for Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Closest airport: Denver
Distance from Denver: 1 hour
Rocky Mountain National Park
With it's beautiful, affordable, and reservable wedding sites, Rocky Mountain National Park is an idea location for couples who are having guests at their elopement. Go for a solo hike, just the two of you, and then meet up with your people for a ceremony in the Park followed by dinner in Estes Park. RMNP is easy to get to from Denver airport (without driving on sketchy I-70) and a perfect spot for your small wedding! Note that RMNP has very strict rules about where elopements and weddings can take place and a permit is required – make sure to plan WELL in advance if you know you want to get married in RMNP!
Free Places to Elope in Colorado
If you are looking for free places to elope in Colorado you are in luck! This is a state that has thousands and thousands of acres in public land on which you can elope for free or for a very minimal fee.
The catch? It’s hard to know where all of these places are and permits are required for many of them! This is why it is always super important to work with a photographer/planner who knows the ins and outs of the permit process and can help you find the best free places to elope in Colorado!
The cost of eloping in Colorado varies WIDELY depending on what you want for your day.! An elopement that is just a quick vow exchange followed by a photoshoot will be much less expensive than a longer and more involved day.
Most of the couples I work with are eloping because they care deeply about having a day that is stress free personal to them, not because they are necessarily trying to save money. I've helped couples have $6k elopements (where the majority of that is for photography!) and I've helped couples have $30k+ elopements. It's all about deciding what is most important to you on your elopement day and prioritizing those things!
Here are a few sample breakdowns of budget-friendly and luxury elopements. Most couples end up somewhere between these two, picking and choosing what is most important to them and what hey want to splurge on!
How much does it cost to elope in Colorado?
Luxury Elopement Budget
Affordable Elopement Budget
Mid-Range Elopement Budget
$8000 – Photographer (8 hours)
$30 – Marriage License
$500 – 2 nights at nice AirBnB
$200 – Flowers
$500 – Jeep Rental
$300 – Hair and Makeup
$800 – Suit
$200 – Dinner at Restaurant
$10,500 – Photographer (All day)
$30 – Marriage License
$1200 – 2 nights at fancy hotel
$500 – Flowers
$800 (private tour, sleigh ride, dogsledding, etc.)
$500 – Private Chef
$300 – Hair and Makeup
$1000 – Suit
$2500 – Photographer (1-2 hours)
$30 – Marriage License
$300 – 2 nights at budget AirBnB
$30 – Flowers (DIY bouquet)
$0 – Hair and Makeup (DIY)
$300 – Suit
$50. Simple Picnic + Drinks
Elopements have come a LONG way since the days of running away to Vegas. Today you have SO many more options for how you do this thing. I alway suggest to friends to avoid those all-inclusive packages and go their own way!
Start with booking a photographer/planner who will help you get all the details locked in and then recommend other vendors for you to work with! It will still be super easy but you'll know that you'll be having a day that is truly YOU and you'll get to choose the vendors and types of experiences you truly LOVE … not just what is included in the resort package!
All Inclusive Elopement Packages in Colorado
When you think of a destination elopement many people think of all-inclusive elopement packages that are typically provided by a resort or the like. While this is definitely an option here in Colorado, it's not one that I recommend if you truly want a personal experience.
What to Wear to Your Colorado Elopement
What to wear to your elopement, whether in Colorado or anywhere else, will depend largely on the time of year you’re eloping and the kind of activities you want to do! Having said that, most couples still chose to wear pretty traditional wedding attire – i.e. a dress, a suit, etc. But it’s totally up to you!
How to Dress for Your Colorado Elopement
1. Pack Warmer Clothes than You Think You Need
This one is really big and really important! Colorado can be pretty chilly – not just in winter, but year round. While summer temperatures, during the day, tend to be pretty warm in most mountain towns, that can change quickly if the weather turns, the sun starts to go down, or you go up in elevation. You don’t necessarily need to plan on wearing as super warm dress or suit but definitely be sure to have layers, ideally cute ones, that you can throw on! Nude leggings under dresses work really well and a cute wrap will be a welcome addition (whether than an annoyance!) in photos.
2. Plan on Your Dress Getting Dirty
Adventure elopements are not the time to be obsessed with keeping your dress pristine! Your dress will likely get dirty (how dirty it gets is somewhat up to the location and weather – and somewhat up to you!). Most of my clients see ending the day with a dirty dress as a badge of honor. It’s part of the adventure elopement experience. 🙂
3. Wear Shoes You Can Actually Hike In
Even if you’re not going for a long hike there is a good chance that you’ll be moving around on uneven terrain. This is not the time to wear heals (although feel free to throw them in your bag for photos!). Comfy shoes with good traction (like hiking boots) are a really good option. Nothing will put a damper on your day quite like twisting an ankle during your first look!
Pro Tip: this goes for the guys too! I can’t tell you how many times my brides have worn comfy boots but grooms have worn fancy dress shoes – with zero traction! Remember, you can always change shoes during the day!
4. Choose Clothes You Can Easily Move in
When it comes to eloping, being able to actually move and breathe in your wedding clothes is the name of the game! There is a good chance you’ll be climbing on rocks, or tip-toeing across streams and you don’t want your dress to hold you back! Long trails look awesome in photos and are often not a huge problem – what IS a problem is a dress that makes it harder to lift your leg high, bend over, etc. Having said all that, you should definitely wear what you want!!
5. Have a Plan For Hiking With Your Dress
If your elopement involves a hike (remember, it doesn’t HAVE to involve a hike if you don’t want it to!), have a plan for what you are going to do with your dress. DO you want to wear it while you hike or change into it when you get there? How will you carry it? These are all good things to think about when choosing your dress!
Wondering how to hike with your elopement dress? I have a whole article on that here.
How to Elope in Colorado
Step 1: Choose your Colorado Elopement Photographer + Planner
Your Colorado elopement photographer will help you with every other step in this process so it's always a god idea to bring them on early! Want me to be your photographer? Get in touch!
Step 2: Choose your location
You and your photographer will work together to come up with location ideas that fit your vision for your elopement!
Step 3: Book lodging and any other elopement vendors
Once you know where you will be eloping it's time to put the rest of your team together! Your photographer can provide you with ideas for elopement friendly vendors!
Step 4: Secure any necessary permits
If a permit is required for your elopement location, now is the time to get it! Your photographer will help you figure out what you need and how to get it.
Step 5: Have the best damn day of your life!
This day is all about the two of you (and those views!) and soak it all in! This is going to be better than you ever dreamed possible!
Do you need a permit to elope in Colorado?
The answer to this is very much “Maybe”.
Whether you need a permit depends on where you are eloping and how many guests, if any, you are having.
The national parks, city and county open spaces, national forest, BLM, and Wilderness areas all have different requirements for whether you need a permit and how to get one – and it's not even uniform across all of the same types of land (e.g. the requirements are different in Rocky Mountain National Park compared Great Sand Dunes National Park). It is all HIGHLY specific to who owns the land you are eloping on.
Your elopement photographer can help you navigate all of this (we're experts in this stuff!). This is one of the reasons it's extremely useful to work with a photographer who specializes in elopements!! You DON'T want your day ruined with a ticket or getting kicked out in the middle of your ceremony!
Is Colorado dog friendly?
YES!!! Heck, as a dog lover, it was one of the reasons we chose to move here!
If you are thinking of bringing your dog to your elopement I can think of no better place than Colorado. Coloradans LOVE their dogs and there are so many places for your pup to hike, swim, roll in the snow, get muddy, and basically have the time of their life!
If you are thinking of bringing your pup to your elopement, check out this article on How to Elope with your Dog in Colorado!
Is Colorado LGBTQ friendly?
YES YES YES. A hundred times YES!!
I work with a lot of LGBTQIA couples and never ONCE have I seen anyone be anything other than completely stoked for them!
While there are parts of Colorado that are more open minded than others, Colorado is a pretty easygoing place. Even the more conservative parts of the state tend to be more libertarian live-and-let-live leaning than anything.
Having said that, I always guide my LGBTQ couples to places that I KNOW will be welcoming!
Can you bring guests to your elopement?
Absolutely! There is no hard and fast rule about what makes something an “elopement” vs a “wedding”. Most modern elopements are like tiny destination weddings – just often with zero guests!
If you want to bring guests to your elopement let your photographer know ASAP so they can choose locations that can accommodate your group size! They will also have ideas for how to help your itty bitty wedding still have that elopement vibe!
Real Colorado Elopements
Meet your Colorado Elopement Photographer
Hi! I'm Jen Dz. I've been planning and photographing Colorado elopements since 2016.
I'm a Colorado elopement photographer who helps laid-back couples have incredible ands stress free elopements in the state I love most. I've been living, working, and playing in Colorado since we moved here on a whim in 2007 and I'm still obsessed with this place I get to call home.
I live and breathe Colorado elopements and know this place like the back of my hand – which means I know all the best secret spots, how to navigate permit requirements, and how to handle any inevitable snafus that come up!
I'm so stoked to share what I know with all of you!