How to Elope in Colorado
A Colorado Elopement Photographer's Guide
**Updated for 2023**
So you want to elope in Colorado?
Table of Contents
- Best Places to Elope in Colorado
- Reasons to Elope in Colorado
- How to Plan a Colorado Elopement
- When to Elope in Colorado
- How to Get Legally Married in Colorado
- Self-Solemnizing Elopement Ceremonies in Colorado
- What Happens at an Elopement?
- Free Places to Elope in Colorado
- How Much Does it Cost to Elope in Colorado?
- What to Wear to Your Colorado Elopement
- Do You Need a Permit to Elope in Colorado?
- Is Colorado Dog Friendly?
- Is Colorado LGBTQ Friendly
- Meet Your Colorado Elopement Photographer
Awesome! But …. now what???
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.
Best and most epic Places to Elope in Colorado
With its colorful wildflowers, charming architecture, and scenic mountain vistas, Crested Butte is often referred to as the “Wildflower Capital of Colorado,” providing a romantic setting for elopements. To say it is the perfect little mountain town would be a dramatic understatement! CB, as it’s known locally is far and away one of the best places for a Colorado mountain elopement! Check out my full guide to eloping in Crested Butte.
This historic mining town turned ski resort offers an adorable Main Street, stunning mountain views, loads of lodging and restaurants, and lots of beautiful spots for your elopement! And because it’s just two hours from the Denver area it’s reasonably easy to get to without a long drive. Check out my full Breckenridge elopement guide.
Telluride is the best known town in the San Juans and an awesome location for your elopement. This town is surrounded by steep canyon walls, big mountains, and waterfalls. It is one of the fancier towns in Colorado making it an awesome place for a luxury elopement (and don’t worry, “Colorado fancy” is still incredibly laid back!). Check out my Telluride elopement guide!
Rocky Mountain National Park
With its towering peaks, alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife, Rocky Mountain National Park offers a stunning backdrop for a mountain elopement. RMNP is stunningly beautiful, easy to access from Denver, and near towns with ample lodging and amenities. RMNP is an especially good location for couples who are having guests at their elopement! Check out my full guide to Eloping in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Boulder is a beautiful small city located at the base of the mountains and has lots of options for elopements year round! The Indian Peaks Wilderness is situated in the mountains just above Boulder. This rugged area is perfect for couples who want a backcountry elopement and aren’t afraid to hike! It’s teaming with wildflowers and wildlife (including lots of moose!).
The Twin Lakes area is afar and away one of my favorite places in Colorado for elopements. Why? The variety of scenery you can get all in one day is second to none! Lakes, forests, rivers, alpine views, and even caves are all accessible in this area and make for stunning and varied photos. Check out my full guide to eloping in Twin Lakes, Leadville, and Buena Vista.
The Maroon Bells are absolutely iconic and a perfect place for your Colorado elopement, ESPECIALLY if you are inviting guest! Maroon Bells Amphitheatre can be reserved in advance for your elopement, so you know you and your guests will have access to those stunning views!
…. and SO many more!
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 don't need an officiant
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 of Year 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!)
How to Elope in Colorado
Planning a Colorado Elopement
Step 2: Choose your Colorado elopement 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!
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!
Colorado Elopement Laws
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?
What happens at an elopement in Colorado?
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!
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!
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!
Yes! Getting married in Colorado is incredibly simple and there is no waiting period. Pick up your marriage license at any county clerk’s office (note that some of them require appointments) and you can get married that very same day!
Can you get married the same day in Colorado?
Getting married in Colorado without an officiant is incredibly easy. Simply pick up your marriage license at the courthouse, write your vows to each other, and say them at a time and place that feels good to you!
How do you get married in Colorado without an officiant?
YES! Weekdays are pretty much always better than weekends for elopements in Colorado because the crowds will be smaller, traffic will be lighter, and you’ll have way more privacy (Which is what we all want when we elope, right?!)
Should you elope on a weekday in Colorado?
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!
Meet your Colorado Elopement Photographer
Want me to help you elope in Colorado?
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!