Imaging this: You and your love wake up on the morning of your wedding in a unique and incredibly gorgeous rental in a small mountain town. You make coffee and get dressed in your wedding attire by the light of a couple old lanterns – the sun hasn’t yet made its appearance. 

Your photographer arrives with a bag of local pastries they picked up the night before at the best bakery in Colorado, and you all excitedly express your gratitude for the perfect weather that looks like it’s going to hold. After taking photos of you lacing up hiking boots that somehow go perfectly with your formal attire, the three of you climb into a jeep waiting outside. It’s still dark, but the night sky is beginning to turn from deep blue to a lighter purple – the stars are beginning to fade out one by one. Just as the jeep crests a hill revealing an alpine lake in a valley, accessible only by 4×4 roads, the western peaks begin to turn the warmest shade of orange you’ve ever seen! You get out of the jeep as the cool night breeze hangs around for a few more minutes, and you hold the hands of your partner on the shores of this pristine lake. 

They reach into their pocket and pull out the handwritten vows you finalized last minute, and you take a deep breath before beginning to speak. You look into the eyes of your lover, which are glistening, and you gasp at the colors suddenly erupting all around you! The first light of day immediately warms the air as you speak truths to your partner in an attempt to express what a lifetime commitment means to you. You’ve almost forgotten a photographer is standing by capturing every intimate moment. You and your partner must be the only people awake in this vast wilderness, in what must be the most beautiful place on earth – how could there be anywhere else so perfect?

Congratulations – YOU’VE ELOPED!

You deserve this experience – you deserve to celebrate your marriage with an adventurous elopement in a beautiful place that inspires your love for nature, and each other.

We can help make this happen!

How to Plan a Colorado Elopement

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about eloping in Colorado

First, do some research. Below, we’ve answered frequently asked questions about elopements, provided advice on choosing a location, and even how to personalize your own elopement planning checklist!

Second, connect with a photographer or planner who knows the area. Two of the photographers on our team (Maddie + Amber) live in Colorado full-time and know this area incredibly well – we can find just about any kind of environment, at any time of year, to fit whatever it is you’re currently imaging.

Third, narrow down the details of what you want – environment, time of day, season, activities, guest count, etc. We can absolutely help you out at this stage and give you our best advice to plan a stress-free wedding experience!

The good news is, we’ve been in your shoes. Not only have we helped hundreds of couples plan authentic, truly unique elopement adventures – each of us at Adventure Instead eloped ourselves! We know first hand how good it feels to get married by planning a day true-to-you, centered on your love for each other, and without the stress and chaos of a big wedding.

Colorado Marriage Laws & Legalities

A few must-know details about eloping in Colorado.

There’s so much to love about eloping in Colorado—especially how easy it is to get married here.  Because every state (and country) has different rules about getting married, it’s helpful to know before you decide on your location!

Self solemnization— no witnesses or officiants

That’s right—you can marry yourselves in Colorado, no extra help needed. All you need to do is sign your own marriage license as an officiant—the rest is up to you. 

In Colorado, you’re legally allowed to marry yourselves! That means you don’t need a witness, you don’t need an officiant—all you need is you, your partner, and your marriage license!

According to Colorado State Law, couples are legally allowed to officiate and act as their own witnesses for their wedding or elopement ceremonies. The best part? It’s all legal! All your responsible for is acquiring, completing, and returning the license to the appropriate county office of the clerk and recorder.

Want to be legally married on your elopement day in the wilderness in Colorado? Don’t stress about finding an officiant or witnesses—you don’t need ‘em. Sign as your own witnesses and your own officiant, have your friends do it, or have your pup sign with their pawprints (couples do it, you guys, and it rules!)

Your dog can technically witness your marriage

This is hands-down one of the most adorable ways to include your furbaby in your special day— we’ve seen it done!

Marriage licenses are incredibly simple

Pick up a marriage license m-f at a nearby county clerk office, mail it back or drop it off in person after your ceremony

Waiting periods don’t exist

There is no waiting period for getting married in Colorado. That means you can apply for your license, get married, and turn it back in all in the same day if you want—there are no time issues to get in your way.

The fee is minimal

The license fee is only $30. Know that it might cost additional $$ if you plan to get married in an area that requires a permit. 

Have questions? Don’t sweat it!

We know this process can be confusing—that’s why we wrote up a how-to elope database (here!) To help you navigate the ins and outs of elopement logistics.

How to:

Find Your Perfect
Colorado Elopement Location

To find your perfect Colorado elopement location, go through this tactile exercise

We promise it works! Start by grabbing a pen and piece of paper to write down notes as you go, because creating a list (as simple as it sounds) will always be our favorite way to plan! Then, follow these steps:

  1. Close your eyes and let your mind picture what you think of when someone says “elopement.” Maybe these images are inspired by pictures you’ve seen, or maybe you’re imagining places you’ve been or want to go!
  2. Write down the things you see that feel right and align with your elopement goals. Be as simple or specific as you want! (Example: mountains, trees, ocean. Or, sunset in a rocky desert with a warm breeze). This is about imagining paradise!
  3. Test out each of these places – imagine saying your vows in any location that might seem right. If there are one or more, create separate spaces to brainstorm on your piece of paper. Get as specific now as you can – let the mountaintop become a time of day, a season, or bring in details like plant life, smells, and guests.
  4. You’ve probably created lists for a couple options that seem great! But maybe only one works perfectly with the date you’ve chosen, or maybe logistically you can narrow down the list for other reasons. Even if this place doesn’t have a name, describe it to us! We’ll try and find the perfect place on Earth to turn this vision into a reality!

Finding the perfect elopement location requires a bit of soul searching, and maybe you already have a place in mind! Most of the time, choosing a location takes a few brainstorming sessions – we’ll talk about your favorite environments, the time of year you’d like to elope, what activities you want to do, and if you plan to invite any guests.

We’ve photographed elopements anywhere from Colorado to Namibia, and we’re down to go wherever you’re determined to say “I do.” Each of us has extensive travel experience and we always love seeing a new part of the world, so don’t hold back when we begin narrowing down your location! This is truly the perfect time to be honest when we ask, “if you could get married anywhere in the world, where would it be?”

If you want some detailed inspiration about eloping in some of our most popular destinations, check out these elopement guides to Colorado, Oregon, Washington, California, Utah, and Arizona.

How to:

Create a Personalized
Elopement Planning Checklist

Your elopement is going to be your day – no one except you and your partner know what will make you happiest and feel most celebratory, so be honest with your expectations! Your elopement won’t look exactly like anyone else’s, and there’s no perfect checklist for planning such a personalized day. However, the following general elopement planning checklist can be curated to your particular needs – let us inspire you! After photographing hundreds of elopements, we have a general idea of what most people do in order to have a stress-free planning experience. Wherever you choose to elope, hopefully this guideline will help you get through the moments where it feels like you have a dozen things to do at once!

1

Pick a Date

This can be done before or after choosing a location, but the time of year you choose to elope will affect where you’ll want to say your vows and what activities you can do to celebrate! For example: eloping in Colorado in the fall means you can choose a location with gorgeous golden birch groves, but that same place will be a winter wonderland in February.

2

Choose a Location

As stated above, choosing a location can come before picking a date or after. For instance, maybe you saw an image of a mountaintop elopement that you knew immediately was the place you want to elope! Well, depending on where in the world that mountaintop is, you’ll want to choose a date based upon which season makes the trail most accessible.

3

Hire a Photographer

Ideally, this will actually get done before steps 1 or 2. We love the flexibility of working with couples who haven’t set a date or location yet because that means we can find a time within our schedules that works for both of us! However, if you’ve set your heart on a date and location already, please reach out! There’s always the chance we’re still available. We’re heartbroken to have to turn away couples because we’re already booked for their date, so the sooner you reach out the better!

4

Reach Out to Other Vendors

The best time to find florists, planners, caterers, officiants, or other vendors is after you’ve picked a date and location. Local vendors will often be your best bet if you’re traveling for your elopement (flying with a cake can get messy), but you should choose whichever vendors fit your vision!

We have a list of vendors we’ve worked with before who all do a stellar job of crafting details perfect for your elopement! Whether you’re keeping things simple, or if you want to personalize all possible details – there are elopement vendors for that.

5

Familiarize Yourself With Local Laws

Do you want to get legally married at your elopement? You’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to check with the state you’re getting married in to attain a license, and determine if you’ll need witnesses or officiants. We are all ordained and in most states can legally sign your marriage certificate, but each state is different.

Depending on your location, you might need to acquire a special use permit. National parks, state parks, and other outdoors spaces are always going to be cheaper than a wedding venue – but they aren’t all free. We’ll help you navigate the world of permit requirements if you choose an applicable location.

6

Purchase or Rent Attire

Dress, suit, jumpsuit, or romper – what you can comfortably get married in will depend a lot upon your location! Choose a lightweight fabric if you’re getting married on a warmer day, pack some nude leggings to wear underneath your dress if it’s winter. You’ll also want to choose attire you can move in!

7

Collect Details You Want to Include

Jewelry, jackets, hair pieces, blankets, shoes, food, drinks etc. – The details of your elopement day are one of the best ways to really let your own unique style shine through! Everything present on the day of your wedding is something you want to be there, so take the time to include what means the most to you.

If you’re eloping just the two of you – a personal detail you might want to include is letters from family or friends. Some couples we’ve worked with have asked their loved ones to write notes, record videos, or share the day in some way without actually being present.

8

Have a Plan B

Look, we can’t control everything. We’ll do our best to guide you toward a date and time in a location that is most likely to have the weather you’re hoping for at your elopement. But, the fact is, storms happen. Even if Plan B is just bringing umbrellas, have an alternate plan in case the weather turns.

When we are location scouting, we can include a Plan B into our initial plan – just to be safe! It might be your second favorite trailhead just down the road, or a completely different day plan if the night before we decide the clouds rolling in are too ominous. We 100% support couples falling madly in love with their elopement plan, but we promise to always be optimistically flexible. Sometimes life just doesn’t go as planned, but you’re going to have a beautiful elopement no matter what!

The steps to

Eloping with
Adventure Instead

As elopement photographers & guides, we don’t just show up & shoot – we help you craft and plan your day from scratch – to make sure your elopement is an unforgettably authentic experience you’ll look back on for the rest of your life!

We found elopement planning is not a linear process with clear, consecutive steps. It happens in stages. As with climbing most mountains, there are many ways to the top – but if you feel lost you can download and follow this guide.

Here’s a little peek into some of the information provided in our Ultimate Planning Guide & Checklist:

Stage one:

DREAM AND
BRAINSTORM

All the best plans start with a quality brainstorming session!
One of the greatest things about eloping is that you can truly go to the most awe-inspiring places in the world to say your vows.

The goal of the dreaming and brainstorming stage is to form an overall vision for your day including a general area of the world and time of year you would like to elope.

Start by sitting down with your partner – some place comfortable – and imagine your perfect elopement day from start to finish.
Don’t get bogged down in details, what’s possible or not, or what’s realistic. It’s okay to keep your ideas vague! Have fun imagining all the possibilities.

For additional help and a list of things you should consider during this dreaming and brainstorming time – download our free Ultimate Elopement Planning Guide & Checklist!

However fuzzy your vision is, it’s a great place to start! At some point during Stage 1 or Stage 2 is when most couples choose to contact us as elopement photographers and guides. We love helping couples turn their “fuzzy” vision into a concrete plan with our extensive travel knowledge, location suggestions, and planning tools!

Stage two:

RESEARCH & LOGISTICS

Once you’ve come up with the overall vision for your day, Stage 2 is all about digging deep into research and figuring out what’s feasible. Your goal with this research is to make your adventure elopement vision a reality in the best way possible. This will allow you to start finalizing details.

Just like with Stage 1, we suggest creating a relaxed and fun environment to enjoy this process. Sit on your patio or couch with your laptops or phones – or go hang out in the travel book section of a bookstore after a coffee date!

Some important questions to ask at this stage of planning:

  1. What are the local marriage laws and requirements?
  2. How accessible is your site? Do you need a permit to have a ceremony or photos taken there?
  3. What is the weather like? How do you need to prepare?
  4. What kind of activities do you want to do? Do you want to do some sort of celebratory meal/drink?

If you’ve had trouble with this stage or feel like you’ve gotten stuck – don’t be afraid to ask for help! It’s worth getting the right support to make your dream elopement day possible. For more information and other important logistics you should consider when planning your elopement day, download our free Ultimate Elopement Planning Guide & Checklist!

As elopement photographers and guides – Stage 2 is where we tend to help couples the MOST with their elopement planning process. We absolutely love helping make your vision come to life!

Stage three:

MAKE SOME CHOICES & START BOOKING

Now that you’ve decided what is important to you and you’ve dug deep into research, it’s time to make some choices and start booking things! The goal of this stage isn’t to finalize every single detail – but to get the most important things into place so you can fill in the details from there (Stage 4.)

Start by picking your date and location. Consider what dates hold meaning for the two of you – then see what aligns! Does your date work with your dream lodging or location? Does it work for anyone joining you? Don’t forget to check for holidays and special events that may also affect your chosen elopement location.

For picking your spot, decide first on the general area you want to have your ceremony (so you can book travel and lodging). The exact spot where you stand to say your vows can be spontaneous and discovered on your day – or scouted just before!

Once you’ve nailed down your date, location, and booked lodging, the hardest and most pressing parts of your planning process are complete. Take a break to celebrate, tell your family and friends (if you want to), and start getting excited that you’re one step closer to your dream elopement day!

Stage four:

FINALIZE DETAILS & GET READY

You are in the final stages of your elopement planning process and it’s getting exciting! Stage 4 is all about filling in the details now that you have the main parts of your plan set in place.
There’s a lot of things to keep track of in this stage – so we’ve formatted it like a checklist! We suggest breaking up the many decisions into bite-size pieces. You can set due dates in your calendar, or keep a running to-do list.

Download our FREE Ultimate Elopement Planning Guide & Checklist so you can continue to plan your dream elopement and check items off as you go along!

A couple of things to think about in this stage:

  1. Gathering and purchasing your attire and accessories.
  2. Booking your vendors.
  3. Planning and booking any fun activities you’re doing on your day.
  4. Building your timeline and planning your ceremony for your day.

The day before your elopement, make sure to relax, take it easy, and go to bed early. You have an important day ahead of you!

Stage five:

HAVE THE BEST ELOPEMENT DAY!

You made it! All of your hard work brainstorming, researching, and planning is done. All that’s left is to enjoy the heck out of your elopement day!

Be present with your partner and let your emotions fly. Make sure you soak in every moment and enjoy the time spent together. Enjoy your relaxed timeline and don’t worry about how you look. Don’t stress— if you have a great experience together, great photos will follow.

When you return home, tell your friends and family! Have a party, barbecue, dinner, or reception surrounded by your loved ones. Consider ordering an album from your photographer so you can view the whole story of your day and relive the memories. Display your printed photos around your home to remind you of your perfect day.

YOU’VE DONE IT!

You’ve figured out how to elope –
now it’s time to plan your dream
elopement adventure!

We’ve given you a lot of information here – let it sink in – but send us a message when you’re ready to begin planning!

We want to help you navigate the logistics of eloping, walk you through the steps necessary to craft your ideal elopement experience, and celebrate the details with you as your day gets closer! We firmly believe elopements are the BEST way to get married, and we’re stoked you’re considering an authentic elopement to celebrate your relationship – you deserve this!