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An Elopement + Wedding Photographer based in Colorado.

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8 Decisions You Need to Make When Planning Your Destination Elopement

So you sat down and decided the whole traditional wedding thing just wasn’t for you… Awesome, we think they are kinda stressful too! Cool, but now what? Here are the first 8 decisions you need to make when planning your destination elopement. ​

There are TONS of guides on how to plan for a big fancy wedding, but not a whole lot of resources on how to elope. Probably because until recently, elopements were looked at as quick courthouse weddings or a swift trip to Vegas. Well, that is definitely NOT the case anymore.

Elopements are intentional, deeply emotional, and all about your love for each other! It’s not about the caterer, pleasing your guests or making a huge show in front of a room full of family, friends, and total strangers, or even a dismissive wedding ceremony that happens in less than 30 seconds at a courthouse.

That’s not to say it’s totally without some planning though, just because you choose to elope somewhere epic, doesn’t mean you don’t have any details to work out. Let’s be honest though, it’s more like planning a vacation
then a wedding!

But hey, here are some big decision starting points and advice to get you started on your way to your
dream elopement!!

01 • Setting your budget

Do some quick research to help outline a reasonable estimate for all the big stuff. Like your travel & lodging, floral, wedding attire, wedding vendors, etc. Keep an open mind and a solid priority list when setting your elopement wedding budget. Remember, just because you chose to elope, doesn’t mean you should skimp on the details. Your love is so WORTH IT! So splurge a little, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime kinda adventure! If you elope in Ouray/Telluride I have a great list of local vendors that are for SURE able to make your day amazing!

Save a little extra on travel – Sometimes combining your destination wedding & honeymoon together for one epic adventure can save some serious travel coin. Try researching one-way tickets from California to Hawaii, then Hawaii to home. Saving you a ticket! Also, track those tickets for a couple of weeks on google flights, you will receive an email any time the price changes, allowing you to track price trends and book when the prices are at their lowest!

02 • Hiring your wedding planner

Consider hiring a vendor that will help you plan everything for you. Planning even a small wedding can be very time-consuming, so why not get help from someone who does this kind of thing all the time? I will assist you in picking your dream elopement ceremony location with you based on your expectations. I can also help plan your timeline and Jeep you up to the perfect location.

But maybe you want to have a totally hands-off, stress-free experience, reach out to some local planners to help take care of all the little intricacies of the day for you! I know a couple of fabulous planners here on the Western Slope!

03 • Setting your date

Yay, it’s time to set your date! Chances are you probably have a rough estimate of the year and maybe the month you want to get married. Just make sure to research your location to make sure you are heading there during the best time of year. You don’t want to head to Ouray for a colorful mountain wedding and get caught out in the winter season with no color (other than white) on site.

Also, you know that amazing florist you follow on Instagram? Make sure they are available & can ship your bouquet to you in time for your big day! It’s totally okay to reach out to your favorite vendors before you are 100% set on your wedding date! That ensures you are surrounded by your favorite wedding pros, that will help make your dream elopement come true!

PRO TIP – Eloping on the weekday means fewer tourists! Also, most popular destinations have a “busy season.” Going in their off-season, just before or after can mean A LOT more seclusion! (Ouray is busiest from June-September).

04 • Choose your witnesses if necessary (I can be that for you too! )

But, if you are hoping to hop on a plane and explore somewhere super epic with your two favorite people, make sure to get them in the loop as soon as possible! The more time they have to book their accommodations, put some travel money away and request off work the happier they will be and the more apt they will be to travel across the country with you to celebrate!

05 • Choosing your vow ceremony location

You guessed it, do some more research (or just ask me, I will be happy to do that for you) to ensure the exact spot you want to have your vow ceremony is available & accessible on your date. This is especially true for couples looking to elope in National Parks where trails can be inaccessible for the season, parking areas can close for maintenance, or elopement ceremonies are only permitted in specific areas only.

If you plan on having some family and friends there as well, consider the terrain & any physical restrictions of your guests. Not having a good idea of the overall trail conditions, how steep the incline is or whether they are handicap accessible, can mean an important family member not being able the make the walk safely and missing your ceremony altogether.

06 • Researching permits & legal requirements

Each state is different, so make sure you find out what their laws are & what you need to do in order to be legally married in that state. For example, you can self-solemnize in Wisconsin, Colorado & Pennsylvania. Meaning you can marry yourselves with no need of an officiant, 3rd witness, or any other parties involved. But most other states require some sort of officiant or person to marry you.

Don’t forget to file for your marriage license beforehand as well! Here is the link to the Ouray County Clerk’s Office.

07 • Book your creative team: Officiant, florist, adventure photographer, etc

Now that you have a location and wedding date, make sure to send out those deposits and get your vendors booked! Even if it seems early because you’re a year out, you would be surprised how fast your creative team can book out. We personally book weekend dates up to 2 years ahead of time & Saturdays are the first to fill.

Also, if you are planning a hiking elopement, sunrise ceremony, or any other adventurous event, talk to your vendor to ensure they are up for it! For example, not all officiants will want to wake up at 3 am and summit a mountain with you or hike in 5 miles to a secluded waterfall. (But me, I’m TOTALLY cool with that!)

08 • Booking your travel & accommodations: Airfare, rental car, Airbnb, etc.

When you are all finalized with your ceremony location & elopement date, it’s time to book your travel stuff.

I like to have a little written trip itinerary next to me when I start booking lodging. Chances are you won’t want to stay in the same place the entire trip, so think ahead at some of the places you will want to see, parks you will visit, or mini road trips you might want to go on. Then you can have an outline of where to book along the way. This way you aren’t stuck in one area the entire time, feeling like you can’t really get out there and explore.

Well, congratulations on making the brave & totally awesome decision to get married your way! Celebrating your deep love for one another, completely & intentionally all while remaining totally present & devoid of stress! YAY! Reach out if you need any advice planning your elopement or want to invite me along for your elopement adventure!

Check out my Ouray Wedding Guide if you need help planning your Ouray, Colorado wedding!



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Colorado wedding and elopement photographer