wedding couple kiss in front of fall foliage in rocky mountain national park


Eloping in Colorado? Check Out This Easy Elopement Checklist

Featuring a Rocky Mountain National Park Elopement

Josh + Briana Celebrate Love in the Mountains

I’ve been photographing weddings for several years now, and I have definitely noticed changes within the wedding industry. One of my favorite changes are elopements.

In 2011, elopements were not all that common. These days, I get requests for small, intimate wedding photography coverage or elopement ceremony photography. And I love them. To scale back what can become mayhem and craziness…to make the emphasis be on the couple and love…just resonates with me.

If I were to do it all over again, I would choose a small destination wedding or a small destination elopement…celebrating my new marriage with parents, siblings, and a couple close friends on a beach someplace warm. Probably in the Caribbean. (I didn’t go this route because I am pretty sure my mom would have been pretty bummed.)(And I totally did love my Boulder, Colorado Chautauqua wedding! My needs and views on life have just changed over the years.)

So I was super excited to photograph Josh and Briana in Rocky Mountain National Park to take wedding portraits that captured love, celebration, joy, and the beauty of the park. Keep scrolling for images of their elopement celebration as well as an elopement checklist. If you are planning your own Colorado elopement or a Rocky Mountain National Park elopement, please reach out

wedding couple kiss in front of fall foliage in rocky mountain national park

wedding couple stand in front of mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park

Create Your Elopement Vision

As you can imagine, there are infinite ways to do elopements. You could do the courthouse wedding. You could find a meaningful or scenic location and do it there. You can hire an officiant or (here in Colorado) you can elope by yourselves. You could do a destination elopement. You could have a few loved ones witnessing the event…the options are endless really.

Check Marriage Laws

Once you get an idea of what type of elopement you want to have, check out state marriage laws.

Colorado is one of the states that allows for self-solemnization. To me this pretty much means that you can get married alone on the top of a 14er with the magpies and pikas…yesss!

How do you go about doing this? Pick up your marriage license, but don’t sign it (unless you want to be married on the spot). Bring the license to your elopement ceremony, say any vows you’d like, and sign your paperwork. Ta da! Congratulations! When you get back to reality, mail in that paperwork.

If you are self-solemnizing, you can’t have an officiant. But you can have witnesses. If you want an officiant, you need a self-uniting marriage instead. This is pretty much the same thing, but a little different. Again, check out your state marriage laws or call your city hall.

Start Planning Your Elopement

Now that you know what you want and how to do it, it’s time to start planning out the details. And this can be totally laid-back and low-key, or you could get a little more involved if planning a destination elopement, etc.

If you do want to get married in a national park, you need to check out their rules for weddings and events. Rocky Mountain National Park has fairly strict rules in place for elopements (and other events) to help protect its beauty and vegetation. There is also a $200 permit and an approved list. To learn more visit the Weddings, Renewal of Vows, and Other Ceremonies page on their website. If you want to hire a photographer to photograph the elopement, there is also a $50-ish permit fee for that.

(Do I think all that bureaucracy it is worth it? Heck yes! Early morning/ dusk photos taken on Trail Ridge Road in the summer that celebrate your love and the beauty of the mountains are priceless!)

Additional Items to Plan/Consider

  • Will you exchange rings? Do you want to include rings at all?
  • Do you want to come up with your own vows? Will you use your officiant as a guide?
  • Any travel plans
  • Photography/videography. Of course I recommend having your elopement documented!
  • Will you wear a wedding dress? Fancy clothing? Nothing fancy? Your hiking boots? (If you are getting married in the mountains, please remember how chilly and windy and variable the weather can be! I always recommend layers. And sunscreen.)
  • Hair/makeup…several of my elopement brides have splurged on hair/makeup for their event.
  • Flowers. I love flowers.
  • Will anyone witness the event? Who?
  • Will you go out to celebrate after you are eloped?

After the Elopement

I’m not talking about an after-party here. I am talking about what happens when you get back to “IRL” after your elopement. Sending out announcements to family and friends to let them know that you are married make sense to this mama.

Elopement Backlash

I don’t really have words of wisdom to give here (but I am going to try anyway!). If you know your family will be hurt by your elopement and that bothers you, maybe invite a few members to witness the event? If it does not bother, you are braver than I am! Proceed away, perhaps with a bit of extra love and meditation so that you stay strong.

Thank you for spending some time with me and for looking at Briana and Josh’s Rocky Mountain Park elopement images! I’ve created a downloadable elopement checklist to help you plan your own elopement, linked at the button below.

Elopement checklist from susannahphoto.com

add a comment

  1. Kathryn Kim says:

    What a helpful checklist! And stunning photos to go along! Thanks for sharing!

  2. YAS to getting married at 14,000 feet with just the Pikas! I love it! Wonderful advice, and stunning photographs at Rocky Mountain National Park.

  3. Jamie says:

    Simply beautiful and so precious. You did an amazing job here! My favorite were the family shots.

  4. Erica says:

    What a great elopement guide! And this gorgeous Rocky Mountain elopement you featured makes me want to do it all over again!

  5. Jennie Crate says:

    The joy in these is beautiful–great job! Also the checklist is a great idea!

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I've been photographing families professionally since 2006. I am a wife, mama to 2 boys, companion to 2 cats who are named after members of the royal British family, a former preschool teacher. I love running, hiking 14ers, sparkly clothes, the band Phish, river float trips, St. John USVI, farm CSAs, and Colorado blue skies.