Eloping in Colorado – Everything You Need to Know

how does eloping work




So you want to elope in Colorado, eh? You don’t want a big traditional wedding, and would rather have an adventure with your most important people in a scenic place. But then you realize, “Wait, how the HECK do I even do that?” You don’t know the legal side of it, you don’t know where exactly to go, what to do on that day, who can marry you, how to find a photographer, etc, etc. Well here I am to give you alllll those answers! Below you’ll find a complete guide to eloping in Colorado. Every. Little. Detail.

Let’s start legal…

You’ve picked a REALLY great state to elope in because you don’t have to have ANYONE else there. No witnesses, no clergy, nobody. Call it self-uniting, self solemnizing, whatever it is, you get to marry yourselves! This is not allowed in every state, in fact, it’s only allowed in a handful of places. In the state of Colorado, the following people can marry you:

  • Anyone who is ordained (you can ask a loved one to do it online!)

  • A judge

  • A court magistrate

  • A Native American Tribal official

  • OR, my personal favorite, YOURSELVES! The Denver Office of the Clerk and Recorder states “You and your intended spouse may solemnize your own marriage. Neither witnesses nor officiant are required for a valid self solemnization.”


The steps and rules for marriage in Colorado are the same in the entire state, however, you’ll want to decide where you are eloping before you go through all of the legalities, because it’s easiest to do the paperwork through the county you’ll be getting married in. *If you scroll down, you’ll find the section on how to choose a place* This isn’t necessarily required, but since you’ll need to go in to the clerk and recorder’s office, it only makes sense to do it at the nearest place. Each county has their own website – there is not one big Colorado website to go do all of this through – you’ll have to pick a specific county, then google search “ county marriage license” and the official website will pop right up! Okay, so here are the steps…

  1. You’ll fill out an application online.

  2. You need to make an appointment to show your IDs and get your marriage license ($30!)

  3. GO GET MARRIED within 35 days of the license being issued.

  4. Return the completed marriage license within 63 days, and then it will be returned back to you, fully completed!

THAT’S IT! Isn’t that so simple? OKAY, now that all the boring, intimidating, legal shit is out of the way….let’s talk about the fun stuff!

What to do on the day

Alllllright, now that you know how to do the thing, now you’re probably wondering what to do.

The short answer? Whatever the hell you want. But really! Isn’t that why you you’re considering eloping after all? Because you wanted to detach from all of the restrictions and responsibilities of a normal wedding day? Think about you and your significant other’s favorite things. Do you love to eat and try new food, do you love kayaking, hiking, jeeping…the list could go on. DO ONE OF THOSE THINGS! Of course it somewhat depends how many people you bring along with you, but most of these could be done with others as well! If you need some inspo, here you go…

Have a picnic. This could go so many different ways! Pack a picnic in a backpack and hike out to a special spot to post up, eat, and marry, or find a super accessible spot and bring your loved ones, get married, and have a big, elaborate picnic! Take that however you may – some wine and a charcuterie board, or pack a full on, multiple course meal and a cooler of drinks!

Hike a new trail. Pick a beautiful trail, load up a backpack with water, snacks, and your marriage certificate, spend the day hiking, when you reach a certain point, exchange some sweet words and officially sign your marriage certificate! What a way to start your marriage out – with an accomplishment!

Rent a jeep! This is such a fun way to get to some of the most incredible views, but without hiking miles and miles! Not to mention, jeeping is freaking fun. There are plenty of places all throughout Colorado to rent a jeep for the day. You could do this alone, or have your gang of loved ones do it with you! Spend the day exploring, and then drive on up to the top of a mountain at sunset and exchange your vows, drive back down in the dark.

City to mountains or mountains to city! Maybe you don’t want to spend alllll day outside, and that’s okay! Again, this is YOUR day. You could wake up early, get ready, go to your amazing spot in nature and elope, then go back to a city and celebrate with a fancy dinner and a night on the town! This is a great way to involve family and friends. They could come along for the entire ride, or if you want your elopement to be super intimate, you can do that alone and then join everyone after for a celebration! OR, reverse that, and start your day in a town. You could have a big brunch with family and fuel up for the day, then go on your adventure and get married. You can always bring along some booze and celebrate in the mountains too!

Hire a guide and do something crazy This is for the extra adventurous, but that sounds like you if you’re on this blog post, right?! Instead of all the money you would have invested in a wedding, use that to hire a guide and go do something freaking wild. After you finish and you’re high on adrenaline (HAHA,) fill out that marriage certificate! You could go skydiving, rock climbing, BASE jumping, ziplining, bungee jumping, or take a hot air balloon ride!


Again, make this your own! This is your special day, your adventure, the start of your marriage, so pick something that feels so right for YOU. No matter how boring, or how extreme, it may sound. Make it a day you’ll look back on and smile about forever.

Where do we go?

Okay, we know HOW and we know WHAT, but now WHERE do you go to elope?! That’s the beauty of it. Literally anywhere you want! Noticing a theme here?

I would start by assessing your plan. Do you want to make your elopement an all day excursion, or is it short and sweet? Do you want to spend time hiking or jeeping to your spot, or would you rather be able to park and walk a very short distance to it?

National Parks are a great starting point if you have absolutely no clue. They’re guaranteed to have incredible views, and are very accessible usually.

Rocky Mountain National Park offers a variety of scenes including wide open spaces, layered mountain views, and lakes. There are plenty of spots you can walk right up to, but also plenty you can hike far into. The photo below was taken at Bear Lake in the park, click here to see the full session.



adventure elopement

Great Sand Dunes National Park mainly has one view – the sand of course. HAHA. From some angles, you can see mountains in the background too! Be warned: if you want to get to the top of the dunes, it’s a tough, uphill, long hike! It’s not as easy as you’d think. It’s said to take an hour to reach the highest point. It’s worth it though! To see more from the session below, click here.

eloping vs wedding


Wanna go more off the grid? Me too 🙂 If you’re looking for a spot that’s not as popular and you want to reallyyyy explore, just do some google and Pinterest searching! My advice here is to first think about the scenery you want. When you picture yourselves getting married, are you at the top of a mountain with the silhouette of a range in the background, are you surrounded by Aspen trees, are you in the middle of the sand dunes, are you overlooking a lake? Start there, and thennnn go to google. Search things like “hidden lakes in Colorado,” or “best fall foliage views in Colorado.” If you want to really dive deep, I personally like to pull up google maps on my computer and drop the little guy in whatever places I can, so I can see pictures of the EXACT spot. This is a great way to find some off the grid places that not many people will!

Scroll through IG. Seriously! Search the Colorado hashtag, or go under the “places” tab and type in Colorado, or a certain city, and find an image that catches your eye! You can also scroll through my personal Instagram and see if you like anything there. I don’t publicly share a lot of my places, in an effort to keep some private and wild, and encourage people to explore on their own, but if you book me, we can go on an adventure there. 🙂

What do we wear?

It does NOT matter! Wanna wear leggings and a flannel and go hiking and then just freaking do it? Cool. Wanna wear a ballgown? COOL TOO. I mean, sure, I have an idea in my head of what kinds of dresses look best in the outdoors -they’re normally just flowy and carefree – but remember this is your unique day. Just because you’re not getting married in a formal venue, doesn’t mean you can’t wear that fancy ass dress!

Okay, but if you do, plan for it. If you’re wearing something comfortable and not too dramatic, you can probably manage a small hike in your dress. But if you’ve got a long train or lots of fluff, you’ll probably want to keep it to a short walk from your car.

There’s always the option of having someone carry your dress. A lot of brides will wear comfy hiking clothes for the trek, and then change at the elopement spot. There are many ways to manage this. You could fold your dress up into a backpack if it doesn’t wrinkle too easily. You could have someone carry it for you on the hanger. You could even hook the dress over a backpack and let it hang behind! Get creative. But don’t let being outdoors stop you from wearing your dream dress!

Oh yeah, about the dudes…. same rules apply!

Finding vendors…

It can be hard to find vendors in a state that you don’t live in, and when your friends can’t give you recommendations from experience, but ohhhh the internet is a beautiful thing. Florists, officiants, bridal shops, etc… Instagram, Google, Pinterest, Wedding blogs, and Facebook groups are my favorite places to search for all of these! This is also a great way to find inspiration if you’re not sure what you want your day to look like!

Instagram: Y’all probably know this by now, but this is a great place to search for vendors. For example, if you’re looking for a florist, you can search by hashtag for “#ColoradoFlorist” or even get more specific and say “DenverFlorist”.” Switch out florist for any vendor you’re looking for! Most likely, these vendors are using hashtags like this to capture the attention of people like YOU! My favorite thing about using Instagram to search for vendors, is that you can go to the vendor’s page, then their tagged photos, and see photos from real humans who have used this vendor. It’s a great way to see what they’re really like.

Google: We all know how to use google; you don’t need me to give you a rundown. I will say, read reviews! This is the best way to get a true gauge of the customer service and quality level.

Wedding blogs: There are plentyyyyyy of wedding sites out there like The Knot, Style Me Pretty, Green Wedding Shoes, and so many more. These sites showcase real life weddings and typically tag all of the vendors involved and tell a story about the day. This is a great place to again, get real life information from people who have personally used the vendors. You can also get SO MUCH inspiration from sites like this! If you have NO idea what your vision is for your day, wedding blogs are a fantastic place to start. My personal favorite is Junebug Weddings. They have EVERYTHING on their site from blogs of weddings, lists of vendors near you, ideas for first dance songs, you name it! Click here to go get inspired!

Facebook groups: There are plenty of Facebook groups out there for wedding help! I’m personally apart of one I’ll link here. It’s specific to Colorado weddings and people are always asking for and giving recommendations for any and everything wedding related! There are also specific elopement groups you can join, like this one. Again, a simple search like “Colorado wedding group” on Facebook will bring up a list of pages! You have to request to join a lot of them, but almost everyone is approved.

Pinterest: Do I have to explain? We all know and love Pinterest for inspiration on EVERYTHING in life. Again, just use specific searches like “Colorado Florist” Here’s my page if you want to see what I’m loving!


If you didn’t know by now, I’m a photographer, so if you wanna chat with me, click here! *shameless plug*


Alright y’all, that’s it! It does NOT have to be complicated! This can be as private and simple as you want, or it can be an all day excursion with all your loved ones. Like I’ve said all throughout this post, this is YOUR day. You are doing this to marry the love of your life, not to please your families. THIS IS ABOUT YOU. Have I said that enough? I want that ingrained in your brain. All you need to do is get your paperwork, pick and activity, and DO THE DAMN THING.



HI! I’m Hayley, the gal behind the screen!


If you love what you’ve read and want to learn more about me to see if maybe I’m the photographer for you, click the photo to go read more about me!

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hayley gaertner

adventurous wedding and elopement photographer based out of colorado.