NON-TRADITIONAL WEDDING AND ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER ✶ CO, IL, FL, INFINITY & BEYOND
HENNESSEY PHOTO CO
I’m so stoked you’re here, and that you’re considering an elopement day in one of the raddest places to get married on earth: the entire fucking state of Colorado. And I’ll be honest, my couples aren’t coming to this state just for the pretty views that a Colorado elopement can offer. They’re coming here to say fuck THEIR traditions and what the wedding industry has decided they “should” do, to have the freedom and privacy to have a wedding their own way, in a gorgeous place that becomes a special memento to their relationship that they can come back to visit (and, okay, maybe to smoke some weed, too). This is your non-traditional Colorado elopement guide. As a local, non-traditional Colorado Elopement Photographer and experience crafting assistant that has lived here for over 10 years (and came straight out of the Midwest like most of you, too ;’)), got married here myself, has been planning and photographing elopements for over three years, and considers this state the closest thing to heaven that I can muster in my mind, you’re in the right place. I know it can be overwhelming planning a destination affair from scratch, but the good news is, I can help smooth all of this over for you.
Hey, I’m Steph – your non traditional Colorado elopement photographer and experience guidance assistant. I’m just a self-proclaimed nerd that spends a lot of time reading, playing video games, and screaming lyrics at shows with my friends, and even more time exploring this state that I love with rad as hell couples like you.
Alright, you’ve decided on a Colorado elopement day, and I am so damn excited for you. Before doing anything else, elopement planning actually starts with daydreaming, brainstorming, and maybe even some mood board creation, and most importantly, really leaning into how you want the day to “feel” instead of how it “looks”. You didn’t decide to ditch a big wedding so that you could have a different version of a “standard” wedding, so lean into you, and taking time to intentionally think up the best day ever for both of you will go a long way in paving how this day feels. This is how you ensure your elopement day doesn’t turn into an all-day photoshoot, because that’s the exact opposite of how I want you to feel on your wedding day. And the hard part? I actually can’t do this step for you (or really help much, because it’s about you). The way you choose to get married is both a deeply personal and intention decision, and it needs to be made on your terms. But I CAN give you some rad ideas on what it could look like.
It’s hard to not just jump on pinterest, check out the latest trends, and decide you want cool wedding photos that look like “this”; I get it. Your photos are going to be bomb, I’ve got that in the bag. What’s most important is that the memories behind them really stand out and feel like YOU. If you look back on these moments and say, “I wish we had done X like we wanted”, then you might just be doing it wrong.
Most of my couples will come to me and say: “We don’t care where we are! We trust you to find us an amazing spot. We just want a beautiful view and to say our vows intentionally.” I can find you an epic location in Colorado, with or without a hike, but this location is also determined by how you want to experience the rest of your day. So here’s some thoughts:
This could mean kayaking the Poudre River after your vows, a picnic watching the sunrise in a place you’d always imagined (hello, Maroon Bells), snowboarding down our mountainsides, getting matching tattoos after your ceremony, or driving to the top of a mountain that is now “your mountain” and shaking your asses to your first dance song. The location we choose will be based on how you want to spend your day.
You’re starting a new chapter, and this means you can start your own family traditions. Fuck their traditions; what do YOU want your legacy to say? Some ideas could be planting a tree on this anniversary, saving a favorite beer each year to drink on your anniversary, eating a special meal each year, going camping, going to a concert, sharing a joint on top of a mountain on your anniversary, or just taking a trip back to Colorado and your “spot”–what feels right to you? How can we incorporate your new tradition into your day?
For my couples, this has looked like playing dnd or videogames with friends during their reception / after party (yep, that’s right), sharing a unity beer or joint, playing with their dogs at a park for downtime during the day, going to grab ice cream, pizza, or coffee right in the am!, 4×4 through the mountains, getting matching tattoos after their ceremony, going roller skating, etc. When you look back on your wedding day, what is going to make you say, “Damn, I’m so glad we _____ for our wedding day, that feels so authentic to us.”?
Dare to be yourselves and dream big. No idea is off the table, and these ideas will be the basis on how we choose your location (it’s not location-first, trust me!). Need more ideas? Check out my Alternative Wedding Ideas blog post.
You’ve decided an elopement day is right for you, but now you have to decide where you’ll say your vows, and choosing a meaningful location can feel overwhelming. Because this step is heavily dependent on what you’ll be doing for your elopement day, the information given here will be generic and strictly a starting point. Here’s the real kicker–we could do this anywhere (I specialize in destination elopements and weddings, and travel for about 75% of my year each year!).
So why choose a Colorado elopement when you could go almost anywhere?
Yep–you heard that right. You can legally marry yourselves here, meaning you are not required to have an officiant OR any witnesses, can sign your own marriage license by yourselves, and have a legally binding marriage. Colorado allows you the freedom to do what feels right to you (especially if that means a marriage with just the two of you, as many states otherwise require a witness), and that in itself is a very beautiful thing.
Freedom allows us a lot of things; the ability to choose almost anywhere to elope (although there are lots of permitting requirements in the state, but I can help you navigate these!) because you don’t have to hire an officiant or worry about travel or logistics for someone to accompany you to officiate your ceremony; the ability to split your celebrations into multiple days without being on a time limit; the ability to incorporate fun activities into your day, because you’re not restricted.
It also means you’ll save money. The cost to get your marriage license is a whopping $30, and because you aren’t required to have an officiant or witnesses, you can save money on having to hire folks to do this for you, and you don’t really need to hire anyone else at all (I mean, except for me?).
Because you can marry yourselves in Colorado, you can actually grab your license and get married same day (although I do recommend couples stay in the area at least 2-3 days total at minimum, to ensure a back-up date in case of emergency, getting acclimated to our altitude, as well as down time to enjoy yourselves!). Many states require you to apply for your license and wait (sometimes weeks!) before you can use it, but Colorado allows you the freedom to make this decision on a short term basis, and also saves you money by not requiring you to be in the state for weeks just to get your license itself. This means you can also have your wedding and honeymoon in one go, if you wanted.
When I say this little fact has stolen my heart… You are not required to have any witnesses to marry, but you CAN have your dog sign your marriage license (up to two of them!). Most couples choose to get an ink pad and press the paw onto the license itself, and it’s hella adorable. The other rad part? Colorado is a super dog-friendly state; most lodging allows dogs, as well as most restaurants and breweries, and they’re a huge part of our culture here!
A Colorado elopement is for everyone, and I mean, anyone. I’ll be honest: most of my couples read a ton of books, play a lot of video games, and honestly think hiking in their wedding attire to elope sounds like the least fun thing ever. I totally get it, and I actually specialize in finding rad spots that require no hiking or a minimal amount, so that you can just enjoy nature instead of suffering in it (lol). You are not required to hike or 4×4 to “epic” locations in order to have beautiful scenery as a backdrop for your vows, either, although this is a great recommendation if you want to go to some places that are otherwise unreachable! I have tons of locations right off the road that I can take you to, and many are within close distances to towns–which means planning activities for your elopement day can be expansive and as unique as your heart desires! You also don’t have to have a huge budget, use lots of trendy decorations, or look a certain way; there’s a culture here of rad, inclusive, accepting folks, and I’d love for you to be a part of it, too. “I used to be an adventerur like you, and then I took an arrow to the knee“.
Yes, recreational marijuana is legal here, and it’s rad AF. Not only does this mean it’s accessible and easy to navigate within the state to use for celebration, but there’s a rich culture here! If cannabis culture is important to you, Colorado may be your flower heaven.
You’ve heard it before. “The Switzerland of the US” isn’t a nickname to be taken lightly. Colorado has raging rivers, rolling hills, wildflowers, and forest–as well as rad, grungy urban settings, too. Whatever your heart desires, you’ll have the freedom to dream big here.
In many cases, it’s important to pick your activities before we choose your date and location! Your choice on where and when to elope is heavily dependent on how you want to spend your time in Colorado, and how exactly you’d like to celebrate, and that’s why this is step two, NOT step one! You’re not missing out on rad views in any season (winter is actually one of my favorite Colorado elopement seasons), so emphasizing the experience you want is extremely important before we move forward.
Most of the couples who contact me have absolutely no idea when or where they want to get married, they just want amazing views and an intentional experience–and that’s great, because I can help with a lot of the logistics on when and where! Determining the perfect location, based on wants, needs, views, accessibility, activities, and mood for the day is a huge part of what I help my booked couples with during their personalized experience crafting with me.
This is an extremely important step, especially in a state as vast as Colorado, with strict permitting requirements in most areas, and even more especially for Leave No Trace practices. Most areas in nature do not allow for more than 10-15 people (included in that total is yourselves, your officiant, your photographer and videographer, and any guests you’d bring along with you). This means that while planning your elopement with a few friends and family is absolutely doable, once you’ve passed the 12-15 person mark, your location options for where you will say your vows changes to requiring a small venue or reservation space, instead of an open area in nature.
The season you choose to elope will determine your ceremony location options and activities. Once we have nailed down what you’d like to do during your elopement, I can help guide you in this area. In the meantime, here’s some highlights of each season.
A great option due to the accessibility. Summer in Colorado is generally considered July-September (although we’re sometimes skiing until Independence Day–so it’s all relative to where you are and elevation!). The best part of eloping in the summer is the increase in options; in the fall and winter, many mountain passes close, so by eloping in the summer, you’ll have more access to more options, as well as more accessibility for you or your guests that need it. PS–wildflowers.
Fall color in Colorado is generally mid to late September, or first week into October dependent on where you are in the state. The best part of eloping in the fall, outside of the gorgeous fall color, is that it’s generally considered “mud season”, or “off season”. If a gorgeous landscape and privacy are important to you, this is a great option to cut down on the amount of other people that you may see on trails in some of the more remote locations in the state.
Think = summer weather, with snow capped mountains. Spring in Colorado can be a bit unpredictable when it comes to weather (but this is true in all seasons), but it generally allows for gorgeous temperatures, with stunning snow-capped backdrops.
The activity options are endless. Winter in Colorado is generally considered “play time” for both locals and tourists alike, and our mountain towns are alive with entertainment, festivals, and activities. If you want to experience mountain culture in our state, this is the best time to be here. Expect a true winter wonderland.
CHOOSE A WEEKDAY
This is not because I don’t want to work weekends; it’s because I prioritize the experience you will have here. Especially in our higher traffic seasons, summer and winter, it’s just so important to the level of privacy, booking options, and flexibility that it will allow for you. Destination weddings are so popular in Colorado, and recreation in general out on our trails is popular with our locals, and eloping on a week day will give you access to elopement-specific vendors that have more availability during the week. In addition to this, the level of traffic on trails, in town for parking, and for reservations (for dinner, breakfast, activities and tourist activities, etc) will be much lower.
AVOID SCHOOL BREAKS AND HOLIDAYS
I know this is helpful when planning for days off work or when the kids are available to come with you, but if you can avoid it, try. This will cut down on traffic in town and on trails, for activities and options, but will also save you money–expenses for everything goes up during these dates, from vendors charging a premium to work on holidays, to lodging and flights being more expensive, it’s a better experience overall to avoid these timeframes.
Want in on a little secret? Every “Best Place to Elope in Colorado” blog post you’ll come across actually also includes the worst places to elope in Colorado. I know, yikes. Why is that? Because the best places to elope here, as local elopement photographers and experts, we keep to ourselves. We do not do this because we want to trick you into hiring us or to be gatekeeping assholes (contrary to popular belief, lol); we do this because the best places to elope here are–and should stay–less known, less traveled, and less trampled by the public, and we’d like to keep it that way for the longevity and preservation of these places, and for your experience when you come to visit these places with us! A lot of the places I’ll list below are easy, accessible, and gorgeous; but they come with their own set of cons. If you like any of the below options, we can talk through those pros and cons together, but likely I’ll offer a similar option in a better location once we’re working together, and I get to know exactly what the perfect elopement day looks like for the two of you.
Maybe I’m biased, but this is the fun part–because this means, you’re doing the damn thing, it’s really fucking happening, and I’m so excited for you. This guide just brushes the surface of what we’ll go over together, and when we start planning, you’ll have someone by your side who is there to help you from beginning to end, because as your Colorado elopement photographer, you’re getting the lot with me:
A photographer that cares, a fuck ton. I’ve spent years honing my unique creative, quirky style, and narrowing in on how to make planning your elopement experience as unique and stress free for you as possible. And a little secret? Whether you’re planning to elope with guests or just the two of you, you’re still going to spend the most time with me out of anyone on your wedding day, so it’s important that we jive from the get-go.
A photographer that understands. I specialize in documentary, non-traditional photography for nerdy, alternative couples, but anyone and everyone is welcome to elope with me. This is an inclusive space, no matter who you are, what you look like, who you love, regardless of your fitness level or ability to hike, with a celebration for all bodies.
My Planning Process, Expertise, and Guidance (and lots of it): Searching for a Colorado elopement photographer isn’t exactly like just searching for a wedding photographer (although, I photograph large events, too!). As your Colorado elopement photographer, I’m also providing you with a planning and guidance experience, by hand-selecting ceremony locations for you based on how funky or adventurous (or not adventurous) you want to get and all of your wants and needs in mind; pulling specific elopement vendors that you can trust (and don’t suck); explaining in detail how to get your marriage license, what to pack, what kind of weather and terrain to expect, what kind of permits are required (and actually paying for and securing them for you!); offering specific ideas for your day to make it fun and unique
A Custom Elopement Planning Portal Where you’ll have all of the above stored, in a live, website portal that we can all access, and is our planning hive for creating your elopement day together.
Unlimited Planning Consultations So that we can brainstorm, talk through any questions or concerns, create your timeline, and chat about what bands you’re going to see this year (just because).
…but in the meantime, this guide is meant to be a starting place for envisioning a wedding day that’s as punk rock as you, without all the fluff you don’t need.
The best part? There are no rules. You can elope by yourselves, or invite guests if you want to; you can hike a mountain, or elope in a rad spot right off the road; you can wear a white dress (or black like your emo hearts); you can drink Colorado craft beer instead of pop champagne; you can eat THC cupcakes instead of cut a cake; you can dance to Sleeping with Sirens instead of some country banger for your first dance (or not have one at all); it’s your day, I’m just your ride or die planning assistant to deliver you bad ass photos.
If standing in front of 100+ people to read intimate vows makes your tummy rumble with anxiety, if your future plans are more important than going in to debt by feeding your entire extended family, if it’s hard to imagine having your family with you because of complicated past traumas or family structures or grief, if planning a huge event feels like literally suffocating misery, planning your non-traditional Colorado elopement with me might just be your jam.
Ready to start planning your day together? Here’s what you can expect from me as your Colorado elopement photographer:
STARTING AT $4,000
ALL OUTCASTS & NERDS
LEAVE NO TRACE
BLACK LIVES MATTER
SCIENCE IS REAL
ABORTION IS HEALTHCARE
LET'S HANG OUT /
JOIN MY FREE, NO STRINGS ATTACHED, NERDY & OFFBEAT, NON-TRADITIONAL WEDDING PLANNING COMMUNITY