The majority of Colorado wedding venues that we work at sit somewhere between 8,000 and 11,000′ above sea level presenting some unique circumstances that you wouldn’t normally find in the city. We’ve been fortunate enough to photograph mountain weddings exclusively for over a decade and in that time have found that, if planned well, mountain weddings are magic and an adventure that your guests will likely speak fondly of for years to come. However, when not properly planned for, they can be frustrating, with various things catching you off-guard.
We, of course, want all of our couples to have a phenomenal experience and for them to feel prepared for all the possibilities. With that, here’s 9 things we think every couple should know before getting married in the mountains.
1. Wedding planners are priceless
I cannot overstate the value of a great wedding planner. A great wedding planner knows what you need before you ever knew you needed it. They know how to anticipate your needs and the needs of your vendors. They expect the unexpected, they can pivot on a dime, they plan the day meticulously with every possible contingency in mind, and they do it all with grace. A great wedding planner will address 100s of questions and concerns, will put out fires, solve potential problems, all while making it look to you as though everything is unfolding flawlessly. I bow down to great wedding planners. They hustle and make it possible for every other vendor to get their jobs done without a hiccup.
*Venues sometimes will provide some type of planner service but this can often be quite different from hiring an independent wedding planner. Be sure to ask exactly what they provide and consider interviewing an independent planner so that you know the difference before making a decision.
2. Local vendors are worth their weight in gold
Inclement weather, heavy weekend traffic, parking restrictions, confusing access to on-mountain venues, directions not available on google, gondola tickets and ride times…these are some of the things that can catch an unprepared vendor off-guard. And I could not begin to count the number of times I’ve witnessed this happen firsthand. When it does, said vendor ends up either showing up late, showing up flustered, or is distracted all day because they’re freezing or dehydrated or winded.
Hire local vendors. They know the ins and outs of mountain weddings and are always prepared to handle the unexpected with ease.
What is considered local exactly? To me, in this context, it’s anyone with extensive firsthand knowledge of the area. I know planners that live in Breckenridge and know Summit County like the back of their hand. I also know planners that live in Denver and have practically as much knowledge as the true locals. Simply put, hire vendors with lots of mountain wedding experience.
3. Rain is always possible (so are rainbows)
Dealing with inclement weather is simply a part of life in the mountains. Being stopped in your tracks by some of the most beautiful weather and scenery you’ve ever witnessed is also part of mountain living. You’re likely to experience both in the span of a few hours on any given summer day.
My best advice is to be prepared for it all. A typical summer day in the mountains can be hot in direct sun and cold in the shade (that’s high altitude for you). Temps usually drop quite a bit when it rains (between 1:00pm and 4:00ish) but the rain rarely lasts long. It’s not unusual for a rainbow to span the entire sky as the clouds dissipate and crisp blue skies reappear (the most beautiful part of a Colorado summer day). It gets chilly after the sun sets (think 40-50 degrees depending on the elevation) and having a puffy on hand is always nice.
I’ve seen guests and couples freeze when they’re completely caught off-guard by mountain weather. Conversely, those that are prepared usually don’t give it a second thought. They either slip on a rain coat or step inside until the weather passes.
Whatever you do, refrain from checking the forecast. I promise you, they rarely get it right.
4. Your dress is probably going to get dirty
Dirt is simply a part of being in the mountains. Over the years I’ve noticed a common thread among those on a mission to keep their dress dirt-free, they not only harbor unnecessary stress but they tend to be constantly distracted by any potential dirt, missing much of the magic of their day.
If you want to get married in the mountains, embrace the dirt. It’s all a part of your wedding adventure. Rock that little bit of dirt with pride. Your wedding isn’t in the city for a reason. You love the outdoors. You love the rugged, wild beauty of it all. Be the beautiful bride that came to the mountains to celebrate that.
This is the one and only day you will ever wear this dress. Wear it and love it and soak up every last second of how beautiful you are. Let any dirt you acquire along the way be a sweet memory of that day you played in the mountains in a beautiful white dress with your best friend.
5. Altitude sickness is real
Your body gets significantly less oxygen at 10,000 feet than it does at sea level and this can affect you in all kinds of weird ways. Dehydration and headaches are most common. Take the opportunity to educate your guests before your wedding day. Whether it be on your wedding website or a note inside a welcome bag, let them know what to expect and to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. If you’re at all worried about your parents or elders, suggest a night or two in Denver to acclimate before coming up to the mountains.
6. Dogs don’t always make the best wedding guests
Oh dogs. Of course we want them with us at our weddings and everywhere else. Not every dog is as cool as a cucumber at a wedding though. Between all the people, all the food, and the occasional wildlife passing by, there’s a smorgasbord of stimuli that can be a lot for even the most well-behaved canine. The last thing you want to do is include your dog in your wedding only for it to end up causing you stress and concern. If that’s a possibility, including your dog in your engagement portrait session is a great alternative. Who am I kidding though, dogs often make the best wedding guests. Just make sure to appoint a friend or family member to look after them, that’s often all you need to eliminate any concerns and see that your pup is well taken care of.
7. Guests love oxygen bars
Yes, oxygen bars are a thing. I’ll admit, I always laugh when I see them, but the truth is, I think guests love them. For those guests that most definitely won’t be hitting the dance floor, either because they loathe the idea or they don’t have much oxygen to spare, the oxygen bar gives them a unique (and memorable) source of entertainment. For those die hard partiers that maybe didn’t anticipate how hard it would be to breathe at 10,000′, the oxygen bar offers a chance to recharge before getting back on the dance floor.
8. Sparkler exits aren’t always legal (but there are great alternatives)
Preventing wildfires is at the top of mind if you live in the Mountain West. During the summer months fire bans are often in effect prohibiting the use of sparklers. Luckily there are some great alternatives. Fire ban or not, I’m here to promote all the other possibilities cause, in all honesty, getting up close and personal with drunk people holding fire on a stick totally freaks me out.
Alternative #1: Use glow sticks, flower petals, or confetti poppers.
Alternative #2: Jazz up your ceremony recessional instead. Provide guests with flower petals or flags or ribbons, anything they can wave enthusiastically as you walk down the aisle. I’ve always loved how these photos turn out and find them to be a great alternative to the traditional sparkler exit.
9. The mountains always deliver
There’s a reason we’ve been photographing mountain weddings exclusively for over a decade and can’t imagine working anywhere else. It’s because the mountains always deliver a kind of magic that you just don’t experience anywhere else. While your wedding may not go exactly according to plan (does that ever happen?), if you marry in the mountains I can promise you this, you and your guests will be raving about it for years.