What You Need to Know for a Winter Elopement - Updated for 2021
Updated: Feb 24
Winter wonderland elopements are wonderful! This is especially so if you're planning your elopement in a location that is going to guarantee snow! Eloping in winter is more popular than you may think; however, there aren't many great resources on the internet for practical advice for your intimate winter weddings. I've compiled a list of tips you'll want to consider for your special day:
Wear Skin Toned Tights Under Your Dress
You want to look good on your wedding day, but if you're not comfortable you'll be able to tell in the photos. My top tip for winter weddings is to buy a fleece-lined pair of skin-toned tights to keep you warm under your dress. They look just like your natural skin in photos, so you don't have to worry about them sticking out. Here's a link to a $15 pair on Amazon. If you're not worried about your legs showing go with long underwear!
Consider Wearing A Long Sleeve Wedding Dress
While short sleeve dresses tend to be more popular with brides, they don't do much good in cold or freezing weather. I know you want to show off your impressive toned arms, but for your comfort and sanity, the long sleeve dress is probably the better choice.
Elegant or Outdoorsy? Rock a Jacket for Either Style.
Check out a faux fur shawl or a wedding cloak if you're going down the elegant route. The shawl may not be as functional if you're outdoors for long periods, but it is a classic wedding fashion. On the other hand, the cloak has a fun fairy tale and whimsical aesthetic and will keep you warmer longer.
Don't feel obligated to go down the elegant route - if your winter elopement is focused on adventure, wear your favorite Patagonia or North Face! Do consider the color of your jacket for photos. Not every color goes great with every editing style, so take a look at your photographer's work. For instance, my bright and vibrant style generally works with every color palette, but in a field of pure white snow, a bright purple jacket stands out more than you want. I recommend a calmer color (but please do you!).
Bring Hand and Feet Warmers
If you're doing an all-day adventure elopement in any snow-packed area, your feet are bound to get cold. Buy foot warmer shoe inserts that last five hours - and pack an extra pair for each of you. We don't want cold feet now! (Pun intended). Don't forget to pack your hand warmers also! You can pose and still hold hand warmers.
Wear Foundation - Both of You
Some people lose all their color after a short period in the cold. I've done sessions when the bride seems to have a summery tan, and the groom looks like he saw a ghost. If you can talk your significant other into it, and you know temperatures may be frigid, I highly suggest wearing foundation for both of you.
Wear Practical Shoes (and Socks)
Do bring the cute pair of shoes you found for a few pictures, but make sure you bring something you can hike and move around safely in. If you're looking for the right boots, base it off the activity you're looking for. If you're glam and not hiking, traditional women's snow boots are probably fine. Instead of wearing a conventional women's snow boot (think Soreal), I tend to rock a higher hiking boat for winter. I found a list of 10 winter hiking boots for you here. They're also perfect for snowshoeing! It's late fall, and you're hiking through terrain like Rocky Mountain National Park you may be able to add crampons to the hiking shoes you already own.
Double Check Your Location is Open During the Winter
Certain areas may close during the winter, like Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. It's always best to call a National Park or other municipality before planning your big day to ensure there are no winter restrictions.
Getting Married Outdoors? You Still May Need a Permit
Now that you've checked to see if your desired location is open, you'll want to know if they have a permit or a way to book the site, even if it's in the wilderness. For instance, Rocky Mountain National Park and the Great American Sand Dunes both require permits for exchanging vows, regardless if no one is attending. They also have specific sites where vows can be exchanged.
Update: National Parks can no longer charge photography permits, so you can take photos in the park for free! Unless you are exchanging vows/having your ceremony. You will still be required to have a ceremony permit in that case.
Stay Hydrated with Your Backpack
This is my favorite backpack for winter activities. I've had my Camelbak Snowblast Hydration Pack for roughly five years now and love it because of its size, function, and insulation. I like a Camelback over a water bottle during the winter due to its convenience.
Bring a Thermos with a Warm Drink and Snacks
Depending on your winter elopement activities, bringing a Thermos with a hot drink is a lifesaver. Toss in hot cocoa, peppermint schnapps, or whiskey for a cheers! If you're going the adventurous route, make sure you bring snacks to replenish.
Bring a Change of Clothes
It's not always realistic to wear your wedding attire for the entire day. You may be more comfortable hiking with your dress attached to your backpack! If you get too cold during your winter elopement, it's okay to change into something more comfortable, no one else needs to know.
You Don't Have to Bring Your Marriage License With You
If you're hiking through snowy terrain, snowshoeing, and having the time of your life, do you want that critical document in your backpack? Probably not. While I like to view it as "paperwork" (because it is), it can be saved for when you're back at your cabin or hotel for the evening. That way, it stays in pristine condition!
What Should You Do During Your Winter Elopement:
If there's not to much snow on the ground (or maybe even if there is) go hiking! Bring a set of the microspikes mentioned for any icy conditions. Also- double-check that your desired trail is open, some close for winter.
A snowshoeing elopement can be an absolute blast, and it can have epic mountain views! I love snowshoeing because it doesn't take experience, and it's inexpensive. If you don't already own snowshoes don't fret, you don't need an expensive pair. You can get a decent pair at Costco when they're in season or get a fancier pro pair at REI. If you're looking for Colorado snowshoeing trails, check out the Breckenridge Nordic center here.
Go Snowboarding or Skiing for the Day! Or a Run!
Avid skiers and snowboards have ski-in weddings, why can't you have a ski-in ski-out elopement? If you live for shredding the gnar, then absolutely do it. You can also find a skilled photographer to tag along with you - because who doesn't like action shots!
Go Iceskating on a Frozen Lake
One of the best dates I've ever been on was ice-skating at Evergreen Lake in Colorado. It was far from a private experience, but it was super cute. You probably won't want to make it an all-day activity, but it can be fun for a few hours.
Where are the Best Places In Colorado For a Winter Elopement?
There are almost too many great spots to pick from: Telluride, Aspen, Breckenridge, Keystone, Dillion, Crested Butte, Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Loveland Pass, Vail... the list goes on! Here are a few of my favorites as a Colorado elopement photographer:
Rocky Mountain National Park Winter Elopement
I will warn you that Rocky Mountain National Park can have some unbearable weather during the winter. However, the views on a calm day with snow coverage are so perfect! The lakes freeze over and they make great backdrops for your photos. While Trailridge road is closed during this time, I still highly recommend Sprague Lake, Moraine Park, Dream Lake, and Sky Pond. Wear extra layers at RMNP and anticipate crazy weather. You have to have a wedding permit for a ceremony or vow exchange inside the park, however, if you want to take photos there it is now free as of February 2021! Check out my complete guide to eloping at Dream lake here.
The Dillion Ice Castles Elopement
I love the ice castles because they really do feel magical even as an adult. They have a certain charm to them that makes you feel like you're in Frozen or some kind of other Disney story. They make a cool minimalist background during the day, but at night they light them up crazy colors. Contact the Ice Castles for more info on exchanging vows there, but otherwise, you just need to purchase three tickets (two for you, and one for your photographer) to take some cool photos there! Pro tip: It's generally always busy since the ice castles are seasonal, but I highly recommend going during the week if possible! Traffic won't be as bad either during the week either.
Sapphire Point Elopement
Also located in Summit County you'll find one of my all-time favorite spots: Sapphire Point. This location is fairly busy, but you can reserve the space for your elopement or intimate wedding. This location does get fairly icy during the winter, so I recommend wearing your hiking boots or spike to the ceremony spot, and then changing into your shoes of choice. If you need a complete guide to eloping at Sapphire Point I have it!
Want other recommendations for places to elope? I have a complete guide here:
I hope this information helps your day run smoothly! Now that you know all of this, check out my adventure elopement photography packages to get a good idea of how much a photographer costs here.
Cheers and have fun!