by Leah Goetzel Photography
Colorado wedding guide
How to have an amazing wedding in Colorado! Whether you are local to Colorado or are planning a destination wedding this guide will help you plan your dream wedding!
Table of Contents
Are you dreaming of a getting married in Colorado? If you are traveling in for a destination wedding, there are so many fun places to explore from iconic bars and restaurants. Colorado has exploded over the past ten years with a phenomenal food scene, more cute shops, and exponential growth while still holding true to what makes Colorado so special.
Keep reading to learn about how to plan a wedding in Colorado and some of my favorite Colorado wedding venues!
+ Colorado Wedding Guide
The Importance of Wedding Photography
At the end of your wedding day, once the cake has been eaten and your flowers have died, the only thing left will be your memories and your photos. That's why wedding photography is one of the most important investments of your day.
For just a few minutes imagine and go on a journey with me.
You are married! You had a beautiful wedding and everything was perfect! The dance floor was packed, the food was delicious. You couldn’t have dreamed of a better day, and best of all you got to marry your best friend.
Fast forward to your first anniversary. You and your fiance are snuggled up on the couch flipping through your gorgeous wedding album and relieving the day.
What do you see?
Do you see your sister braiding your hair like y’all did when you were little? Or your mom fixing your dress? A special moment with your grandparents? The first look with dad? Maybe, the moment where you were given a gift that’s been passed down for generations.
Do you see the first time your soon to be life partner saw you on your wedding day? Tears in their eyes? You see your dad walking you down the aisle.
These are just small samplings of what you would see two, five, ten, twenty years after your wedding. It’s these moments that are so important and why we love what we do.
Now for a minute imagine you don’t have these images. Or they aren't beautiful, timeless photos. You can't see the first looks or witness the raw and genuine love you two have.
This is why we believe wedding photography is worth it. As a Colorado wedding photographer, I cherish and honor the ability to create wedding galleries that allow my couples to relive the most important moments to them.
As a Colorado Wedding Photographer I have been to a ton of Colorado wedding venues. I know that choosing your venue is a lofty task, that's why I've compiled this list of some of my favorite spots!
If you have any questions about anything, don't hesitate to send me a message! And no matter which venue you choose, I want to be your wedding photographer!
Make sure to scroll all the way to the bottom for a special gift!
When choosing your Colorado wedding venue, there are a few things to consider.
1. What kind of backdrop are you looking for? Mountains? Red Rocks? Urban?
When people picture the quintessential Colorado wedding venue, they usually think a mountain backdrop. But Colorado has so much more than just mountain venues, whatever your vibe, Colorado will likely have something you'll love!
2. How far from Denver are you willing to travel?
Colorado's looks can be deceiving! Even if something is only 30 miles away, it can take hours to navigate through the mountains and traffic. Keep that in mind when choosing your venue. If you choose a venue to the west of Denver, traffic, construction and weather delays can be major.
3. What season are you getting married in?
Venues can change drastically depending on the season. I recommend to look at venue galleries from all different seasons to get an accurate depiction of what your venue will look like.
4. What is included with your venue?
Lots of Colorado wedding venues include rentals, either tables and chairs, ceremony seating, etc. This can be a huge cost and energy saver! Make sure to inquire as to what's included.
5. What are the venues noise ordinances?
So many Colorado mountain venues have strict noise ordinances for their neighbors. If you're wanting to have a wild party lasting until 1am, make sure to check that policy before booking.
6. Can you bring in your own vendors?
Most Colorado wedding venues will have a preferred vendor list, but that doesn't always mean you have to choose from them. However, some venues have a strict policy on caterers and bartenders, so if you have a dream vendor, make sure they'll be able to work at your venue!
some of my favorite
As a Colorado wedding photographer, I've been to a lot of Colorado weddings and venues! Colorado has a wide variety of different wedding venues, from hotel ballrooms to grand outdoor barns to industrial warehouses to mountain lodges. Whatever your vision is, Colorado will likely have something you'll love!
The Little Nell is a gorgeous resort in Aspen with a stunning wooden deck perched on top of a mountain and surrounded by mountains.
Garden of the Gods Resort and Club in Colorado Springs is one the most gorgeous and unique venues. It is surrounded by the stunning red rocks of Colorado Springs
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Piney river ranch is nestled in the White River National Forest and offers sweeping views of the mountains on their wooden terrace.
Surf Hotel is a new hotel venue in Buena Vista, about 2.5 hours from Denver. The venue is eclectic and chic with rock details and beautiful vintage touches.
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The Woodlands is only 30 minutes from Denver but feels like you're much further. It is a beautiful white barn venue with pine trees and a hillside views.
River Bend Lyons is a charming wedding venue located only 20 minutes from downtown Boulder! The wedding venue is situated on the banks of the river and features dramatic stone cliffs.
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The Cielo at Castle Pines is a gorgeous venue located just 30 minutes outside of Denver. It has a massive open reception space, with sliding glass doors leading to the outdoor ceremony site.
This sprawling mountain ranch is quintessential rustic Colorado, from the leather touches to sweeping mountain views, if you're wanting classic Colorado, this is the place for you.
The Oaks at Plum Creek is situated on a beautiful golf course. The interior space looks like a luxury resort and it boasts one of my favorite getting ready suites of all time.
some of my favorite
As a Colorado wedding photographer, I've been to a lot of Denver weddings and venues! Here are some of my favorite venues inside the Denver city center. When choosing a venue inside Denver, expect more industrial finishes and modern touches. Lots of couples choose a venue inside the Denver city center because it is the most accessible for their guests (both those flying in and living in town.)
The Manor House is a stunning venue located just outside Denver. It has gorgeous white pillars and sweeping views of the mountains.
Chatfield Farms at the Denver Botanic Gardens is a quaint and picturesque venue located right outside Denver. It has a gorgeous red barn, beautiful floral landscapes, and rolling fields.
The Denver Botanic Gardens is located in the heart of Denver and right next to Cheesman Park. I love this venue because it is gorgeous year round and always has a stunning floral backdrop.
The Great Divide Brewing Company is an industrial space with sweeping views of downtown Denver and the Rocky Mountains. I told you Colorado had something for everyone!
Villa Parker is a gorgeous mediterranean style venue that is quaint and full of charm. I love the beautiful stucco interior and arched walkways, this venue has tons of charm!
Moss Denver is an incredible warehouse style venue. There are industrial finishes juxtaposed with soft wood and moss walls. It's an incredibly versatile space.
Roof16 at Novel Coworking is a new venue that has a fantastic view of the Denver skyline. The venue is quite intimate, probably would be best suited for gatherings under 50 people. But has so much character!
The JW is a beautiful ballroom style hotel venue. It's situated downtown so super accessible. I love the multiuse reception space and indoor and outdoor ceremony locations.
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The Oxford Hotel is Denver's oldest hotel and maintains all it's gorgeous old world charm. All the finishings at this lavish hotel transport you back in time.
some of my favorite
As a Colorado elopement photographer, I've been to a lot of elopement locations! Colorado has a wide variety of different locations and backdrops, from intimate venues, to stunning courthouses to lakefront views to perched on a mountain. Whatever your vision is, Colorado will likely have something you'll love! (Unless you want to get married by the ocean... you'll have no luck in that department). If you haven't chosen your location yet, consider one of these spots! But with all elopements, I am happy to scout and find the perfect spot for you!
Brainard Lake is one of my favorite locations just an hour from Boulder. It's right on the lake with the mountains and trees in the background but with virtually no hike. It is quite popular, so shoot for a weekday. It is only open via car June-October.
Rocky mountain park
The 3M curve has some gorgeous mountains views. It is a little tricky getting there, but once you park you can walk right up. There is a 15 person max. A $300 permit and $25 entry fee are required.
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The Maroon Bells are probably the most iconic mountains in Colorado. The view from the amphitheater deck is absolutely stunning. It is $200 to reserve, but is incredibly competitive. If you're interested in this spot, inquire now!!
Sapphire Point is a beautiful overlook that is incredibly accessible. The only downside is it's a hugely popular hiking area so there's very little privacy. There is a $120 permit and can fit 30 people.
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The Garden of the Gods is one of the most unique locations, it is a stunning spot with the gorgeous red rocks in the background. This location is free and first come first serve.
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Twin Lakes Colorado is a gorgeous mountain town about 2.5 hours outside Denver. The town gets its name from the two stunning lakes that sit at the base of mountains.
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The Sunrise Amphitheater is a beautiful location overlooking Boulder. It is $400 depending on time of year and if you're a Colorado resident. There isn't much shade at this location, so I highly recommend a sunrise or sunset ceremony. There isn't a mountain view, but it is still so magical.
Point Park is a free elopement venue right on the lake with beautiful views of the Rockies. This spot features a small dock with plenty of room for around 15 guests.
South of pueblo
This location is incredibly unique and such a gorgeous place to elope. There is no shade so I highly recommend a sunset or sunrise session. There is a $250 permit fee.
Wedding Planners are so important to the wedding day. I absolutely love working with so many talented planners in the Colorado area! So, I compiled a list of my favorite wedding planners, many of these planners I have worked with in the past, but their reputation far exceeds them! If you have any questions about any of these planners just reach out to us!
Mrs. Planner is an incredible team of planners who I have worked with both in Dallas and Colorado. Brie, head planner in Colorado is all about thoughtful touches and attention to details. One of her top priorities is ensuring all her clients feel comfortable and are treated like family.
Right as Rayne is a full service event planning team serving Colorado, Texas and New Mexico. Owner, Kinsey Rayne has been planning events for the past 8 years. They are a company with an eye for detail, specializing in bringing all aspects of your event together in a stunning way. No request is too small or too large!
Mountain Magnolia was started in North Carolina and aims to bring the charm of the South to the beauty of Colorado! They take your vision of your wedding day and turn it into the beautiful, stress-free day every couple deserves.
Rōz Event Planning is a full service event planning company that coordinates and facilitates weddings, special occasions, and business events. Rōz isn't your typical frilly event planner- they have bold and out-of-the-box ideas that bring their clients’ visions to life. Roz founder Miranda Guerra utilizes her event planning education, experience, and passion to organize meaningful events for her clients.
If you're getting married in Colorado, you'll want the dream team of wedding vendors! Here are some of my favorite hair and makeup artists, videographers, officiants and florists.
Colorado temperatures vary greatly from season to season (and even day to day!!) Here are some weather related tips for your Colorado wedding.
Summer is one of my favorite times to photograph in Colorado because the weather is so predictable. Temperatures are relatively mild (especially comparing it to Texas, my home state!)
Spring can be colder than you might think! Especially if you're wanting to go into the mountains. And there might not be as many flowers and fauna since it takes longer for the winter ice to melt.
Fall has the most gorgeous colors, but it comes and goes quickly! Fall is my favorite season in Colorado. The orange and yellow leaves are absolutely magical. But Fall can come and go quickly. Sometimes those gorgeous leaves only last a week. But if you plan it right (and with a little luck) your wedding would be stunning.
Winter can be freezing or mild. Winter in Colorado is always a toss up. It can be frigid or mild. Always plan for it being cold. (Layers, proper transportation, etc.)
When would I plan a Colorado wedding? Go with Summer or Fall! If you're wanting those gorgeous fall colors, aim for late September. Luckily though, Colorado is beautiful all year round– you really can't go wrong!
Denver International Airport is the 4th busiest airport in the US, meaning finding flights in and out is super easy. And because Colorado is so centrally located, it'll be a breeze for your guests to come from all over. The airport is located 25 miles from downtown Denver. Depending on traffic it can take 30 minutes to over an hour. There is a train, the Denver Airport Train (Or A Line) that will take you right to the airport. From Union Station it will take 37 minutes and they run every 15 minutes.
The main highways in Colorado are I25 which runs North to South and goes through Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Denver and Fort Collins. And I70 which runs East to West and connects Denver to the main mountain towns such as Idaho Springs, Vail and Avon. I70 is notorious for being prone to traffic and bad accidents. I once witnessed an accident so bad that traffic was fully stopped for 6 hours. If you're taking I70 make sure to give yourself lots of wiggle room. Here is an awesome article by the Know Outdoors about navigating I70 traffic.
If you're staying in a larger town or city such as Denver, Boulder or Colorado Springs popular ride sharing apps such as Lyft and Uber are prevalent. There is also an AMTRAK line that goes throughout the state and each city has their own public transit. Depending on the area that you and your guests are staying, walking and biking can definitely be an option! Denver has lots of parks and sidewalks throughout their neighborhoods that make it safe and easy.
Since Denver is such a massive city, there's tons of things to do! From museums to restaurants to bars, you'll definitely find something fun! Here are some of my favorite things to do as a Colorado wedding photographer!
Restaurants: Tavernetta (fine Italian dining), Denver Biscuit Company (delicious biscuits, not just for breakfast!), Linger (worldwide fusion), Bar Dough (neighborhood Italian), Uncle (ramen- order to go to skip the wait!), Sweet Cow & Little Man (ice cream), Sassafras (brunch), Work n Class (Latin American)
Bars: William and Graham (incredible speakeasy type bar, a must visit), Seven Grande (whiskey bar, over 700 types!) Hidden Idol (tiki drinks with amazing island style comfort food), Death & Co (An NYC bar, with gorgeous outdoor terrace) Altitude Brewery (breweries in Denver are endless, but I like this one. Lots of options and seating, low maintenance and boards games).
Parks: Confluence Park (connects the Highland with Downtown, has a river and bridges), Sloans Lake (the biggest city lake, you can rent jetskis!), Cheesman (large park built on a graveyard so probably haunted), Washington (massive park with volleyball courts)
Shopping: Larimer Square (a small block in between 15th and 14th, super cute at Christmas), 16th Street Mall (a massive block of shopping with everything from bookstores to restaurants. There's a free shuttle that runs the length of the mall), Cherry creek (16 blocks of shopping and restaurants)
Hiking: Lair O Bear (An easy 1.6 mile hike running alongside a river), Clear Creek (1.8 miles along a gorgeous river, watch for the kayakers!) Flat Irons (1.9 to 3.3 miles depending on the route, such a gorgeous view of Boulder)
While there are lots of cities in Colorado, if you're having a Colorado wedding, you'll probably at least fly into Denver. Denver has lots of different neighborhoods that all have their own personality. If you are stopping in Denver or having your Colorado wedding in or around Denver, here are some of my favorite places to stay!
The Highland area is my favorite place in Denver and where I would stay during all my vacations. It is located just a 5 minute drive or 30 minute walk from downtown and has tons of shops, bars and restaurants. I love that it feels like a cozy neighborhood, but still super walkable.
Cherry creek is an upscale neighborhood with hundreds of shops and bars. The area overlooks the creek and is about a 10 minute drive to downtown Denver. If you're looking for something upscale and with lots to do, Cherry Creek might be your spot!
If you want to be close to all the action, LoDo (or Lower Downtown) might be the place for you! There is beautiful Victorian architecture and lots of delicious restaurants for you to try out!
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WHAT IS A FIRST LOOK? SHOULD I HAVE ONE?
A first look is when the couple sees each other before the ceremony. These moments are usually quite intimate with only the couple and the photographer. As a photographer I love first looks for a few reasons. Firstly it really is an emotional moment, I've found that grooms feel like they can be more emotional since it's so private. And also it allows for so many more photos! After the first look we can do couples photos before the ceremony. Without a first look everyone typically hides out in their getting ready location so they aren't seen beforehand.
That being said, it's totally a personal decision! Seeing each other at the ceremony is definitely more traditional, so if that's what you've envisioned your whole life, do it!
WHEN AND HOW ARE OUR PHOTOS DELIVERED?
You'll receive a sneak peek of a few images on social media within 72 hours because I know how eager couples are to see their images! A highlight blog post will go live two weeks after your event. And then your final gallery will be ready in 6-8 weeks.
There is no cap on images I deliver for a wedding. The amount of images you receives varies from event to event, if you have more portrait time or lots of open dance floor dancing you'll have lots more images! But typically you'll receive 60-100 images per hour.
WHAT IF I CANCEL MY WEDDING?
The retainer is non-refundable. Once I receive a retainer I completely block off that day exclusively for you and turn down any other shoots or weddings.
WHERE ARE YOU LOCATED? DO YOU TRAVEL?
I am located in Denver, Colorado. But I will travel wherever! Travel and lodging fees do apply. I offer discounted rates for certain "bucket list" wedding locations.
WHAT IS YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE?
My style is a mix of photojournalistic and traditional. I love capturing candid moments, the authentic smiles, the natural tears, the goofy glances— all the things that make your wedding authentically you. But I also want to make sure that you get the shots you've been waiting for. I want you to have the classic images of you and your partner seeing each other for the first time, or your first dance, or just a big family photo that your mom will display in her home.
DO YOU OFFER SMALL WEDDINGS & ELOPEMENTS?
Yes! Absolutely! Small intimate weddings (less than 20 guests) and elopements are some of my favorite things to photograph! I typically only book these 4 months in advance or on weekdays.
HOW DO WE BOOK?
I will send over a proposal that allows you to choose your perfect wedding package. 50% of your total balance will be due upon booking, this retainer is non-refundable and reserves your date. You'll then sign a contract and be officially booked!
DO YOU OFFER PAYMENT PLANS?
Yes! In fact, my payment structure is already broken up into installments to make my services more accessible. Your payments will be broken up into 5 payments throughout your journey with me.
CAN YOU HOLD OUR DATE?
To be fair to everyone I can't hold dates without a signed contract and retainer.
DO YOU OFFER ENGAGEMENT SESSIONS?
Yes! And I offer a 50% discount on them for wedding clients! Engagement shoots are a great way to see how my couples interact on their wedding day. We can chat about which poses you find most flattering and natural. I can see if you are more touchy and intimate or more reserved and traditional, all which will create a more seamless and streamlined wedding day experience.
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Hey hey! I am so happy you're here. A few things about me, my last name's pronounced (GATE-zell) but I respond to anything and I'm a wedding and portrait photographer based out of Denver, Colorado. I graduated from the University of Texas in Austin (hook 'em) with a History and French degree, but I've know for the past 10+ years that my true passion was always photography.
The first photo I ever took was in 2008 on my dad's point and shoot. It was of a temple in Greece reflected in a puddle. Lemme tell ya, I was so convinced that I was a photographer protegee that I purchased my first camera (a nikon d3000) the day after I got home. I haven't been able to put down a camera since.
I've been splitting my time between Dallas and Denver for the past 2 years, but in April 2021 my boyfriend Zain and I are moving permanently in Denver! I I love listening to history podcasts, making homemade pasta, collecting records, and drinking jalapeno margaritas.
let's work together!
I'm so excited to hear more about your vision! Send me a message and I'll get back to you within 24-48 hours!