Colorado Mountain Weddings
The central mountains of Colorado are a stunning place for weddings. These locations offer some of the prettiest mountain vistas in the state, yet are also pretty accessible from Denver International Airport. Each area has a unique vibe, and caters to a completely different clientelle. I’ve been photographing in the Colorado mountains since 2006, and have put together my A List of the best hotels and vendors serving this region. Jump ahead to my sections on:
Vail Wedding Photography
The mountains of Vail, Colorado call to all types of couples every year, and the variety of landscapes, activities and wedding styles make it super fun to shoot there. Vail has become my second home, since I photograph 85% of my weddings there. Over my career I’ve forged deep relationships with many of Vail’s incredible vendors, and am happy to make referrals or offer suggestions as you plan your big day. I’ve come to know the area intimately, learned to understand the area’s varying weather and lighting conditions, and become super familiar with tons of venues — how they’re lit, how many people they can actually accommodate (despite what the venues say), and when the best time of year and even best time of day is to shoot there.
Vail isn’t just a skiing playground; It is a top resort filled with gorgeous locations that make a great backdrop for a celebration. There’s the bustling Vail Village, with outdoor markets and festivals all summer long; there’s a gorgeous creek running through town, which I often take bridal parties to for photography sessions; and of course, there are five star hotels and dining experiences and many of Colorado’s finest venues.
Couples can go up on Vail Mounain in the wintertime with skis for some fun trash the dress or winter portrait sessions, they can get married in a number of beautiful mountain cabins year round, and they can tie the knot on the Vail wedding deck. Since I started working here in 2006, I have discovered many, many secret spots to take my clients for awesome couples, bridal, and engagement portraits.
Here’s my short list for the best places to get married in Vail. I love these venues, and the staff that operates them are top notch.
- Sonnenalp Hotel: The rooms here are nice, and they’re only a short walk from the ceremony site and the reception area. Shooting here is stress free thanks to the proximity of all the facilities. Most couples get married on a back lawn at the edge of the creek running through the property, though some opt for a ceremony at the Vail Wedding Chapel across the street. The reception area has a huge dance floor and ample space for extra seating. The dance floor is covered by glass, so you can look up and see the stars. Great food, too!
- Donovan Pavillion: Donovan Pavillion has high vaulted ceilings and a great outdoor patio for ceremonies and cocktailing. It too is on the edge of the creek, and I like to take brides and grooms down to the bank for their couples portrait session. You’ll probably want to find a hotel nearby to get ready in, though, as it’s strictly a reception venue. The ceremony site on the back porch is right up against a lush forested backdrop.
- Four Seasons Vail: I love ballrooms at the Four Seasons, as they are huge. Couples often turn the patio on the outside of the ballroom into a super funky outdoor lounge, with hundreds of candles for lighting. The rooms are super nice as well. A great combination is a mountaintop ceremony on the wedding deck, with a reception here.
- Vail Wedding Deck: The Vail Wedding Deck is an awesome amphitheater at the top of Vail Mountain, looking across to Mount of the Holy Cross. You and your guests will ride a gondola for 10 to 15 minutes. The weather is fairly mild, but if a front does blow in, it will blow away in a few short minutes. The views here are probably the best in the state, along with the Beaver Creek and Aspen wedding decks.
- The Lodge at Vail: Another iconic Vail property, this one just down the road from the Vail Chapel. Great rooms to get ready in make this a fantastic option, especially if you’re planning a ceremony and reception at Larkspur or Donovan. I really like it here.
- Vail Chapel: The Vail wedding chapel sports super cool architecture, and I love shooting group shots on the front steps and on the side of the chapel next to the creek. There’s easy access to a second floor where I can shoot grand, sweep wide angle shots of the whole ceremony, with the cool lights hanging from the ceiling. Shooting here is challenging due to the backlit windows behind the altar, so try to schedule the ceremony as late as you can.
- Larkspur Restaurant: Larkspur is a great restaurant on the east side of the downtown area, with a huge lawn looking straight up to the Gore Range. There are no better mountain views from down in the valley than at Larkspur, so if you don’t want to risk the gondola ride, feel like it could stress your timeline, or worry about the altitude effect on older guests, Larkspur Restaurant can’t be beat. The food is great, there’s a pretty big dance hall, and a nice outdoor patio for cocktailing.
- The 10th Restaurant: This venue is new and stunning. You’ll take a gondola up the mountain to a modern, luxury cabin with space for 150ish people. The windows here are enormous, with fantastic views down the slopes. I love it at dusk, when the bright blue hues of the night sky filter in through the windows, contrasting with the cozy orange glow inside. Big dance floor, nice huge fire place. Win, win, win.
Beaver Creek is Vail’s little brother and a wonderful place to get married. It’s home to many fantastic venues without as much hustle and bustle as there is in Vail. If you’re looking for a rustic yet boutique area but also need a little more peace and quiet, this is your place. Weddings in Beaver Creek are characterized by secluded venues, wild nature, and the best food and drink Colorado has to offer. Once there, you don’t need a car to get around. Everything you will need is all in one place – hotels, food, golf, bike or ski rentals depending on the season, and fun nightlife.
Here’s a gorgeous fall wedding at the Park Hyatt.
What’s nice about this zone is you don’t really need to go anywhere for cool couples portraits. The venues here are nestled up in the side of the mountain, so there’s no need to escape to go anywhere picturesque. From a practical perspective, this means brides and grooms will spend less time in the car and more time socializing with their wedding.
Check out this gorgeous wedding from the Ritz at Bachelor Gulch that I shot a few years ago. It still stands out as one of the craziest, most beautiful events I’ve ever seen, let alone photographed, and the party was outrageous. The highlight was probably the Revenge of the Nerds type band that covered 80s pop hits for 3 hours and brought down the house.
Here are my top picks for the best places to get married in Beaver Creek:
- Ritz Carleton Bachelor Gulch: The Ritz Carleton is a great place to start your search, as it’s up on the base of the mountain, with fantastic access to snow in the winter and mountains in the summer. It’s secluded and private, and has a great patio on the back for post-wedding s’more roasts. I’ve photographed celebrations with as many as 450 guests here. The ballrooms here are ginormous and decorate beautifully.
- Beano’s Cabin: Beano’s is one of my favorite venues in Colorado, and for good reason. It’s located high up on the side of Beaver Creek Mountain and there are no other buildings in site. The cabin has great views into the Larkspur Bowl, and it’s located in the middle of a gorgeous meadow surrounded by aspen trees. Beano’s can handle events with up to 150 guests, and it also makes for a great rehearsal dinner venue. If you choose to get married there, you’ll probably have your ceremony on the back lawn. I think every celebration I’ve shot here has been crashed by some form of wildlife: deer, bear, elk, moose.
- Beaver Creek Wedding Deck: When the Beaver Creek wedding deck opened, I was super excited, as it’s got some of the best views in the state for mountain marriages. It’s right up there with the Vail wedding deck, but it looks straight onto the Gore Range . It’s on a hillside near Spruce Saddle. About 200 people can sit on this gorgeous mountaintop venue.
- Allie’s Cabin: Allie’s is great if you’re looking for something higher up on the mountain. It’s smaller than Beano’s and Zach’s, as it can handle about 75 guests tops if there’s a dance floor. This makes it a cozy cabin for smaller events, particularly considering the small attached patio where you can have a beautiful ceremony. The building is surrounded by an aspen grove and looks stunning in the autumn.
- Spruce Saddle: Spruce Saddle is the building associated with the Beaver Creek Wedding Deck. The sunsets from Spruce Saddle are outrageous, particularly after an afternoon thunderstorm when puffy clouds float in the sky..
- Zach’s Cabin: One of my favorite jobs I’ve shot in the winter occurred at Zach’s Cabin. The couple got married at the Ritz and everyone took snow cats up the hill to get to Zach’s. The cabin is pretty big, multi-storied, and feels super cozy. I really like this venue.
Steamboat Springs is unique because it’s fairly large yet off the beaten path. The town sits on the west side of the Continental Divide at the base of the photogenic Rabbit Ears Pass, which makes a superb place for engagement photos. What I like most about shooting in Steamboat is the way the light falls across the valley — it reminds me of where I grew up in California. The city doesn’t have many high peaks to the west, which means the sun can get super low in the sky before it disappears over the horizon. The lower it gets, the more dramatic it gets and the more fiery and colorful the sunsets become.
There are tons of gorgeous backdrops for photos in Steamboat. Fish Creek Falls is a picturesque waterfall for couples photos, and the Yampa River passes right through town. Rabbit Ears makes a particularly beautiful escape if you’re getting married at Catamount Ranch, since the venue sits right at the bottom of the pass. If you’re getting married up on Mount Werner, we probably won’t have time to go too far, but that’s fine: we can photograph on the mountainside at sunset, with the colorful valley beneath.
Steamboat is a great wedding destination year round — the summer temps rarely exceed 85, and the summer thunderstorms that characterize mountain weather elsewhere are a little milder. The winter weather is snowy — hence the nickname “Ski Town USA” — but most of the snow falls in January and February.
Here’s a wedding in Steamboat!
The drive to Steamboat from Denver is about 4 hours, which is further than Vail or Beaver Creek, but that comes with the advantage of fewer crowds. There’s also a small municipal airport (airport code HDN) that is a 30 minute flight from Denver.
Aside from skiing, your guests will remain entertained with snow tubing, cross country skiing, and hot springs. In the summer, they can spend their weekend fishing on the Yampa River, kayaking, or rafting – and if you get married in June, everyone can enjoy the Yampa River Festival. The mountain biking in Steamboat is off the charts. Other fun events for gusts are the Steamboat Rodeo and the Steamboat Springs Hot Air Balloon Festival.
Anyway, my picks for the best places to get married in Steamboat Springs are:
- Catamount Club and Catamount Ranch: Catamount Ranch is one of my favorite venues in the state. The Ranch is on the shore of Catamount Lake at the bottom of Rabbit Ears Pass. There’s a gorgeous boathouse on the side of the lake, most of the ceremonies occur on the lakefront, and there’s a cool old barn on the property that makes for great couples portraits. Receptions are most often in a tent on waterfront. The nearby Catamount Club is on a golf course next to Walton Creek, and couples looking for a venue with open space and expansive views might want to consider this venue.
- Thunderhead: This is my other favorite place in Steamboat, sitting proudly atop the gondola. The grassy ceremony site is on the east side of the building overlooking the slopes. It’s fairly secluded so there’s not much foot traffic aside from the wedding. The backdrop here insane and the sunsets are super colorful. Thunderhead’s reception hall is very spacious, and I also really like the fact that guests can hang out on the deck overlooking the entire Yampa Valley for cocktail hour.
- Steamboat Grand: The Steamboat Grand is a fantastic hotel at the base of Mount Werner, and a great place for brides to get ready, or for rehearsal dinners, or for really large weddings.
Breckenridge is the perfect mountain town for outdoorsy couples. Winter activities abound, and the summers here are incredible, with amazing cycling, trail running, and hiking. What’s cool about Breck compared to Colorado’s other mountain towns is that it just feels super high. A lot of what you see around you is above treeline, so you feel like you’re really “in the mountains.” My favorite Breckenridge venues include:
- Ten Mile Station: Perhaps the best wedding venue in Breck. To the side of the venue is a huge patio overlooking the mountains, with stunning views across the Breckenridge Valley. It’s nice to have a venue that’s a bit secluded, so there aren’t passersby everywhere. It’s spacious, has a great staff, a big dance floor so things don’t get too crowded, and fantastic views.
- Thunder Mountain Lodge: A super nice venue with lots of guest rooms, so everyone can be on one property. Rustic elegance and lot of hot tubs.
- One Ski Hill Place: Great location below Peak Eight! Incredible views, great chefs, and a cozy atmosphere. I like this venue a lot.
For wedding coordinators, call Jen Hammond at I Do Wedding Services – she is an incredible planner who always remains calm and keeps things in control. Also try the talented Carolyn Moorman at Artisan Events, who has a knack for great design. Kelly and her team at Frosted Pink Weddings do a fantastic job, and have been around for a long time, while Emily at Go Bella Events is another one of my top planners in the area. Kacee Picot is a wonderful stylist, and no event is complete without Pink Monkey Solutions, an event design company that makes my job as a photographer super easy.