Outdoor Wedding Ideas & Things to Consider for Ceremonies in a Public Space in the Colorado Mountains
We love outdoor weddings! In this blogpost we’ll dive into more detail about outdoor wedding ideas, things to consider and how to prepare. We’re going to talk mostly about ceremony locations in places like national forests or other public spaces. But some of these tips will apply to those also wanting to do a backyard wedding or just an outdoor wedding at a venue as well. So let’s dive in.
How accessible is the area?
This is one big question to ask yourself, because ultimately its going to determine who will be able to join you in the celebration. If you have grandparents who are older or guests with mobility issues, will they be able to access the location? And if so, will they need help getting there? If you’re doing a wedding on the top of a ski resort, a lot of times you and your guests will need to hop on a gondola, and then do a small hike to get to the ceremony/reception area. Or if you’re having the ceremony in a national forest there might be a hike to get to the ceremony spot depending on where you are.
So, how can you include those guests with mobility issues when you want to have your wedding in an area with more rugged mountain terrain? Here are some tips:
1. Find a venue that has the scenery you’re looking for and is easily accessible. And/or delegate someone to help with guests that might need some assistance.
There are a lot of venues in the mountains that offer beautiful scenery that are easy to access. Like I mentioned earlier, the trickiest venues are going to be ski resorts in terms of accessibility. They can sometimes be a little difficult for guests because of the steps needed to get to the top of the mountain. Maybe delegate someone to help people like your grandparents make it on and off the gondola. Or make sure your delegated person brings things like a cane with a seat in case they need it on the short hike to the venue. Plus water, don’t forget altitude can sneak up on people quickly, especially those who are physically having a hard time already.
2. Do a private vow reading in a more remote place with your partner, and then a formal ceremony with friends and family at another location.
One of my favorite outdoor wedding ideas if you’re really wanting to do your ceremony somewhere where it will be hard for others to join you, is doing 2 different ceremonies. You can do a private vow reading with just you and your partner along a hike or in a more remote location. Then you can meet up for a more traditional ceremony with all your guests afterwards. It could be on the same day or on separate days. That way you have the best of both worlds. A recent couple of mine did a 2 mile hike to an alpine lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. They said their vows there with just the two of them and myself to take photos along the way. Then a week later did a more traditional ceremony with their friends and family members at a wedding venue.
3. Find a public space that has a short walk to the ceremony site on mostly level ground.
There are some spots in the national forest or public land that are more easily accessible than others. Usually it looks like a short hike in most locations. Or there are also some spots that are really close to a parking lot. Some of our favorite more accessible public areas that allow weddings are: Brainard Lake (west of Boulder), 3M Curve in Rocky Mountain National Park (near Estes Park), Dillon Marina Park Pavilion (Dillon), Sapphire Point (near Breckenridge), & Loveland Pass (near Dillon). Keep in mind again that most of these locations are at higher elevations. So encourage your guests to drink a lot of water to prepare for the altitude.
Are There Public Restrooms?
Are there public restrooms nearby and what kind of bathrooms are they? When I was planning my wedding, at first my husband and I looked into doing our ceremony in Yosemite because its an amazing place. But I wanted to include my 98 year old grandma which was more of a challenge. And the thought of making her use a vault toilet in one of the campgrounds made me change my mind. Do a little research about what type of restrooms are available. For example, Dillon Marina Park Pavilion has a large restroom nearby with multiple stalls, water and sinks. At Sapphire Point, there is a vault toilet and its usually not in the cleanest condition. 3M Curve in Rocky Mountain National Park is a pull out area along the road that has no restrooms at all.
Another outdoor wedding idea is think about renting a bathroom if you have the space and its allowed. I’m not talking about a porta potty, but more of a restroom trailer. There are luxury restroom trailers that you can rent. You would never know it was a trailer if you didn’t see the outside. This could be a great idea if you’re doing a backyard wedding and you’re worried about how the plumbing will hold up. Or for a space that has no restrooms at all. Here are a couple vendors that rent restroom trailers:
What Are The Regulations?
If you’re not doing your wedding at a traditional venue, then you’ll need to do some research or enlist some help to find out more about regulations. For Colorado, we often deal with these questions and can help you navigate the ins and outs of things like permits. Every city, county, national forest, etc, has their own set of rules. And even within those spaces the rules can be differ depending on where you are. Here are some more outdoor wedding ideas or things you’ll want to ask when it comes to regulations:
- Are chairs and decorations allowed?
- Is there a limit on how many guests you can have?
- Do you need a permit or a reservation?
- What does the permit or reservation include?
- Is there anything that is not permitted?
Where Are You Going to Get Ready?
Do you want a place to get ready at or at least put your dress on at? This could mean putting your dress on in the forest, or in a pop up tent. If you’re staying somewhere nearby, you can always get ready in the location where you are staying and drive over. We do carry a popup tent and have used it for many brides who want to put their dress on in a public outdoor space with a little privacy. Its easy to transport and can be setup anywhere. This might help if you want to do drive with your partner but also want to do a first look when you get there.
Handling Onlookers & Nearby Hikers
If you’re doing your wedding in a public area like a national forest its highly likely you’ll have some onlookers. This is just part of the experience, so make sure you’re comfortable with that. This could look like nearby hikers walking past as you say your vows or an outdoor yoga class cheering for you after the ceremony.
In some places where you need to make a reservation to use the space, the other people don’t usually know what’s happening. The reservation prevents another wedding from happening at the same time, but the trail doesn’t close down for others wanting to use it. Having something like a simple sign that says “ceremony in progress” and placing that along the trail can be a huge help. This could be near the entrance to your ceremony site. It will let hikers know what’s happening. Usually once people know, they are respectful and will give you a little space.
What Will You Do in Case Of Bad Weather?
I dive into this topic more in a different blog post here, Managing Bad Weather on Your Wedding Day. But the gist of it is to be flexible and prepared. If you’re doing an outdoor wedding you should be thinking about some sort of plan b in case of bad weather. If you’re looking for more ideas to be prepared for this, check out the link to the other blog post above.
Outdoor Wedding Ideas – Parking & Transportation
What does the parking situation look like and how many people will it accommodate? Also remember that Colorado trailheads are often busy. Which means the parking lots will most likely be busy too. Sometimes parking is allowed along roads, and sometimes not depending on where you are. Or there could be an option for overflow parking with a nearby pullout or parking area with a little more of a walk.
The big takeaway here is you might need to think about alternative options for transportation if the parking isn’t enough for you, your guests, and the other people enjoying the space on that day. You could encourage people to carpool to limit the amount of cars. Another idea is doing a shuttle for your guests from the main hotel where they’re staying. Or renting a bus to transport those in the wedding.
Food & Catering Options
What are some outdoor wedding ideas for food and catering? Food trucks can be a great solution to an outdoor reception without a kitchen, because they bring their kitchen with them. The only downside I’ve experienced with food trucks is that when it comes to doing volume, they go slow. Because the kitchen inside their trucks is small, its hard to turn out a lot of food quickly. If you’re doing a more intimate get together, this is a great option. If you’re thinking about it for a larger group, 35+, keep in mind that people will probably eat in a more staggered fashion. For those doing an outdoor ceremony and a lower key reception somewhere like an airbnb, a personal chef can be a great idea too. They come to you and create a personalized meal from your kitchen.