The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Elopement in Ouray Colorado

When someone asks me about my favorite place to elope in Colorado, my mind immediately goes to Ouray in the San Juan mountain range. 

Ouray (pronounced: “Yur-Ay”) is located directly on the million dollar highway. It’s been nicknamed the “Switzerland of America”, and the “Outdoor Recreation Capitol of Colorado”, and boy does it live up to its name! This small town can definitely experience an influx of visitors, but it’s easy to get away in the remote surrounding wilderness and find the perfect Leave No Trace friendly ceremony location.

If you’re looking for a beautiful place to elope with epic mountain views, bright blue lakes, waterfalls, and wildflowers covering steep basins during the summer, then you might want to consider Ouray for your elopement.

The image shows Katie and Alex, a couple who just had an Ouray elopement, walking down a dirt road on the right side of the frame. The beautiful mountains of Ouray tower behind them with the alpenglow lighting up just the very top of the mountains. The couple's SUV waits at the bottom of the dirt road surrounded by pine trees. The sun is setting and everything in the scene has a warm glow to it.

Table of Contents

9 Reasons To Choose Ouray As Your Elopement Destination

  • Epic mountain views right from downtown
  • There are A TON of elopement locations located within 45 minutes from town
  • If you’re craving a place in Colorado with a small town feel, this is it! 
  • Away from the crazy crowds and traffic in Denver
  • More wildlife and remote areas to explore
  • Explore nearby hot springs
  • Visit other nearby iconic towns such as Telluride, Ridgway and Silverton
  • Local breweries: Enough said.
  • Outdoor recreation mecca: From hiking, ice climbing, off-roading, kayaking, paddle-boarding, and SO much more
Bride and groom stand in the dark lit up by only a lantern. The milky way is extremely vivid in the Colorado sky behind them.
A couple in the process of reading their wedding vows for their Ouray elopement. They are standing in a grassy field with a 12,000 foot mountain towering over them to the top of the frame. The bride is reading her vows and has a big smile on her face as her new husband holds her waist.

6 Steps to Planning Your Elopement in Ouray Colorado

In a perfect world, I could just show you a beautiful photo of a wedding ceremony in Ouray. Your jaw would drop, and then you’d say heck yes, let’s get married there! However, we all know that the world is not that simple, and that planning a wedding or elopement is nowhere near that simple.

I want to stress that every couple’s journey will look a little different based on values, level of adventure, comfort, and favorite activities. Don’t feel pressured to do ANY activity that doesn’t feel like you.

That’s why you’re eloping in the first place, remember?

Groom hiking on the mountain-side with his bride watching him in the foreground. White cumulonimbus clouds appear behind him and make his silhouette stand out. Their main goal of their Ouray elopement was to explore, and hiking was the perfect start to that.

There are 7 main steps to planning your elopement in Ouray Colorado:

  • Book your specialized Ouray elopement photographer
  • Find your elopement ceremony location
  • Hire your local wedding vendors
  • Book your travel plans
  • Plan your elopement timeline
  • Get your marriage license
  • Be ready for anything Colorado throws your way

It can be a little intimidating to plan an elopement or intimate wedding in a location you’ve never been. Now add on the fact that it could rain, snow or even HAIL on your wedding day… To some, that may be scary, but to others that sounds like a damn good time. No matter where you land on the scale of ‘adventure’ there are plenty of options in your comfort level in southern Colorado! I’ll walk you through the exact steps you’ll need to start planning your adventurous Ouray elopement.

Bride and groom stand amongst the wildflowers for their elopement in Ouray.

1.) Book Your Specialized Ouray Elopement Photographer

I know, it may seem weird to hire a photographer or planner before you even know where you’re going to get married. However, local photographers/planners might be able to help you find your dream ceremony location! Plus these vendors tend to book out far in advance. I would not recommend waiting until the last minute for this step if you plan to have professional photography.

Before you hire a photographer, you need to know what kind of photography style you’re drawn to. I highly recommend looking into different styles on social media. Instagram and Pinterest are always a great place to start.

  • What are you drawn to? Do you love vivid colors? Are you looking for a photographer who has more of a classic feel? Maybe you’re drawn towards ‘light and airy’ or ‘dark and moody’. I recommend doing a little research and forming your own opinion.

When hiring a photographer for your Ouray elopement, ask these questions to yourself:

  • Request to see at least 2 to 3 full elopement galleries. This will give you an idea of what to expect as a future client.
  • Ask your photographer if travel fees are included. If they are traveling in from another area/state then additional fees may apply. This is typical with other wedding vendors as well.
  • If you want to hike or off-road to your ceremony location, be sure to ask your photographer and ensure they are up for the challenge.

You’ll find all photographers work very differently and many of them can even help you PLAN your elopement! That’s right.. They will help you find a location, plan for the best lighting of the day, tell you when to show up, what to bring, and then document every last detail. If that’s what you’re looking for then check out my starting prices for Colorado elopements! *shameless plug*

Groom lends a hand to help his bride cross a rock. The gorgeous snowy mountains of Ouray Colorado take over the scenery behind them.
Bride reads her wedding vows to her husband with Mt. Sneffels in the background.

2.) Find Your Elopement Ceremony Location

The first thing you’re going to want to think about is what season you prefer on your wedding day. Do you prefer snow? Lush green forests? Maybe wildflowers and waterfalls? Maybe expansive forests of vibrant yellow aspens are more your speed. 

Every season has its pros and cons. Once you narrow down your vision you can check out the average temperatures, precipitation, and snowfall via the Western Regional Climate Center.

If you’d like to hike or off-road and want to avoid snow on the ground, then I highly recommend mid-June to September for your adventurous elopement day! Even in late June, you might still run into snow blocking your path at higher elevations.

Newlywed couple stand in the streets of downtown Ouray Colorado for elopement photos. They wanted to capture the night sky in downtown Ouray with the lights and the moon alpenglow on the mountains behind them.

Tips On Finding A Location For Your Elopement Or Intimate Wedding

  • ALWAYS follow Leave No Trace (LNT) guidelines – Learn More Here
  • Google Earth Pro, Google Maps, All Trails and CO Trex are great places to start when it comes to narrowing down your ceremony location near Ouray
  • National Parks and State Parks typically allow small ceremonies and elopements
  • National Forest and Bureau of Land Management land may available for elopements and very small groups. Many wilderness areas in Colorado restrict against groups of 14 people or more to avoid erosion and damage to the ecosystem.
  • The best way to scout out a ceremony location is in person. If you’re not available to do that then your best bet is to hire a photographer or planner who is familiar with the area.
  • Before making any official plans, be sure to reach out to the entity that manages the land. You’ll want to ask if a special use permit is required and if commercial photography is allowed for your event. If these fees are required, be sure to ask the cost and how soon you should apply.
An adventurous newlywed eloping couple walks along the side of a mountain in Ouray. The sunset lights up the 13,000 foot mountain in front of them. They chose Paige Weber Photography as their Colorado elopement photographer and this was their secret elopement spot!

Katie & Alex's Off-Roading Elopement

They had never visited Colorado before their wedding day, and completely trusted me to guide them on the adventure of a lifetime.

Brittney & Zach's Winter Elopement

This beautiful elopement took place at a backup location. Even with re-aligning the schedule due to snow, it was the perfect snowy elopement. PS – Campfires in the snow are EVEN BETTER!

A groom in a white and black suit snuggles into his new wife. She embraces his head to warm him up as they got married in the snow for their winter adventure elopement in Ouray.
A groom in a white and black suit snuggles into his new wife. She embraces his head to warm him up as they got married in the snow for their winter adventure elopement in Ouray.

Brittney & Zach's Winter Elopement

This beautiful elopement took place at a backup location. Even with re-aligning the schedule due to snow, it was the perfect snowy elopement. PS – Campfires in the snow are EVEN BETTER!

3.) Hire Your Local Wedding Vendors

You can choose to skip this step entirely or go all out. If you’re not sure who you might need to hire, then here is a list of the typical vendors that I see couples hire for their Ouray elopement or intimate weddings:

  • Hair & Makeup Artist
  • Florist
  • Officiant
  • Videographer
  • Jeep Rental or Professional Jeep Tour Guide
  • Baker
  • Private chef
  • Musician
  • Stationery artist
  • Decor rentals

There are so many amazing wedding vendors in Colorado who work in Ouray, and many of them work with a lot of eloping couples! Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions on recommendations.

Pro Tip: It’s best to hire vendors located close to your ceremony location to avoid additional travel fees. Sometimes the best vendors are worth the travel fees!

Bride and groom share a first kiss after eloping in Ouray Colorado. This couple eloped in April, so the mountains behind them still had snow on them.

4.) Book Your Travel Plans

The best way to get to Ouray is by plane or by driving from a nearby regional airport.

First, figure out how many people are coming with you. The more people that attend, the more expensive it will be (both financially and in terms of time). We recommend two people at the most—that way, it will feel intimate and personal without being too much work.

Next, you will need to book your accommodations, possibly a car rental, and a flight in order to access Ouray. The closest airport is the Montrose regional airtport which is just under an hour away from Ouray. Alternatively, you can fly into Telluride which is just over an hour away from Ouray (but more expensive). If you choose to drive from Denver instead of flying, it will take nearly 6 hours but it’s a stunning drive!

Newlywed couple stand in front of Twin Falls for a photo to show how big the mountains are in Ouray.

5.) Plan Your Elopement Timeline

The biggest misconception about elopements is they only take 1 to 2 hours. Your wedding day deserves so much more than that.

Here's how to get started on planning your timeline:

1.) Write down the series of events that you’re imagining on your wedding day so far. It’s OK if you’re not sure yet! Here are a few ideas/activities you could do on your elopement day in Ouray that might get your brain going:

  • Getting ready photos
  • First look
  • Hiking or off-roading
  • Reading private vows at sunset
  • Picnics
  • Helicopter tour of the San Juans
  • Laying in a hammock
  • Kayaking or paddle boarding
  • Stargazing
  • Sitting by a campfire
  • Making s’mores
  • Having a dance party
  • Popping champagne
  • Jeep tour to the top of a mountain
  • Having a nice dinner with your family and friends
  • Kayaking or paddle boarding
  • Playing board games

2.) Decide what time of the day you’d like to get married. Undeniably, sunrise or sunset is typically recommended for the best lighting and the least amount of crowds. Using Google Earth Pro or another similar satellite imaging tool, research the best time of day for that particular location on your wedding day.

3.) Once you have the list of the things you’d like to do it’s time to put it all together!  Go ahead and organize your elopement activities in a high level overview in sequential order from the beginning of the day. I prefer bullet points! Once complete, you can begin to fill in the gaps with other necessary time for travel, getting ready, etc.

4.) Finally, it’s time to start adding the timeframes to your timeline. Take the best lighting times from step 2. You’re going to want to plan your vow reading/ceremony and your portraits around this time, then work backwards and forwards to complete the timeline from there. 

An intimate wedding takes place in Yankee Boy Basin in the rain. The couple is reading their wedding vows with their guests present.

Example of high level timeline for an adventurous Ouray elopement:

  • 3:45PM – Getting ready
  • 5:00PM – First Look
  • 5:15PM – Drive to ceremony location
  • 6:00PM – Hike and explore
  • 6:40PM – Sunset vow reading
  • 7:00PM – Explore & take it all in
  • 7:30PM- Dedicated time for couple’s portraits
  • 8:00PM – Pop champagne
  • 8:10PM – Travel to campsite
  • 8:30PM – Light a campfire and have dinner in the forest
  • 9:15PM – End the night with stargazing

PRO TIP: If you have me as your elopement photographer I will do all of this for you! Including guiding you through the brainstorming session.

Bride laughs as she wears her groom's jacket and he pulls her in to snuggle her for warmth.
Newlywed couple in wedding attire show off their wedding rings after eloping in the snowy mountains of Ouray.

6.) Plan Ahead To Get Your Marriage License

Surprisingly, this part is easy! You’re going to want to plan ahead to get your marriage license. Technically, I can’t technically give you legal advice, but I can direct you in the right place to look. 

All the information to get your marriage license in Ouray county can be found here

PRO TIP: You don’t have to get your marriage license in the same county you’re getting married in. Most counties in small towns are only open Monday – Thursday so plan accordingly.

7.) Be Ready For Anything Colorado Throws Your Way

Finally, you’re going to want to throw away high expectations. Just focus on love and each other. If you’re getting married in nature and the great outdoors, sometimes things can go wrong. It’s all about how you deal with those things and how you prepare ahead of time.

There is not bad weather, only bad clothing! Come prepared, research ahead of time and you will have one epic wedding day in the beautiful Ouray, Colorado!

Eloping couple drinks champagne right from the bottle. They are holding clear umbrellas because it just started to rain for their Ouray elopement.

Tips on How to Prepare for your Ouray Elopement

Ouray, Colorado is a great place to get married if you’re looking for some romance and adventure. Here are my top tips for eloping in Ouray:

  • Don’t forget quality waterproof hiking boots
  • Bring more water and food than you think you’ll need
  • To avoid altitude sickness: Eat well and drink a ton of water.
  • Start planning your elopement at least 6 months in advance
  • Book your accommodations sooner rather than later
  • Be prepared for wildlife & quick moving afternoon storms
  • Always follow leave no trace principles
  • Make time to visit the hot springs
  • Hike the Ouray perimeter trail and visit Box Canyon

Are You Looking For An Ouray Elopement Photographer?

Eloping can be a fun, simple way to celebrate your love. But planning an adventurous elopement in nature has an extra set of obstacles, and it’s best to hire someone who knows the area.

As an elopement photographer who has worked extensively in Colorado, I have the knowledge and experience necessary to help you plan your perfect elopement in Ouray! My goal is to make sure that every detail is accounted for and that you’re comfortable and relaxed on your special day.

We’ll start with a consultation where we’ll get to know each other, talk about your vision for your wedding day, and discuss what you want from me as a photographer. Then we’ll look at my portfolio together and see if there are any images that inspire you—we can use those as inspiration for our session! From there, we’ll move forward with booking your date (with availability) and getting started on creating the perfect wedding day experience for you!



Not because you should, but because you can.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *