Destination weddings in Colorado have become big business in the wedding industry. Couples from all over the world are imagining themselves saying their nuptials with majestic peaks in the background. Maybe the couples has previously vacationed here and fallen in love with the state or perhaps like one of the couples I photographed a couple years ago the bride had never seen snow before and had always wanted to get married on a snow covered mountain top! Whatever your reason for getting married in Colorado it’s now easier than ever to do! The internet has given everyone the key to searching out thousands of venues and vendors. Couples can check out photos and videos of properties, search by price point and even view reviews from others who have used the vendors in the past. Tools like email, FaceTime and Skype make is easier to do virtual meetings to discuss your needs and concerns that some couples choose to book some or even all their wedding vendors without ever meeting in person! If this is something you plan on doing here is some tips to help you navigate choosing the best vendors!
1.) Consider hiring a Wedding Planner – I’m all for do it “yourselfers” that want to save money, but sometimes a planner is a huge help in facilitating the wedding of your dreams; especially if you don’t live or know anyone where you plan on hosting your event. A planner can have more insight on particular venues and vendors and can even in some cases save couples money by helping them find the best value for what they want to spend. If hiring a planner isn’t in your budget, look for venues with amazing on-site coordinators. When booking a site that includes an on-site coordinator make sure you get a list of their duties so you know what you’re getting. Some venues provide a coordinator purely to protect their own interests. The coordinator is just there to turn on and off the lights, show you what you can and can not do and make sure guests don’t destroy the property. Others offer full on planning services as well. They help with decorating, organizing guests and the wedding party and more. Just make sure you are aware of what they will and will not do especially if you are paying extra for them.
2.) Hiring Pros…when to choose someone from home and when to go with someone locally – Hiring some local vendors are much more obvious. Hiring a caterer from home and expecting them to haul out all of their gear etc. can become very cost prohibitive. So looking at local caterers is probably recommended. Others might not be so cut and dry… not to shoot myself in the foot, as I would love your photo and video business, but sometimes you have built a repertoire with a photographer who lives near you and you really want to use them. I completely get that! I myself have covered a number of destination weddings for people who have grown to love my work. I’ve covered weddings in Florida, the Virgin Islands and even Costa Rica! But sometimes choosing a photographer who lives and works in the area you’re getting married in can be very beneficial. They might work at your venue on a regular basis or know some amazing off the beaten path spots to take photographs. Consider the travel costs you might have to cover when bringing a vendor with you. Sometimes these costs can double the cost of the service they provide.
3.) Do your research and set a budget in advance – Talk with all the parties involved to set-up realistic budgets for each service you are looking for prior to meeting with venues and vendors. In your research don’t be afraid to ask the business what their starting prices are and a rough estimate of what their services would cost for what you need. Caterers this might go off of an estimated guest count and food preference. Photographers and videographers might charge for how much time you want them to document your event and whether or not you want more than one cameraman present. Disc Jockeys and musicians usually start with the time-frame they will be playing music and then add-on for things like extra lighting. Once you have found a few vendors in your price range only set-up meetings (whether they are on the phone or in person) with vendors who are in the range of your budget.
4.) Visit your Destination Location – If at all possible schedule a scouting trip to the area you are looking to getting married at during the time of year that you plan on hosting your event. Photos of a property are great, but we all know that photographers have ways to take the photos showing the venue off in it’s best light and can doctor the images using Photoshop! It’s good to see and meet vendor in person whenever possible. Remember that great venues and vendors book up quickly so while I recommend doing your due diligence with all services, if you have a particular date in mind it might be wise to do this sooner than later because for most vendors once they are booked they’re no longer available to take on more work. Don’t be afraid to ask for past client referrals!
5.) Get it in writing! – Make sure the vendors you hire always use a contract and be sure to review the contracts before signing. Bring up any concerns to the vendor before you sign and give them a deposit. If the vendor doesn’t provide it for you, ask them for an itemized list of everything that is included in the quoted price. At a destination wedding, it’s especially important to make sure things like pick up and drop off of items are being handled by the vendor and everyone is on the same page of timing and what’s included. Be sure to think about things that make it easier for guests traveling to your destination like room blocking at hotels and shuttle service to and from ceremony and reception locations.
6.) Go with your Gut – If after meeting with a vendor for any service something feels “off”, but you can’t put your finger on it listen to what your subconscious is trying to tell you. Some red flags to consider: disparaging talk about a current or past clients (unless it’s to explain how they handled a challenging situation without naming the clients), how quickly they return emails and phone calls (sometimes with emails it’s just technology failing, don’t hesitate to pick up a phone and call them), trying to strong arm you into features or add-ons that you might not need or judgemental comments about your budget and an unwillingness to work within it. While vendors all understand budgets please don’t call a vendor that says their prices start at “X” price expecting them to do basically the same service they are advertising for at a 1/3 of the price! There may be a little wiggle room in some vendors prices, but don’t expect over a 5-10% difference.
Finishing up on our final Willow Ridge Manor wedding for the year… this amazing wedding of a couple that has shared 29 years of their life together before they were able to finally tie the knot! Marta and Sheri had an amazing wedding with a ceremony that started out with pure entertainment from a flash mob as they walked in. I’m not sharing the music that they danced into in their highlight video due to copyright concerns from the big league artist’s songs they used, but it was awesome! It was the first time we’ve captured a scene like that for a couple. I’m guessing it took lots of practice not only for the dancers, but for the lovely ladies as too. I also wanted to mention their floral arrangements as well. The couple chose to go with eco friendly alternative flowers that were absolutely stunning and did not look like “fake” flowers at all. I was quite impressed with both the style and quality of these arrangements. Chris and I had a blast doing photos and video for this happy couple! Enjoy some of my favorite photos below.
Vendors Who Made This Day Possible:
Venue: Willow Ridge Manor
Caterer: Fresh Tracks
Disc Jockey: DJ Guy
Cake: Nothing Bundt Cakes
Florist: Flintwood Floral and Design
Photography & Video: Crystaline Photography & Video
Time to chat about the non-traditional/traditional wedding… which really seems to be the way a lot of today’s couples are going. It’s really a way to put your own stamp on your event. Ryan and Anna really wanted to do their wedding in a manner that was special to them and stayed within their budget. Their Harry Potter theme was awesome! Anna wore a non-traditional black wedding gown and a black opal wedding ring set. They also opted to have a food truck serve all of their guests which not only kept their catering costs down, but made amazing cusine. This venue is great in that it allows couples to use any vendors that they want which can save you a ton of money in the long run. It has amazing views and a rustic charm that is perfect for Colorado.
Anna contacted me because not only had I photographed her friend’s wedding last year, but also because we’re recommended by the venue. It had been a couple years since we’ve covered an event here. A lot of improvements have been made to the facility in that time. The first being getting ready areas for both the bride and the groom. This helps a lot! All of your wedding party can get ready on site making it easier for your photographer to capture those moments along with keeping you on schedule for all of your events. I had a lot of fun photographing these two… we had amazing weather, an awesome wedding party that was willing to go above and beyond for these two and lots of helpful friends and family that really helped to put this event together. Thanks again for having me capture your special day!
Vendors who made this day possible:
Venue – Evergreen Red Barn
Caterer – The Cravings Food Truck
Photography: Crystaline Photography & Video
This destination wedding for this couple from Missouri was amazing! So many couples coming from the plains to get married in the mountains lately! It’s awesome! And this couple did it right… they came with just their close family and friends. There were only about 20-30 people total for the sharing of their nuptials in a field by this Air B&B rental. No caterer to pay for, no large venue, a friend grilled steaks for everyone, no florist, even a friend did their photography… this opened up their budget to have me videotape this important event for them! It was a great day… but any day I get to spend in the mountains is a great day! Enjoy this highlight video from their perfect day!
I’m starting to see a trend of smaller bridal parties for weddings this year. I’ve covered quite a few this Summer that only had a maid of honor and best man or no attendants. I think people are looking to have a little bit more of an intimate affair. They are picking their best friends or siblings to stand up with them and then just inviting their friends to attend the party. It’s a great way to save some money and also avoid conflicts, but still have an amazing wedding. Check out Erin & Jerod’s intimate event below we had an amazing time capturing this special day for them! Enjoy!
They say it’s lucky on your wedding day to have rain. I’m not sure the person who came up with that saying has ever had to tell a bride that rain was going to push back their ceremony! Regardless of the weather these two had an amazing day. The venue had umbrellas for all of the guests and the couple were still able to share their vows outdoors! We took all of the family group portraits up under the portico and when the skies finally parted we went back down to the red rocks to do some more of the small wedding party and just the two of them. I always love how bright the colors are in everything after a quick shower! And we even got a rainbow in some of the photos (it was pretty bright so a little hard to see)
Vendors who made this day possible:
Venue: Willow Ridge Manor
Caterer: Rocky Mountain Catering
Disc Jockey: DJ Connections
Florist: Hawk Flowers
Cake: Gold Mine Cupcakes
Hair and Makeup : Bel Viso
Photography & Video: Crystaline Photography and Video
I absolutely adore Winter weddings and especially when they are centered around a couple’s love of skiing and the mountains! Welcome to Colorado! Katie knew from a young age that she would someday tie the knot at her family’s favorite vacation spot, Copper Mountain Resort! Their beautiful chilly day wedding was perfect from the beginning to the end. Low stress, fun for friends and family and a true celebration for the couple. Here are some of my favorite photos from the day!
The bride insisted on skiing down the mountain to her waiting groom which took a little bit of planning to facilitate because she had to wait for the last chair lift up the mountain at the end of the day. We decided to do a first look with her and her groom before the ceremony so that they could also get in some photos with the fabulous covered bridge in the village! Love, love these photos!
Here she is getting in to the gondola with some friends for the ride up the mountain and the lovely ceremony that followed…. Luckily, they found out there was a warming hut at the top of the gondola to wait in for the 4:30pm ceremony time!
Everyone was treated to hot chocolate as they waited for the ceremony to begin and each seat had a cozy blanket to warm up with! The ceremony was set up as a come as you are dressed event so that guests could enjoy skiing right up to the ceremony start time. After the ceremony and a few formal portraits the guests went back to their rooms to change into their more formal attire for the reception held back in the magically transformed ski lodge! What an amazing day!
Vendors who made this day possible:
Venue & Caterer – Copper Mountain Ski Resort
Florist – Lucy’s Flower and Design
Musician & DJ – Gordon Avenue
Photography – Crystaline Photography & Video
We’re very excited to share the highlight video above and favorite photos below from Chris & Julia’s end of September wedding in Denver at the historic Grant Humphrey’s Mansion. Chris and Julia put a lot of love and care into their big day! The bride made all of the gorgeous paper flowers herself for not only the bouquets, but also for each and every one of the centerpieces for this wedding. They were absolutely stunning! So much so that I told her she should start a business of just doing this for other couples! Not that she would have any time because she is playing violin with the Denver Philharmonic! She even took the time to share a piece with her guests before the dinner service started at the mansion. We ended up with a very beautiful warm day for this event and it was great being back at this iconic wedding venue in Denver! Thanks for having us capture your special day!
Vendors who made the day possible:
Venue: Grant Humphrey’s Mansion
Caterer: Relish Catering & Events
Disc Jockey: Soundmaster Entertainment
Baker: Gateux Bakery
Paper Flowers by The Bride Herself!
Bride’s Dress: Vera Wang
Bridesmaid Dresses: Azazie
Tuxedos: JoS A Bank
Photo & Video: Crystaline Photography & Video
In a wedding that is just a small step up from an elopement Joshua & Rosa decided to hold their event on a mountainside in Genesee Park one morning in July! With just their immediate family and one close friend (just 10 guests). The park offered a beautiful picturesque view without a lot of hassle. A few rented chairs, an officiant, flowers put together by the bride, a bluetooth speaker and their photographer (me) and they were all set. Again proving that love doesn’t have to wait for thousands of dollars to host an event. After their nuptial vows and some formal portraits the couple along with their family headed back down the mountain to have a celebratory luncheon at Maggiano’s in Denver. A beautiful day for a beautiful couple.
It’s a whole new ball game for photographers when it comes to weddings…. gone are the days when one “Uncle Bob” shows up with a nice camera wanting to take photos of the same wedding the photographer is getting paid to cover. Now every person attending a wedding has a pretty decent camera in their pockets in the form of a “smart phone” and for some reason this has given wedding guests the idea that the photos taken from such phones are wanted and/or needed making it more difficult for the actual paid professional to complete their assigned duties! A couple years ago it was a nuisance at best, however in 2018 if you have not asked your guests to refrain from taking photos at least during the ceremony it can become an all out war fighting guests for the best spot to photograph the happy couple.
Now you may be asking yourself “What’s the Big Deal? Why wouldn’t we want more images from our wedding that can be provided by our guests?” And that is a great question because I have seen some great photos taken by guests over the years, and maybe they capture something that the photographer has missed while he or she is photographing other things. It makes me happy knowing that others have captured other angles or events that I may have missed, but it literally breaks my heart when a guest ruins a perfect photo opportunity by jumping in front of me when I’m capturing a key moment of the day; mainly because I know that the photo that they just had to get will more than likely be blurry, low resolution or perhaps the couple will never see because it doesn’t get posted or even given to them! If I had been able to get the shot that I had prepared myself for than my clients would be happy. Shots like I knew we were just seconds away from like “the first kiss” that would’ve been a key element in their wedding album!
I’m including some photos from recent weddings that I’ve covered in this blog post with the faces of the couple and guests blurred out because my objective is not to shame these people, but rather to inform the public the benefits of an “Unplugged Wedding” or at the very least an “Unplugged Ceremony”. I’ve been in the business for 18 years. Not to make myself look old, but I started out assisting my mother who was a pro in the days of film. It’s been sad watching the progression of seeing the smiling faces of wedding guests during the ceremony when the bride walks down the aisle to seeing faces hidden behind cameras and tablets. It really looks like the guests are more engaged with their phones than the actual wedding.
The most recent wedding I covered I literally had to push between at least four woman all vying for a position to photograph the couple. How was I ever to get the photos I was getting paid to take without having to be a little rude to guests. One time I was covering a Jewish wedding and I and my 2nd cameraman were both positioned for a crucial shot. When the rabbi got to the end of the ceremony and the couple were about to smash the glass an important Jewish tradition. Suddenly, a big guy sitting up front jumped up with his iPad blocking both of our views and so you can’t see the groom stomping on the glass at all! It’s not like I could yell, hey you up front move! Guests standing in the aisle of the photos also makes me sad because no matter what when you look at the photo your eyes go directly to the person standing in the aisle taking the photo and not to the actual subject of the photo.
I also really cringe when guests try to take photos over my shoulder during the formals. Usually, we are already under a time crunch so this extra interference doesn’t help. Flashes from others cameras can ruin my photos and the eyes of my subjects tend to wander to whomever is trying to take an additional photo and so they won’t be focused on my camera. And it can make guests angry if I have to tell them to put down their cameras. It’s better just to leave these photos up to the professionals. I’m not even interested in making money off print sales as most of my clients are getting all of their high resolution digital files anyways. I just want their photos to be the best that they can be, so the respectful thing is to let the photographer do their job.
So for the distinguished couple comes the new trend that is actually kind of sad that it has to be done… “The Unplugged Wedding”. Other than having your guests surrender their phones at the door to the venue like they do at some comedy shows now to protect the artists’ routines, some wise person came up with the idea of the “Unplugged Wedding”. The idea is plain enough in that it’s a simple request from the couple to their guests to turn off all of their electronic devices (even if it’s just for the actual ceremony only) and to be present in the moment for their special day. To facilitate this couples will not only write this in their wedding program, but also create signs to have displayed at their event and/or ask their wedding officiant to make an announcement during the opening remarks before the processional begins. I’ve only actually been to a couple weddings so far that put this idea into practice and I can tell you it was completely worth it! The photos and video during the ceremony that we took at these events were all amazing and the guests look like people participating in something rather than screen zombies!
I know selfies are a thing now and so are wedding hashtags, but if I were getting married today instead of 12 years ago when I did get married I would be going for a fully unplugged wedding with the reception included. Smart phones were around when I got married, but they weren’t as prevalent as they are today. My mother has always been the photographer in our family, but I ordered her not to bring her camera to my wedding because I wanted her to be present, to enjoy herself and to not be concerned about whether or not she was getting enough photos. And for one of the few times in my life I saw her at an important event in our family’s lives without a camera in hand and she was loving it! I also ended up with some beautiful photos with her in them which are few and far between because she was always the person taking them. I researched my photographer thoroughly, I had seen his work and I spent more money on that then almost everything else (besides food) because photos were that important to me. And I didn’t worry about a thing. He covered every moment of our big day, nothing was missed. I saw maybe two people pull out other cameras that day. I received one disk of photos from one of those people and almost every image was either blurry, over exposed and just not up to my standards. The other person posted a few on Facebook and I never saw the rest. I’m so grateful for the photographer that I hired and happy that I got married in another time!
I loved working with Angelina & Darrin to create their dream wedding in the mountains! This was another case of less is more! This couple planned a destination wedding here in Colorado from their home state of Illinois. Angie and I spent quite a bit a time on the phone discussing the special places that she wanted to go to do some of their photos, colors, and more. I even ended up fielding a call for where they should look to rent chairs! I just enjoy helping couples plan their big day and having seen almost every kind of wedding imaginable over the years, I can almost always point them in the right direction for their needs. This couple had camped in Golden Gate Canyon State Park many times prior to their wedding so having it here just seemed like the best idea! It was a simple affair with I think with no more than 20 guests. They utilized the Harmsen Guest House in the park where their parents were staying as the getting ready area and held their beautiful ceremony at Panorama Point. On most days this location yields a beautiful 180 degree view of mountain peaks, but unfortunately, the mountains were fogged in during their ceremony. Luckily, the clouds parted right after the vows and we were able to get quite a few photos with them in the background. After the family photos we did a couple mini hikes to a couple more spots with amazing views for photos and then afterwards headed to Black Hawk which is just a short drive from the park. The Saratoga Casino houses The Mill Chophouse on their top floor where the small dinner was held. The food was amazing and abundant! I think each person present went home with a “to-go” bag! It was a beautiful day and I’m glad I got to spend it with them!
Reception Venue: The Mill City Chophouse at Saratoga Casino
Chair Rental – Area Rent Alls
Officiant: Edwin Ward