When love is in the air and you don’t have the big budget for a huge celebration a simple elopement can also be a great way to tie the knot! Couples get married for a ton of reasons, and sometimes those reasons require a quick and easy solmization at the local courthouse. This doesn’t mean they should also skip the capturing of memories! I’ve captured many elopements in my over 23 year career! Some of my favorites are held at the Downtown Denver Courthouses. These majestic buildings offer an amazing background for your photos and are also close to some great restaurants, museums and other parks that not only make for great picture opportunities, but could also be amazing for a small celebration after the vows are exchanged; either just the two of you or with a small group of friends and family. Check out these photos from a beautiful Winter elopement I captured for this couple wanting to tie the knot before a big move out of state. It allowed them to capture the city they fell in love at with a few friends with some great memories!
If you are at the beginning stages of wedding planning or fully engulfed in the process unless you are a royal with an unlimited budget then you more than likely have some sort of budget in mind for your event. Some couples have a large 20,000+ budget, some have a modest 10,000+ budget and some are working with just a few thousand dollars. Did you know that the average price of a wedding in Colorado is now $30,000? The picturesque venues start at around $7000 for a weekend event and most caterers are charging $100+ a person per a meal. Those costs alone are going to add up quickly and with a very modest budget are not going to leave you much for extra for all the other vendors needed at a wedding. The best way to start figuring out your budget and how much to spend on each vendor is to prioritize what is most important to you.
If you have a $10,000 budget I highly suggest not blowing it all on the venue. There are options out there for couples with this minimal budget such as parks and recreation rentals or even churches offer a more affordable alternative to the high ticket wedding venue. If you have a $20,000+ budget then by all means book that amazing venue. A location with a beautiful view and lovely decor might even save you some money in decorating just because it may not need much more. The time of the year you host your event might also effect the pricing. Some venues even offer savings for hosting an off season event. Depending on the venue this time-frame in Colorado is typically November through March.
A trend in the wedding venue companies is to now offer all inclusive packages. These venues advertise as a one stop shop that is supposed to save couples money and the hassle of looking for all of their other vendors. I’ve worked at a few of these types of venues over the years and can see the advantages and disadvantages to them. The main benefit being that you will probably be able to host an event for under the cost of the average Colorado wedding (sometimes) if you use all of their vendors. The disadvantage of this concept will be that because vendors on these lists are often making their services available for under the market value they are also having to pay their employees under the market value for their work. For instance the DJ hired to fulfill these packages is often a college kid with maybe one or two events under his belt and you won’t be allowed to chat with him directly before your event. This person may not know how to keep a dance floor full, what announcements that need to be made or even how to handle a problem with equipment should it arise. My thoughts about this is to make sure you are able to vet all of the vendors they use. Make sure that you are able to replace vendors with your own when necessary and that it won’t cost you extra to use your own. There are still advantages to being able to create your event the way you want it to be even if it may cost a little more.
Some venues that do not provide food onsite might also require that you choose a caterer off their preferred list. Typically, there are reasons for this requirement. The main one being they’ve worked with these vendors a number of times already. The venue knows the quality of the service they provide and want to make sure that the same quality is provided to the guests they are hosting as it reflects poorly on the venue if the service is bad. If the venue you want to book has a list of caterers you must choose from then request a list of them before you book the venue so you can reach out them to figure out the average pricing. I’ve seen it a hundred times… couples book a venue because they are offering a great deal only to find out after the fact that the caterers on the venue’s list are all out of their price range! Ask questions!!!
After you list all of the items needed to service your wedding, rearrange them in order of importance and then research the average cost of each service and decide on how much you’d like to spend on each item. Leave a little wiggle room in your budget for services that are of the most important to you. For instance if photography is at the top of your list and you’ve budgeted $3000 for it but you found a photographer who’s work you love and personality clicks with yours but they charge $3500 don’t compromise on that service, instead take that $500 off your budget somewhere else. Maybe you had $500 earmarked for wedding favors, but do guests really need some tchotchke that will more than likely end up in the trash after the event? Probably not, but if your wedding photos get screwed up you will remember that forever! Don’t be afraid to ask vendors if they can work with your budget. The worse they can say is no.
Remember that there are also a lot of little items that add up quickly as well. I once covered a beautiful DIY wedding held in a tent on the property of the bride’s parents. The day of the event she told me that she thought they were going to save money by hosting it themselves, but by the time they rented everything they needed (including the porta potties, something they had forgotten about) they were at the cost of the most of the venues they toured, but had all of the hassle of having to set up everything themselves! Her biggest regret was not having researched the costs of everything that would be needed to do the event themselves and having to beg friends and family to do all the heavy lifting!
The biggest take away you should get from this article is to do the research. Ask questions from your top picked vendors, read reviews and research some more before you sign on the line. Prioritize what’s most important to you and understand that priorities are different for every couple. Just because your best friend dropped a ton of money on a band at her wedding doesn’t mean you have to if hiring a DJ will still fit within your vision and save you some dough.
Happy wedding planning!!! Reach out if you need some advice. We’ve worked at tons of venues throughout Colorado both big and small. We truly believe that every couple deserves to have the wedding of their dreams no matter what their budget!
November is becoming a more popular time of year to get married, due to it being a little bit off “wedding” season. There are usually savings to be had if a couple chooses a venue during their off peak times. And if you book around the Thanksgiving holiday you might still get a time when all your relatives are planning on gathering anyways! It’s typically not a great time to get married outdoors because the weather is hit or miss and the trees have lost all of their foliage, but with a beautiful venue with indoor photo options it can still be a wonderful event.
Ashlee and Jacob still wanted to host an outdoor ceremony, but provided blankets for guests to warm up. The ballroom at this venue is really close to the outdoor ceremony site so guests were able to view the quick outdoor ceremony and had straight up to the mansion to warm up and enjoy the cocktail hour while we finished up with a few more photos of this couple with their small wedding party. Check out some of our favorites from an awesome venue we love working at Willow Ridge Manor in Morrison, CO.
Venue: Willow Ridge Manor
Photography: Crystaline Photography and Video
Officiant: Rev. Scott Awbrey
Cake: Nothing Bundt Cakes
Caterer: Rocky Mountain Catering
1. The Photo-Booth Guest Book – Not only does this fun idea give your guests a fun activity, but it can also serve as your wedding favors. Your guests will have a memorable moment that is captured, printed and to take home with them. The photo-booth guest book option allows you to also get photos of all your guests attending along with leaving space for the guests to leave some well wishes to the couple. Most booth companies (the booth our company offers) also include digital files that can be downloaded by anyone from the internet too!
2. Found Items to Sign – Typically this is an item that means something to the couple that has been turned into a piece of art for collecting the signatures of their loved ones. The top photo is a motorcycle gas tank as the couple getting married were avid riders and had a shared passion for bikes. The photo below the tank is a custom made snowboard that not only fit the Colorado theme, but the couple’s snow filled ski weekend wedding.
3. Postcards and Mailbox – Set out postcards that guests can write a longer message to the couple with a fun unique way to collect them. The mailbox will also be a cute addition to the couple’s new home once they purchase one!
4. Custom Signage – Lots of sites such as Etsy and Amazon offer custom made signage or if you have a craftsman in the family that can create one for you. It can be created from a wood piece or something else that will make an awesome piece of art to hang on your wall after the big day is over.
5. Photo Guest Book – Take some of your amazing photos from your engagement session and turn them into an awesome photo guest book. An album with pictures will be looked at a whole lot more than your standard blank guest book with just signatures. Remember to use archival pens that do not smear.
6. Little Pieces for Memories – Adding your name to a wooden heart or personalized puzzle is another fun idea. The puzzle can be enjoyed by the couple everytime they put it together and the heart display box will make a lovely home decoration for the couple.
7. Framed Mat & Photo – Set-up a large mat for collecting signatures with an open space for placing one of your amazing wedding photos in it. While it’s on display at your wedding venue make sure you use it as an opportunity to display one of your favorite photos of you as a couple before the big day!
8. Keys Attached to Advice – The “Key” to any good marriage is lots of helpful advice. Set up a space with keys attached to tags for wedding guest signatures and lots of helpful advice.
9. Custom Books, Coffee Table Book or Book Special to the Couple – A few weddings I’ve been to used a coffee table book with photos from the area they were getting married at to collect signatures. The top photo shows a couple that created their own fabulous book for signatures. The bottom photo is from a Superhero themed wedding. They used a comic book depicting Superman & Wonder Woman in love to collect the signatures of friends and family.
10. Video Toasts – Not really a “Guest Book” per se but giving your guests the option to say something to you on your wedding video helps you to capture your family and friends in a special way that 2D doesn’t offer. We offer this to any couple that has booked one of our full wedding video coverage packages with two videographers. We can either set up a dedicated space to collect “well wishes” from guests or go around during the cocktail hour to see if people have anything to say to the couple. Years from now it will be wonderful to hear the voices of your loved ones on your wedding video!
Kerry & Augustus planned their big day for over two years due to Covid issues and because it was still a factor in 2021 they decided to host a very small event with just 40 of their closest friends and family at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Denver, Colorado. Because it was such an intimate event I suggested taking a group photo of everyone present on the outside steps in front of the church. This is something that can’t always be done at large weddings, but will be a great way to document everyone who was able to be there. After their very traditional ceremony and formals in the church we stopped by Washington Park on our way to the reception to get some beautiful photos with the fall colors of just the two of them. Another idea came to mind when we passed by an ice cream truck because the couple had told me they were not doing a traditional cake cutting at the reception…. I said how about a shared ice cream! And an adorable relaxed photo of just the two of them resulted in this impromptu photo.
The reception at the newly remodeled Doubletree Hotel in Cherry Creek was a simple affair with heartfelt speeches in front of the traditional paper crane backdrop created by the bride who folded hundreds of paper cranes for the event! After dinner the entertainment for the evening was casino style gambling for all of their guests. A very unique and fun option for this amazing couple. Enjoy some of my favorite photos from the big day!
Another beautiful fall wedding from last season! This bed and breakfast is an amazing small venue to host weddings and events in the mountains, but just a short drive from Denver in Pine, Colorado. It’s especially beautiful in the fall because it has a meadow with aspen trees surrounding it! Marci & Eddie came to us via a referral from another couple who’s wedding we covered already almost a decade ago! It’s awesome when couples think so highly of us that they recommend us for friends and families’ events. This October wedding had our whole crew out again for it… Chris was filming their video, I was covering the photography and my husband, Michael was providing the entertainment with his company Digital DJ. Having the whole crew just makes the day so much easier for us to cover.
Check out their wedding highlight video above and some of my favorite photos from their event below! My favorite thing about this couple was Eddie’s boisterous laugh! These two envelope what love means and make us so very happy to just be there to capture it!
We just passed this couple’s first year anniversary at the beginning of October! Congratulations again to Pascal and Jennifer who celebrated their amazing DIY wedding at a close family member’s home out on the plains East of Denver. This home made for a perfect wedding venue! A large open back yard with rolling hills and horses in the background. A lovely waterfall feature and a great pole barn that worked out great for hosting the wedding reception and our photo-booth! As far as do-it-yourself weddings go this one was the tops!!! Every part of this special day was taken into account and turned out amazing! Check out some of my favorite photos below!
It’s the one year anniversary today of Daphnee & Jordan’s lovely simple wedding in Loveland, Colorado! If I were hosting a small wedding for close friends and family this is exactly how I would do it! The couple held a ceremony at the church they met at – Foundations Church in Loveland with a reception held in the pavilion at Benson Sculpture Garden which is a great location with lots of picturesque features. Take a journey through their special day in the photos we provided for them.
Vendors who made this day possible:
Ceremony Site – Foundations Church
Reception Site – Benson Sculpture Garden
Photography – Crystaline Photography & Video
A year ago Becka and Bryce booked us to cover their wedding that will already be next weekend and then we photographed their fall engagement portraits to memorialize the special occasion! How quickly a year flies by! It hardly seems like a year has passed, but the fact that I’m just now getting to blog about it shows you how busy we’ve been! With the leaves just beginning to turn here in Denver I was thinking about all of the fall weddings and portrait sessions coming up for us in the next couple of weeks. Fall is a magical time of year and just so happens to be the busiest season for photographers everywhere. Families are wanting to document their family for holiday cards, couples are wanting those beautiful colors in their save-the-date cards and who doesn’t like wearing boots and chunky sweaters.
I just wanted to share some of my favorite photos from this session with their puppy in anticipation for their wedding next week. It will be great to see them again! Enjoy these fun festive fall photos!
Here’s another early fall wedding at the fabulous Willow Ridge Manor. We can never get enough weddings from this venue! It’s an amazing place to tie the knot. And with getting ready areas for both the bride and groom on site, gorgeous views and a place for both the ceremony and the reception without having to leave the venue who needs to look further!
Taylor and Sam were just two of the nicest people you could ever meet. I see many many years of marriage for these two. I can’t wait to see what the future will hold for them.
Check out some of my favorite photos from their event last September!
Vendors who made this day possible:
Venue: Willow Ridge Manor
Catering: Rocky Mountain Catering
DJ: Digital DJ
Florist: Hawk Flowers & Gifts
Cake & Desert: Little Man Ice Cream
Bridal Wear: David’s Bridal
Tuxedo Rental: Men’s Wearhouse
Jeweler: Trice Jewelers