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
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!
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
Let’s talk about eloping in Colorado and using our epic views to your advantage! Taylor & Nathan were another one of my couples who were victims of Covid! They planned a beautiful wedding to take place at a resort just outside of Gunnison, Colorado and then the pandemic hit… and after two postponements they gave up on their big celebration. But I was not discouraged, they had already paid their deposits with me and I still wanted to give them some lovely photos to remember the day, so we hatched a plan…. and you know what? I think the plan came out better than we could’ve ever imagined! We looked at a time-frame that was light on our wedding schedule during the summer and my family and I planned a camping trip to Taylor Reservoir just outside of Gunnison. I met the couple just outside of our camping spot and spent two hours photographing them in all the beautiful scenery! It was a win for both them and us! We got to enjoy a little family time in the wilderness and Nathan & Taylor ended up with some epic photographs!
Enjoy this selection of some of my favorites! If you’re up for an adventure please reach out to me, as we’re always up for an experience!!!
As a wedding photographer/videographer I see a lot of wedding trends come and go. Some of the classics stick around for a good while, but even some of the die hard wedding traditions are starting to move their way out of the limelight. I thought I’d take a peek at the fun trends that are making their way to couples this year and with a mention of the ones on their way out. Let’s see if you agree…
TRENDS ON THEIR WAY IN
1.) Weekday Weddings – We saw quite a few of these over the last year just due to couples needing to work within venue’s availability after they had to postpone their 2020 event. Don’t expect them to go away. Lots of venues offer special savings when a couple is willing to host their event mid-week. Almost everyone has a limited budget, so couples all over have found this is a great way to save big on their wedding!
2.) Customized Weddings – These have already been really popular. Engaged couples want to do something different that stands out and makes their event more memorable. I see a lot more couples wanting to do their wedding “their” way instead of the “traditional” way. This can mean having a food truck instead of a sit down dinner, having a cocktail hour before the vows, coming up with their own unity ceremony instead of a candle, etc. I already have two “brunch” weddings booked in 2022 for breakfast lovers everywhere! Anywhere a couple can put their personal stamp on their event they will be doing it!
3.) Electronic Invitations – The pandemic made electronic ways to stay in touch with your guests more acceptable due to all the postponements and reschedules. And now they are here to stay. Electronic save-the-dates, invites, RSVPs are a great way for couples to save money, even if you just use a wedding website to get all that extra information out for instance like where to stay, and how to get there. A small QR code placed on a physical invite even gives your guests a quick way to go to your wedding website.
4.) Destination Weddings and Elopements – We’ve covered a lot of these in the past few years and when Covid lockdowns happened couples still wanted to get married, so they chose the most exotic place they could get to within the US borders. We had quite a few couples coming from areas without snow, or from the flat plains to Colorado just because they wanted to get married on a mountain top. And in reverse a lot of couples in Colorado going to locations with beaches!
5.) Renting a Vacation Home for Bachelor & Bachelorette Parties – People looking for ways to avoid crowded clubs and bars are looking into staying with their close friends at a large home they can rent through sites like Vrbo.com and Air BnB. And then they are even hiring a photographer to come out and document it! This can be a long golf or ski weekend or maybe a great location like Nashville or Las Vegas for fun shows and gambling!
TRENDS ON THEIR WAY OUT
1.) Bouquet and garter toss… Many, many couples today are deciding to drop this steadfast tradition. Some of the reasons are because couples are waiting to get married later in life and it just doesn’t seem right singling out one or two of your last unattached friends. Also your dance floor is rocking, who wants to slow down a party for this out dated tradition.
2.) Things on Guest Registries – Also a sign of the times with couples waiting until later in life to tie the knot; a lot of couples are already in a co-habitating scenario and don’t need stuff. I see a lot of couple’s that have honeymoon registries or a site for saving for a down payment on a home. Young couples today are not interested in china patterns. Some are even asking for donations to charities in lieu of a wedding gift.
3.) Wedding Favors – Most couples are ditching the wedding favors in order to afford other items like a video record of their event, or higher end entertainment. Over the years I have found that the largest waste of money goes to wedding favors. People often forget the trinkets given to them by the couple leaving most items behind. The exception to this rule is if you give them something you know they will use like food or drink. I remember one couple that provided a bottle of wine to each family on their way home from their family owned vineyard. Now this is something we all know will get used! Photo-booths have also become a popular favor replacement because it gives guests a memorable experience and a memento that you know they will save and cherish.
4.) Extra Large Bridal Parties – While couples have a lot of friends many are opting to go with small 1-2 attendants or none at all. It gets really hard trying to coordinate schedules of a lot of people for dress fittings, parties, and more. Couples are finding that they’d rather have their guests be guests instead of having them full-fill the obligations of a wedding party. Not to mention how you’ll need a larger alter space in the ceremony to fit a large bridal party. Group photos also take twice as long to do with large entourages.
5.) Receiving Lines – I will go as far as to say this one is pretty much already gone. When I ask couples if they are going to have a “receiving line” I often get a blank stare followed up with the question of “what is that?” A lot of today’s couples have never even seen one unless they’ve been to a very traditional church ceremony. If you’ve never seen one here’s a brief explanation: it’s where the couple and their parents stand in a line to greet and shake the hands of each and every guest after the ceremony and it can take 30-60 minutes depending the amount of guests you have invited. One of the main reasons this one has disappeared is because of the amount of time couples have to do their formal group photos after the ceremony. Most of the time the photos take precedence over a receiving line. Covid pretty much put a complete kibosh to this tradition. A lot of couples now greet their guests while dinner is going on at the reception after they have eaten.
We covered quite a few elopements again this year. I think some couples were just done dealing with Covid and wanted to get married. Ashley & Nicholas came all the way from Florida to tie the knot in April. They found us and all of their vendors online for their simple elopement at Legacy Ridge Golf Course in Westminster, Colorado. This public golf course has some amazing views of the mountains from within the suburbs of Denver and was the perfect place for their quick ceremony with a handful of friends. Ashley had never seen snow in person so it was a real treat to still have some peaking through on the mountains behind them. Mike and I were there to capture the event on both photo and video for those that could not attend. It ended up being the perfect day for the both of them!
Vendors who made this day possible:
Venue – Legacy Ridge Golf Course
Florist – Mossholders Floral
Photo & Video – Crystaline Photography and Video
Winter is on it’s way and so is a magical time to get married! Emily and Luke like most couples who got married in 2020 had to face a multitude of challenges including closed wedding venue, losing their caterer to the business going under and more! Their wedding date changed with us no less than three times! The last time I got notice a couple weeks before they decided to tie the knot. After everything the couple just wanted to say “I Do” and they exchanged their elaborate mansion wedding for a quaint wedding in the living room of the bride’s parents’ home with just immediate family and a few close friends. I was still privileged for to get the opportunity to document their special holiday themed event.
Luke apparently spent hours setting up the decor in the home and making it look lovely. We were also able to go to nearby 17 Mile Farmhouse Park to get some beautiful photos in the snow. It ended up being a really beautiful day and I’m so excited that I got to be there for them.
Whether you love all the group photos taken at a wedding with friends and family or would prefer to spend more time smoozing with your guests the reality is that the only way to guarantee a photo with grandma is to plan to take one. These type of photos are the formal portraits at a wedding and I’m going to chat a little bit about how to do them quickly and efficiently so you can get on to the partying!
There’s been a trend in the last couple decades of couples wanting to have more of a photo-journalistic style of wedding coverage. A true photo-journalist should never stage a photo as they are there mainly to document the event. While this can often times capture some of the most emotional and memorable moments at a wedding, choosing a photographer who only offers this type of photography can often mean you miss getting photos with a lot of the people who are important to you that a traditional portrait photographer will take. You can have both styles of photography and the best wedding photographers will offer both!
I started out assisting my mother with weddings back in the nineties during the days of film when each wedding you photographed had a limited amount of film to shoot for each event. Photographers had to choose their frames very deliberately. In those days you took maybe 2-3 frames of each group shot and just hoped someone didn’t blink. You took one shot of the cake and maybe 2-3 of the cake cutting. Delivering 300-500 images back then was considered a lot! I’m thankful to have learned photography during that time period because not only does it make me appreciate the ability to take as many photos as I want at an event, but also it did teach me a lot of skills that I still use today to help with facilitating the formal portrait session quickly. Here are some tips for couples planning a wedding:
1.) First, if at all possible find a photographer that has a portfolio that includes group portraits and speaks about the importance of taking these types of photos at a wedding. This will ensure that you get a photographer that will be proactive in making sure the photos you want with others get completed and not missed.
2.) Ask the photographer to walk you through their process of doing group portraits. Each photographer will probably have a way of doing things that works the best for them. This way you can hear about any potential “red flags” they may state like “I really hate taking group photos, so I do the bare minimum” or “I’ll do group photos if you really want me to” or my favorite “Just grab me whenever you want a photo” That last statement is fine in conjunction with a well laid out plan for how and when you will be doing the bulk of the portrait photos and should be in addition to those photos not in lieu of a planned group formal photography time. The last thing you want to be doing on your wedding day is being in charge of grabbing all the people you want to take photos with, this is the photographer’s job.
3.) Most couples utilize the cocktail hour immediately following the ceremony for the time period to take these group photos. I am starting to hear more often that couples would prefer to enjoy some of that time-frame to meet and greet guests and are opting to do some if not all of the group formals before the wedding. If you are planning on doing this it’s imperative that everyone you’d like to be in these photos knows the time-frame that you will be starting the photos. I also suggest telling them a start time 30 minutes prior to the actual start time to make time for late comers (especially if you know you will have a few of these). Even if you plan to do all of the group photos before the ceremony leave some time directly following the ceremony to do just a few more in case someone doesn’t get the memo or you run out of time before the ceremony. If you don’t need the time it will just give you some extra moments with your new spouse and maybe some extra time for more relaxed photos of just the two of you which really are the most important photos you’ll want from the day!
4.) Utilize your wedding officiant or DJ/MC to make announcements for photos. Simply stated, if you plan to have the officiant tell the guests where they are supposed to go following the ceremony recessional, it’s a great idea to also have him/her mention that the couple has requested that immediate or all of the family of the couple should stay behind for a few moments for some family photos. This tells Uncle John that he can’t make a B-line to the bar just yet! And saves a lot of time looking for the family members needed for the group photos. Less time taking photos means more time to hang out with friends after wards. Family photos can be done as quickly as 15-20 minutes if everyone is present. The overtime comes when a photographer or another person has to go and look for someone who is missing.
5.) Start with the largest family first or with the side that has the most jobs to still do if they are helping out with the reception set-up or meal. Do the extended family photos first if you are doing them and whittle them down to smaller groupings and complete one side (if at all possible) before moving on to the other spouse’s family. If you have any specific groupings you’d like to have photographed give a list to your photographer. Every photographer should have a basic list of what they usually cover to show or tell you about (if you’ve been doing this for 20 years like me then your list can be in your head, but they should easily be able to tell you what their normal groupings are) and then you can decide if there are special groupings you want that are not on that list for instance: generation groupings, just cousins, just aunts and uncles, etc. This will ensure that the photographer knows what’s important to you.
6.) A loud boisterous photographer who is willing to direct people will get things done a lot quicker than a timid person waiting for groups to arrange themselves. If you get the feeling that your photographer is not going to be good at this, but still really like their work then utilizing a family member who can help with this is really recommended. A loud Aunt or Uncle who knows all the key family members and that wants to help is a great person for this role! You can also ask them to keep an eye on your dress and/or other things as the photos are being taken. A detail orientated photographer is great, but an extra pair of eyes is also helpful.
7.) Put the kibosh to others wanting to take photos while the photographer is doing formal portraits. I can’t stress this enough! I know the urge for the mother of the bride to want to take a duplicate photo of every photo the photographer is taking, I really do, but every time the photographer has to stop in the middle of their group arrangements to allow someone else to take photos it adds on to how long it takes to do the group photos. This also results in photos with people looking everywhere, but at the paid photographer’s camera. The couple is going to get a high quality large resolution digital images back from the photographer that they can share with everyone so why would they want a dark, crooked underexposed low quality cellphone picture of the exact same thing? The shocking answer is they won’t want them. Half the time they won’t even see those images as they will get forgotten about and never downloaded from the person’s phone. The best thing a couple can do is set expectations before the wedding by telling everyone that they think will want to take photos that it’s best to let the photographer do their job so that they can get through the photos quickly. This always sounds better coming from the couple rather than the photographer.
Sometimes there’s a real shutter bug in the family as well that likes to bring his/her DSLR which is great, but can also sometimes become an issue. For example if they are taking key members of the wedding party away to do photos of their own while the contracted photographer is trying to get their shots. This has happened to me on more than one occasion and it’s really not helpful and again makes the portrait session take longer. I think it’s great when another photographer comes up and introduces themselves to the photographer and asks permission to take photos. When this occasionally happens I can tell them exactly what they should and should not do. The most beneficial way to take additional photos is to get photos of things the contracted photographer can’t take. Examples of this would be photos of the guests at cocktail hour and dinner or even covering the rehearsal the day before. If someone in your family has expressed interest in taking photos at your wedding it’s imperative to chat with the photographer you have hired beforehand to discuss what this might look like. Most photographers have clauses in their contracts that won’t allow a second professional unless they are hired by them and this is to ensure another photographer is not impeding their job. Having an extra person covering stuff that contracted photographer can’t cover is a great way to utilize someone else with a camera.
8.) Overall, if you really feel like group portraits are not for you, at least consider doing photos with your immediate family with you and your new spouse in them immediately following the ceremony. A few frames of each side of the family should at least be enough to appease mom and dad. These can take as little as ten minutes. If you are worried about it turning into a long session tell the photographer up front that you only want “X” photos. This will let them take control of the situation should more group photo requests come up on the day and allow you an easy way to escape the multiple groupings if you don’t want to do them.