Winter can be a super special time of year to elope, especially if you’re planning on getting married in the mountains. However, this season also presents some important challenges (and dangers) that you’ll need to consider before choosing to elope in the winter months. In this article, we’ll discuss some key advice for eloping in the winter and also share some winter elopement ideas to get you started.
Note: I’ve linked to a few winter elopement-specific products that I believe will be helpful in the planning process. I may earn a commission, at no additional cost to you, if you choose to buy through those links. However, I only recommend products from brands I think are awesome or for products I specifically use myself. Your trust is important to me, and these winter elopement ideas and recommendations are here to help.
When you elope in the winter, especially in high elevation mountain locations, you need to factor in adverse road conditions. Snow and ice build-up can more than double your travel time. Reckless drivers can cause accidents that completely shut down access to the mountains. Avalanche debris could impact travel for the entire day. These are all things you need to consider when planning a winter elopement.
But aside from giving yourself a lot of extra time to arrive at your ceremony site, you’ll also want to budget more time at your elopement destination in case a blizzard makes access to the state or city you’re going to impossible on the day you planned on tying the knot. If you budget more time for your trip, you can try switching to a day with better weather, if needed.
I cannot stress this enough, but do not risk your lives to get married on a specific day. If there is life-threatening or dangerous weather on your elopement day, you’ll want to be flexible.
Make sure when planning a winter elopement to have ideas for back-up locations. And if the weather is really bad, you may need to switch to a different time of day or to a different day entirely. Check with your elopement photographer to see what their policy is on that. As an elopement photographer myself, my policy is to charge a premium for winter elopements so I can block off more time if we need to switch up plans in case of dangerous weather.
If you’re eloping in the winter, always see what your photographer’s process is in these situations, because there’s a high likelihood adverse weather could affect your day.
When it comes to car travel, you’ll want a vehicle with all wheel drive. I’d also recommend having either winter tires or tire chains handy. Driving in winter conditions is risky, even for those who are very familiar with it. You’ll also want to have an emergency kit in your car at all times.
As far as winter elopement attire is concerned, you’ll want to layer up. Wearing thermal leggings or a base layer under your clothes will be crucial. Bring hand and foot warmers and choose snow boots that are very insulated (I personally have these and they work like a charm).
Remember that high alpine winter locations have very intense wind, so ear muffs will be a lifesaver. Cozy shawls are also an incredible addition to your winter elopement look.
Also, talk with your elopement photographer about the trail conditions where you’re going. Some winter elopement locations have packed down trails, where MICROspikes will be needed (I personally use and swear by these MICROspikes). Others require snowshoes. Check with them to see what you’ll want to pack.
Being outside for 4+ hours in the winter is very different than in the summer. Mountain locations tend to get extremely cold, snowy, and windy in the winter months. And if the sun isn’t out, it can frankly be a bit miserable. I’m not saying this to deter you, but I think it’s important to mention.
Think about whether or not you’d feel comfortable spending several hours consecutively outside when it’s snowing, windy, and in the single digits. This is especially relevant if your winter elopement location is a place you’re hiking to, where you can’t run to your car to warm up if needed.
Winter elopements definitely have the perk of giving you more privacy, since most people don’t choose to elope or explore the outdoors during this season. However, one of the drawbacks is that certain mountain elopement locations are 100% inaccessible in the winter months.
For example, I’m based on Colorado, and some of my favorite elopement locations are closed outside of summer and early fall. The roads completely shut down. What ends up happening is that you have a much smaller pool of options when you choose to elope in winter, so you’ll have to figure out whether or not that is a deal breaker for you.
So if after reading all of those tips, you feel confident that a winter elopement is for you, let’s talk about some winter elopement ideas that can bring your day to life.
One of the coolest things about winter is the cozy vibe it has. So when you plan your elopement, make this a part of your day too. Plan to set up a fire and roast marshmallows at a campsite. Or bring thermoses of hot cocoa to stay warm when you elope by a frozen lake. Bring a cozy blanket an snuggle up while you watch the sunset.
The weather can be intense during winter elopements, but with the right gear, you can make it so much more enjoyable and fun.
If you two like to snowboard, ski, or snowshoe in the winter months, bring that gear with you on your elopement day and incorporate it into your winter elopement timeline.
Winter elopements (and elopements in general!) are so much more than just a quick ceremony. Infuse your personalities into your day and incorporate activities you and your partner love to do together.
If you’re able to find a vacation rental that has epic winter views and is also really beautiful, consider having your ceremony or at least part of your day on-site. That way, you’ll have a place where you can cozy up and get warm during the day.
One important note here: Airbnb no longer allows users to filter for event friendly places to stay. I high advise against booking a cabin with the assumption that you can have your elopement there or have any photos taken on site. Always contact the host first to confirm that they allow it before booking.
Elopement dresses for winter are going to look a tad different than your typical adventure wedding dress. As I mentioned earlier, layering up is going to be crucial. You’ll likely be taking breaks throughout the day to get warm, so bring a cozy puff jacket, a scarf, some warm ear muffs, and anything else to keep you nice and toasty when you’re not taking photos.
As far as winter elopement dresses are concerned, dresses with a heftier fabric are going to be key. You’ll have a thicker level of protection between you and the cold. Whereas in the summer months, I recommend lightweight fabrics, for winter elopements my advice is the opposite. That said, make sure you can easily move around in your winter elopement dress. You should be able to hike, snowshoe or ski in your dress, so don’t choose anything with so much fabric that that becomes impossible.
Underneath your winter elopement dress, wear a base layer or something that’s water-wicking. That way, when you go from cold temps to warm temps, the ice doesn’t melt and make you cold and soaked.
Layers are your friend when you elope in the winter. No, you don’t have to wear a jacket in all of your photos, but choosing a jacket that you think looks good in photos but will also keep you warm and happy will be essential here. Lyndzie, one of the brides I’ve worked with, eloped on a very chilly, snowy day in the mountains and she brought a shawl and a coat with her.
The more layers you have between you and the elements, the more likely you’re going to be to actually enjoy your time outdoors in those chilly conditions. And if you end up eloping on a warmer winter day, no worries…you can just peel off some of those layers. But it’s always better to come over-prepared than under-prepared.
There are many places that sell beautiful shawls for winter elopements. I’ll include a few links below:
Believe it or not, many trail in Colorado still have snow on them in spring and early summer, especially ones that are in the alpine tundra. So just because an image looks like it was taken in winter, doesn’t mean that’s actually when the photo was taken. For example, I’ve seen alpine lakes completely frozen over and snowy in late May.
When reading information about certain hiking trails, check to see when that trail is best used. While not a hard and fast rule by any means, typically when locations get to the 10,000 ft elevation level, they’re not always accessible in the winter months. All of this to say, don’t be fooled by the photos you see online. There’s a good chance what you’re seeing is actually a spring or fall photo.
Ultimately winter elopements look different in different states, which is why I recommend talking to an elopement photographer who is intimately aware of the weather conditions in your winter elopement location of choice.
Winter in Colorado is extraordinarily different than winter in a place like Georgia or Florida or Southern California. Your elopement photographer should be your go-to source on providing advice on what winter looks like at your elopement destination.
As someone who also eloped, I know firsthand what you’re going through in the elopement process. And that’s exactly why I create resources like this winter elopement guide. Because I don’t want you to ever feel like you have to go it alone on your wedding day.
Whether you choose to elope in the winter months or not, I’m here to help and support you through this process. Your choice to elope is an epic and brave one, and I’d love nothing more than to join you on this journey.
Check out some of our favorite elopement and adventure wedding planning resources:
Empowering You To Have Your Adventure Elopement, Your Way
Colorado Elopement Photographers + Adventure Wedding Photographers