Kelsey and Jim’s Estes Park elopement

Kelsey and Jim said their vows in a beautiful Estes Park elopement with some of their closest family and friends.

When I first spoke with Kelsey about a year and a half before their wedding, she and Jim were planning a traditional wedding in Indiana. She casually mentioned that they loved Colorado and sometimes thought about having an Estes Park elopement instead. And guess what? That’s what they wound up deciding to do!

Kelsey and Jim scrapped the idea of a traditional wedding to have an intimate wedding in early October at their favorite place: Estes Park, Colorado. And let me tell you, it was SUCH an incredible and perfect autumn day full of adventure, beauty, and intention.

One of my favorite things about this elopement day was that the adventures were so epic — but not strenuous! All of the locations we chose are close to parking, making them extra accessible and saving time that Kelsey and Jim could spend with their family and friends.

Estes Park, Colorado

Estes Park, Colorado, is a small town at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s about an hour and a half from Denver, making it convenient for travel! It’s surrounded by mountains, and there’s a good chance you’ll see elk in town on early mornings.

Estes Park offers lots of cute lodging, as does the nearby town of Longmont. You’ll have no shortage of things to do, from hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park to shopping in the sweet boutiques.

If you decide to come in the winter or early spring, be prepared for the chance of snow and ice! Year-round, be aware of wildfire activity that many complicate your plans or impact air quality.

Planning an Estes Park elopement during coronavirus… and wildfires

Between a pandemic and wildfires, Kelsey and Jim dealt with a lot of plan changes before settling on an Estes Park elopement! They’d originally planned to wed in a larger event at Black Canyon Inn with lots of family and friends. The coronavirus pandemic meant they decided to shrink their guest list to just those most important to them. (Although I still hope to photograph a wedding at Black Canyon Inn post-coronavirus!)

Additionally, Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park had some smoke from the Cameron Peak Wildfire while we were here. It’s important to note that within two weeks after Kelsey and Jim’s wedding, this wildfire and others nearby grew significantly. The Cameron Peak and East Troublesome wildfires forced mandatory evacuations of Estes Park.

We were so lucky to not be in any danger at any point on their wedding date, but you should always be vigilant of any dangers that may arise (and be open to lots of backup plans!).

Panorama home

Given the coronavirus pandemic, Kelsey and Jim decided to move their wedding to Panorama, a beautiful vacation home in Estes Park. It had such pretty views and — guess what — an indoor pool! You can book your own stay here, too!

Panorama has enough space for 14 people to stay (!!!), which meant it was a great spot for Kelsey and Jim to hang with their family during their days in Colorado. And the pool kept the kids entertained all weekend long.

The backyard has beautiful views toward Rocky Mountain National Park and made a great ceremony location!

Rocky Mountain National Park

After Kelsey and Jim got ready at Panorama, we headed into Rocky Mountain National Park for a first look and private vow reading. Kelsey and Jim read their vows along Trail Ridge Road on windy mountaintop at 12,000 feet!

It was frigid, so next we headed down in elevation to Many Parks Curve Overlook for more photos. There were beautiful aspens and rock formations with the Rockies dancing all around us.

Because it was early October, smoke from area wildfires was visible in the park.

Also, you might see lots of elk in Rocky Mountain National Park!

The Elopement

If you love nature and the mountainous views, an Estes Park elopement might be an awesome option for you too!

Kelsey and Jim’s day meant that they had tons of time with family and friends all weekend. There was great food, live music, and a magical time making memories with those they love.

Above all, if you adore the idea of an Estes Park elopement, reach out here! I’d love to help you plan your dream day.

Kelsey gave her parents sweet customized handkerchiefs, and I may have been crying behind my camera a little.

After getting ready, we drove from the Panorama home where Kelsey and Jim got ready to Rocky Mountain National Park, which wasn’t too far. It made for a beautiful drive! In RMNP, Kelsey and Jim had a first look, read their vows, and took photos.

They brought along some special mementos representing family in heaven: a photo of Jim’s father, and Kelsey’s aunt’s handkerchief.

Kelsey gave her new stepdaughter, Isla, a bracelet that matched her own! She read her the sweetest letter and I think I cried too (again). The intentionality of an elopement day allows for so much dedicated time like this: a quiet moment between a girl and her new stepmom. Who she ADORES, by the way.

We headed back to Panorama in Estes Park for Kelsey + Jim’s ceremony in front of their family and friends! The backdrop of the Rockies is STUNNING.

Their souvenirs for guests were some of the cutest I’ve ever seen: chocolate mountains for each guest! Both milk chocolate and cookies and cream flavor featured a white chocolate snowcap.

After the ceremony, Kelsey and Jim mingled with guests and then took a special photo with everyone present.

The Reception

Later, the most delicious dinner was catered for their family and friends.

Kelsey and Jim had a first dance to live acoustic music by Scott Warren, and then danced with their parents too. Scott is an incredible musician and all songs were perfect for the moment!

How FREAKIN CUTE is their sweetheart cake?! Literally the cutest I’ve ever seen. I can’t handle those little pine trees.

The road right behind the Panorama house was perfect for some glowy sunset photos!

And then they danced the rest of the night away!

After that, Kelsey and Jim topped off the evening with their cake.

Isla caught the bouquet! Which her dad made her re-throw, haha.

And then she sang for us too.

If an Estes Park elopement speaks to you, get in touch! I can help you figure out exactly what you day can look like.

I'm an elopement photographer here to help you create a wedding day that feels like you: fun, adventurous, and a little untraditional. Your next adventure begins now.

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