wedding photography for rad, offbeat, alternative and non-traditional people

2017’s Best Denver and Colorado Wedding Vendors and Venues

January 3, 2017

Wedding Tips

It’s 2017. Tons of people in Denver and Colorado are getting engaged and starting their wedding planning. To you, I say, Welcome! Welcome to the insane world of weddings. Prepare to be inundated with the opinions of everyone you know and complete strangers on the internet. Everyone has an opinion on how your wedding should go. Just don’t forget your opinion is the most important one.

For most of you reading this, I’m just a stranger on the internet. I’m Carrie, and I’m a wedding photographer. I’ve photographed hundreds of weddings and specialize in super rad people. I love weddings where people live loud, own all their unique quirks, and just want to have the most memorable and fun wedding day possible. If you’re skipping typical wedding traditions or doing anything remotely different than the mainstream, that’s my jam. That said, no matter what kind of wedding you’re considering having, I do have experience with loads of Denver and Colorado wedding vendors and venues.

Back when I was planning my wedding Pinterest didn’t exist, so it took long internet searches to find what I needed. Once I did, I had no idea if it was great or not. So I figured I’d pass on my experiences behind the scenes at weddings to tell you, my favorite people, to work with and maybe give you some insider perspective on why I’m recommending them.

Best Denver + Colorado Wedding Venues

  • Willowbrook Amphitheater – This is a one of a kind natural outdoor venue near Red Rocks. It’s part of a Home Owner’s Association so unfortunately, events are limited to members of the area, and you need to connect to someone who lives there to get in. If you’re lucky enough to know someone there and can have it as your venue, it’s gorgeous! If you’re considering using your connections to pull off a wedding there, you can check out a real wedding there on my blog.
  • Winding River Ranch – What makes this place so special is that it’s a destination getaway. You and all your guests can rent cabins and stay right on the property, and then you get the run of the place, which is huge and gorgeous. It’s a fantastic backdrop for all kinds of uniquely themed weddings.
  • Lone Hawk Farm – This is another venue where you have the entire area to use for photos and all the little separate parts of the day like the ceremony, reception and cocktail hour. It has all kinds of fantastic backdrops for epic wedding photos, and it’s not too far away from Denver so your guests can experience the outdoors and conveniences of the areas when they come from out of town. Check out this farm wedding from there.
  • San Sophia Overlook – This is all the way down in Telluride at the top of the ski mountain. It seems like a far away place to have a wedding, but you won’t regret it. Personally, I think the Telluride mountains are some of the most gorgeous ones in the entire state. Telluride also has the cutest little downtown main street area with tons of restaurants. It’s an awesome place for guests to hang out in the summer. Here’s a wedding that happened July 4th weekend there!
  • Meadow Creek Bed and Breakfast – This is one of my favorite wedding venues of all time. It’s quaint! If you’ve been dreaming of meadows, aspen groves, mountain creeks, and a very intimate getaway, this place is perfect. They have a few rooms and cabins on site for you and your wedding party/family to use, and then acres of land to explore. Plus they have fantastic breakfasts every morning for their guests. I’ve been lucky enough to do a several of weddings there, and this wedding and this one can give you a good feel for the venue.
  • The Space Gallery – If you’re not an outdoorsy person and you’re looking for a unique place in the city, The Space Gallery is it. Here’s a wedding to check out.
  • Sapphire Point Overlook – This is the perfect spot for a small wedding. It’s right off the start of a hiking trail in Breckenridge. You can’t fit many people there, but it has fantastic views. It’s also part of Dillon’s ranger district, so it has affordable rental rates. After getting married here a lot of small groups rent a big house in Breckenridge and have a small reception with their closest family and friends. This wedding and this wedding can give you a couple of ideas. The only downfall with this ceremony location spot is that it’s right off a hiking trail so that hikers will be walking past behind your guests. In my experience, the hikers have always been quiet and respectful of the ceremonies there.
  • Della Terra Mountain Chateau – This is a gorgeous place up in Estes Park. It amazes everyone up there and a nice trip for your guests! It’s also easier to park at compared to some other mountain venues. This wedding took place in winter, but you can still get a feel for the area. They have a perfect outdoor ceremony space in all these pine trees!
  • Lionsgate Center – This place is located in Lafayette. They have two separate wedding venues. Not many places can put on two different weddings and pull it off smoothly, but these guys do, and you never feel like there is another wedding going on taking away from your own. Both parts have excellent photography spots with lots of quirky paintings, decor, and an old yellow vehicle. I also have to say every time I’ve been there the staff has been fantastic and easy to work with. They want the best for your wedding day. I can’t say that about every venue I’ve been to, but I love them! I have a couple of weddings I can share from this site. Luckily I have two from the different parts of the venue. This one is from the Dovehouse side, and this one is from the gatehouse side.
  • Tivoli Turnhalle – This place is part of the Auraria campus right in downtown Denver. I know you’re thinking, “Great a wedding in a student center on a campus in downtown Denver, what a nightmare!” It’s totally the opposite, though. The Turnhalle is gorgeous on the inside and has an awesome vibe. Plus the event staff are fantastic at ensuring the day runs well. If you’re worried about parking? There’s a parking garage nearby that’s super easy to work with. Tivoli Turnhalle is an excellent spot for a downtown Denver wedding and my favorite thing about weddings there are hanging lights across the top of the dance floor. Here’s a wedding you can check out.
  • Frog Belly Farm – Another farm venue. This one is very close to Lone Hawk, except I think you get better mountain views. Frog Belly Farm is the kind of place I’d have an outdoor reception with a bonfire and smores.
  • Chief Hosa – I debated putting Chief Hosa on the list of the best. The reason is, last time I photographed there my clients arrived and found dead animals in traps on the floor of the kitchen. That was super gross and smelly. It turned out alright in the end. Denver Parks and Recreation runs it so don’t be surprised if the customer service is lacking. I’ve had a few clients complain about their flexibility and friendliness. However, I kept it on the list because it’s one of the more affordable mountain venues to rent and overall my clients were relatively happy. It also feels a little bit like a castle. The preparation rooms are a bit cramped and dark (so I’d recommend getting ready at a nearby hotel), but the building is great, it’s easy to access from Denver, and the surrounding area makes for amazing pictures. Here’s a sample. If you book them, just request to keep the dead animals cleared from the kitchen and bring in outside caterers. 😉 Another tip, the wedding will be much smoother here if you don’t max out the occupancy. Moving between tables at this venue can get crowded quick if you have a lot of guests.
  • Boettcher Mansion – This place is another pretty cool venue up in the mountains, but still close enough near Denver to make travel convenient for your guests. What I like about the Boettcher Mansion is they seem to have a lot of less traditional weddings there. So they seem pretty open to fun and unique ideas. There’s also plenty of space to spread out and lots of areas for gorgeous photo taking! You can even have an Elvis officiant if that’s your thing (it’s definitely my thing).
  • Boulder Sunrise Amphitheater – This is just past Chautauqua up the side of the mountain. What’s awesome is the affordability of it. However, I recommend booking it for a late afternoon wedding to get the best light otherwise you’re standing out there on the side of the mountain in hot sunlight getting burnt. The location is great and outdoorsy, but you do get hazy Denver views in the distance sometimes. I still think it’s pretty impressive, though. You can have big or small weddings there, and follow it up with your reception at the Chautauqua Dining Hall for small groups or Wedgewood in Boulder for bigger groups or anywhere else! Pets are also welcome up there, and you can be creative with how you decorate and celebrate. It lends itself well to unique ceremonies!
  • Evergreen Lakehouse – This place is, of course, gorgeous! Mountains, a lake, a cabin! You get all the best for photography and the owners there are pretty dedicated to their clients. I know, because, during this wedding, their booked original officiant didn’t show. He ran about 3 hours late and while it could have ruined their day, the venue and all the vendors stepped in to make things okay again. The Lakehouse quickly called Kenneth, who officiates there often, and he came over as fast as he could, and it all worked out, except for the rain, but it made for a unique and memorable wedding! That’s why Kenneth is one of my recommended officiants down below by the way. He dropped everything he was doing that afternoon to help out a couple of clients who were in a bind!
  • Lionscrest Manor – If you want mountains and easy planning this is an excellent venue in Lyons, Colorado for a wedding. I’ve shot a few here, and they are also great at being organized and on time, very easy to work with. My favorite things about the venue though are the views and the preparation rooms. A lot of venues have these tiny dark rooms to get ready in, but theirs are huge and bright, which makes getting ready way more fun. This is one of my favorite weddings I’ve shot there. The only problem people encounter there is bringing in an outside photographer. They prefer you use one from their list, but those on the list don’t always fit every client’s style.

Best Denver + Colorado Wedding Florists

Best Denver + Colorado Wedding Planners

  • Jamie Flower – We’ve worked several weddings together, put on styled shoots and partner on other projects, so I know she’s amazing. She cares a lot about her clients, plus you can’t beat her positive attitude!

    A Jamie Flower Design

  • Feather and Twig – Marisa from Feather and Twig is amazing. She’s all calm, cool and collected! I had the pleasure of working with her relatively recently and loved her!

Best Denver + Colorado Wedding DJs

  • Elite – These guys book up fast, but they’re amazing at every wedding!
  • Ron Michaels – Ron is my favorite DJ. He was my wedding DJ, and he’s incredibly dedicated to his clients. He wants to customize the experience and make it the best he can, so he comes with my best recommendations! His website doesn’t have a ton of information, but I promise you he’s THE BEST and worth contacting!

Best Denver + Colorado Wedding Dresses

Best Denver + Colorado Wedding Resources

  • Couture Colorado – The best local planning blog (in my opinion).
  • Offbeat Bride – Even if you’re not having a crazy Harry Potter themed wedding, Offbeat Bride is still a great resource for navigating planning. They’re not local, but there are tons of real life stories and scenarios for dealing with family drama and all sorts of other things you might need.
  • Black Sheep Bride – This isn’t a local resource either, but considering how Coloradoans feel about the environment and giving back, in general, this is a blog worth checking out. Lots of weddings where couples have found ways to be charitable.

Best Denver + Colorado Wedding Photographer

  • Carrie Swails Photography – It’s me! I just threw that out there because I’m obviously biased. I’m not for everyone, though, so don’t be afraid to ask for a referral or just email me a question about anything in this post. It’s more important to me to be resourceful. If you think I’m awesome though just shoot me an email and inquire!

Best Denver + Colorado Wedding Cakes

  • Astonishing Cakes – This lady is amazing. Her cake pops are to die for. I want more weddings to have cake pops. Any dessert she makes is great. I’ve worked with her on a couple of times, and I highly recommend her for all your wedding dessert needs. She’s my favorite!
  • Voodoo Doughnut – Want something different? You need doughnuts and not just any doughnuts, doughnut cakes shaped like robots, unicorns, or just plain awesome fruitloop covered doughnuts.

Best Denver + Colorado Live Wedding Music

  • Ben Hammond – Perfect for live reception music!
  • Felicity Muench – Felicity is not only a wedding guitarist but also my guitar teacher. So I’m speaking from experience here. She’s great to work with, organized and an excellent guitar player to boot. She also has connections to other musicians, so if you need more than a guitarist, she’ll have an answer for you.

Best Denver + Colorado Wedding Officiants

  • Married by Maree – Maree has become a friend of mine in the wedding industry. If you’re having a less traditional ceremony, she’s your officiant! She embraces all kinds of interesting traditions and truly loves what she does. I highly recommend her!
  • Kenneth A Fuller – This is the guy who saved my clients’ day. I mentioned him above when talking about Evergreen Lakehouse.

    Maree marrying a couple at Black Canyon Inn

Best Denver + Colorado Wedding Makeup + Hair

  • Cassandra GarzaThis bride had Cassandra as her makeup artist, and she did fantastically. I’ve worked with Cassandra at a few different weddings. If Cassandra does your makeup and you don’t know who to book for hair, just ask her. I’m sure she has great recommendations from her experience!
  • MUAH by Janine – Janine was the makeup and hair for this awesome styled shoot.

Other Random Stuff You Might Love

  • Wedding Paper Divas – Easiest place to get your wedding invitations, save the dates and post-wedding thank yous done!
  • Top Shelf Budtending – Weed is legal in Colorado, and more couples are interested in finding a way to incorporate it into their wedding. This guy will be your legal budtender at your wedding and can get you started on how to use it on your wedding day!
  • Crown and Glory – Traditional veils can be a bit boring, and Crown and Glory has some ways to liven up ye olde veil. I’m in love with their hair accessories. They come all the way from the UK, but they are worth every penny!
  • Denver Boudoir Photography – Under the Garter – Sometimes brides are looking for boudoir photos as a gift for their spouse during this time in their life. My good friends Ray and Melissa Trout run Under the Garter, a boudoir photography company. Boudoir photography is difficult to have done of yourself sometimes, but these two are the best team you could have. They have a private studio, hair, and makeup and make it a confidence-boosting fabulous experience. I can’t say enough good stuff about them!

Whew! I hope these tips and experiences help you with planning your wedding. There’s more where this comes from, so don’t hesitate to ask a question if you have one!


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