ASPEN WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER CAT MAYER
Photographing weddings in Aspen, Snowmass and the surrounding Roaring Fork Valley
I have been photographing destination weddings in Aspen, Colorado since 2010. It's an ideal spot for mountain weddings for all the same reasons it’s one of America’s most charming, famous ski towns: pristine views, endless aspen tree groves, luxury hotels, five-star restaurants, designer boutiques, and lively après-ski and nightlife. Wedding photos in Aspen are naturally breathtaking; couples getting married here enjoy some of the most stunning mountain scenery anywhere in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
Considering a destination wedding in the Colorado Rockies? Aspen is worth a look as a desirable location, summer through winter. In my opinion, the best times of year to photograph weddings here are June to October. In summer, wildflowers abound at the foot of the snowcapped Elk Mountains. By autumn, the aspen tree groves turn their golden fall colors. If winter is more your style, the skiing and après activities ensure an epic wedding weekend for your guests.
You will never fall short of things to do in the valley. No matter the time of year, there is much to entertain wedding guests and families during a wedding weekend. The Aspen Music Festival offers unmatched music in July and August. Art, theater, culture, shopping, dining, sports, and outdoor activities provide endless entertainment options for guests during your wedding weekend. You can learn more at the Aspen Chamber of Commerce web site.
Aspen’s Top Wedding Venues
What’s the best place to get married in Aspen? My top recommendations for luxury wedding venues in Aspen are locations that photograph beautifully, and have the incredible mountain views and gorgeous scenery brides and grooms want in their wedding photographs.
The Little Nell - This luxury hotel sits at the base of the mountain with easy access to the gondola and the Aspen Wedding Deck. Couples tying the knot on the Wedding Deck usually get ready at the Little Nell, ride the gondola to the ceremony on the Aspen Wedding Deck (the Sundeck), and celebrate with reception at the Aspen Mountain Club located just next to the deck. It’s a private, beautiful and memorable location for a Colorado destination wedding.
Maroon Bells Ampitheater - Maroon Bells is one of the most photographed places in North America, and for good reason! In my opinion, it has one of the most gorgeous mountain views anywhere. Because it is a public space and does not have a reception venue, I find it’s best for wedding ceremonies, elopements, or bride & groom portraits in summer and fall. You can schedule your wedding 12 months in advance at the Bells. Maroon Bells is closed to vehicles during the winter months. Between 8a-5p from mid-June to early October, the Bells can be accessed via public bus. Tickets are available for purchase at the base area of Aspen Highlands Ski Area (1.5 miles up Maroon Creek Road) at Four Mountain Sports and the ticket office.
- T Lazy 7 Ranch - This expansive wedding venue offers guests the feeling of being at a secluded mountain ranch. T Lazy 7 Ranch’s ceremony meadow is the full outdoor mountain experience with surrounding groves of aspen trees. It also boasts a stunning mountain backdrop, practically created to be picture-perfect setting for stunning wedding ceremony photographs. It also offers enough space for the largest possible weddings, making tented weddings a perfect option here. This spot is can easily accommodate the largest of weddings.
Chaparral Ranch - This lovely venue is located in Woody Creek in the Roaring Fork Valley has expansive mountain views and plenty of gorgeous light and mountain scenery perfect for wedding photography. The property boasts a reflective pond, mountain vistas, a gorgeous modern barn, and even space for a tent if a bride and groom desires an outdoor, tented reception. Chaparral Ranch is the ideal location for a wedding with a “private ranch” feel.
Hotel Jerome - This historic boutique hotel is located in the heart of town. It is in a beautiful brick building with a few neutral-toned and elegantly decorated ballrooms—the only above-ground ballrooms in town. The lobby and guest rooms are elegant and luxurious, but still comfortable. If you’re planning on a wedding elsewhere in Aspen, it’s worth staying at the Hotel Jerome.
- Roaring Fork Club - This Private Club is located 20 minutes north in the charming town of Basalt. With 380 acres of pristine landscape, the Roaring Fork Club is an ideal wedding venue for a bride and groom who embrace a Colorado outdoor lifestyle. The Club boasts activities like golf, fishing, health and wellness.
Best Places for Wedding Photos in Aspen
All the venues listed above are my favorite places to photograph weddings because they are incredible locations with picture perfect mountain vistas and gorgeous, warm Colorado sunlight. There are also other places that make for great spots for bride and groom portraits, or engagement shoots before your wedding.
Aspen is an exceptionally charming town with cobblestone streets lined with aspen trees, historic buildings, and open spaces and parks. There are many pretty spots around every corner in town for memorable portraits in town. Bride and groom portraits, and even pictures with your wedding party, in town are perfect if you’re looking to capture the charm of Aspen in your wedding pictures, or if you don’t want to take an hour out of your wedding day schedule to drive up into the mountains for portraits.
Although downtown can be a perfect choice, I can also recommend Maroon Bells and the road toward Independence Pass for spectacular wedding portraits. If you can plan for an hour of bride and groom portraits on your wedding day, either of these two locations can give you truly spectacular wedding photos that are completely unique to Aspen.
For one, driving up toward Independence Pass south of town is gorgeous landscape perfect for dramatic wedding portraits. The road is a steep climb among granite cliffs, miles of aspen groves, passes the old mining town ruins, and summits at over 12,000 feet in a sea of evergreen. It’s a gorgeous area is unique to Colorado.
Another option is taking an hour to pop up to Colorado’s beloved Maroon Bells. After 5pm in summer you can drive up the road, park the car, and within a few minutes are in the midst of some of the most spectacular scenery in Colorado. It’s easy to navigate a variety of spots for gorgeous portraits, with the two Maroon peaks taking center stage in the background. If you’re getting married in town or at Aspen Chapel, it’s an easy 20 minute drive up to the Bells.
Top Aspen Luxury Wedding Planners
Who are the best wedding planners in Aspen? If you are a bride and groom considering a destination wedding here, I highly recommend hiring a locally-based wedding planner who has the connections to seamlessly bring your ideas to life. This is home to some of the industry's best, most experienced luxury wedding planners who are known for consistently creating the most spectacular, memorable destination weddings in Aspen.
Bluebird Aspen - Virginia and her team have designed some of the most organized weddings I have photographed. They are always two steps ahead, creating seamless events that go off without incident. Bluebird has been named a top wedding planner by Martha Stewart Weddings and Vogue Magazine.
Burns & Madsen - Jason is an engaging and talented event planner who firmly believes that Aspen has the perfect venue for every celebration. He is intimately familiar with the most special spots in the Valley, giving you a wealth of insider information when planning your event.
EKS Events - Elizabeth plans every event with the keenest eye for detail—whether it’s an intimate wedding or a large affair, indoors or outside under the stars. Her events are beautiful, her wedding clients adore her, and the vendors with whom she works hold her in the highest regard. Her reputation as one of Aspen’s —and the wedding industry’s — top planners is well-deserved.
Gold Leaf Events - Chelsea and Kate create beautiful weddings and events, not only in Aspen and throughout the country. Destination weddings in Aspen are their specialty, and no request is too outlandish for this creative duo.
Stonewood Vintage - Shiara is the creative force behind this destination wedding styling and design company. She takes into account—and in great detail—a wedding couple's requests, and also offers creativity that makes each wedding truly reflective of the bride and groom. She also has an extensive furniture and prop rental inventory that makes her events some of the most stylish I have seen.
Planning Your Destination Wedding in Aspen
Traveling to Aspen
It’s easy to get here with the local airport 10 minutes from the heart of town. Some wedding guests may enjoy Colorado’s scenery via its highways and mountain passes. In that case, guests can choose to fly into Denver International Airport (DEN) and drive I-70 to Glenwood Springs, turning south on Highway 82 to Aspen (about 3 hours, 15 minutes/159 miles.) The only slightly longer, more scenic route is out of Denver via C-470 to Highway 285, turning north on Highway 24, west on Highway 82 over Independence Pass and into Aspen (3 hours, 45 minutes/185 miles). Note that Independence Pass is narrow and can be difficult for inexperienced mountain drivers, and is only open during the warmer months.
Planning for Aspen Weather
Early summer to late summer are the most popular times of year for weddings in Aspen, because the weather is typically sunny and warm. Although the mountains have their share of rain, it usually lasts for a very short period of time before the sun comes out again. A large number of summer weddings start a bit late due to light rain or heavy clouds, but this is common and nothing to worry about.
We have a saying in the mountains: If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute!
Aspen is cautious about passenger safety in the gondola, and it's not unusual for the gondola to be shut down for wind or lightning. It usually starts back up again after short delays, and I have never photographed a wedding in Aspen that was so delayed due to inclement weather that it affected the wedding timeline more than 15-20 minutes. A need for flexibility comes with the territory when having an outdoor wedding in Colorado.
A note about winter weddings in Aspen: Be aware that I-70 can close at Eisenhower Tunnel just outside of Denver, at Silverthorne, Vail Pass or other spots at any time due to sudden snowstorms and ice. This can happen anytime between October and May, but closures are most common November to March.