Whether you consider yourself a diehard snow bunny, you’re an avid hiker, or you prefer après-ski as your primary mountainside activitiy, getting married at a ski resort is one of the most romantic ways to tie the knot. Snow-covered and cozy in the winter; lush, green, and blossoming in the summer—no matter the season, ski resorts both large and small serve as an idyllic backdrop for your big day.
When it comes to planning a mountain wedding at a ski resort, though, the details are nuanced. For example, getting all of your guests up to the top of the mountain takes planning (are they heading up on the ski lift? Will there be road closures?). Additionally, when you’re at a higher elevation, things feel a little different—and alcohol hits much faster.
Below, we speak with Colorado-based luxury wedding planner Emily Campbell all about the ins and outs of celebrating your marriage on top of the world—snow, rain, or shine. “I think mountain weddings are the prettiest weddings around,” Campbell says. “There are certainly logistical and budgetary considerations, but it’s like that regardless of where you have your wedding.”
Meet the Expert
Emily Campbell is the founder and executive producer of GoBella Design & Planning, a Colorado-based luxury event production company. In her time as an event planner, Campbell has planned over 200 weddings at various ski resorts in the U.S.
Understand the Venue
In general, ski resorts will have a coordinator who works with you and your wedding planner to ensure the day runs smoothly. Unlike a city hotel or a more standard wedding venue, there are a lot of moving pieces at a ski resort—many of which are weather and season-dependent. You’ll want to take into consideration the time of year, of course, but also elements like road access, on-site lodging, set-up time, etc. “Most ski resorts have on-site event coordinators to represent their venue, just like any hotel. They will help the clients with managing the venue, food, and beverage,” explains Campbell. “They work directly with the planner and clients on behalf of the venue but do not manage the timeline or decor. Most ski resorts require that clients hire a wedding planner because mountain weddings often are more complicated in terms of driving up mountain switchbacks and limited set-up time. Getting rentals and bands to the top of a mountain isn’t easy!”
In order to make things run as smoothly as possible, Campbell recommends working with a local planner “who has the lift operator’s cell phone number and who is buddies with the banquet captain. As with anywhere, knowing the local community makes a big difference in getting things done.”
Pick Your Season
While it may seem like winter would be the obvious choice for this particular destination wedding location, ski resorts are actually stunning year-round. “Luckily mountain weddings are more popular in the summer when lodging prices are lower than in the peak winter months,” says Campbell, which means that guest lodging may be easier to coordinate. That being said, winter months at ski resorts are magical, with snow falling and happy skiers and snowboarders buzzing around the mountain. If you’re planning a winter ski resort wedding, you may want to consider getting married on a weekday—crowds can be tough to navigate (or avoid) during peak-season weekend days.
Think About Budget
Yes, your budget will probably be slightly elevated if you’re booking a ski resort as your wedding venue, simply because everything takes a little more coordination when getting up to the top of a mountain (and depending on how remote the resort is). “When booking at a ski resort, the labor charges are higher than non-mountain weddings,” notes Campbell. “The reason is that it’s a schlep to get to the top of the mountain either by gondola or driving. Commercial auto insurance is required of the drivers and there are usually a lot of restrictions about when vendors can drive on the roads in the summer and access the venue. Because most of the wedding venues are also public restaurants, ski resorts often will not allow vendors to begin setting until after 2:30 p.m. without a lunch buyout (some won’t allow a lunch buyout). So couples should keep in mind the budget and set-up times.”
However, as Campbell notes about summertime, there can be benefits to choosing a ski resort off-season for your wedding Summer will ensure those lower lodging rates, which may make up for some of the extra money spent on getting vendors and resources up the mountain. “Depending on the location, people will likely spend $250-$500/night for the summer season,” says Campbell.
Consider the Guest Count
Luckily, ski resorts are quite versatile when it comes to guest count. “The average mountain wedding is usually 150 guests,” Campbell says of the Colorado-based weddings she’s planned. “There are a few exceptions, but we have spectacular spaces for weddings of 20 and up to 200,” she says. “If people are willing to book private land at a ranch or home, then we can set up tents that can accommodate larger numbers—but for on-mountain weddings small to medium-sized weddings are ideal.”
Be Prepared for Unexpected Weather
Mountain locations see it all when it comes to weather—and at high elevations, the forecast can change in a matter of minutes, so ensure that you work closely with the venue and your planner to prepare for potential snow or rain. “Afternoon rain showers and storms are common in the summer,” explains Campbell. “Gondolas are shut down when lightning is seen usually within 30 miles of the venue. Thus, backup plans are essential. Mountain weather is also very cool in the evenings so wraps or jackets are a must. Lastly, footwear! Remember that you are on top of a mountain so stilettos are high risk.” Because of the terrain, Campbell suggests advising guests to wear wedges or flats.
In the winter, the biggest risk factor is, of course, snow or ice. “The biggest weather factor to keep in mind is ensuring your vendors and guests arrive early or the day before in case road of road or pass closures which is common in the winter,” says Campbell.
Maybe Skip the Shots
Campbell notes that many people don’t realize the impacts that a high altitude will have on one of the most popular wedding pastimes: imbibing. Additionally, many wedding guests will have just arrived before the ceremony, so their bodies may not be fully acclimated by the time cocktail hour rolls around. “Alcohol consumed at altitude hits faster and harder than at lower elevations,” she notes. “Encourage hydration and reconsider allowing shots.”
If you still want to serve hard liquor, consider making a little sign by the bar with a reminder of the altitude so that guests can have it in the back of their minds as the night goes on.
Remember Safety During the Photoshoot
Understandably, many newlyweds who choose to get married at a ski resort during the winter months want an epic photograph of the two of them skiing or snowboarding down the mountain in their wedding attire. This shot is totally attainable—but Campbell encourages couples to work with the photographer and ensure that everything is planned in a very safe way. “Make sure your dress is not so long that it becomes a tripping hazard under your skies and sends you sailing sideways,” she says. Pro tip? “It’s a fun photoshoot but I recommend saving it for the day after your wedding.” That way, you won’t have to worry about coordinating the photographs while all your guests are present.