There's a reason so many people flock to the mountains for their weddings. You've got a breathtaking backdrop built-in, exciting and unusual activities to keep guests busy during a long weekend, and a relaxed, friendly atmosphere that means you can often expect an 85 percent acceptance rate from your guests, instead of the usual 75 percent. But heading to the mountains for your wedding comes with a set of challenges that you might not immediately think of if you live on the coast or at a lower elevation. We asked Casey Muller, owner and lead planner of Pink Diamond Events in Fort Collins, Colo., to give us some insight into what mountain-bound couples shouldn't forget.
1. The Sun Sets a Little Earlier
While your weather app might call for a 7 p.m. sunset on your wedding date, being surrounded by tall peaks means the sun could actually disappear an hour earlier, even if the sky stays pink for a little while. "Keep this in mind when you're scheduling photos with your photographer to ensure you have the perfect lighting for your pictures," Muller says.
2. Sunscreen Is a Must
The sun gets more intense at higher elevations, even if it's cloudy outside. "Make sure to wear sunscreen underneath your makeup," says Muller, "and have some available for your guests if any part of your wedding will be outdoors."
3. Hydration Is Key
If you're inviting guests to join you at a higher elevation than where they live, make sure everyone drinks more water than they usually would. It's much dryer a few thousand feet above sea level, and staying hydrated is a great way to combat any altitude sickness. Consider putting reusable water bottles in welcome bags and setting up stations serving flavored water at both your ceremony and reception. And remember, alcohol can affect you more quickly at altitude than at sea level, so encourage your guests to drink water and pace themselves as they celebrate.
4. Hotels Will Book-Up Faster
Depending on the size and location of the town where you'll be marrying, there may be a limited number of hotels (or, in a resort town, a limited number of budget-friendly hotels) in the area. "It's important to let guests know to make hotel reservations as early as possible," Muller explains. You may want to explore options like VRBO or Airbnb as more affordable choices in popular destinations.
5. Festivals Are a Common Occurrence
Mountain towns are known for their festivals, from the Breckenridge Snow Sculpture Competition to the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson Hole, Wyo. "While this is a great addition to the activities your guests can participate in, it can also cause additional issues with scheduling and hotel availability," Muller advises. "Do some research to find out if there will be a festival on the weekend of your wedding. You don't want to find out on your wedding day that the main road in town is closed for a bike race!"
6. Cell Service Is Unreliable at Best
While you'll be easily connected if you're celebrating closer to town, heading up into the mountains often means you won't have any reception—and won't be able to get in touch with your guests or vendors. "Make sure to have an alternate phone number, whether it's the landline in your hotel room or the venue manager's office number, where people can reach you for any reason, and that you can use to call out in case of an emergency," Muller says.